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.)