Volunteer Spotlight: Mark Schmidt, Curator with an Umph!

In each issues of STEPS!, we put the Spotlight on one of our fabulous volunteers. 

 
Mark, we’re all looking forward to seeing the cultural dances you curated for Winter’s Eve next Monday–Tell us more!
Sure–I’ve been working with the fabulous folks at Lincoln Square BID to put together a lineup that rocks the city’s largest Holiday Festival!
 

For the past 6 years Dance Parade has presented all types of dance there, everything from hoopers, to stilt walkers and most notably, they like our folkloric dance groups. On Monday November 27th, we’re presenting four very unique ones. (see lineup in above Winter’s Eve article). 

 
 
How did you first find out about Dance Parade?
That’s funny you ask that because as you know, recently the NYC Cabaret Law was repealed. I found out about Dance Parade when I was in grad school doing research for my MFA thesis about underground house dance in New York.  In one of the chapters I discussed the cabaret laws and the work that NYU La Professor Paul Chevigny and Dance Parade were doing to repeal it. I would never have imagined that 7 years later I would be working for this awesome organization. 
 
What is your current role in Dance Parade, Inc? 
Four years ago, I joined Dance Parade’s Curatorial Committee, helping to review material about DanceFest, Winter’s Eve and other curated events that Dance Parade commissions artists for.
 
 
What have you been doing when your not parading around with this non-profit?
Like many New Yorkers I wear a lot of hats. Performer. Choreographer. Dance Educator. Personal Trainer. In the last few years Ive worked with Luis Malvacias/Third Class Citizen, Jeremy Nelson and Shandoah Goldman/Carte Blanche Performance. I also produce my own choreography. Most recently in 2016 I collaborated with the Brooklyn-based rock band Haybaby, premiering as a solo at the Bol Theater in Detroit. Im currently developing a solo based on my experience at various underground house music parties in New York between 1996-2001, to premier in Spring 2018. I work as guest artist at dance intensives or universities teaching: partnering, anatomy through movement, improvisation modern technique and house dance. And last but not least, I am a strength and conditioning specialist working with special populations, mainly pre-post natal and seniors.  (Check out MarkSchmidt.Org or write me: Mark@DanceParade.Org for more info!)
 
What is your favorite style of dance to watch? to participate in? 
I’m a house head at heart. I went to my first underground house music party back in 1996 at a place called Loft A in Prospect Heights and haven’t stopped dancing since then. Not only do I love it as a dance form but admire the culture of positivity, peacefulness, celebration and community that surrounds it.  
 
What is your dance background or interest in dance? 
In my movement history I have studied capoeira, house, street jazz, classical ballet, Horton, contact improvisation, modern release technique and gymnastics.  In 2004 I was accepted to the Independent Study Program at the Alvin Ailey School and then went on to receive my MFA in Choreography and Performance from the State University of New York College at Brockport. 
 
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? 
I would have to say Angela Davis.  I recently saw her speak at the Riverside Church in New York and was overwhelmed with feelings of hope and solidarity. In addition to admiring her as an intellectual and committed social justice warrior, I fell in love with her as an orator.  She has this unique textured voice and cadence that makes you want to listen to what she is saying. 
 
 
What does this year’s theme “The Cabaret of Life” mean to you? 
DanceFest celebrates diversity of dance in New York, but it also serves as an example of how we can go beyond mere coexistence and find human connection through the universal joy in dance. “The Cabaret of Life” reminds of us that dance can impact us on an everyday basis, both as performer and as an audience.
 
 
 
 
 
What dance group or dance style are you most looking forward to seeing this coming year in the parade? 
There are two that come to mind, and these have been my favorites since I first stumbled upon Dance Parade in 2013. House Coalition and any of our Bolivian folkloric groups. They have an energy that gets people excited and moving. 
 
If you could pick another country to hold a Dance Parade and Festival….which would it be? 
I would have to say Japan.  
 
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? 
It’s the people. I know this sounds like a cliche but it’s the truth.  In addition to creating a supportive and positive work environment, the folks at Dance Parade have a shared commitment and passion for dance. Some of us are choreographers.  Some of us are DJs. Some of us are educators. And some of us just love dance. 
 
Describe a special memory you have from Dance Parades past? 
I remember one of the first years I attended DanceFest in Tompkins Square Park, it started raining about 2 hours into the festival. I was with some friends in an area where there was a DJ, toward the northern end of the park. Instead of running for shelter, people got more excited and kept moving and celebrating.  I have this vivid memory of people dancing in the rain in the park.  Epic!