Metro Weekly

National Dance Day at the Kennedy Center: Everything You Need to Know

This year's 12th annual event returns on Sept. 18 as a free, in-person gathering

National Dance Day at Kennedy Center -- Photo: Jati Lindsay
National Dance Day at Kennedy Center — Photo: Jati Lindsay

“It’s always one of my favorite days of the year, but I think this year will feel additionally special because it’s such a contrast to being stuck inside our homes,” says Jane Rabinovitz of the Kennedy Center. She’s discussing National Dance Day, an annual celebration started in 2000 by the American Dance Movement, founded by Hollywood producers Nigel Lythgoe (So You Think You Can Dance) and Adam Shankman (Hairspray), in collaboration with the center.

This year’s 12th annual event is set for Saturday, Sept. 18 and returns to being a free, in-person gathering with most activities taking place outdoors on the expansive REACH plaza. “There will be plenty of room to spread out, make your own space, be in your own bubble, and feel part of the celebration,” Rabinovitz says.

Just before dusk will come Dance Day’s signature activity, in which participants learning and performing a choreographed routine en masse. This year’s group dance is set to an edited version of Ariana Grande’s recent hit “Break Free,” as choreographed by Grande’s twin backup dancers, Brian and Scott Nicholson. The routine follows a full afternoon of interactive, 45-minute dance classes led by local experts in a variety of dance styles, from hip-hop to Chinese contemporary to Cuban Dance.

National Dance Day at Kennedy Center -- Photo: Jati Lindsay
National Dance Day at Kennedy Center — Photo: Jati Lindsay

Co-curated by Dance Place, the day will also feature an all-day Arts Market on the REACH Plaza showcasing vendors and performances by SoundXpressed Dance Company, the Washington School of Ballet, Paula Brown Performing Arts Center’s Brown Ballerinas, and Ronya-Lee Anderson. The day starts at 10 a.m. with a Family Yoga session led by Jess Gruber.

A prelude to this year’s Dance Day celebration are activities planned for the two evenings prior, part of the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage Summer Series. Several dance films will screen on the REACH Video Wall the evening of Thursday, Sept. 16, capped off by the world premiere of Rhythm Is Our Business, a tap dance-focused film by Quynn Johnson, the 2020-2021 Local Dance Commissioning Project awardee. Meanwhile, Friday, Sept. 17, will offer a sneak peek of Dance Day performances by local dance troupes, among other things. And running from 5 to 8 p.m. both evenings is the Dance Day Arts Market on the REACH Plaza.

All National Dance Day activities are offered free, first come, first served, and may be limited due to capacity. For a full schedule and more information, visit or call 202-467-4600.

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