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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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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

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!

What is a dance rockra, you ask? It is one part dance, one part opera, and all parts are totally rocked out. Here I am, in the swamps of Northern Virginia, wishing once again that I lived in Manhattan, our nation’s cultural capital. Luckily I have a consolation prize this year: I will be attending the inauguration without having to sublet out someone’s crappy studio apartment for two grand a night and could even bike down to the national mall if I wanted. Haha.

But I digress…

Later this week, Parsons Dance Company and the East Village Opera Company will debut their untitled collaboration, an evening-length work that strings together several of the EVOC’s re-imagined operatic works into a story line that will be danced out by the Parsons dancers. According to the press release, “untitled is a thoroughly modern re-telling of a classic story of a tragic love triangle. With contemporary dance, aerial dance, live and recorded music, video projections, complex digital lighting and visual effects, untitled is the most ambitious production created by Parsons Dance in its 22 year history.”

I discovered the East Village Opera Company about two years ago courtesy of Pandora. Their winning combination of opera greatest hits and Queen-esque power rock ballads (rockra, if you will) had me at hello. Be sure to check out the song that first captivated me, Au fond du temple saint, the well-loved Pearl Fishers duet, re-arranged into a power rock duet between a man and a woman. Here they are with their version of the Queen King of the Night aria from The Magic Flute.

And here is Parsons Dance, performing Nascimento Novo:


PARSONS DANCE
The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue (at 19th Street), NYC
January 6-18, 2009
Tue, Wed and Sun at 7:30pm; Thu, Fri and Sat at 8pm; and Sat and Sun at 2pm. Family matinee performance on Saturday, January 10 at 2pm. Tickets: $59, $35, $19 (Joyce Members $44, $26). JoyceCharge: 212-242-0800

Program A: Thu 1/8, Fri 1/9 and Sat 1/10 at 8pm; Sun 1/11 at 2pm and 7:30pm; Wed 1/14 at 7:30pm; Thu 1/15, Fri 1/16 and Sat 1/17 at 8pm; Sun 1/18 at 7:30pm. World Premiere of untitled featuring the music of EVOC: Overture, La Danza, Maria, Mari!, Habanera, Che Gelida Manina, Flower Duet, La Donna E Mobile, Ave Maria, O Mio Babbino Caro, Una Furtiva Lagrima, Un Del Di, Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana, When I Am Laid in Earth, Butterfly Duet

Program B: Tue 1/6 and Wed 1/7 at 7:30pm; Tue 1/13 at 7:30pm; Sat 1/17 and Sun 1/18 at 2pm. Family Matinee: Sat 1/10 at 2pm. Swing Shift, Ebben (an excerpt from Program A), My Sweet Lord, Fill the Woods with Light, Caught, and Shining Star

west_side_story_logo

When Joshua Buscher speaks of Arthur Laurents, which he does frequently during our brief interview, it is with the reverent tone of a student quoting the teachers of a master. Which is exactly what Laurents is. At 90, he is very much the hands-on director of the legendary icon of American theater– West Side Story— the show he wrote over 50 years ago.

Since July, I have been trying to line up an interview with someone from the production of West Side Story’s revival. By now the play’s publicist and I have become virtual pen pals. After reading that the play would open for its pre-Broadway run right here in Washington D.C. (in the National Theater, the same venue it first opened at in 1957), I was determined to get the inside scoop on it. Through auditions, the New York rehearsals, and finally DC rehearsals, we continued our correspondence. Finally, just days before the opening of the first preview performance in mid-December, I am on the phone with cast member Buscher, who is enthusiastically describing his experience preparing for this historic revival.

Joshua Buscher

Joshua Buscher

What makes this revival of West Side Story so unique is language. Laurents’ late partner, Tom Hatcher, had seen the play staged entirely in Spanish in Colombia and found that it totally changed the dynamics– the Sharks became the heroes and the Jets the villains. “I thought it would be terrific if we could equalize the two gangs somehow,” Laurents told the New York Times earlier this year, by having characters speaking amongst themselves in their native language.

Adding the Spanish into the show 100 percent makes it work,” says Buscher, “It helps so much with the energy of the show– what it does is makes that barrier of the Americans versus the Puerto Ricans even wider. Some of our audience can’t speak Spanish, so they get frustrated,” adding to the tension the audience will feel between the Sharks and the Jets. In case you’re one of those non-Spanish-speaking audience memeers, don’t worry– there will be supertitles. Although some scenes, such as the one preceding America, are mostly in Spanish, he is confident that the acting and dancing will transcend language.

