Celebrating the Dancing Root
It is with a mixture of joy and sadness that we share our decision to bring the Dancing Root dance to a close. Sadness, because we will dearly miss the inviting and warm atmosphere of a dance that has brought so many people together over the years. Joy, because as we cross the five year anniversary of the Root, we are so proud of how special the dance has been and just how much the community has grown since we first started running a dance in Denver…
The Why: Where Did it Come From?
When we (Tian Yu Yen and Aimee Eddins) moved to Denver from the Pacific Northwest, we noticed that we were missing something here in the local dance scene. Back in 2013, there were only a few fusion dances in the area, and they either met irregularly or were focused on mixing specific dance styles (fusion-as-fusion). We were seeking a different kind of partner dancing that was more about connecting to your partner, creating stories together, and exploring new frontiers of dancing. And we were looking for a community of dancers to hang out with us and have fun!
At the time, it was challenging to become a part of the dance scenes here; the dance communities were welcoming, but seemed inaccessible–particularly to people who were not yet “good” enough or “cool” enough. There were conversations about how to make partner dance communities more friendly, and yet it still seemed like more could be done to turn those conversations into reality. Not finding what we were looking for, we decided to try and create a dance that held community at its center, a dance space that would aspire to the values most dear to our hearts: inspiration, connection, authenticity, community, equality, exploration, innovation, creativity, freedom, emotions…
The Beginning: the Birth of the Dancing Root.
On March 25, 2013, we hosted our first dance: L’Avant Garde Fusion Dance. It was hosted at a tiny, cute little studio on 14th and Ogden. Dimly lit, with sounds from a borrowed set of speakers and a faint smell of coffee drifting from the cafe next door, the studio was a sweet space to bring together dancers from a variety of backgrounds to explore connection, having fun, and dancing. Even from the very first dance, we were intentionally creating a space where folks could dance whatever role they wished, regardless of gender. And of course, we incorporated a bit of community building at every dance, creating opportunities for people to truly meet and connect with each other.
Our early days had ups and downs. Our first venue turned into a used clothing shop, so we found a different space. We were downstairs at the Savoy (where their catering business is now) for a while, before we moved upstairs. Eventually, we had to leave the Savoy and put the dance on hiatus while we searched for a reliable venue. It was around that time that Josh Van Vliet and Tresne Hernandez moved to Denver and, after connecting with them through contra dancing, a organizing team of awesome-possum sauce was born.
We spent the next few months brainstorming and re-envisioning the dance, ways we could make it happen, and how to invite people to be part of creating this with us. We also began to think about how to rebrand the dance to transform it into something that would stick. We generated a list of names (including some of the close contenders: “Rocky Mountain Dance High,” “The Fruit of the Root,” “Dancing Vegetables,” “The Partner Dance Collective,” and “The Dance Dance,” among others), and eventually settled on “the Dancing Root.”
Not too long after, Tom Held generously invited us to come be part of a new dance studio he refinished by himself, giving us a space to host the dance. We commissioned the iconic logo from our friend Adrianne Norris at Afro Triangle Studios (check out her awesome series on “Women Behaving Badly”!) and we ordered our t-shirts. We clarified and refined our values to the following seven: Respect for self and each other, Communication, Learning and transformation, Diversity and inclusivity, Expressing our true selves, Community, and Fun! We were ready to go and on the 17th of November, 2013, the “the Dancing Root” was born.
The Middle: What we’ve Learned. What the Dancing Root has Created.
During our time organizing and hosting the dance, we’ve noticed many things. For one, hosts can greatly influence the norms and atmosphere of a space by engaging with people and acting as role models in the room. At the Root, this meant reaching out to folks, particularly on their first night at the dance, or checking in with the person who seemed to be having a bad day. It meant choosing to try and challenge each other to dance different dance roles, and to dance with people who present the same gender as you.
We’ve learned that clarifying, demonstrating, and acting in alignment with our values can greatly impact larger communities around us. We’ve seen how little experiments, failures, and successes have turned to lessons and been passed along the Front Range. We’ve seen leadership grow in the Front Range scene with organizers, teachers, and DJs experimenting at the Dancing Root and then continuing to develop their skills at the Root and elsewhere. We’ve hosted and facilitated organizer trainings and community discussions about how we can care for each other in community, and we’ve seen folks take those conversations and turn them into actions in their personal relationships, policies for their organizations, and cultural norms within their dance scenes.
It has truly been a remarkable and enriching experience to be a part of!
The End: Why we are Ending the Dancing Root.
We feel so blessed to have participated in the Root’s creation and for all of the Root’s accomplishments over the years. However, sometimes new things don’t grow until older things are removed.
We are bringing this era of the Dancing Root to a close in order to make room in our lives, in the lives of the organizers we so dearly love working with, and in the lives of the dancers who have become our friends. We are so excited to see what new things will arise when that energy is released back into all our lives!
The Dancing Root will be hosting two more dances: on April 1st (our 5 year anniversary) and our last official dance on May 6th. We will still be hosting our regular 3rd Sunday brunches in March and April, so come eat tasty food and enjoy the company of our awesome community. We are choosing to announce this ahead of time so that everyone who wishes to celebrate the Dancing Root has the opportunity to participate! In particular, we invite everyone to attend the May 6th dance with us to celebrate all that has come about because of the Dancing Root!
While the Dancing Root will no longer be regularly hosting events after May 6th, we know that the spirit of the Dancing Root will persist in the Front Range. We know that y’all will continue to connect, build relationships, and welcome newcomers to the dance scene wherever we go. And of course, all of the organizers will still be around and a part of the community: we look forward to catching up and dancing with you at other events in the scene!
And you never know, if the timing is right, we may even host an occasional special Dancing Root event (which we will post here on our page).
Gratitude: Thank you to all the people who contributed over the years. Who helped create and promote the vision.
We are grateful to all the folks who have contributed their love of dance and community to running and hosting the Dancing Root, including: Josh Van Vliet, Tresne Hernandez, John Weeks, Casara Andre, Mike Lazear, Lesley Perun, Cori Barker, Tammy McKaskle, Naavah Kra, and Allie Keller. Special thanks to Josh and Tresne who played a huge role in shaping the Dancing Root into what it has been for over 4 years.
Thanks also to the spaces that have hosted the Dancing Root: the L’Avant Garde studio, the Savoy at Curtis Park, and the Joyful Ballroom. We are especially grateful to Tom Held for creating such a beautiful and community-oriented space as the Joyful Ballroom.
Thank you to everyone in the community who has made an effort to collaborate with us, including Scot Mattson, cmDance, Lucas Weismann, Kylie Wall, and Rachel Farley.
Thank you to all the dancers who have given us feedback, attended regularly, and spread the word. We are grateful for all the kind words, gratitude, and constructive criticism.
Celebration and Invitation: What do you Love about the Dancing Root?
To kick off our celebration of the Dancing Root, we invite everyone to share what you love about the Dancing Root and what it has meant to you.
What do you love about the Dancing Root? What has the Dancing Root meant to you? Would you share a special memory with all of us about the Dancing Root?