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If you’ve always wanted to try a dance performance, but not sure what to see and on a budget, your time has come with VelocityDC.

On Friday and Saturday, October 2 and 3, for only $15, come sample six of the best dance companies from DC (and beyond) at the beautiful Sidney Harman Hall at 610 F Street NW, beginning at 7:30pm.

Ron K. Brown and Evidence

Ron K. Brown and Evidence

Featured are short pieces from Ron K. Brown and Evidence, The Washington Ballet, CityDance Ensemble, EDGEWORKS Dance Theater, Gesel Mason, Nejla Yatkin, Edwin Aparicio, Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and Austrian choreographer Willi Dorner presenting the outdoor piece “Bodies in Urban Spaces”. You’ll see modern, African, ballet, hip hop and many forms in between.

VelocityDC is designed for folks who may be new to dance, beginning with Gesel Mason’s performance of “How to Watch a Modern Dance”. Stay afterward at the bar to swap impressions, meet some dancers, and finally be able to ask them, up close and in person, how they do it all!

VelocityDC Late Night!

Night owls, stick around for VelocityDCLate Night! At 10pm on Saturday, October 3, a cabaret-style showcase of movement, music and mayhem featuring dancers, poets and musicians.

This late-night, 18+ cabaret promises an evening of music, movement and mayhem including appearances by Andile Ndlovu, Capital Movement Project, Contradiction Dance, Furia Flamenca, Gesel Mason, Gilded Lily Burlesque, Kentavius Jones, Komplex, Lucy Bowen McCauley Dance, Regie Cabico/Sol y Soul, and Urban Artistry.

In addition, relax and enjoy the Harman Center bars and lounges with DJ Ian Knight (Philadelphia) into the early morning hours.

The Washington Ballet performs Wunderland

The Washington Ballet performs Wunderland

Bodies in Urban Spaces

Street performances of Willi Dorner’s “Bodies in Urban Spaces” will take place both evenings free to the public. “Bodies” begins at5:30pm each night, beginning at the Archives/Navy Memorial Metro and winding its way throughout the Penn Quarter neighborhood.

Presented in partnership by Washington Performing Arts Society, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Dance/MetroDC with major artistic partners The Washington Ballet and CityDance Ensemble.

Visit www.velocityDC.org for more information.

Tickets are on sale now for $15 at the website or the Sidney Harman Hall box office, (202) 547- 1122 or toll-free (877) 487-8849.

CityDance Ensemble

CityDance Ensemble

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An alert iReporter caught this tractor square dance in Maria Stein, Ohio on tape. Not only is the sight of multiple John Deeres do-si-doing around each other all kinds of awesome, but also note how each one and its driver are decked out like superheroes. My vote goes to Wonder Woman.

tractorsquaredance

It was a sticky, humid day at the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, but this did not stop Puerto Rican bomba y plena musicians Viento de Agua from giving a dynamic performance that had the audience on its feet dancing.

Here is a video I made of Viento de Agua performing a plena. I did not catch the name of the song, so if anyone knows what it is, please comment. Plena is a traditional Puerto Rican style of music that we were told has its roots in the sound of a train. You can certainly here this underlying “chugging” sound in the music. Plena is one of the many caribbean styles that lends its rhythms and styles to salsa and merengue. It is characterized by the use of percussion instruments and vocal harmonies to form the rhythm and tune.

The second half of the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival runs July 1-9 on the National Mall. The three featured themes this year are:

  • Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture
  • Wales/Cymru

and my personal favorite…

  • Las Americas: Un Mundo Musical / Music in Latino Culture

It doesn’t take a, uh, scientist to come to the conclusion stated in the title of this post. That said, it’s nice to have some quantitative evidence to support the significance of the live performing arts experience.

The NYT’s Tierney Lab blog posts about a study conducted in conjunction with the Dance Your PhD contest (in which scientific studies are interpreted through dance).  Live audience members were given the four finalists’ abstracts and had to guess which dance matched up to which study. The same challenge was given to the online readers of Gonzo Scientist. The data were analyzed and the results are discussed here.

