See Turf Dance Battles and Dance-a-Vision at Art + Soul

The two-day art, music, and dance festival is all Oakland.


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Yak to the Bay presents a two-part Turf Dance battle.

Photo courtesy Yak to the Bay

Summertime is festival time. Some are highfalutin with fancy dress codes and fancier prizes. Some are tiny — kids and balloons celebrating neighborhoods and small-town life.

Oakland’s annual Art + Soul Festival is neither pretentious nor modest — it is a blast. And the thousands of people who have invaded downtown Oakland every summer for the last 17 years probably would agree that this two-day event is a worthy reflection of Oaktown.

Dance, of course, has been part of community celebrations for centuries. Some of it may have moved into concert halls and proscenium theaters. But all of it has grown out of native soil, and Oakland’s participants in Art + Soul can attest to that.

On the afternoon on Saturday, July 27, Yak to the Bay presents a two-part Turf Dance Battle, first the open part, which will be followed by the finalists. Turf developed in Oakland as a form of highly individualistic street dance through which performers could claim their neighborhoods and apparently grew out of boogaloo and hip-hop. One of turf’s trademarks is the extreme flexibility of the dancers’ every joint; dancers have a way of sliding, almost floating on the floor. It’s athletically thrilling and elegant at the same ime.

On the afternoon of Sunday, July 28, elegance and prowess find multiple expressions through the students from Carla Service’s Dance-A-Vision program. For over a quarter of a century, Service has offered classes from creative movements for toddlers to modern, contemporary, ballet and hip-hop. Her students range from 3½ to 40 years old. Service approaches each dancer walking through her doors at the Malonga Casquelourd Center individually. She wants students to find a form of dance expression that appears uniquely appropriate for them. But she teaches more than steps and movement; she teaches them life skills, too. The dancers may dance free style, Lindy hop, modern, or jazz, but they also learn about self-esteem, speaking up for themselves, and overcoming difficult situations. As Service tells her students, “If you cannot find a good person, you be one.”

Art + Soul Festival, Sat.-Sun., July 27-28, 12th and Jefferson streets; Turf Dance Battle, Sat., July 27, 12:30-5 p.m.; Dance-a-Vision, Sun., July 28, 12:30-5:30 p.m.; $15, free under 16.

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