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!
Meet Dance Parade Veteran Luis Vargas and his House Coalition!
How did you first find out about Dance Parade?
I met Greg Miller (Dance Parade founder) at a protest against NYC’s Cabaret Laws, probably in 2004 or 2005—I can’t say for sure.
At that time, I was part of a group called Melting Pot—a bunch of like-minded nightlife producers, promoters, and DJs. We were first attracted to the Parade because we saw its potential to be the biggest, most effective weapon in the fight to repeal the Cabaret Laws. So, in 2006, a group of us came together to form House Coalition, and we registered for the first Dance Parade. Our intention is to show the City, and the world, that what we do as social dancers is indeed art, and as such, social dancing merits First Amendment protection. We believed that, together as House Coalition, we could become so large a voice that City Hall would have to listen to our message. We know that the perspectives and the minds of the City’s political leaders will change once they hear that message. (Cue the classic underground theme song, “Love Is The Message,” by MFSB.)
What is your current role in Dance Parade?
I produce one of Dance Parade’s biggest and most boisterous participant groups, House Coalition. We’ve basically anchored the club section at the end of the Parade since the beginning. Hundreds of dancers, crazy costumery and some of dance music’s greatest talents, all around a giant rainbow of balloons. Plus we do it Mardi Gras style, with beads for everybody that we actually recycle from New Orleans every year. House Coalition is a real sight and sound feast for everyone, and we love doing it.
Want to join House Coaltion in the parade this year? Click here and choose ‘House Coaltion’ from the drop down menu!
I’ve been around Dance Parade since it started, because I believe in the Parade and the vision it projects—that all dance is art, that all art is beautiful, and that all artists deserve First Amendment protection of place and platform from which to express their art. So, to that avail, I am also part of Dance Parade’s production crew. We facilitate. We find and operate equipment for lighting and sound, we round up volunteers to space the groups and manage the crowd, etc. We call it “the ‘get it done’ crew.”
What is your dance background?
I am not a professionally-trained dancer, rather a part of dance culture, and I have been involved for a little over 35 years. When I was about five years old (my younger brother was about two), my mother introduced me to David Mancuso at The Loft. He then introduced me to a world of music, and an amazing series of people—The Garage’s Larry Levan, Studio 54’s Nicky Siano, the late great Frankie Knuckles, and many of the people who invented New York nightlife in the late 1970’s. I became ‘Loft Kid’ Luis right then and there. Those concepts, and that feeling, never left me. In fact, House Coalition is dedicating this year’s float to Frankie Knuckles, the Godfather of House, who as you know just passed away on 30 March. We’ll dance from the heart for him this year!
I now professionally produce events for clients as well as for my own group, Blind Faith Collective. I use those ideas and experiences to create and evolve the art of dance clubbing. Oh, and I’m also now the head of production at The Loft.
What does this year’s theme “Be The Momentum” mean to you?
Momentum is a force, a push. Momentum starts it, keeps it going, and drives it on through. I am that force! I am that momentum.
What dance group are you most looking forward to seeing this year’s parade?
Honestly, I look forward to seeing all the participants, no matter who or what or from where—although I have to say I’m keeping an eye out for last year’s dancing horse. I thought that horse was pretty spectacular.
If you could pick a Grand Marshall for this year’s parade, who would it be?
I have a very long wish list, but I’d have to start with David Mancuso or DJ
Harvey. My dream is to one day introduce Stevie Wonder on stage! Not that crazy a list, right?
If you could pick another country to hold a Dance Parade and Festival, which would it be?
Again, that would be a tough choice to make. I’d probably choose Mexico first, to honour my paternal heritage—somewhere beautiful on the Caribbean coast like Tulum. Of course, somewhere in the EU, like Amsterdam or Ibiza, would be fantastic.
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?
It would be past amazing to share the stage with Grace Jones, not only because her stage presence is beyond belief, but also because I’m not sure how well dancing with Stevie Wonder would work.
Check out House Coalition’s GoFundMe Campaign Video and Contribute here
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?
Some people dance because they like to move. Some dance to celebrate, some for fitness. We dance because we must. The same undeniable pursuit of passion that makes painters paint, or musicians play, drives social dancers to dance. I am a dancer therefore I dance. Dance Parade is the biggest, most visible public expression of that passion that we as social dancers have. That’s why I keep working to produce it bigger and better each year. Even after we get the Cabaret Laws repealed, we will continue the tradition of the Dance Parade. It’s a beautiful way to celebrate life, Spring, Dance, the City—to celebrate Love, just like our message says.
Describe a special memory you have from Dance Parades past.
Every year, when the Parade makes the big turn from University Place onto E 8 St./St. Mark’s Place, it literally feels like we own the City. The exhilaration and joy of the presentation at the Grandstand is worth every minute of work and every dollar donated. I treasure the chance to dance, and to shout to the world, “we are art! This is our passion!” Most of all, everyone can be part of it! This one moment is truly the inspiration for a year’s worth of work. Thank you, Dance Parade, for the annual gift of that moment, and the platform that the Parade is for all of us.
What pitch would you use to attract a new volunteer onto the Dance Parade team?
That’s easy: “Dude, do you like to dance?”
Check out DISCO DELUXE, an event presented by Blind Faith Collective NYC & The House Coalition on Wednesday, April 16th at The 303 at 10pm!