Eclectic Slide

Some people talk with their hands; dancers talk with their arms and bellies and sacroiliacs. Listen as 30 dance groups use body language to communicate their emotions for motion at the fifth annual "Celebration of Dance."

The show's producer and director Helena Saraydarian, whose credits include music videos, TV and stage productions, started the event to commemorate National Dance Week. By bringing all kinds of dance to the populace, Saraydarian aims to "get the public involved in dance at any level and in any capacity." Now there's a worthy goal -- to add just a tad of the Broadway musical to everyday life. Imagine a postal clerk selling stamps with a little salsa flourish, or a session of Congress mincing a minuet. Could happen, but it has to start with you. As Gandhi would have said had he cut footloose on the dance floor -- "Be the dance you want to see in the world."

As a matter of fact, the popularity of dance is growing locally.

"There's been a big surge in dance in the Valley, like a desert bloom," Saraydarian says. At this year's "Celebration" auditions, 90 pieces were presented. Those chosen range from ballet to break-dance, tap to tango, hip-hop to classical Hindu. Even Egyptian belly dance has squirmed into the matinee.

So how do audiences respond to a Whitman's Sampler of dance?

"We get fan mail!" Saraydarian says. "When I created [the show], it seemed like a good idea. Five years later, I realize I didn't know how good an idea it was."

Inspiration typically requires collaboration to become tangible, and Saraydarian has enlisted the help of some stellar talent. This year, Stacy Van Dyke acts as spokesperson. Van Dyke's dance legacy comes from father Dick, whose elegance on the hoof made him the beloved male lead in Mary Poppins. In addition, choreographer, dance teacher and arts patron Sheryl Cooper signed on, as well as local artists Lisa Starry of Scorpius Dance and actor/dancer Gina Tleel.

Tleel recalls the concert's inaugural year, when she was recruited to serve as assistant stage manager. An actor and dancer who normally performed in front of the curtain, Tleel suddenly came down with a severe case of stage fright. Sweating and ill, she considered asking Saraydarian to replace her -- minutes before the curtain rose. As soon as the first piece began, however, Tleel says everything changed.

"All at once, my nerves flew out the door, once I saw the dynamics between the performers and audience members. It was truly electric," Tleel says. How electric? Consider this performance voltmeter: "At the end of the concert, you'll catch audience members of all ages dancing in the lobby and congratulating performers."