In the process of conducting background research, a writer picks up all kinds of fascinating information. It’s easy to go off on tangents, however, when the information found is conflicting or unlikely, and we’re trying to figure out who got it right. In looking up the often-quoted phrase, “Dance like nobody’s watching you,” I found it attributed to at least half a dozen people, although Mark Twain’s name came up as its author more than anyone else’s.
Mark Twain? Really? Somehow I never thought of the man behind that dour expression as a free spirit on the dancefloor. I’d feel better about accepting that the quote was his if I could find a reference that also detailed where he actually wrote that (not to mention that the official Mark Twain website doesn’t take credit for it). But in the meantime, I kind of like the image of him that I have now: dressed in an all-white riverboat gambler’s suit, taking a break from his writing, grooving to his own beat.
And that’s kind of the idea behind the Freestyle Frolic, an all-ages dance party for dance-lovers held twice a month, in Kingston during the spring and in New Paltz in summer. Not that anyone will be wearing a white suit; in fact, participants will be dressed for the most part in casual, comfortable clothes, and are asked to remove their shoes before entering the dance, because the Freestyle Frolic is a mix of dance party and modern dance improvisation, which is traditionally done barefoot. (An exception is made for soft-soled dance shoes needed for medical reasons.) And without shoes to dirty up the floor, dancers can lay their bodies and heads down on it while dancing.
No particular dance steps or styles are advocated at the Frolic, and all respectful forms of movement are honored. The focus is on dance, community, creative expression and connection. As many as 120 people have shown up at Frolics to do whatever dancing they feel like doing that night, be it club-style, break-dance, hip hop, Sufi spins, ballet, acrobatics, yoga-inspired, swing, Latin or jive. No partner is required, or people can dance with multiple partners; it’s really up to the participants, and the events are gay-friendly, welcoming to all.
The Freestyle Frolic is put on by an all-volunteer organization for people who just want to experience the joy of movement. Frolics are alcohol-free, smoke-free and drug-free, which keeps the focus on dancing. People of all skill levels attend, ranging from people who are serious about dance and want to expand their experience and learn from other dancers to people who just want to have fun in a playful, open atmosphere.
The dances are held on the first and third Saturdays of the month, with the next events taking place on Saturdays, April 6 and 20 at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Broadway in Kingston. From May through September, the Frolics move outdoors, held at the Center for Symbolic Studies (CSS) at 310 River Road Extension in New Paltz. Summer dances are held on a tent-covered outdoor stage, with a nearby grassy lawn providing extra dancing space. Participants are advised to wear layers, bring water and firewood (for the bonfire) and be prepared for bugs and the dark.
Admission to the Frolic is on a sliding scale from $2 to $7 for seniors and teens and $5 to $10 for adults, with children and volunteers admitted free. It’s fully volunteer-run, and all monies collected go toward rent, supplies and equipment, space rental and other outside expenses.
Music is provided by volunteer deejays – usually two of them at indoor Frolics and three or more for the outdoor events. They’ll play a broad range of music spanning alternative, eclectic, experimental and more mainstream genres. Some of the favorite genres are Worldbeat, funk, Middle Eastern beats, African grooves and Celtic, along with the more familiar R & B, pop, reggae and Latin.
Freestyle Frolics begin at 8:30 p.m. with a warm-up, where slow music is played so that people can stretch or do yoga. At 9 p.m. the music ramps up to a high energy level; then at about 10:30 p.m., there’s a community circle to welcome new people and a break for announcements. After that, the second set begins and goes on until about 1 a.m., with the more eclectic musical selections usually played then. The outdoor dances go on even later, with a third set lasting until 2 a.m. and beyond.
Kids are welcome, with a safe “play space” available at the indoor events. Water is supplied, and participants can bring their own snacks and non-alcoholic beverages.
The Frolic was started 20 years ago, in January 1993, by Gretchen Brown, Mikio Kennedy and Hrana Janto. After two years, a community council was set up consisting of people who volunteered regularly, and now a group of about 12 to 16 people gathers monthly to make consensus decisions on the events. The group is now in the process of becoming a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit.
Freestyle Frolic, Saturdays, April 6 & 20, 8:30 p.m.-1 a.m., $2-$10, Knights of Columbus, 389 Broadway, Kingston; (845) 658-8319, www.freestylefrolic.org.