Movement classes back in Washington Square Park

Naomi Goldberg Haas leads the series of exercises, including modified squats.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

Finally, the day has arrived—it’s been 14 and a-half months!

At the mini-stage across from the Garibaldi statue in Washington Square Park on Tuesday at 9:30am, smiles radiate from the cluster, ready to be guided into motion by Naomi Goldberg Haas, their fearless teacher. 

Most present are Movement Speaks™ regulars at Parks’ Dapolito Center, which closed to classes because of the Pandemic mid-March 2020. These classes, the core program of Dances for a Variable Population founded by Haas promote creative movement, particularly for older adults of all ages and abilities.

With a city on shutdown, Naomi barely skipped a beat, immediately sequing her classes onto Zoom—free, and five days a week. 

Movments with legs and arms lead to a whole body workout.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
In Movement Speaks™ each dancer gets a chance to lead a movement, followed by the whole group.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
The plaza near the mini-stage, a great place for large movements.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Improvisational dynamic movements—high and low stretches.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

But, under the trees, in open air, what a difference!

In the park, using police barriers as barres for balance, dancers first warm up their muscles with a series of exercises and then shift onto the plaza allowing for greater movement and improvisation. 

Some participants became regulars, like Gordana Rashovich, who years back discovered these classes when walking through the park. “Thank God for Naomi Goldberg Haas!” says this lower Manhattan resident. “She makes us feel alive. This is sensational. And, it’s beautiful just to be outdoors.”

Phyllis Cohl, age 84, has been with Naomi since she taught at NYU, thirty years ago. “I was the youngest student in the class then,”  she chuckles.  Since a year ago March, holed up in her Village apartment, she religiously took the Zoom classes from her home office every morning. 

In light filtered through the leaves on this glorious spring day, she beams, “I feel liberated. I can see the scenery, people walking, and the children!” And further kvelling, “I just like being outside, seeing trees, dancing with others, and connecting with people I haven’t seen in 14 months.” 

A morning of stretches, a great way to start the day. For Phyllis Cohl (center) “I just like being outside, seeing trees, dancing with others, and connecting with people.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Improvising in dynamic movements.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Class wraps up with a cool-down dance meditation.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Finally working out together, the hour flies by as Naomi Goldberg Haas guides the class.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Sandra Indig of the West Village also has been attending these classes for decades. Needing support for balance, she explains, “I’m developing a way to move with a cane.”

When the one-hour class finished, dancers extemporaneously opined: It’s divine, inspiring, freeing, soaring, exhilarating.  And, without any prompting, others added: I can breathe; it is gratifying; I feel joy!

Of her long-delayed park in-person experience, guiding instructor Naomi Goldberg Haas says, “I feel the presence and their being. It is so exciting!”  And, since Naomi actually began teaching her classes with older adults downtown, she is seeing dancers she’s known for years. With immense warmth she adds,  “I feel like I am coming home!” 

Since September, Naomi also has been teaching outdoors at Grants Tomb plaza three days a week. And, as the city opens up, Movement Speaks™ has expanded its outdoor programming to 10 locations around the city.   

Naomi has taught in Washington Square Park for many summers and Parks just finally gave the okay for her program to begin June 1, which will run until September.   

For information about in-person and continuing remote classes, and upcoming performances (outdoors and on-line): www.dvpnyc.org. 

(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
Stretching the back, a necessary exercise.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
The morning begins with a series of stretches.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)
The railing and mobile barriers serve as barres for balance.(Photo by Tequila Minsky)

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