The second season of Dance Is Life came to an end in Central Park, with an extra dose of musical magic from Soul In The Horn
On any given Monday in Central Park, you’ll hear a symphony of sounds—birds chirping, cars honking, children laughing. But on Monday, September 12th, there was another layer of harmony. It was the season finale of Dance Is Life, an intergenerational dance party celebrating the Hustle, hosted by close friends Natasha Diggs and Abdiel. On this particular Monday, there would be horns, drums, and the sounds of a community singing in joy while rejoicing in dance.
Approaching the bandshell, I hear the lyrics, “Let’s go dancin, let’s go have some fun!” until I’m surrounded by a crowd of people dancing their hearts out. “The chance we get to come alive…is when we go out after our 9 to 5…” the lyrics continue. Partners spin around dancing the Hustle to disco and house music, as roller skaters glide by. Natasha does her signature twirl behind the turntables, while dancers jump onstage for their moment to shine. When the timing is right, she quickly abandons her decks for the dancefloor below, sprinting back for the next transition.
Meanwhile, Abdiel shares a dance with nearly every guest that arrives—alternating from lead to follow, between different styles of dance—as if each dance were created custom for each partner. In Hustle, traditional gender roles are shattered, with women leading other women (and men), and vice versa. Many dancers switch between the two roles, sometimes mid-dance. It’s this freedom of expression that has made Hustle such a welcoming form of partner dance, since its creation in the early 1970s.
Soon, the sounds of horns and drums join this NYC symphony, and guests are joyously lost in the music. Soul in the Horn has arrived, and DProsper has brought the talented Mazi and Khaz with him, for a one-of-a-kind performance.
Although the end of summer is near and it’s getting dark earlier, the energy grows stronger and brighter. The dancers and music seemingly become one, with the crowd cheering at the end of songs like “I Want You” by Marvin Gaye. The applause is as much for themselves as it is for the performance—a cheer of joy and togetherness. After many near-last songs, Natasha puts the real one on, “Free” by Deniece Williams. The track ends, but the lyrics continue. “I’ve just got to be me, free, freeeeeeee,” the crowd breaks into song, with shouts of “New York City!” and “My hometown!” sent into the stars.
The magic of Dance Is Life began last year, on February 14, 2021, a Valentine’s special on www.soulinthehorn.com. The stream aired early on a Sunday afternoon, allowing families to participate, and included a brief Hustle lesson by professional dancer Abdiel. An avid participant on the SITH weekly Global Vibrations stream, Abdiel had taken the “zoom room” to the next level with flawless Hustle moves, alongside Natasha Diggs as virtual DJ. A local NYC movement had gone global, with people around the world dancing together in harmony, while learning about this vibrant partner dance, born during the disco era in NYC.
Natasha and Abdiel took the next step, moving the event from online to real life, to Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, where large crowds historically danced Hustle in the 1970s. The party continued every other Monday through summer, to return annually. Both the Soul in the Horn and Hustle dance communities instantly caught on, as did visitors of the park who stumbled upon the party. Dancers started bringing their children, as they did on the Valentine’s Day live stream. This unique combination of ages and backgrounds, formed the Dance Is Life community that we embrace today. The stream continues via Natasha’s Instagram Live, where viewers watch each party in awe. This perfect harmony of friends and strangers—in person and online, local and global—makes one message loud and clear. “DANCE IS LIFE.”
Dance Is Life plans on returning to Bethesda Fountain in Summer of 2023. Follow @danceislifenyc on Instagram for future party announcements and coverage from past events.