Sunday, July 21, 2024

A past Dance Party in front of Cambridge City Hall. (Photo: Kyle Klein)

The Dance Party tradition canceled by Covid and in doubt of survival a year ago returns to in front of Cambridge City Hall late this month, according to a Thursday announcement from Cambridge officials.

The event, which drew crowds of around 25,000 to 30,000 in the years immediately before the Covid pandemic, will be back from 6 to 10 p.m. June 23.

The free Friday event begun in 1996, in which people dance to DJ-spun music in streets closed to car traffic, was canceled in 2020 as the pandemic settled in and there were health concerns about crowds – at that time, even outdoors. Massive Black Lives Matter protests and marches later that summer showed there was less transmission of the disease to fear in the open air, but the events were still shut down in the years that followed. In August, officials also noted the retirement of Maryellen Carvello from the City Manager’s Office, identifying her as “the driving force behind creating and planning the Annual Dance Party.”

At the time, leadership of the Central Square Business Improvement District wondered whether it would pick up entirely the job of running the dance party. But this year’s event is organized by the City Manager’s Office, Cambridge Arts and the Central Square BID “with support from numerous city departments,” according to the announcement.

The BID and Cambridge Play Streets initiative are adding free interactive family activities this year at Temple Street and Massachusetts Avenue, a block from the party at Cambridge City Hall, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.

A light show has always been part of the party atmosphere, but organizers are adding more light art up to prospect this year, said Matt Nelson, assistant to the city manager for community relations. “We always get really large crowds. This is an opportunity for crowds to experience more” along the road, which could disperse people a bit “and help with crowds being too tight around City Hall,” Nelson said Thursday,

The No. 1 bus line will be rerouted in Central Square at 5p.m. when the street closes for the party, but the regular path is expected to resume with full service at 11 p.m.

Open Studios and River Festival

In other arts news, an Open Studios event is expected to return in-person this September, according to the municipal Cambridge Arts agency, but the River Festival – usually held in early June since the early 1970s – will not return until 2024.

“Cambridge Arts has adapted the event for the pandemic in recent years, with virtual Stream Festivals in 2020 and 2021 and the Ripple Festival in 2022, a series of smaller in-person performances and arts markets,” Cambridge Arts said in an April 11 email. “The pandemic continues to provide challenges for the long-term planning and fundraising required to produce the showcase of food, arts, crafts, immersive art experiences and multiple stages of live music, dance, poetry and theater. We aim to once again host an in-person River Festival in June 2024.”