Josefina Scaglione and Matt CavenaughOne thing I was dying to know was if Robbins’ choreography would be altered at all for greater cultural authenticity. Would the Puerto Ricans be adding some bomba or plena sabor to the dance numbers? Then again, no reason mess with a good thing (no, make that an amazing thing — West Side Story is in my book, hands down, the best dance musical ever, and the best music musical, for that matter). So what if the choreography of America is more flamenco than salsa? Joey McKneely, the reproduction choreographer did change some of the blocking and spacing in the piece to underscore the culturally adversarial give and take between the homesick girls and the girls that are trying to become Americanized (which explains why Anita will at times break into English even with her compatriots). It will be more about that interaction than an “and now folks, here’s the big dance number” performance to the audience; but Robbins’ choreography will remain intact.

This will be Buscher’s Broadway debut. He is Diesel, the “meathead” of the Jets– a surprise not only to me– going by his angelic headshot and cheery voice– but also to his family and friends. “It was kind of a process for me to get into that because I’m not really a meathead,” says Buscher. “But he’s come to life and it’s great. When we do the rumble scene it’s awesome. It’s very empowering for me to jump on stage and be able to protect the guys that are behind me.” Late bloomers, take heart. Although Buscher was a gymnast in his youth, he didn’t start dancing until he got to college, realizing it was important to his development as an actor. The audition process for West Side Story, which was six months long, really improved his technique. That plus an hour-long barre class before each day’s practice and the encouragement of McKneely and his assistant. “It helps that [Diesel] is a fighter because he’s not the most balletic boy; they did a nice job of casting if I do say so myself,” he says with a laugh.

West Side Story Rehearsal (with Cody Green)It is a young company, with many making their Broadway debut– with so much of the cast being made up of teenage gang members, that is a necessity. There are some seasoned veterans, of course, including Karen Olivo (Anita) who was most recently seen in In the Heights. Here’s another familiar face: Step It Up and Dance fans will recognize Cody Green in the role of Riff.

Six-month audition process aside, I want to know the nuts and bolts of getting a Broadway dance musical from studio to stage. “The first week of rehearsals was just dance, that’s all we did,” says Buscher. After a brief meeting with Laurents and the creative team, “literally an hour later we were on the floor learning Dance at the Gym.” Nary a libretto was cracked open for the first full week of practice as the dancers learned all the dance numbers. This allowed the choreography to become second nature so the dancers could focus on acting. Additionally, as lines, songs, acting and blocking were layered on, the choreography gained depth along with the process of character development.

Rehearsals started in New York City, going about six hours a day, six days a week for five weeks. The whole cast moved to DC for the final two weeks of rehearsal. After the dances were learned, important acting moments were added in, and vocal rehearsals. “The way Arthur and Joey McKneely work is they fill it up right in the beginning so you have time to grow,” says Buscher. Additional character development occurred after hours, as The Jets hung out together socially to get to know each other and figure out their relationships in the gang. Quoting Laurents again, he says, “He wants this to be an acting show. He says the dance number’s kind of nowhere if you’re not acting from somewhere.”

Arthur Laurents addresses the cast of West Side Story

By the time the cast got to Washington they felt comfortable enough with what they had to do to start taking more artistic risks. The hard work “pays off when you get the show at a place where you’re allowed to try new things on stage because you’re so comfortable with what you’re doing. That is where a show should be.”

With just hours remaining before his big Broadway show debut, I ask Buscher what we can expect. I’ve been able to tell from the tone of his voice during our conversation that there is a great deal of excitement and satisfaction with the process and anticipation for what is to come.” There’s a very high bar for this show and all of this are taking it on with full force. We are young we are energized and we’re dancing the crap out of this show.”


West Side Story runs through January 17, 2009 at the National Theatre in Washington, DC. Tickets are on sale through Telecharge (800) 447-7400, www.telecharge.com) or at the National Theatre Box Office (202-628-6161 www.nationaltheatre.org. It will open on Broadway on February 23.

Archived videos from the Misnomer Dance Theater live broadcast of Being Together are up, and I am happy to report that Zipper, the piece that was obscured by a large youtube box for the entirety of its broadcast, is there in its unspoiled form. It will be up for the forseeable future.

As I said of the live broadcast, this is an excellent and rare opportunity to see high quality videography of an evening-length show by one of today’s leading modern dance companies.

Dance lovers across the world just participated in a “first.” That is, the first live webcast of an internationally-recognized dance company’s live premiere of a new, evening-length work, aptly titled “Being Together”.

Misnomer Dance Company used ustream.tv to broadcast last night’s show, which closed the premiere run of Being Together, a trio of new works by Chris Elam. Ustream has a live chat feature side by side with the video, and the excitement in the internet audience was palpable. According to the Misnomer blog, there were 1800 computers connected to the webcast, to the 74 members of the live audience in the Joyce SoHo in New York City.

