Class dances away from the past with annual New Year's Day event

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Kayla Williams participates in the annual Sweat Your Prayers for the New Year event on Wednesday at Be Moved Studio.

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On Wednesday, dancers at Be Moved Studio ushered in the new year with the annual Sweat Your Prayers event. About 30 dancers showed up for an event the spanned more than three hours.

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Laura Martin-Eagle led Wednesday's Sweat Your Prayers for the New Year Event, taking turns between dancing and manning the event's playlist.

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As part of Wednesday's Sweat Your Prayers for the New Year event at Be Moved Studio, participants wrote down what they planned to leave behind in 2013 on sheets of paper they later burned in a ritual. Meanwhile, the dancers later committed to taking on something new in 2014.

On display at a downtown dance studio, as it has been each New Year’s Day for more than a decade, was the delicate art of avoiding collision while twirling and dancing.

Wednesday at Be Moved Studio, 2 E. 7th St., a romping playlist stoked a class of about 30 dancers — mostly adult women but some men and children, too — as Laura Martin-Eagle, the studio’s founder, led the annual event, a take on the Sweat Your Prayers classes Martin-Eagle leads each Sunday.

Studio veterans and new visitors alike began 2014 with the idea of putting the past behind them and welcoming something new. At the beginning of the three-hour class, dancers wrote on thin strips of paper what it was they planned to “release” to the past. They put the strips in a bowl to be ritually burned later. After a period of dancing, the next phase of the class saw dancers commit to new plans for 2014.

Martin-Eagle, who has led the New Year’s Day class for about 11 years, said her weekly classes have swelled from three or four people to 20 to 30 each week. Veterans of the class said Wednesday that dancers, paying $15 each, produced an all-time high turnout.

Jennifer Distlehorst has danced at the studio for about 10 years, her introduction being an impromptu invitation from a group of friends one year. The skeletons etched on the studio’s door had long intrigued her, but she had never made her way up the steps, nor had she an idea of what to expect at the top of them.

“A lot of people think dance is going to a club or something you do to be seen,” Distlehorst said. “This is more about moving for yourself and your own sake. There’s definitely a tribe here, a collective.”

It’s the only place, she said, where fellow dancers would observe stiffness, stress, fatigue and encourage her to dance how she feels rather than they think she should. “You are where you are and they are where they are,” she said.

Another dancer, Katharine Bailey, stood in a doorway before the first wave of the class began, ready to observe the house rules.

“People can do whatever they want except talk or close their eyes and run into somebody,” she said.

After a soothing acoustic song finished, Martin-Eagle blended in a more thumping beat, using the shift to urge her class on. Some danced alone, others with or around one another. Many explored the entire room, peeking into corners and trying out new pockets of space.

“Push yourself a little closer to your edge,” Martin-Eagle told the class as warm-ups themselves were released to the past. “What’s going to happen? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.”

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