Full Out Festival Encapsulates Community of the Arts in Troy, NY

Full Out Festival Encapsulates Community of the Arts in Troy, NY

Photos: Kiki Vassilaki

It felt like a breath of fresh air. 

Troy Dance Factory’s Full Out Fest–the reimagined annual dance showcase that has expanded to include music, art, fashion, community organizations and food–kicked off Sunday, Aug. 15 at Troy’s Riverfront Park in a way even its organizers didn’t see coming, but truly hoped for.

TDF has been performing their showcase at the grandiose Troy Music Hall for the past seven years. Given the need for social distancing due to COVID-19, TDF owner Nadine Medina opted to take it outside this year and it didn’t disappoint. 

“We are hoping that this will be an annual event so it’s probably never gonna go back to the way we’ve been doing it the last handful of years,” Medina told Mirth Films before the event. “But I think that’s a blessing in disguise, in a sense, because I think this is going to be a super beautiful experience.”

Given the massive turnout, which very nearly filled the entire Riverfront Park amphitheater, that certainly seems to be the case. There was genuine interest shown by the all fest attendees, it felt tangible and electric. 

And it was, truly, a beautiful experience. The weather was perfect, people mingled safely and each of the vendors–ranging from sculpture artists and photographers to community organizers–were consistently visited by passers-by. People lined up down the sidewalk for La Capital’s flavorful tacos and Beverwyck Cheesecake sold out of their decadent treats early. 

But the most impressive aspect of Full Out Fest was its central focus. Dance. 

“Dance is good for the mind, body n’ soul,” said emcee DJ Intell Hayesfield as he announced the dancers’ arrival to the stage. 

The TDF dancers have waited since 2019 to share their choreography. Their patience and hard work manifested in performances that radiated pride and a satisfying sense of release. Everyone on stage seemed to ooze confidence.

This show had been a long time coming and their own sense of artistic pride was met with that of their friends and family–communicating love in just the way Medina hoped would manifest through this new format.

“When we started out, I think I had, like, 30 dancers, and we were dancing at the Arts Center of the Capital Region in downtown Troy,” Medina says of the showcase’s come-up. 

“I don’t know if we ever filled the Center but we had an amazing first year there. It felt very much like a family. It felt like a community. The auditorium of the Arts Center has the seats up higher than the stage, which I really liked because I think it makes you feel like you’re part of the show. Our second year, it was clear to me that we were going to outgrow the Arts Center. When we moved to the Music Hall, cost for the show went up quite a bit, and it was different because now, all of a sudden, the dancers are up on this higher stage above the audience, which is really cool for the dancers but it definitely changed things.” 

“I always kind of wanted to get back to that feeling we had those first couple of years–a community of people who hooted and hollered and clapped and cheered and yelled their friends names. It was so cool. Now we’ve got the same sort of stadium setup with stage level seating and people can feel like they’re really a part of this intimate show. It actually makes me a little bit emotional to think about.”

That’s just what came out of this weekend’s show. 

After all, there’s nothing like unprompted applause. The 18+ Intermediate Contemporary’s performance elicited just that, the kind that breaks out after a particularly special dance move or an impressively timed sequence. It kicked off the set with a bang, right before the adorable and free-flowing Youth 2 Hip Hop class had the audience hooting and hollering. Fans for the young dancers screamed their names and messages of support as the dancers circled around each other to let each other have their shining, solo moment in the spotlight. 

Later, as the 18+ Advanced Beginner Chair dancers took the stage, miniature versions of the performers grabbed chairs from the stage level, table seating to mimic their mentors and siblings taking on Bishop Briggs’ “River”. Best part? The young ones were nailing most of the moves right on time.

It was an inspiring testament to the family feel of this fest and it gave me chills to see Medina’s hopes for the outdoor showcase come to life. From the artists and vendors to the musicians and dancers, everything felt intimate and pure. 

It was lovely to see local musicians get their moments as well. Fans of the live performers, who played during the dance interludes, inched up closer and closer to the stage to show support. They sat on the ground, grinning and filming their friends. Caity Gallagher had audiences swooning with her original songs, katanamamas gathered a crowd around the stage dancing and singing along to hers as well, even throwing in a “Castaways” cover. The Age jumped on the set at the last minute, due to illness and conflicts that kept scheduled artists Hannah Amigo and Promise The Unbreakable from making the event. His performance didn’t disappoint, backdropped by the sunset and flickering car lights, like lightning bugs on the water, driving on the other side of the Hudson. 

“It’s something I’ve been craving,” the choreographer explains. “That type of feeling you have at a show when you know your friends and family are in the audience and they want the best for you. They’re just so happy to see you perform. It’s such a beautiful thing for the dancers that I feel like this is a really great way to come full circle in our 10th year.”

It’ll be exciting to see Full Out Fest grow in its years to come.

(Editor’s note: The author of this review took part in Full Out Fest by organizing press coverage for the event.)

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