INDIANAPOLIS — Did you know there are more than 60 dance schools in the greater Indianapolis area?
Mariel Greenlee-Lungu is willing to bet you didn't.
"It's there. It's there for anyone that has any interest. And I do think that the more that the audiences that consume art are aware of the dancing that's available to see, to experience, the more people will dance," Greenlee-Lungu, the founder of Indy Dance Council (IDC), told WRTV.
Greenlee-Lungu was a professional dancer for nearly 15 years with Dance Kaleidoscope here in Indianapolis before becoming a dance instructor. Although she's danced in bigger metropolitan cities more recognized in the dance industry, she says Indianapolis is her favorite dance city.
"You have different benefits in a big city. You have all of the cutting-edge trends happening, you have so many people passing through, you have access to all of this new and exciting information. But in a smaller city," Greenlee-Lungu said, "You have this community that really embraces what it has. And so you get to know them on a more intimate level. Both the audience and the other dancers."
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There are spaces for Latin dancing, ballroom, swing, ballet, hip-hop, breakdancing, and more in Indianapolis. Mariel says the dance community in Indy is wide and vast, just like the Midwest.
"It's not that the marketing isn't out there," Greenlee-Lungu started. "It's my guess that in the Midwest, we're so spread out. We have space. And so we use it, right? So everything's not piled on top of each other. You're not stumbling into things quite as quickly and easily as you are in a very dense city."
Mariel formally launched IDC in May for two reasons. One, is to bring the several different kinds of dancing hubs in Indy together.
"I felt like, you know, the street dance community, they do a really good job of communicating within their sphere. And musical theater communicates pretty well within their sphere. Concert dance communicates fairly well within their sphere. But the spheres don't all connect with each other," Greenlee-Lungu said. "So I just thought it would be really cool to kind of connect all of the spheres. Because of the kind of dancer that I was, I really enjoyed everything," she said. "I wish I had known more about those things when I was dancing."
The second reason Greenlee-Lungu wanted to start a dance council was to put a spotlight on the already thriving dance scene Indy has to offer for up-and-coming dancers, dance enthusiasts, and dance audiences.
"There's workshops happening, there's teachers, there's free events all the time, there is phenomenal dance happening in every possible style. And it took me years and years and years to hear about it," Greenlee-Lungu said. "So, how can I help improve communication? Shout what's going on from the rooftops; make it easier to stumble upon so that the dancers of the community are getting to hear about — and the audience — what is happening in a timely fashion so they can consume it?"
IDC is all about being a central place for Indy's dance scene.
On the IDC website, anyone can create a free account to post about an event, class, or performance happening in the city. There is also a studio map on the website for people who are interested in learning any particular style of dance can find their nearest class.
"Get inspired to get involved," Greenlee-Lungu.
IDC — which comprises 19 council members — is currently coming up with a list of project ideas for ways to bring dance to the forefront of Indy's art community.
"Art really exists to express the feeling of people," Greenlee-Lungu said. "The art is where we put our feelings. It's where we cope. It's where we express. It's where we find community; that we're not alone in those feelings and those experiences. That's really the primary — for me at least — that's the primary purpose of making art."
You can learn more about the Indy Dance Council and all about dance classes, auditions, events, performances, and studios in Indianapolis at indydancecouncil.org.
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WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.