In this age of multitasking we were somehow all able to watch the show while typing away and discussing things as they happened. Fellow bloggers Selly, Nichelle and Rob were there as well. It was truly a new experience for me and many others. I hope this medium will be employed more and more for those that may not have the time, the money, or the right location to see groups like Misnomer.

I loved the first two pieces. Too Late Tulip was my favorite in terms of aesthetics. It had a wonderful flow and a quality of movement that was at times floaty and eathereal. Rock. Paper. Flock. was a whimsical piece that wove commentary and improv into a larger, structured format. Wearing his “choreographer’s hat” (an old hat/goggle aviator combo), Elam gave assignments, and sometimes bossy commands and complaints to his dancers. Much of the movement in this one had an animallike quality that really showed Misnomer’s capacity for partnering.

Things went really well until after intermission. The final piece in the trilogy, Zipper was unfortunately blocked by a big youtube inset which covered about 1/3 of the screen. I have to say that I wasn’t able to pay too much attention to the piece with that in the way.

Still, it was agreed that we were happy to have been present at this first of what I hope is many webcasts of this kind, and that the technology of it will no doubt quickly evolve and improve. If you missed the webcast, check back at misnomer.org as they will shortly be sharing an archived video of the webcast for a limited time.

To paraphrase our next First Lady: For the first time in a very long time, I am proud to be an American.

I am off to a yoga retreat in West Virginia for the weekend and will be back with more coherent dance-related thoughts next week. No guarantees that I’ll stop talking about Obama though. This is just too exciting and wonderful!

In searching for some West Side Story clips to listen to at work (getting in the mood for the revival which opens here in DC on December 15— today is T minus 50!) I came across this hilarious Scrubs clip. Why did I not know about this scene before? I love Scrubs for its zany alternate reality sequences such as this.

One source for listings of dance performances in the DC area.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ok, I’m not really sure what this is actually about, but it sure is a witty invite. If anyone from Dance/Metro DC wants to provide further info, we’d love to hear about it in the comments–

DANCER CITIZEN!

dance/metrodc Mix-It-Up-Summit!

JUMP ON THE BANDWAGON IN THE SPIRIT OF CHOICE AND CHANGE!

MEET other dance artists, designers and administrators! STATE needs! ASK questions!

ELECT to make a difference in DANCE in the DC/VA/MD region!

This gathering is non-partison with the exception that it is pro-art,  pro-dance, pro-sustaining, pro-growth!

Like all productive meetings, afterwards we will take the discussion to a local beverage establishment to discuss how art can change the world !

IF YOU MAKE DANCE HAPPEN—ANYWAY/SHAPE/FORM—ELECT TO BE HERE!

October 27th, 2008 7:30-8:45 pm Maryland Youth Ballet, Silver Spring!

REGISTER/RSVP/DIRECTIONS: info@dancemetrodc.org

We now interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this important news…

I am just back from the New Kids on the Block reunion concert at the Verizon Center in DC. It was quite an experience and one I’m glad I didn’t miss. It was the ultimate nostalgic experience for me, plus, bonus– the ‘Kids have aged quite well. Jonathan Knight was always my favorite and after last night, I love him even more (with apologies to Mr. P). Since Jon was in our nation’s capital he decided to make a political statement. He was wearing an Obama tshirt!

By the way, this was the part where they came off the main stage and appeared on this little revolving platform in the middle of the crowd. Sooo exciting!

Here’s the extreme closeup:

I just got back from seeing the Washington National Opera‘s The Pearl Fishers and am still floating from the experience. I had not seen an opera in years, and what a way to get back in on it! This production was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The true star of the show was Brit designer Zandra Rhodes who designed the stunning costumes and sets. It was the perfect backdrop to the sensual, passionate, colorful experience that was The Pearl Fishers. Norah Amsellem as Leila, Charles Castonovo as Nadir, and Trevor Scheunemann all gave standout, nuanced performances and the trio had true chemistry. I got goosebumps when they sang Au fond du temple saint, which has got to be one of the most beautiful duets of all time, period.

There was also dancing! Lots of it! Imaginatively choreographed by John Malashock, the dancers played a prominent role in setting the scenes and telling the backstories.

I have to give a special mention to WNO’s Generation O program, which gives special discounts and events to the 18-35 crowd. I got ridiculously cheap tickets to this show thanks to them.

The Pearl Fishers has 4 more shows through Oct. 7 at the Kennedy Center. Go see it…it was so good I might go again.

1. Attend the Joy of Motion Dupont Circle open house this Sunday with tons of free class demonstrations in virtually every dance style, refreshments and seated massage. I’ll be helping out with the Broadway Jazz demonstration at 12:45.

2. Go canvassing for Obama in your nearest swing state.

Does anyone know if the DC improv festival is happening this year? I went to the website and it still has last year’s schedule on it.

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