WILKES-BARRE — A cool breeze drifted through the Kirby Park pavilion Saturday as Gabriella Randazzo, 9, began her solo performance, one she had choreographed from scratch.
Randazzo, slight and timid, assumed her position as the song “Grenade” by Bruno Mars began over the sound system. Any insecurity, she kicked off in the first few bars and executed moves that mixed ballet and popular hip-hop steps.
Dancers from 16 area dance studios performed during opening day of the two-day Wilkes-Barre Cherry Blossom Festival. It marked the seventh year of Pirouettes in the Park, an entertainment feature that sets apart the early spring festival from others of its kind that occur in the city later in the year, said an event official.
“(The dancing) is unique to this event,” said Lore Majikes, Wilkes-Barre’s special events coordinator. “We’re thrilled that we’re able to keep it going.”
The festival gives dancers a chance to perform for an audience that might never attend a dance recital, she said. As the crowds sift through the gauntlet of food and craft vendor stands, they end up sitting by the pavilion to enjoy the show, Majikes said, many of them slurping ice cream cones and licking powdered sugar from deep-fried Oreos off their fingertips.
“And as you can see, there’s a lot of genres,” Majikes said with a laugh, pointing toward a trio of belly dancers on stage moving to a South Asian beat.
Dancers from the Izdihaar dance troupe, hailing from Tunkhannock and whose name means ‘blossoming’ in Arabic, popped their hips and shoulders in brightly colored costumes adorned with bells and tassels.
Vicki Ross, a 10-year belly-dancing veteran, said she picked the style because it seemed more fun than ballroom dancing. “And belly dancers dress better,” she said. Ross is the troupe’s seamstress and makes her costumes by hand.
After Randazzo, of the Dance Theater of Wilkes-Barre, finished her solo, she confessed that nerves got the best of her and she forgot some of the steps she spent four days crafting. Still, she completed the dance by cleverly improvising and it seemed that nobody in the crowd noticed the difference.
The outdoor venue lets dancers perform in a more casual setting and the environment only inspires them more, said Bridget Giunta Husted, an instructor from the Dance Theater and coordinator for the festival’s dance entertainment.
“As a dancer,” she said, “it’s good to get to look out and see the landscape, feel the breeze coming through. It’s a really cool atmosphere.”