The most compelling finding of the study is that the live audiences did much better at correctly matching the study topic to the dance. As John Bohannon, the study’s author and Gonzo Scientist blogger, says, it is true that many in the live audience had a dance background as well as worked in the sciences.

“But it doesn’t solve the mystery of why live audiences seem to be smarter in general. It’s unlikely that the online experiment systematically attracted people with less science or dance expertise. Nor is access to information likely to make the difference. (Probably few online participants took the time to read the full papers.)

I propose a simple explanation. Being part of a live audience focuses your attention in a way that staring at a lonely computer screen never can. It’s equally true of art and science.” [emphasis added]

Although the Wolf Trap is only a few miles from my home, save chaperoning a bunch of screaming kids at the International Children’s Festival, I am ashamed to say that I have never attended an even there. After spotting their summer ’09 calendar and the fabulous goodies on it (not limited to dance), that will hopefully all change. This summer’s dance lineup at Wolf Trap includes the following highlights:

  • Rasta Thomas’ Bad Boys of Dance on June 16
  • Aspen Santa Fe Ballet on July 7
  • Merce Cunningham on July 14
  • 42nd Street runs July 17-19
  • Trey McIntire Project’s Face of America: Glacier National Park on August 19

This and much much more can be found on the Wolf Trap Site. The recession is not excuse– the lawn seats are the cheaper– and more relaxing– way to go. So grap a picnic basket, a blanket, and enjoy some arts under the stars this summer!

On Friday I reach the end of 40 Days to Personal Revolution, the yoga program that has been a big part of my life for the past 6 weeks (read all about it here). As I come out of this incredible experience, I reflect on how I will move forward from here.

The “revolution” part of the 40 days was not what I thought it would be. Basically, I’d had this vague idea that I would lose a lot of weight and get totally buff, all while becoming a more chilled out person in the process– pretty much in that order. As for the weight, I haven’t lost any. Not one pound. Not one-half of a pound. As for the buffness, I am happy to report that this expectation has come to fruition. I have some pretty nice tone and defininition around my shoulders, upper arms, and back that I have never had before. And if I poke my finger through the thick layer of fat on my derriere, there’s a nice solid gluteus maximus in there.

As for the chill factor, that two has happened, but in much more specific ways than I could have ever predicted. Having a new relaxation and centering tool (meditation) is a great new tool in my arsenal for getting through difficult moments or fending off anxiety. On a more global level, my priorities have shifted a little. I no longer feel like I have to do it all. If  I miss out on something ‘extra’ in favor of spending time chatting with a friend, visiting family, or just relaxing with a book or enjoying the weather outside, so be it. I see the benefit of not being so overscheduled and I appreciate that taking time to enjoy these little, yet most important things in life, enrich my life much more than that extra class or workshop or seminar or networking event ever could.

As I come out of the program, I will come back to dance. But things will be different. I will continue to do yoga more frequently (probably 3-4 days a week rather than the 6 I have been doing), while gradually re-integrating dance into my life. I will probably pick up a little on the blogging, but I will not feel pressure to write any more often than comes naturally to me. This blog is not a means to an end. It is simply an outlet for me to process and share the thoughts and joys that dance brings to me. Rather than “moving on” with my life, I am simply moving forward, taking with me the additional gifts I have been given.

In honor of wordpress enabling the embedding of TED videos, here are some amazing moves from Kenichi Ebina, a guy who has no skeleton.

The NYT’s ArtsBeat Blog asked artists to comment on how the recession is affecting them. It is a fascinating read.

Common themes:

  • Artists are poor to begin with so they didn’t have much to lose.
  • Recessions are good for lesser known artists because the focus on high-priced works produced for rich patrons has decreased. People buy what they can afford and artists produce less for the sake of pandering.
  • For-profit creative industries (i.e., graphic designers, vs independent artists) are being hurt the most.
  • Those that have a day job are counting their blessings.
  • The NYT Arts Beat Blog is a great place for self promotion (just look at all the website links and full names people signed their comments with).
credit: J-Rad, flickr

credit: J-Rad, flickr

Now I want to know from you: How is the recession affecting dance? The economic impact on companies is evident, but how is the down turn affecting the creative process?

