Hi Buffalo – I’d like to introduce you Dance

Sometime around the age of eight years old, I fell in love. I experienced my first real Ballet class.  There were only two of us enrolled in a 4 week summer dance class offered by a new local dance studio. Being a very introverted child, I was fearful of having this much attention focused on me.

Turned out, this was exactly the outlet I needed.  I could move and express myself, but I didn’t have to actually talk.  It made me feel liberated and safe.  I was completely awkward in real life but this felt like it was completely natural and my dance instructor apparently agreed. She extended the workshop for 4 more weeks and I signed up to study with her in the Fall.

After that day, I’ve never stopped dancing. I’m not even being dramatic. I’m about to turn 33 years old and I can say that the most I’ve gone without dancing, was probably a week.  I doubt that is even true because I’m the person you will find dancing literally through the grocery store.  I’ve also done a majority of my dancing right here in Western New York.  This may come as a shock to some of you, because many people don’t know that we now have a growing community of adults who dance.

Dancers perform at the annual Vegfest at Delware Park.
Dancers perform at the annual – Vegfest at Delaware Park. Photo by Living in the Buff 

I can clearly remember when there was no community at all, so this is understandable. When I graduated college in 2006, I figured I would have to move to a bigger city.  I really didn’t want to leave my family and friends.  I loved teaching children’s classes but ultimately knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do for my entire career.  I needed to be dancing myself and I knew other people needed it as well. I had a strong feeling that there were people out there who had no idea they needed it.  This is when the dance gods contacted me and a couple years later, I opened the first studio in WNY offering only adult classes.

The number of dance advocates has continued to grow. Classes and experiences are at our fingertips on a daily basis available to anyone and everyone . As this can be easily taken for granted, I wanted to express my true gratitude for everyone that has taken the risk to make a huge impact on our community.  Locally, you can now find an internationally touring dance company, dance groups performing at community events, innovative dance projects such as a dance festival just for adults, collaborations of dancers and musicians, and lots more.

Dance Days of Buffalo
Dancers get a taste of the art of tease in Burlesque class in support of Dance Days of Buffalo.

So why exactly do adults need dance? I’m glad you asked. However, I won’t be able to answer this for you in just this one post.  Ask any dancer why they dance and be prepared for a slightly scattered, but lengthy response of personal feelings and experiences, usually concluded with some version of the statement – “I don’t know, I just love it” and “I am not complete without it”.  Through many years of experience and a craving to explore the thoughts of others, I have found that each individual has a unique motivation for their dance life.  Generally speaking though, I can tell you that it makes our lives better.

To answer the now obviously burning question in your mind – what kind of dance can you find in Buffalo on a weekly basis that YOU (an adult) can participate in? Here’s the growing list –

  • Ballet
  • Tap
  • Jazz
  • Contemporary
  • Dance Fitness
  • Hip Hop
  • Break Dancing
  • Ballroom
  • Swing
  • Salsa
  • Bachata
  • Belly Dance
  • Bollywood
  • African
  • Burlesque
  • Contact Improvisation
  • Dancehall
  • Urban Ballroom
  • Chicago Style Stepping
  • Aerial Dance

These are amazing opportunities to move your body, but please trust me when I say, these are actually opportunities to move your soul.  I stepped into my first class and my life was changed forever.  Take a chance, stop into a class, or see a local performance and see what dance could do for you.

Kara Mann

Kara Mann is currently the director of Free Soul Dance, a studio designed to promote health & fitness through the art of dance to adults in the WNY community. The studio offers drop-in classes from absolute basic to professional as well as workshops and other fun dance related events in styles like Contemporary, Hip Hop, Dance Fitness, Ballet and more. The studio has also performed at many local Buffalo events such as Vegfest, Elmwood Artfest, and Buffalo Infringement Fest. Kara grew up in the suburbs of Buffalo, dancing mostly Ballet. She found courage and confidence through dance. As a child, she was very shy, but you would still find her organizing dance shows and classes with her neighborhood friends. Although she didn't realize this would become a life goal, it is clear that it was something she was meant to do. As her interests grew to Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap and really any type of movement, she found the need to diversify her education. She traveled to NYC to attend classes at Broadway Dance Center with her dance studio Performing Arts Dance Academy, where she experienced first hand how far the world of dance actually extended beyond her experiences. She went on to attend the University at Buffalo for Business, but she couldn't help but adding in a dance major by her junior year. She was able to grow her artistry through challenges of new classes and opportunities to choreograph for student productions. She took an opportunity to study at a three week intensive at Point Park University and traveled to NYC as much as she could. She also began to teach more regularly, finding a passion for that as well. After graduation, she was lucky to join Buffalo Contemporary Dance company, which opened her network to an even wider range of dancers that were currently residing in Buffalo. At this point, her goal was clear, she would make sure there were more opportunities for dancers in Buffalo. She loved NYC but she saw the potential and the fire that was just starting to burn in the dance industry right here in WNY. She helped to create collaborative performance groups and dance concerts, cultivated a network of professional level performers and dancers, and offered her support on other efforts towards the same goal in the dance community. This all led to the development of her biggest project to date, Free Soul Dance, the very first studio in WNY created specifically for the adult dance or enthusiasts. Currently, her studio also houses the Foxy Diamondz, a multi-talented group of professional dancers who perform at events all over Buffalo. She also personally performs and choreographs for the company as well. As she concludes her 6th year of business, she has learned a ton about the dance community and the needs of an adult dancer. She is happily astounded by the proven value dance has had in the the lives of many, from growing confidence to finding a fun way to stay healthy to fulfilling a missing piece within someone's soul. This is the driving force to Kara's mission.

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