Archives for category: Performance

The postcard for "Speechless"Tonight I chassed over to Dance Place to see alight dance theater‘s “Speechless,” a look at how parents communicate with their children when words are not an option.

I was excited to see a dance performance, but I was particularly pleased to go back to Dance Place for the first real time as an audience member! I realized after the fact that I happened to wear the same pair of leggings that I performed in at Dance Place last time – ha!

I first heard about “Speechless” last fall, when the lovely Jessica from Sustaining Movement was going to see it at the Kennedy Center, but I unfortunately missed that run, so I was particularly excited to get the chance to see it again. And what a treat for the dancers to perform this piece for the third time!

I was, well, um, speechless at the end of the performance. I found myself expressing my emotions through tears – which, I’ll admit, isn’t that uncommon for me. I was grateful to the performers for having a Q&A session as well as a reception afterwards to let us interact.

So after turning down a salsa dancing invitation and using the rest of this evening to internalize the ultimate message of love – I find myself looking at the dance through the eyes of a choreographer. What, concretely, gave me such an emotional reaction?

Overall, the storytelling was very poignant. It wasn’t “just” a dance, it introduced a tough subject to the audience and taught us a lesson. This was made more clear by having the families – the “subjects” – a clear part of the piece. They were featured prominently in video and audio. They were literally given a voice by being seen and heard by the audience.

The video wasn’t haphazardly slapped up on the back wall as it is so often in dances; instead, the video was attractively framed off-center and was a part of the set.

Angella Foster, alight’s founder and the main “Speechless” choreographer, also helped the storytelling along by sprinkling the piece with monologues. She didn’t try to create a character for herself though. She literally contributed to the story from her perspective. Since she isn’t a parent of a speechless child, but a cousin, she served as a bridge of understanding between me and the families.

The movement, of course, featured contact, partnering and themes of lifting oneself or others up off the floor. To see the dancers connect in repetitive ways let me in on the families’ daily rhythm. To see the dancers purposefully play with the “scribbles” onstage reminded me of the simple and focused joys of childhood. To see arabesques – as always – is breathtaking and a reminder of the athleticism of dancers.

I’ll be keeping alight dance theater in my mind as inspiration. Inspiration to work on my craft – perhaps I can join them for a class even!

But more importantly, I have inspiration to go through life learning, being open and accepting to all different types of people, and most importantly, to love.

Betsy, Ellen, Sylvana and Emma cover their mouths as part of a dance movement.

Photo by Colin A Danville

I started working with Glade Dance Collective after I attended Eureka Dance Festival open auditions – thanks to a Facebook invite, believe it or not! – so I owe a lot to Eureka for the incredible growth my D.C. dance circle has seen in the past six months.

The culmination of the year-long festival was a two-night performance at Dance Place. I still feel like I have to pinch myself for the fact that I’ve performed on one of best-known dance spaces in D.C. – one night to a standing-room only crowd!

As a collective, Glade counted as one “choreographer” for our piece, “District. Defined?”

It was definitely interesting for me  – this was the first time I had ever worked on a piece where there were more than two “head” “choreographers.”

As artistic director, Sylvana was the keeper of the piece’s vision, while administrative director Heather kept our schedule in line. (Along with financial director Betsy, Syvlana and Heather are co-founders of the collective). Beyond those roles, every collaborator had a chance to develop movement sequences, choose music, name the dance, talk about costumes and lighting and otherwise develop the piece. We relied heavily on journaling and non-dancing meetings to hammer out a lot of details.

Although it seemed slow at times – especially with Eureka’s once-a-month public showings where we shared our process with a group of other one-person choreographers – I think the Glade collective process produced the most well-rounded and audience-friendly piece in  Eureka Dance Festival. (I’m biased, of course, but my non-dancer friends all loved being able to relate to “District. Defined?”!)

Again, I feel fortunate to have been a part of this year’s Eureka Dance Festival. Through Eureka I got to work with Glade – which is truly making gains in establishing a name and a collective process. I hope I continue to work with it next year – at the very least as a workshop participant and audience member.

P.S. – If you’re interested in learning more or collaborating with us, Sign up for Glade’s monthly newsletter!

Last night, after a tiny work happy hour with non-arts-related coworkers, I headed downtown to catch VelocityDC at the Sydney-Harman Hall.

The first thing I noticed about the overall setting was the energy. Even while standing in line for will call, the audience was buzzing. They were in a wide range of casual to “evening” wear. They were a wide range of ages. But they were all excited.

As I walked into the theater  right before 8:00 pm, the energy just popped up another level. I was expecting my usual pre-show habit: to awkwardly waddle around people to my seat, sit down, adjust my jacket and purse, and then peruse the program for titles and piece notes.

Instead, a DJ was spinning soul and Urban Artistry was performing for and with the crowd. The audience was clapping to the beat. There were lots of cat calls and “woo-woos!” coming from everywhere. I didn’t get a chance to look at the program, but I didn’t mind. I was immediately ushered into the performance, rather than into a piece of paper previewing the performance.

After an almost stand-up-ish intro from Dance/MetroDC Director Peter DiMuro, (could the whole night be more of a revue, with more comedy and singing and DJs?) we were sped right into a full evening of diverse dances that forced me to live in the moment.

