It is truly a weekend of festivals in DC. This is my favorite time of year here It’s still warm but the oppressive humidity and omnipresent haze of summer have disappeared in favor of glorious blue skies and light breezes.
Last night we went to the Greek Festival at St. Sopia’s for dinner. This morning I stopped by the National Cathedral for its Centennial Celebration. The cathedral sits at the highest point in DC, and my main purpose in going was to climb the belltower, which they’d opened just for the day. Unfortunately, tickets were sold out for the next few hours, so I proceeded down to the Penn Quarter for the DC Improv Festival.
1) Maida Withers, Glob Blog– A Moving Message
The flier said this would begin at 1:30 at 7th & H Streets. One bit of feedback I would give to the organizers is to specify which side of the intersection the event is going to be at, and also if it’s not going to start right on the corner, the street address where it will be. By about 1:40 I found the dancers a couple doors south of H St. on 7th.
There was a big mass of young female dancers slowly moving down the sidewalk in a sort of chain reaction of movement. It was never clear to me where exactly a new movement emanated from, but at least in the beginning it was one of a couple dancers near the front of the mass. Eventually all the dancers would do the same movement, or a variant of it. I think I sparked on of their movements at some point– one of them saw me taking pictures and they all gathered around me, posing and pretending to take pictures with me.
The title was “A Moving Message,” and I’m not sure if the message was the movement itself moving through the pack of bodies, or if they were bringing a message to the public and moving it down the street.
The most interesting thing was seeing the reactions of unsuspecting passersby. Many people pretended not to see, walking by with stony expressions. Others smiled, laughed, shook heads in disbelief, and many slowed down and stopped for a while to watch. As initially one of the view onlookers who seemed to know what was going on, many people asked me if I knew what it was. A woman in a suit said to me that if we all did this, we would have peace on earth. A group of men in full beards, pocket protectors and pasty white computer screen-kissed faces heading into California Tortilla were muttering “what a bunch of freaks.”
2) Tony Olivares– Traveler
A man and a woman stood in front of the MLK Library in their underwear, smearing each other tenderly with white paint. They were accompanied by an enormous pile of white tulle. Their movements were slow and they initially stayed on the tulle, interacting with it and with each other.
They began to make eye contact with audience members, sometimes for uncomfortably long periods of time, sometimes touching them tenderly, pointing at them, or borrowing things such as food and eyeglasses from them. The man leaned against a waiting car with a man in the driver’s seat. Tulle was hooked over body parts and pulled out long, or wrapped around themselves. Passersby– particularly ones that were mocking or gesticulating, were mimicked and interacted with. People who couldn’t deal with the eye contact turned away or walked to a distance but were followed.
This piece touched me deeply by its relentless pursuit of tender human connection through eye contact and touch that was at the same time masked behind the anonymity of the white paint. It was interesting to see how people reacted– at times receptively, but often trying to overcome their discomfort, or with open avoidance or ridicule.
3) Nancy Havlik’s Dance Performance Group– Urban Agitation
Dancers dressed in black in bare feet or sneakers danced interpretively to the music. There was a lot of contact improv between the dancers. At some point they started climbing on the sculpture. They ended in a circle, sitting cross legged around the statue as if in worship.
4) Dance Antonini– Particles
According to the program, this would have taken place in the plaza by the Gallery Place Cinema. I waited from 4pm (the time it was to start) until nearly 4:30, constantly walking around the plaza and in the foyer of the theater, but could not see anyone. They were no-shows. Out of respect for those who come out to see these performances, it would be helpful for the organizers to put signs out telling the public where the event will take place, or if it has been canceled.