As a dedicated member of Philly Dance Fitness for over five years, Kirwei Lo has tried everything from tap to Cardio Pop. This year, the 38-year-old marketing consultant is giving back to the community by serving as the volunteer chairwoman for Philadelphia Dance Day, a nonprofit citywide festival coming up on the last Saturday of July. Read on to learn more about Kirwei and what Dance Day means to her.
Philly Dance Fitness: What is your background with dance?
Kirwei: I grew up taking classes as a kid in Salisbury, Maryland, from when I was 8 or 9 years old. I started with traditional ballet, jazz and tap, and loved it! I continued through high school, and in college I started to explore new kinds of dance through the Asian American Association. I got to learn traditional Chinese and Taiwanese dances that I hadn’t experienced growing up, as well as choreograph and perform. As an adult I tried to continue taking dance classes in the cities that I’ve lived in. Philly Dance Fitness was a brilliant discovery for me.
How did you end up coming to Philly Dance Fitness?
I don’t remember the first class I took, probably Zumba or ballet. I’ve been a member for over five years now, and it’s been nice to see the program grow, especially in its variety of classes. I love everything from the more classical technique, like ballet, to the high intensity classes, like Dance Party Boot Camp — it’s amazing how much of a workout you can get in without realizing it! And I love everything in between. That’s why I like the “Taste of Philly Dance Fitness” event at the beginning of the year. It’s like my dream day, taking all sorts of dance classes.
Philadelphia Dance Day similarly includes a huge variety of workshops. Is that what made you want to get involved?
In part. I loved that it was a great opportunity to try a bunch of different workshops at different studios all for free, since I appreciate being able to try new things. I also like celebrating the amazing dance community here in Philadelphia. Three or four years ago, I got the opportunity to perform at Dance Day with my ballet class. It had been years since I’d performed, so it was a really great experience to show off what we had been working so hard on. To me, Dance Day has always been an important cause. As fun as it is, it’s also a great way for people who may not have the ability to indulge in dance classes to be able to try things for free. I think it has a nice meaning because it encourages people to see dance as both an art form and a fun fitness activity.
Tell us more about the new Dance Day advisory board and your role as the chairwoman.
It’s a new role that’s been introduced this year to try and expand Dance Day and bring in more people. It’s about coming up with new ideas and new ways to get the community involved. I’ve helped recruit the other board members and we discuss the overall vision, as well as some of the more day-to-day things like working with sponsors. We’re working to help shape and guide what Philadelphia Dance Day should be and make it something that is sustainable for many years to come.
What’s different about Philadelphia Dance Day this year?
We’ve decided to centralize our locations to help grow the community feel. We’re having a full day at the Ethical Society along with just two satellite campuses at Major Moment and Headlong Studios. In past years we’ve had workshops at up to a dozen studios around the city. We’re hoping that these three central locations will give people more opportunities to get to know each other. We’re also having more performances. The evening showcase, which started out as a couple of informal demos from volunteer instructors at the first Dance Day eight years ago, is now a full blown show. We had so much interest from performers and student groups that we also added “pop-up performances” at lunchtime.
What do you do when you’re not dancing?
I like to travel. In the past two years, I’ve been to San Antonio, Jamaica and Australia. There’s also a great food scene right here in Philly, so I like to try new restaurants in my Art Museum neighborhood and elsewhere in Center City, especially with my brunch group. I met some of the friends in that group through Philly Dance Fitness. It’s a great excuse to go to brunch every month and get people together.
Philadelphia Dance Day is coming up on July 29 and everyone’s invited! After dancing all day long, you can see Kirwei and several other PDF students perform at the evening showcase. Also check out these two FREE preview events before the big day.
Interview by multimedia marketing intern Emily Murphy, edited for brevity and clarity