Dance Festival

SEPTEMBER 15 - 19

One could consider New York City the most beautifully choreographed city in the world—a whirlwind of rhythm and noise as the delicate balance of humanity and industry propels and pulsates with life throughout our streets, every day and well into every night. In September, our own little corner of the city becomes a mecca of movement as the Little Island Dance Festival takes center stage in all of our spaces.

Join us as we fill our park with a breathtaking variety of beats, tempos, and percussive dance forms from all over the world, from tap to traditional, from contemporary Indian dance to African drumming. Co-curated by Little Island Artist-in-Residence Ayodele Casel and long-time collaborator Torya Beard, the Festival will feature a variety of performances including a celebration of National Dance Day on September 18th with the premiere of new work by four choreographers, and will culminate with a showcase of young and mature dancers and conversations that you won’t want to miss.


ABOUT THE CURATORS: AYODELE CASEL & TORYA BEARD


Two people dressed in red jumping in the air in front of a bright yellow wall
MICHIYAYA Dance — Photo by Sam Hershberger
A woman in a hat holding a bunch of tap shoes
Michela Marino Lerman — Photo by Luis Guillen
A man dressed in black standing in front of a green gate with hot pink flowers behind him
Leo Manzari — Photo by Diego Felipe Rosende
A man and a woman dancing
Danni Gee — Photo by Roy Volkmann
A woman in a white dress sitting on a teal sofa with a large wooden speaker next to her
Morgan James
A headshot of a woman with a colorful pink and teal scarf around her head
Brinda Guha — Photo by A. Morton

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Dance Festival Events:

Free events that take place after 12 pm on Saturdays and Sundays still require a timed entry reservation for entrance into the parkreserve here.

If you are experiencing issues purchasing tickets please email ticketing@littleisland.org


WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2021


Tomoe Carr - FREE
4 pm The Play Ground

Tomoe Carr was born in Manhattan, but she grew up in Japan. She started her dance training in Japan at Next Generation Dance Studio under the tutelage of Cebo, learning styles such as Hip Hop, House, Waacking, Locking, Popping, and Breaking. Tomoe is also the first graduate of the street dance program KiNEXtionS™ from Next Generation New York Studios Japan. After returning to New York in 2014, she has expanded her dance vocabulary studying Ballet and Modern at Peridance Center. Tomoe is currently building her portfolio by working with accomplished professionals such as Tweet Boogie, Michele Byrd- McPhee, Soraya Lundy, and Violet Galagarza among others.


Sunset Sounds: The Afro-Latineers - FREE
6 pm in The Glade

The Afro-Latineers play Afro-Latin Jazz: a fusion of Latin Jazz with West African rhythms. Influences include the likes of Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria, Machito & The Afro-Cubans, La Playa Sextet, Bobby Timmons, “Wes” Montgomery & Fela Kuti, and other Latin and Jazz pioneers.


Barkha Patel and Michela Marino Lerman’s LOVE MOVEMENT - ON SALE NOW
8 pm in The Amph

Barkha Patel and Michela Marino Lerman helm this enthralling evening of percussive dance. Kathak dancer, choreographer, educator, and Artistic Director of Barkha Dance Company, Barkha Patel creates artistic works that are rhythmically intricate and shares stories, which reverberate themes of suppression, transformation, and empowerment.

Love Movement, an ensemble led by tap dancer Michela Marino Lerman, is a hybrid of the highest levels of musicianship and hoofing, incorporating original music, spirituals, jazz, traditional and electronic tap boards, movingly presented so that you'll find yourself dancing all the way home.


The House of Xtravaganza - FREE
10:15 pm The Play Ground

The legendary House of Xtravaganza, one of the most publicly recognized houses to emerge from the underground New York City ballroom scene, takes center stage in the Play Ground at Little Island.


THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2021


It’s Showtime NYC! - FREE
10 am The Play Ground

It’s Showtime NYC! is coming to Little Island. Now in its 5th year of activity, It’s Showtime NYC! has become one of the largest street dance programs and companies in New York City. A program of the non-profit organization Dancing in the Streets, It’s Showtime NYC! provides performance and professional development opportunities to street and subway dancers as a legal alternative to dancing in subway cars.


Live! at Lunch: Paradise Drummers - FREE
12 pm in The Amph

Get carried away by the rhythm with this group of self-taught hand drummers and percussionists for a little spontaneous self-expression, stress relief, and community bonding. The Paradise Drummers incorporate elements of traditional African hand drumming and Caribbean rhythms with overtones of contemporary dance pulses to create a unique and powerful fusion sound.


Leo Manzari & Morgan James and Doug Wamble - FREE
6 pm in The Glade

Enjoy an intimate evening of original soul music and classic soul & blues covers that celebrate the continuum of black American music. Morgan James and Doug Wamble pay tribute to the long legacy of black musicians who came before them.

Catch the dynamic performance style of Leo Manzari, a Lucille Lortel award nominated tap dancer, blending styles including – tap, jazz, swing and ballet with playful charm. Manzari currently headlines alongside Byron Stripling and Grammy nominated Jazz vocalist, Carmen Bradford collaborating with multiple POPS orchestras across the world including The Winnipeg Orchestra, The Florida Orchestra, and The Philly POPS.


