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Dayton City Paper: Dayton’s historic innovations also include dance

Excerpt from Dayton City Paper

Ohio’s unique and powerful dance history will take center stage from June 18 to 24, 2018, as ballroom dancers and world-renowned dance instructors convene for the unveiling of Dayton Historic Dance Week.

It is organizer Jeanette Watts’ way of showing off her hometown of the last 20 years to the vintage dance community as ballroom dancers of all skill levels celebrate vintage dance, local history, and the delights of embracing humanity through social dance.

According to Watts, “Dayton Historic Dance Week is about learning, and this is about playing, and the two actually go together really well.”

Proudly heralding Dayton’s intricate historic fabric and vibrant vintage dance community, this event consists of a weeklong menagerie that fuses the instruction and appreciation of vintage dance with events celebrating and exploring the distinct heritage of Dayton.

The campus of Wright State University will provide lodging for out-of-town attendees and host daily dance workshops led by some of the most talented and knowledgeable instructors from across the country. Afternoon events will highlight Dayton’s historical landmarks, such as a Vintage Bathing Suit Party at the downtown YMCA, visits to the Packard Museum, the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, tours of Hawthorn Hill and Carillon Historic Park, and more. Each day cumulates with a historic ball specifically tailored to dance style or era, and hosted by an institution unique to Dayton.

Dayton Historic Dance Week presents a uniquely-themed, fitting and dynamic arrangement for attendees. Wright State, renowned for its esteemed programs in the performing and creative arts, also houses the historical archives of The Wright Brothers Collection, which include Wilbur and Orville Wright’s technical and personal library, as well as thousands of photographs documenting the invention of the airplane.

“Wright State’s involvement is an illustration of the power of networking, and the bonds of friendship,” said Watts. She noted the invaluable support and involvement of longtime friends and colleagues such as Joan Walton and Greg Hellems in bringing Watts’ vision for Dayton Historic Dance Week to fruition.

“I met Greg through Joan, and I’ve taught for him before at Wright State,” Watts said. “When I told him I wanted to do a dance week, he immediately gave his support. He immediately recognized this unique opportunity for his musical theater students to gain insight and experience in forms of dance that are not routinely taught at Wright State, but are relevant to their careers.”

Wright State will host the Tiki Welcome Dance, while Dave Greer’s Classic Jazz Stompers will headline Jazz Night at Riverscape in downtown Dayton. The Mid-Century Ball will unfold at the historic Masonic Temple, where dancers will delight in a brass performance by the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment band.

Dayton Art Institute will host the Bustle Ball, a night dedicated to set dances and waltzes to the music of Joyous Occasion. At the Michael Solomon Pavilion, the Wizard of Oz Tea Dance will celebrate turn-of-the-century dance. The Dayton Leiderkranz-Turner will open their hall for an Evening with the Brothers Grimm, where guests will celebrate German folk history, costume and dance.

Dayton, a city distinct in its history, character and thriving local roots movement, is also unique in its vintage dance community. “One of the local phenomenon of Dayton is its dance community—several elements of which have contributed facilities and/or dancers to this efforts,” Watts said. “Normally, Vintage ballroom dancing is found in larger cities, like San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, New York or Cincinnati. It’s awesome that even though Dayton is small by comparison, we have our own thriving Vintage dance group.”

For Watts, the inspiration, dedication and effort invested in the organization of Dayton Historic Dance Week amounts to a very personal and momentous occasion. “I moved away to Charlotte, NC, in the last year, and I’m now living in a larger city without any good waltz partners. It makes me miss Dayton terribly! This really is the Gem City.”

Ideally, this event will heighten awareness of the thriving local vintage dance community and invite new participants to explore the many opportunities to join in the fun. Crystallizing the intrinsic value of dance as a form of communication and expression, Watts said, “Dance, for me, is not a spectator sport. Dance is about making connections with your fellow man—and it can be best done on the dance floor and interacting with other people.”

The official sponsor of Dayton Historic Dance Week is Dayton Historic Dance, which is made up of the Terpsichorean Delights Dance Assembly (TDDA), and Madame Gigi’s Outrageous French Cancan Dancers. Watts started both groups over 15 years ago, and they have been connected since they started. They share dance space on Friday nights, and frequently share a stage at A World A’Fair, which is held each May in Dayton. Another significant sponsor of note is the Dayton Liederkranz-Turner.

To register for workshops, events, or learn more about Dayton Historic Dance Week, please visit