By Alia Wilson

Posted:   04/30/2010

SANTA CRUZ — Hanging from a thick black cable dangling from the roof of Lulu Carpenter’s on Pacific Avenue, three dancers from The Aerial Collective defied gravity Thursday while twirling and swaying to the sound of a piano.

Bringing to life the banners of aerial dancers taken by photographer Darryl Ferrucci years ago, the dancers’ display of movement kicked off three hours during which hundreds of dancers on three downtown stages celebrated National Dance Week.

Abra Allan, founder and owner of Santa Cruz Dance, was one of the dancers who awed the audience.

“It was an adrenaline rush for me,” Allan said. “This is one of the only times the community gets to bear witness to what we do. It’s a total joy.”

In 2008, Allen organized National Dance Week Santa Cruz to showcase the talent in the area and to highlight local dance studios and classes. Beginning Saturday, in 13 locations throughout the county, more than 70 classes will be offered for free to first-time participants.

Dressed in her dance clothes, 5-year-old Lily Sonnenblick, who takes classes at Motion Pacific, was eager to watch the performances.

“My daughter loves to dance,” said her mother, Rachel, who also takes classes at Motion Pacific. “She has been dancing for three years. She’s more persistent than I am. This event is meaningful for our family because you get to see dance integrated into the wider community. It’s great to see the public support for dance.”

Immediately after the aerial performance, Polynesian dancers took the stage on Pacific Avenue in front of Jamba Juice, while hip-hop group Beat Techniques performed at Locust Street and Pacific and the International Academy of Dance hit the stage in front of Cinema 9.

“The diversity of dances for all of these performances, each with their own incredible gravity behind them — hip-hop, tango, Made Surya mask dance — within 15 minutes of each other is a lot of fun,” said Chip, the executive director of the Downtown Association who goes by one name.

In between dance performances, small children would steal to the stage to perform dance moves and cartwheels while parents watched with smiles on their faces.”I’ve lived in Santa Cruz for 22 years and I absolutely love this event,” Dara Thornton said. “As much as I enjoy the dancers, I also enjoy how the dancers bring out everybody in the community from preschoolers to senior citizens. The dancers seem to resonate with all members of the community. It’s one of the gifts here in Santa Cruz being in such a creative community.”Impromptu dance performances are scheduled to pop up in random locations today through Sunday. Check to try and find clues.