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Photograph: Christopher DugganDorrance Dance

The best free outdoor dance events this summer

Detach from your computer and turn off the AC—summer is the perfect time to kick up your heels and (watch others) dance

Written by
Helen Shaw
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Every summer, everyone realizes that New York is exactly what Walt Whitman said it is: a “city of orgies, walks and joys.” No doubt Walt was thinking—just like us!—of the way that includes tons of great events you can't miss in NYC this summer; it’s the great secret of all who live here that everything is even more delightful under the urban sky at events like Lincoln Center Out of Doors. Even better, there’s a good chance that if you’re a dancer, a dance-lover or simply dance-curious (check out our great list of dance events this summer for more ideas), you’ll find a way to indulge yourself, for free, under the stars. So if you crave some plein air modern dance or have a midsummer yen for al fresco tap, check out this list and head outside.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do in the summer in NYC

Free outdoor dance events

Bryant Park Presents Modern Dance
  • Dance
  • Contemporary and experimental

The beautiful Bryant Park is only missing one thing: free dance. This Inception to Exhibition festival fills that need with Jennifer Muller/The Works, Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company and Manuel Vignoulle Dance, all performing for free on the Bryant Park Stage.

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  • Dance
  • Contemporary and experimental

Ani Taj and her group the Dance Cartel creates this free, immersive, feminist production that investigates the past half-century of pop culture icons. Of course, if culture were truly just, we'd also be idolizing Jane Bailey, founder of this lovely community garden.

  • Dance
  • Ballet

Union Square manages to shove the chess players aside long enough to feature this free sneak-peek at Peridance's upcoming season. Choreographer Igal Perry founded the Peridance Capezio Dance Center in 1983, so the dancers here (all from Perry's program) are beautifully trained, and the work itself links balletic and modern traditions.

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  • Dance
  • Modern

Even by Lincoln Center Out of Doors standards, this is a marquee event. Three powerful institutions gather for this blockbuster evening organized in honor of the late, great Geoffrey Holder: Afro-Caribbean-inflected, postmodern choreographer Garth Fagan and his troupe; dance icon (and Holder's widow) Carmen de Lavallade performing new work The Creation; and the Harlem's Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble, which raises its collective voice in praise.

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