More than a half dozen dance groups will take the stage this weekend at Lowell Park in Stillwater for the second annual Boom Dance Fest, which aims to showcase a variety of high-level dance troupes and styles from around the Metro.
The free, outdoor show starts at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26. It’ll last about an hour, said Giselle Mejia, the co-artistic director of Curio Dance, the Stillwater-based dance school hosting the festival.
The Saint Croix River Valley is home to many art festivals, Mejia said. She and her brother Dario Mejia have run Curio Dance since 2009, and they noticed there wasn’t a festival focused solely on professional dance. So last year, they built a temporary wooden stage at Lowell Park — mic’d up underneath to amplify tap dancers’ rhythms — and drew several hundred people to the riverside park for the inaugural Boom Dance Fest.
“It’s a perfect place to come and see professional dance,” Giselle Mejia said. “And also to get some of the Twin Cities professional dance companies to perform outdoors, which is always lovely.”
This year’s Boom Dance Fest will feature six dance companies and even more genres: Curio will present jazz and contemporary dance, followed by Keane Sense of Rhythm tap dancers and Break Free Ministries hip-hop dancers. Hmong troupe Iny Asian Dance Theater, Latino troupe Corazon Latino and Anam Irish Dance Company will also perform.
The show also includes a solo performance by Kailen Nelson on cyr wheel, a large metal hoop that’s more commonly seen in circus. Boom Dance Fest will conclude with a lyrical duet by Camilo Mejia — Giselle and Dario’s brother — and his dance partner Molly, both of whom have Down syndrome and are part of UpDown Funk, Curio’s dance class for students with disabilities.
For this year, Curio Dance has also added a separate workshop element to the festival for any dancers, not just Curio students, to learn from the troupes that are performing. A dancer who’s performed with The Rockettes, known for their famous Radio City Music Hall kickline, will also teach jazz and musical theater dancing, Giselle Mejia said. You can register for the workshop by reaching out to the school at curiodance.com/contact-us.
The Mejia siblings started Curio Dance in 2009. Giselle Mejia and Dario Mejia both grew up in the Twin Cities and trained at Larkin Dance Studio in Maplewood, then each moved to New York: Giselle studied at the well-respected Purchase College Conservatory of Dance, and Dario, after graduating from The Juilliard School, danced in several professional companies.
Stillwater called them back home, and they started Curio to provide a way for dancers to learn pro-level skills in a non-competitive way. Stillwater has a thriving arts scene, Giselle Mejia said, and dance should be part of it.
“It’s our own desire to showcase the professional dance scene to the Stillwater community,” Giselle Mejia said. “That was always, for me, the thing that kept me dancing, was that I knew how big the dance world was. It has all this variety — how could I lose interest?”
And with programs like UpDown Funk and the Boom Dance Fest, the school has continued to expand.
Curio Dance’s next project: A permanent home in Stillwater. Details are still being worked out, Giselle Mejia said, but the school is planning a multimillion-dollar facility with several studios. She’s hoping construction will begin this fall and the space will be ready by summer 2024.
“We came back from New York after being in several different dance companies and we just put all of our ducks into building a school,” Giselle Mejia said. “I love Stillwater for the wonderful artistic families who really support the art of dance.”
Boom Dance Fest: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at Lowell Park: 201 N. Water St. Stillwater. Free; no ticket required.