(via Rosie’s Tumblr.)

Is this dance? Is this choregoraphy? Is this entertainment? Is this art?

I think the questions to all of the above are YES!

Now were these good ideas being created by dancers and/or choreographers? I think maybe not.

We need to get in on this quirkiness dancers – claim our art and collaborate with musicians! Let’s do this.

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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.)

I really fell into puppy love with dance when I saw the high school dance team perform while I was in middle school. I knew that that was my chance to perform, but I also was in such awe with their precision. How did they get so many girls to look all the same?

That lead me to an obvious love and admiration for the Rockettes, the number one masters of precision. That lead me to writing a paper on them and the history of precision dance in college Dance History class, even while I was slowly falling into a more mature and secure with love with dance in all its forms – especially modern, contact improv and more abstract movement.

Today, my boyfriend sent me this link:

I was floored. These were the most easy to grasp, pedestrian movements. But they were done in a) an incredibly musical way, b) out of context and contrasted with the “real world” and c) in polished group precision.

We’ve been playing with walking and pedestrian movement a lot at Glade Dance Collective, but I do feel like precision is overlooked in the modern world. It’s too easy of a way to impress a Top 40 audience, or something like that.

I wonder how I can incorporate extreme precision into more of my choreography and performance. Even seasoned art critics can be blown away by precision!


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!

Sustaining Movement dancers are picking up choreography faster than I can give it to them. And since we’re planning on a fundraiser/flash mob/outdoor performance in October, Intro needs to be done sooner rather than later!

I was surprised last week when I actually found time to choreograph and I mostly paced around my room, starting and re-starting the music.

I’ve always been inspired by The New Deal’s piece of music and had been itching to dedicate time to official choreography, rather than in-my-brain-during-day-job choreography. Where was the brain fart coming from?

I came up with one 8-count, played and refined it in rehearsal the next day with help from the ladies, and tonight I found myself in the same place. Stuck. (This time in my living room rather than my bedroom but still.)

So I made the mirror my audience, turned on the music, closed my eyes for a bit, and didn’t move until I felt justifiably moved. And I improvised. And I grooved.

By finding that space between freely-dancing-in-the-moment and paying-attention-to-movement-quality-in-the-mirror, I was able to tap into the translation from music to dance. I wanted hips to lead off-balance. I wanted arms that snaked and fished. I wanted a head to react at the last moment.

Thank goodness I found them. Time for more living room play and then studio play tomorrow!