Volunteer Spotlight : Meet DanceFest Super MC Donnie D’Amato!

Dance Parade, Inc. is a volunteer supported non-profit organization! It is the dedication, expertise and rhythm of these brave few that are solely responsible for the success of the event and all the background work that goes on all year long leading up to the parade and festival. Every month, we choose a different volunteer to spotlight. We ask them a few questions to let you know who they are, where they’ve come from and where they see themselves in the future. Want to become a volunteer?   Click here!


Volunteer Spotlight :

Meet DanceFest MC Donnie D’Amato


Since the very first parade back in 2007,  Chauncey noticed a super funky guy dancing away the entire day right in front of the stage, moving like he was skating on ice.  We discovered later that his sneakers were equipped with wheels at the bottom, enabling his swanky moves and igniting the crowd around him with his exciting dancing and infectious energy.   After seeing him at the festival every year,  Chauncey decided it was time to reach out to him and tap into that D’Amato magic and get him involved somehow.  Last year,  Donnie was recruited to be one of the MCs of Stage A at DanceFest in Tompkins Square Park immediately following the parade and we collectively agreed that it was safe to say ‘mission accomplished’!   Check out Donnie as he brings his boundless love for dance and vivacious spirit once again to the main stage in Tompkins Square Park for this year’s four hour DanceFest Takeover from 3pm-7pm!   Click here for more info about the post-parade festival.

Greetings Donnie!  Let’s start at the very beginning!  How did you first find out about Dance Parade and how did you get involved?
I don’t remember how I first heard about Dance Parade but I knew I had to be there for the first one. It was the same day my job was celebrating it’s centennial but I left early to make sure I didn’t miss the parade and festival. After going every year and starting dance circles in front of the festival main stage, I was recognized by Chauncey and he got me involved as a volunteer.


What is your current role in Dance Parade?
I’m the main stage emcee but I also emcee other Dance Parade events such as the Dance Parade Showcase we had earlier this year. I also help with some day-of production orientated tasks on event days.


What is your favorite style of dance to watch? to participate in?
My favorite style is anything that has fast energy because you really need to pay attention to make sure you don’t miss anything. This could be anything from Argentine Tango to Hip-Hop to Swing.

What is your dance background?

I’ve been dancing professionally for half my life between working for a DJ company, doing music videos and reality TV. I’ve also produced a few successful YouTube videos, one of which was featured on VideoDanceTV.


If you could share the stage with anyone in history famous or not, living or deceased, a trained dancer or not, performing a routine choreographed by yourself…who would it be?
That’s tough because I wouldn’t want to share the stage, the people I look up to are so much better in terms of style and technique. Though a few people I’d like to recognize are Toni Basil, Sofia Boutella, P-Lock, Daniel “Cloud” Campos.


What does this year’s theme “Be The Momentum” mean to you?
Momentum is a force behind movement and our theme is suggesting that you be a part of that force.


What dance group are you most looking forward to seeing this year in the parade?
Because of my dance background, I’m interested in the Hip-Hop groups. I reached out to former dancer for Madonna’s tour, Anthony “AntBoogie” Rue, about including his Urban Dance League, so I’m looking forward to seeing them.


If you could pick a Grand Marshall for this year’s parade….who would it be?

Definitely Toni Basil, she was one of the original members of The Lockers, which also included Shabba-Doo (from the movie Breakin’) and former Dance Parade Grand Marshall Don “Campbellock” Campbell. While most of the world just knows her from the Mickey song, she was a huge part of the urban dance community, trying to bring it into popular culture through broadcast media.


Part of volunteering has a lot to do with strong leadership skills and major teamwork skills….if you were to pick a volunteer of the month…who would you choose?
To be honest this is hard because I don’t get a chance to see the work that many of the volunteers do except for the collaboration of us all together. We all have a part in this and I can’t say anyone is putting in more or less than someone else. But if I had to pick, I’d say… me. 😉


If you could pick another country to hold a Dance Parade and Festival….which would it be?
I’d like to think there’s no better place than New York because of the incredible cultural diversity we have here. If we were to pick another place, it would have to have a similar diversity. Maybe somewhere warmer?


Volunteering at a non profit organization can at times be daunting and frustrating with limited personnel and limited funding….what is it that keeps you coming back for more and more?
I really enjoy being on stage and being the face of Dance Parade because I enjoy getting everyone involved in the same passion I have with dance. I’ve emceed in many different scenarios and events prior to volunteering for Dance Parade so if I can contribute my talents with a cause focused on dance then I make myself available for it. Personally, most of what I do in my life is not because of money, it’s for the experiences.


click image to learn more about Donnie D’Amato


Describe a special memory you have from Dance Parades past?

I guess the best memory I have so far is how much thanks and praise I received following the end of the festival last year. I really appreciate Dance Parade giving me a chance to take the reins in closing out the festival and I’m excited to do it again this year.


What pitch would you use to attract a new volunteer onto the Dance Parade team?
I wish I knew! I’ve been trying to get friends of mine involved for a long time but it seems the hustle and bustle of real life in New York City tends to get in the way. If there’s anyone reading this and on the fence about volunteering; just do it. It’s really amazing seeing all of our hard work come together on a very special day.

Thank you so very much Donnie! We are so glad that we have acquiesced you into the ‘cult’ that is Dance Parade haha! Check out one of Donnie’s amazing videos and find out what would happen if the world was blessed with two of him!!