My dear regular readers, you may be asking, “Speaking of the recession, what’s up with your blog? does the lack of posts in the last bunch of weeks mean you’re being affected by the downturn as well?” First of all, we are a volunteer operation here so nope, no impact. If I were unemployed, you can bet I’d be posting a lot more! There are two factors at play:

  • I am grateful for my secure job and perhaps because of that– and an increased workload– have been spending more time and effort on it.
  • I am participating in a 40 day yoga program (today is day 24), so I’ve been dancing very little. I’m halfway done with a post about the experience, so stay tuned!

It’s nice to know we have had so many dance movies in the past few years that it is time for a parody:

Preview for Dance Flick

In honor of the lovely spring day we are getting, here is some lovely ballet to brighten you ballet– an appearance by Suzanne Farrell on Sesame Street.

In which Miss Farrell takes little steps and big steps:

In which the Count counts Miss Farrell’s turns:

Attention all DC dance peeps:  I was ever so pleased to read in today’s Joy of Motion email newsletter that they have set up an on-line scheduler. They’re using the Mind Body Online platform, which is something I’m familiar with from my yoga studio. It appears that at this time, you can only sign up for enrollment and performance classes online. The full drop-in schedule is there, and I find it quite user-friendly compared to their old webpage, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to sign up for a drop-in yet. They have promised further updates to the website so I am hopeful.

When you purchase a multi-class card at JOM (which is so worth it because of the discount and speed of sign in), they give you a flimsy little paper card. I am always in terror that my 30 class card, which I paid almost $400 for. will flutter out of my wallet at any moment. Yes, they have a replacement system, but you have to remember which of the five studios you bought it at and they deduct a class per week that you’ve had it, which could work in your favor if you average more than one class per week, or against you if you go less frequently.

I hope the day is close at hand when a computer network at all locations keeps track of my classes for me.

You can visit the scheduler here. Big kudos to JOM for finally taking this step!!

It’s a snowy, dreary day.  And to boot, you’ve got a case of the Mondays. Where is spring? Where did all this white stuff come from? Here’s a little something to get your week off to a happier start: a salsa dance-off between Tropical Gem and Utribe.

America’s Best Dance Crew is down to its top two crews. Voting is going on this week and the winner will be announced at the finale show this Thursday.

I find it interesting to see the type of web presence each crew– Beat Freaks and Quest Crew has. Does it have any bearing on their dancing? No. But this show is not just about dancing; it is a popularity contest as well. Fan votes will ultimately determine who wins, and the web has become an important additional factor in rallying their bases.

Beat Freaks

Beat Freaks have fully utilized the social networking tools at their disposal. They are doing a good job of engaging their fans. None of it– aside from the Freak the Vote site– is anything that you can’t make for free. This is the underdog group in the sense that they don’t have the same recognition as Quest Crew. They

They have a wordpress blog with a populist feel to it. Lots of fan appreciation and interaction. It is frequently updated and pulls in youtube videos and fan submissions.

There is also a facebook fan page

A FREAK THE VOTE website– this looks like the official site. It is a professionally created and hosted site with voting information. It has a retrospective of their performances if you want a quick refresher. I initially thought the crew had engaged a publicist to create and maintain this page for them. Then, I noticed something on their blog that says: “FREAK THE VOTE! is a 3 month movement strategy to create awareness of the BEAT FREAKS participation on Mtv’s America’s Best Dance Crew.  We are a pro-bono, non-profit grassroots movement of Fans.”

A YouTube channel featuring professional-quality interviews with each crew member, and favorited videos of them and other dancers.

A fan created MySpace page that aggregates a lot of information about the crew and has things such as fan-submitted dance videos.

BeatFreaks on Twitter. Very actively used to notify followers of new videos, blog posts, and of course, how to vote.

