Somapa Thai Dance Company Presents “Pralor”

The Somapa Thai Dance Company will present two performances of the dance drama “Pralor” on Saturday, October 22 (8 pm) & Sunday, October 23 (4 pm) at Joe’s Movement Emporium (3309 Bunker Hill Road, Mt. Rainier, MD; (301) 699-1819). Ticket prices are $20 for general public, $15 for seniors, and $10 for students, and can be purchased in advance online via Joe’s at www.joesmovement.org. “Pralor” is based on excerpts of a centuries-old romantic and tragic tale from what is considered among the most sensual pieces of Thai poetry. This tale of forbidden love, social and political taboo will feature a complete cast of 17 performers in Somapa’s premiere attempt to bring this Thai classical dance drama to an American audience.

“Pralor” recounts an ill-fated love that springs and blossoms between a handsome king and two beautiful princesses of neighboring warring states, who throw caution to the wind and plot impatiently to meet and consummate their passion despite the perils of a journey, hostility from family and society, and political opposition and scandal, which lead the three lovers to a tragic end. Based in the Silver Spring – Takoma Park area since its inception in 1999, Somapa has been a long-time partner with Joe’s Movement Emporium in highlighting the diversity of local arts and culture and is proud to team up again with Joe’s in bringing this project to fruition. Proceeds from the two performances will benefit Somapa’s and Joes’ ongoing activities to promote the dance arts in the local community.

The Somapa Thai Dance Company has been actively giving performances, presentations, classes, and workshops since its founding in 1999. The Washington area-based group has performed extensively in the Washington metropolitan area, and has danced before audiences in several other festivals in seven other U.S. states, as well as in Mexico over five tours. Key members of the troupe have over 30 years of performing experience and trained in Bangkok under the instruction of the most renowned Thai dance masters. Somapa’s mission is to preserve and promote Thai culture and arts in the Americas. It seeks to foster mutual understanding between people of different countries, cultures and ethnicities as well as contribute to the diversity of the communities where members perform, teach and share their experiences.

The above information is adapted from a Joe’s Movement Emporium press release received Thursday, October 13th.

Upcoming Dance Performances at Joe’s Movement Emporium

Joe's Movement EmporiumJoe’s Movement Emporium is a community performing arts center located in Mount Rainier, Maryland. The arts center offers both youth and adult classes in a variety of styles and this year hosted over 100 productions at their on-site performance space. In addition to making the arts more accessible through its after school program Club Joe’s, the organization also provides free weekly classes in hip hop, yoga and hooping.

According to Executive Director and Founder of Joe’s Movement Emporium Brooke Kidd, offering free classes is not just about attracting new students. The classes go along with Joe’s mission to revitalize the community through performing arts participation. “The hardest part about taking a dance class is just getting there,” said Brooke. “But people leave here happy and that’s what keeps you going.”

Joe’s free weekly classes have had a great impact on the community, according to Managing Director Charles Phaneuf. Over 3,000 people have attended their free weekly classes this year. Their after school program Club Joe’s has also experienced growth, said Charles. It now offers its youth participants capoeira and flamenco classes in addition to tumbling, step dance and music lessons.

Joe's Movement EmporiumSince opening in the 1990s, the organization itself has expanded significantly. The arts center started as one store front on 34th Street in Mount Rainier, grew to three and later moved into its current facility around the corner on Bunker Hill Road. Brooke admits the stakes are higher the bigger you get, but she believes that the organization is moving forward on a steady track.

In the future, Joe’s plans to find new ways to partner with the community. The organization will continue working with Envision Prince George’s, a project of the Prince George’s Arts Council that promotes arts audiences as an integral part of business development. Charles sees an opportunity to explore the connection between movement and wellness and Brooke hopes to expand their artist booking services. For more information about Joe’s Movement Emporium, visit their website www.joesmovement.org. Their upcoming dance performances in January and February 2011 are listed below:

Saturday, January 29th and Sunday, January 30th MODERN DANCE: A Woodland’s Dance Scheme in “Perceptions Finagled” – Original works in contemporary modern dance, directed by Datjwan “Day-Marquette” Woodland and guest artists, will feature live music, singing, poetry and more. Collaborations with local artists will blend genres for a visual, auditory and soul grabbing experience.

