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Embrace the Rhythm

For Krystyna Parafinczuk, dancing is the key to staying sane.

"I have no choice; I have to dance," says Parafinczuk. "It's a way of life—to be healthy, fulfilled, and to be engaged with your body. It's vital to (my) existence."

Her motto is "dancing and dance education creates strong minds and super bodies" and as a dance teacher at Pima Community College and a force behind the Dance Festival of Southern Arizona, Parafinczuk is doing everything in her power to create strong-minded people with super bodies.

The Dance Festival of Southern Arizona, to be held Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19 and 20, is a two-day, culturally diverse project sponsored by the Arizona Dance Coalition and the Arizona Dance Education Organization, and will be the first dance festival of its kind offered in Southern Arizona.

The event features 30 dance classes and workshops for participants with a medium level of experience; and five classes for beginners. On Saturday night, 22 professional dancers from around the world will be featured in a showcase of dance styles that will include Cuban clavé, Argentine tango, Spanish flamenco, and modern and aerial dance. The underlying theme of the weekend is rhythm.

"I feel that rhythm is important, not only in dance, but in life," says Parafinczuk. "Sometimes students don't have timing or musicality—they are just doing the steps. I thought it would be good to just expose them to different styles of rhythm ... and to have them become more open and aware of the different styles that are available."

Parafinczuk says the chance to dance many of the styles offered will be a new experience for many participants. In the African polyrhythm class, for instance, they will be led through various high-energy, traditional rhythmic movements originating from the heart of African culture. "It makes everyone laugh and smile while they are doing it," says Parafinczuk. "Sometimes they mess up and that's when the laughter starts."

But there's not likely to be much messing up Saturday night during the STEP to the Rhythm, DANCE to the Rhythm performance. The pros will take the stage in a colorful and eclectic showcase, dancing some of the same dances offered in the classes during the day.

"We have all those pockets of richness and I wanted to bring all those pockets together on one stage so that the supporters of dance can see and appreciate the wide scale of how much there is to offer here," says Parafinczuk.

The showcase will begin with a film made by a Flagstaff dancer. Members of the Arizona Dance Coalition will perform a welcome dance, which will be followed by performances of African polyrhythm, a "junk funk" piece, a hip-hop number, a malambo, a tango and a "samballet" (and that's all before intermission).

Parafinczuk says she's particularly excited about the samballet, which is a mix of samba and ballet. The number will be performed by Aurora Goncalves-Shaner, the director of dance at Pima Community College.

"It shows her strength as a technical dancer, but also shows all the wonderful rhythm she possesses in her soul," says Parafinczuk. "I saw it several years ago (and) I invited her to do it again because our theme is rhythm, and she has plenty of it!"

Although the samballet should be a thrilling event in a one-of-a-kind weekend, Parafinczuk says that what really makes this festival special is the opportunity it provides for those who have always wanted to learn some of the dances featured but couldn't commit to a full set of lessons. She says the members of the Arizona Dance Coalition know firsthand the benefits that dancing can have on a person's well-being, and their hope is to spread their knowledge throughout the community.

Saturday night's STEP to the Rhythm, DANCE to the Rhythm showcase begins at 7 p.m., at University High School, 421 N. Arcadia Ave. Tickets are $15 advance and $20 at the door. Discounts available for children younger than 12, seniors 65 and older and military, Dance Festival participants, and ADC and AzDEO members. Tickets are available at BrownPaperTickets.com/event/454652.

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