Quest Crew

I had to giggle when I saw their official website, which includes member bios, photos, videos, and booking information. Mr. P said the other day that he thought Quest sounded more like a corporation than a dance crew. The source of the giggle was the mission statement on their website. Yes, mission statement. And a very corporate sounding one at that (excerpt: “to provide awareness of the facility that remains a viable resource of knowledge and growth for the community” tell me how this appeals to the average ABDC viewer).

The group has a MySpace page though they haven’t used it much to promote themselves for the show.

There is a Facebook page, but likewise it is not very active nor has it been used much in the service of the show.

I searched for, and was unable to fine, a blog or a twitter feed.

With So You Think You Can Dance alums Hok, Dominic, and Ryan on Quest crew, it’s no surprise they have a more established feel on the web. The slick official website definitely has a publicist behind it. Is this a good thing for a popularity contest? Not so sure. On one hand, I’m more drawn to the populist feel of Beat Freaks. It makes me feel like my vote is more appreciated. In fact, most of the existing web content for Quest Crew appears to pre-date America’s Best Dance Crew. There’s something to be said for branding, but this is pretty static.

In the contest for best web content and best use of social networking to mobilize support, there is no contest, the Beat Freaks win. Now, let’s see who wins the dance and popularity contest on Thursday. This is a pretty equal contest in terms of originality and dance prowess. Could web presence play a part?

What did you think of America’s Best Dance Crew last night?

Though I haven’t written much about it, I have been following the show on and off this season. I think there is some amazing dancing on this show, which really showcases the diversity of hip hop. I love that they had a clogging group and I love that they made it as far as they did. I also love that female groups did as well as they did this season, outnumbering the men 2:1 in the top three.

Ultimately, Fly Khicks, the female group from Miami, was eliminated, leaving the Beat Freaks and Quest Crew (which Mr P thinks sounds like a rather corporate name) heading into the finale. I think this is a good top two. Strikers All-Stars, the step crew from Florida would have also merited a place at the top. Ultimately, it came down to the two groups with the most physical prowess and the most unique flavor.

I just love what the Beat Freaks have done, showing that women can go head to head with men in some of the craziest, most difficult moves such as head spins and threading. They have upper body strength and control that even most men can only dream about.

Quest Crew has some familiar faces– Dominic (or D Tricks as he’s calling himself on this show) and Hok– from So You Think You Can Dance. That gave them a familiarity advantage in the beginning, but they truly belong at the top.

I have no idea who deserves to win. I think that Quest did slightly better last night in terms of leaving their mark than Beat Freaks, but I’m going to have to review videos from the season before I can figure out who deserves to win.

I don’t often dance at home, beyond a little freestyle grooving simply because of my space constraints. Mr P and I live in an 800 square foot one’bedroom apartment. If you do anything involving a fast-moving extended appendage, you are bound to get hurt.

I found this out the hard way when I dislocated my big toe last year, and because of that I have been very reticent to dance at home. Which is a shame, because today I was moved to dance at home again and really enjoyed it. I treated my space constraints as part of the challenge, so although I was improvising, one of my rules was that I had to stay within a rather narrow box.

After getting warmed up, I decided to videotape myself improvising as I have not done so in a while and was curious to see what I looked like. There are certain areas of my technique where I am feeling much more secure. I have a much better handle on my center, so things like back attitude turns are getting easier for me. This also increased my sense of security in terms of controlling my movements and not hitting furniture.

After reviewing the tape and being both appalled and impressed by certain moments, I took out pen and paper and wrote down the things that I liked and the areas where I should improve. I’m happy to report that the number things I like far outweighed the things I didn’t. The areas for improvement tended to be more general, such as mastering better control over the line of my arms and hands and getting a little more graceful against gravity. The things I liked tended to be certain sequences of moves and qualities of movement. Overall that tells me that my technique is finally starting to get to a place where I can admire the overall outcome rather than saying, “well at least I had good balance on that releve.”

This exercise also inspired me to think about trying my hand at choreography again. It’s amazing the beautiful things my body can do when I’m not thinking about it. When I just let myself go and interpret the music, allowing my body to follow in new and interesting ways, lovely things come out.

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