Friday, February 4th and Saturday, February 5th MODERN DANCE: Daniel Burkholder/The PlayGround in “Ad Libitum” – Through spontaneous movement, sometimes subtle and spacious, and other times charged and dynamic, Daniel Burkholder/The PlayGround delve deep into the subconscious, meditative practices and intense physicality. Includes Richard Bull’s seminal work, Jesus’ Blood, as well as some damn good dancing.

Saturday, February 12th and Sunday, February 13th MODERN DANCE: Contradiction Dance in “Living, Breathing, Human Organism?” – Conceived by Artistic Director Kelly Mayfield, this piece explores how we have lost touch. Our preoccupation with out thoughts leads us to detach from both our physical self and that self within the environment. Despite this, our daily lives play out in a menagerie of animalistic tendencies that are telling in both dark and humorous ways.

Saturday, February 19th and Sunday, February 20th WORLD DANCE: Taratibu Youth Association in “Bridging the Cultural Divide – Youth Voices Count” – TYA will present their Black History show at Joe’s, sharing stories and experiences from their trip to Ghana and experiences here at home as youth become the change makers of today and tomorrow. With a focus on the power in connecting youth culturally and internationally, they will raise their voices and tell their stories of importance of social change in America and Africa.

Saturday, February 26th WORLD DANCE: Soul in Motion Players Inc. and Gamelan Mitra Kusuma – Balinese Gamelan & Dancers in “Rhythms of the World” – Witness the blending of different cultural influences from Guinea, West Africa and Bali, Indonesia. This long-awaited collaboration will feature the beauty of both cultures – sharing the stage together to create one universal rhythmic pulse. Come be part of the experience!

Sunday, February 27th WORLD DANCE: Soul in Motion Players Inc. in “Back to the Root” – This performance is a send-ff celebration as Soul in Motion prepares for their highly-anticipated trip to Dakar, Senegal in March 2011.

danceDC Weekend Event Guide 12/17-12/19

This will be the last weekend event guide in 2010! I’ll be spending time with my family in Boston for Christmas and then partying it up with my friends in New York City for New Year’s. Seems like things are winding down for most companies and studios, but there are still some dance events going on this weekend. Tomorrow Urban Artistry hosts a youth hip hop party at Artisphere in Arlington. Above is a video of the youngest member of UA dancing at Dance/MetroDC’s kick-off party at the Beacon Hotel. Also don’t forget about my previous post Where can you see The Nutcracker in the DMV? Those performances are not included in the listing below. Happy holidays everyone.

Friday, December 17th

Saturday, December 18th

Sunday, December 19th

  • 2pm & 7pm: Kwanzaa Celebration featuring Coyaba Dance Theater at Dance Place
  • 7pm: Fall Studio to Stage Performance Class Showcase at Joy of Motion (Friendship Heights)

Oklahoma!, Silk Road Dance Company and CityDance Ensemble

This weekend I traveled all over the DMV for various events. Thursday night, I went to the Waterfront area for the opening night of Oklahoma! at Arena Stage. Saturday night, I made my way to Joe’s Movement Emporium in Mount Rainier, Maryland for Silk Road Dance Company’s 15th Anniversary Celebration “Spirit of the Silk Road.” And yesterday, I took the Metro to Strathmore in Bethesda for a performance from CityDance Ensemble. Thanks to Brooke Miller, Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray and Tara Compton for inviting me to these performances. Here are some highlights from my dance adventures:

Arena Stage Oklahoma!

source: Arena Stage

Thursday, November 4th
Oklahoma! at Arena Stage
Even if you haven’t seen Oklahoma! before, you probably know more of the musical score than you think. The show starts off with Curly singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” followed by “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” There’s also “People Will Say We’re In Love” and of course the title track “Oklahoma!”

If you’re looking for dancing in the musical, there are a few parts where you’ll get your fix. Will Parker and the male ensemble deliver a great performance in “Kansas City.” Choreographer Parker Esse brings this number to life with lively movement. It seems like the choreography in “Kansas City” was inspired by hoe downs of the South, but I felt some influence from tap and flamenco in the powerful movements of the male dancers.

The female ensemble had a less memorable dance number in “Many a New Day,” but it was the ladies who brought it on during the Out of My Dreams/Dream Ballet which ended the First Act. It’s hard to describe the Dream Ballet without explaining the entire plot of the musical, but highlights for me were the burlesque dancers in Jud Fry’s hole in the ground home and Hollie E. Wright, who played Dream Laurey. It takes a lot of courage to dance in lingerie!