Ayodele & Friends - ON SALE NOW
8 pm in The Amph

Little Island Artist-in-Residence and Dance Festival Co-Curator Ayodele Casel takes the stage, with special guests to be announced. “One of the New York Times’” Biggest Breakout Stars of 2019, Ayodele Casel, “a tap dancer of fine-grained musicianship” (The New Yorker) is a 2019-2020 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Born in the Bronx and raised in Puerto Rico, Ayodele began her professional training at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her origins in theater and love for storytelling and tap dance have significantly contributed to the narrative nature in her work, which is rooted in the expression of identity, culture, language, and communication. Audio descriptions provided.


Music in The Glade: Crystal Monee Hall - FREE
10 pm in The Glade

Crystal Monee Hall’s seamlessly blends her love for world, blues, jazz, soul, and contemporary R&B, showcasing her talent as a songwriter, while highlighting a voice that has captivated audiences worldwide.


FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2021


Brinda Guha x Roshni Samlal - FREE
1 pm The Glade

Brinda Guha is a trained Indian Classical Kathak dancer for over 20 years and has traveled throughout USA and to India, England, and Spain to perform. During training and performing for years in the Kathak (Malabika Guha) & Manipuri (Kalavati & Bimbavati Devi) dance disciplines, as well as Flamenco (Carmen de las Cuevas; Dionisia Garcia) and Contemporary Fusion vocabularies, she co-founded Kalamandir Dance Company in 2009 based in the vocabulary of Contemporary Indian Dance.

Roshni Samlal (tabla) is a New York-based tabla player who has studied within the Farukhbad, Benares, and Punjab gharanas. She is currently a student of Shri Surdarshan Singh of the UK and is a prolific local teacher and performer within a variety of ensembles. She is a member of the Brooklyn Raga Massive.


Rokafella and Ryan K. Johnson - FREE
6 pm in The Glade

Join for an intimate but rousing night in The Glade when musician, entrepreneur, and breakdancing pioneer Rokafella's new piece "Beauty meets Beast" takes the stage, followed by Creative Director, Educator and Percussive Dance Practitioner Ryan K. Johnson of RKJ DANCE.


Ronald K. Brown / EVIDENCE - ON SALE NOW
8 pm in The Amph

EVIDENCE, A Dance Company takes the stage for a rousing evening of celebration and joy. Founded by Ronald K. Brown in 1985 and based in Brooklyn, New York, EVIDENCE, A Dance Company focuses on the seamless integration of traditional African dance with contemporary choreography and spoken word. Brown uses movement as a way to reinforce the importance of community in African American culture and to acquaint audiences with the beauty of traditional African forms and rhythms.


SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2021


A Celebration of National Dance Day - ON SALE NOW
8 pm in The Amph

Join us for a celebration of National Dance Day with new works choreographed by Josh Prince, Ray Mercer, Darrell Grand Moultrie, and Tiffany Rea-Fisher.


Late Night in The Play Ground: MICHIYAYA Dance - FREE
10 pm The Play Ground

Artistic Directors Anya and Mitsuko Clarke-Verdery founded MICHIYAYA as a way to combine their voices as artists. Now in their fifth year, MICHIYAYA is an evolving dance company of six dance artists based in New York City. MICHIYAYA’s work has spread nationally at venues and institutions such as Yale University, Brooklyn Museum, Andy Warhol Museum, Gelsey Kirkland Theater, La MaMa Galleria, among others. This powerful group of femme voices has been featured in Art Forum, Vice i-D, Thinx, Mask Magazine, and more.


SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2021


Jared Alexander Sprague and Gerson Lanza - FREE
12 pm The Play Ground

"We started our relationship just as two tap dancers who wanted to dance with each other during the pandemic in NYC. We wanted to catch up, train, and jam as tap dancers do, but the rental studios were closed. We ended up meeting in Central Park every Friday during the Summer of 2020, and through that process, we made a catalog of works, new friends, and brought joy to people during a difficult time. It evolved from personal growth to involving an audience who shamelessly provides feedback. We incorporate old and new viewpoints of this dance form and stay true to its integrity."


Dizzy Spells - FREE
2 pm The Glade

Jazz and hip-hop music and dance unite in this innovative program led by trumpeter and former Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member Sean Jones and virtuoso tap dancer, choreographer, and vocalist Brinae Ali. Dizzy Spellz offers an Afrofuturist lens on the intersection of cultural and spiritual dilemmas within the African Diaspora through the music of Dizzy Gillespie.


Don’t Call It A Comeback: Circling Themes, Chasing Dreams - FREE
featuring Aaron Mattocks, Danni Gee, Hank Smith, Rokafella, and Torya Beard
6 pm in The Amph

What does “once a dancer, always a dancer” mean in practice, when you have stepped back from dancing full-time? Five mature dancers who are also presenters, choreographers, educators, musicians, producers, perform micro-solos and share stories about how dance, and in some cases, not dancing, has shaped their lives.


Leonardo Sandoval & Music from the Sole - FREE
7 pm in The Glade

Music From The Sole combines tap dance and live music in a celebration of tap's Afro-diasporic roots, particularly its connections to Afro-Brazilian dance and music, and its lineage to forms like house dance and passinho (Brazilian funk). Led by Brazilian choreographer Leonardo Sandoval and by composer Gregory Richardson, their work embraces tap’s unique nature as a blend of sound and movement, incorporating wide-ranging influences like samba, passinho, Afro-Cuban, jazz, and house.


They Got Next: The Next Generation of Dance Leaders - ON SALE NOW
8 pm in The Amph

The Dance Festival culminates with a showcase of young dancers and choreographers that you won’t want to miss including Maurice Chestnut’s Dance Therapy, Earl Mosely’s Diversity of Dance, MOVE|NYC|, Tomoe Carr, Eddie Hernandez, and Fanta Ballo.