- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2012

Dupont Circle has played host to numerous lazy afternoons, countless picnics, impromptu chess games, and one giant snowball fight.

But on Sunday, it was the site of Dance in the Circle, a six-hour festival that transformed the shady Northwest park into a moving mass of people bouncing to hip-hop, swaying to classical compositions and clapping with cloggers.

“What’s great is that there are teenagers over there practicing hip-hop and then people doing clogging, and everyone is equally enthusiastic,” said Columbia Heights resident Allison Winter, who spent part of her afternoon in the park. “That’s what I love about Washington, D.C.”

The dance festival was the product of more than a year of planning between Michael Lipin, 34, and Daniel Kramer, 30.

Mr. Lipin was a leader in organizing the 2010 community snowball fight, and he worked with Mr. Kramer to create the Soccer in the Circle event later that same year to generate interest in the World Cup.

Along with having a personal interest in dance, Mr. Lipin said his hopes for the festival ranged from promoting local businesses and supporting an underused park to giving smaller dance groups a chance to reach the community.

“We wanted to give dancing companies a chance for exposure,” Mr. Lipin said, “and people who want to dance can learn some steps and learn about dance companies in D.C.”

In fact, the companies’ home bases ranged from the District to Virginia and Maryland.

Joleen Harrison, a Waldorf, Md., resident, made the drive to the District to watch her 12-year-old daughter, Paris, perform for a crowd for the first time.

“It’s worth it,” Ms. Harrison said, beaming with pride as her daughter received congratulations. “That’s what Mother’s Day is about. Going to see your child dance. I went to my son’s football game this morning.”

For her part, Paris said she wasn’t too nervous about her routines with dance group Dance Dimensions, a Forestville, Md., company of about 250 student dancers.

“It was really fun,” she said.

Nine dance companies were scheduled to perform, followed by an hour of dance for whoever wanted to take to the wooden dance floor, though music played during short intermissions between groups inspired dancing of all kinds from audience members.

The idea of her company being introduced to hundreds of people in one Sunday afternoon is partly what convinced Emily Wessel of Urban Artistry to sign on, though she also knew Mr. Lipin through dance classes.

“There’s a big disconnect between dance companies and the greater community,” said Ms. Wessel, who is the director of operations for the Bethesda-based nonprofit troupe. “The community doesn’t get to the smaller dance organizations. This is a great thing to get the community involved.”