In case you’re curious about non-dancing parts of the performance, Eleasha Gamble (Laurey) has an amazing voice; Nehal Joshi (Ali Hakim) and Cody Williams (Will Parker) have great comedic timing; and June Schreiner (Ado Annie) somehow makes promiscuity adorable. At times, you miss facial expressions from the actors and actresses due to the 360 degree stage but it created more visual appeal than your typical auditorium seating. For more information about Oklahoma! visit www.arenastage.org.

Saturday, November 6th
Silk Road Dance Company at Joe’s Movement Emporium

Joe’s Movement Emporium was more difficult to get to than Arena Stage as it’s not Metro accessible. I took the train to Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood then hopped on a bus to 34th Street NE. From there, the walk is only a couple blocks. Door to door from Farragut North to Mount Rainier, it was about an hour trek. Joe’s is a more intimate setting compared to some of the larger performing arts centers in the area, but it was a great setting for Silk Road Dance Company to celebrate its 15th Anniversary Celebration.

Before the opening number, Founding Director Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray spoke of the importance of raising awareness of other cultures – something Silk Road Dance Company has been doing since its inception. According to Gray, “if you want to understand another culture, you need to dance their dances.”

Silk Road Dance Company, along with guest artists Ahmad Matty and Canae Weiss, presented 18 pieces. Each dance introduced the audience to a different language of movement and featured beautifully detailed costumes. The opening number “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds” reminded me of the Filipino candle dance Pandanggo Sa Ilaw. The candles are possibly a metaphor for the good thoughts, good words and good deeds which can be used to ward off negative forces. The note in the program about the dance goes on to explain that “fire is an agent of ritual purity.”

I found the second act much more entertaining than the first. In Act Two, “Ringa Ringa” used familiar music from the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire. The Ambassador of Uzbekistan was a fan of this number in particular. It was the first time I saw him take out his iPhone and start taking pictures. “Gur Nalo Ishq Mitha” fused more modern dance elements with traditional movements. I think I saw some raising the roof and vogueing in there. Even the music had some DJ scratches in the mix. The biggest crowd pleasers were solos from guest artist Canae Weiss, as well as the final number where Dr. Gray came out to dance with her ‘silkies.’ Visit www.silkroaddance.com and www.joesmovement.org for more information.

Sunday, November 7th
CityDance Ensemble at Strathmore
I’ve already seen CityDance Ensemble perform Paul Taylor’s Esplanade – the first time at DC Arts on Foot and the second time at VelocityDC Dance Festival, but I was excited to see a number of other works from the contemporary modern dance company. I attended the Sunday matinee at Strathmore which was added to the original performance schedule of Saturday and Sunday evening. I was surprised to find out that the show was in the same studio where I’ve taken Culture Shock DC hip hop classes on Thursday nights.

Artistic Director Paul Emerson greeted the audience and walked us through the program as no paper ones were distributed. This change in practice is just one green initiative implemented by CityDance Ensemble. The company will also focus on sustainable development as it transforms the current CityDance Center at Strathmore Studio 405 into a black box theater.

CityDance Ensemble performed four pieces in the first act of the show. “Pathways” with choreography by Alex Neoral, “Twine” performed by students of the CityDance Conservatory and choreographed by CityDance member Maleek Washington, “A Certain Slant of Light” choreographed by Christopher Morgan and “Mattress Suite” a dance in four parts by Larry Keigwin and Nicole Wolcott. “Mattress” was by far my favorite of the four presented. Not only was it sexy (the dancers performed in nothing but white underwear), but the dance also had some funny and even violent parts to it. The choreographers cleverly used a simple mattress as both a prop and a set which the dancers bounced on and off of into impressive jumps and lifts.

After a short intermission, CityDance Ensemble presented “Drop Down” by Kate Weare, which was voted Best New Work of 2006. Emerson described the work as exploring the darker side of relationships, which was personified by the dancers heavy stomping and an intense floor part performed in silence. Paul Taylor’s “Esplanade” was the final piece of the show. Before the dancers came on stage, Emerson expressed his gratitude to Taylor for taking a chance on CityDance and allowing them to perform his work. It is his spirit that has truly transformed the company, he said. For more information about CityDance Ensemble, visit www.citydance.net.

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