So from here, I’d like to summarize what I learned – from a choreographer’s prospective – in seeing these pieces from the second row.

Edwin Aparicio

  • Live music is awesome.
  • Precision and rhythm is so impressive.
  • Colorful footwear is badass.
  • Give the audience breaks in high-powered energy with changes in pace and intensity.

Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company

  • Lighting can be a powerful partner in a solo.
  • You don’t necessarily need a face to see emotion.
  • Arms and hands can lead movement and still look technically “difficult.”

Dr. Janaki Rangarajan

  • Really, really subtle eye movement translates to the audience! (Well, at least to the second row.)
  • Just like with Edwin Aparicio’s flamenco, feet can be a powerful percussion instrument.

The Washington Ballet

Corey Landolt flexes some muscle for the Washington Ballet.

It's possible Corey Landolt's whole "look" (physique, tattoos, painter overalls, scruffy face) is the most redeeming thing about "High Lonesome." Yum.

I feel like I should preface this and say I heart the Washington Ballet so much. I love them because they’re local, they’re expressive, they’re beautiful (of course) and they’re fantastic storytellers. So, the reason I didn’t really like this Trey McIntyre piece was because it took away the dancers’ expressions and had a weak, try-too-hard-to-find-a-story story.

So, here are the “mean” things I learned:

  • Pointe shoes do not work to rock music. (Too heavy!)
  • Beck is not dance-friendly music. (Too slow!)
  • The Washington Ballet has a great costume closet with lots of random white clothes (guessing here).

Liz Lerman Dance Exchange

Another caveat: I cried the hardest at the end of this piece than I ever have before watching dance. And I tear up quite a bit.

  • Diversity is beautiful.
  • Simple shades of one color is a great, quick costume for an ensemble.
  • Repeated “pedestrian” movements are very powerful when they are repeated in different themes with different people in different numbers.
  • Looking the audience in the eye is a powerful emotional tool.

CityDance Ensemble

  • Bootay looks awesome peeking out of shorts on both men and women (professional-dance quality men and women, obviously).
  • Making an abstract movement-focused piece’s intention clear in the program notes is extremely helpful.
  • Yummy modern dance extensions that feel SO GOOD as a dancer can also look really well-done on stage.
  • I want to see them more.

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet

  • You know, sometimes the forgotten works of Balanchine should remain forgotten. (Yikes! I am mean to the ballet choreography today!)
  • Ballet music does not make for a good show closer for such a high-energy evening.

There’s one more VelocityDC performance tonight, and especially at the $18 price tag, there’s no excuse not to go.

(I actually paid almost as much for parking as much as I did for my ticket. I’m not sure which message is stronger: This is an awesome dance ticket price, or parking is way too ridiculously expensive.)


Glade Dance Collective performs at the Phillips Collection.

Glade Dance Collective performs at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. Photo by Pink Line Project.

On Thursday, Aug. 26, I was luckily enough to perform with some members of Glade Dance Collective and drummer Names Thompson at the Pink Line Project-organized White Party at the Phillips Collection.

The White Party was one of many Phillips After 5 Thursday-night events, where drinks are served, various bands play and well-dressed guests mingle among art, artists and other good-looking people.

It was especially fun to perform at the White Party because we were integrated in the party both as guests and performers. The transitions between mingle time and dance-watching time were filled with us, in costume, simply asking for the guests to back up a little bit to watch us dance!

Sylvana Christopher Sandoz choreographed the Afro-Cuban inspired dance I was in, and it was glorious to be able to interact with the audience literally right in their faces with such a flirtatious and skirt-flipping dance. Names Thompson, our drummer (who also plays a kit for D.C. band Soul Brazil), added spice with his original music. It was such a treat to have a live musician!

The audience – artsy and chic – in a way didn’t know exactly what to do with us. The weird side of being able to dance in the audience’s faces was that I saw their reactions in exact real time.

During our first run inside the gallery, most of the reactions were somewhere between half-smiling confusion, is-it-okay-to-enjoy-this? and 75% joy.

Our second show was outside on the patio, where more drinks and mingling were happening than inside, so the reactions were more boisterous and even up to full 100% joy.

It was a fantastic evening. I plan on following all these up with related events:

  • Visiting a Phillips After 5 to see what other great artists will perform
  • Learning to samba Thursday nights at Eighteenth Street Lounge with Soul Brazil and their audience
  • Attending Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Caribbean classes at Joy of Motion

See a video of our performance at the Phillips Collection – and then check out the other view and outside location!

I stumbled upon this Wikipedia post – again, from Tumblr, I heart Tumblr so much – on the Dancing Plague of 1518, which was actually featured in the Wolf Trap-commissioned Paul Taylor piece, “Phantasmagoria.”Paul Taylor Dance Company in Phantasmagoria

Apparently in 1518 hundreds of people danced uncontrollably for hours and days at a time – usually til their deaths.

I actually found the choreography that came out of the St. Vitus’s dance plauge portion of “Phantasmagoria” to be the most technically complex and visually appealing.

And dancing to death doesn’t seem like such an awful way to go to me…