Dance Performances at DC Arts on Foot Festival

Sidney Harman HallThe Washington Examiner’s Arts on Foot is a free festival held every year to showcase upcoming works from the District’s visual and performing artists. Yesterday, several dance performances took place at the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Harman Center for the Arts at 6th and F Streets NW. I didn’t make it to the festival until about 2pm and left around 4pm so missed out on dance previews from Step Afrika!, Tehreema Mitha and Jane Franklin Dance, but was able to catch both the 2pm performance in Sidney Harman Hall and the 3pm show in the theatre’s smaller venue The Forum.

Everyone was already seated when I arrived around 2pm, but I was able to sneak in the back and get a seat in the second to last row. I missed the first pointe solo from The Washington Ballet, but was able to catch their other two pieces. One was a traditional ballet solo with a woman on pointe. The piece was fun and festive with a tambourine as her prop. The choreography also demonstrated the ballerina’s core strength as it involved several balances on releve. The second piece was a contemporary ballet solo performed by one of The Washington Ballet’s male dancers. The dance started and ended with an awkward squatting pose, and included several impressive moves that showcased his flexibility.

The Washington Ballet ended their time on stage by inviting several members of the audience to learn and perform a dance inspired by things you do first thing in the morning like brushing your teeth, yawning and walking the dog. This was definitely a crowd pleaser that also spoke to the director’s broader point that “choreographers organize movement to express a moment in their lives.”

CityDance Ensemble performed an excerpt from Paul Taylor Dance Company‘s Esplanade, which was inspired by the sight of a girl running to catch the bus. Needless to say, this dance involved a lot of running but also included several movements influenced by every day motions such as walking, tripping and falling. The first movement of this piece is very light and happy – both in the music and the choreography. This in contrast to the second movement which is more fast pace with dancers jumping and sliding all over the stage. In addition to paying tribute to one of the most famous modern dancers in the world, CityDance Ensemble also reminded us that their is dance in everything – even the most mundane of moments.

Arts on FootI left Sidney Harman Hall after CityDance Ensemble ended their set and made my way downstairs to The Forum for the 3pm dance preview. This venue was much smaller than the auditorium, but made for a more intimate experience with the  performers. Furia Flamenca started the preview off with a  fiery performance accompanied by a sick guitarist. The dance – and the music – was a huge hit with the audience. I’m sure people will check them out in the future at Happenings at the Harman or at Joy of Motion where the company teaches flamenco classes.

Eureka Dance Festival performed next. Their first piece featured four females dancing barefoot in little black dresses. The movement was extremely interesting, but I didn’t feel any emotion in the piece. The music stopped abruptly during the set, but the dancers kept going like pros. I’m almost positive that was a technical glitch. If not, I’m not sure what the break in music was for. Three females wearing pink and red dresses with intense red makeup over their eyes performed the second piece.  The feel was almost sci-fi with the music and costumes. It was also eerie at the end as the dancers kept moving without music and the audience could only hear the sounds of the dancers’ breathing.

Silk Road Dance Company brought the dances of Tajikistan to the District. The first dance was influenced by the story of Alexander, The Great who met his wife Roxanne at the watering hole. Apparently, that was a good place to pick up chicks since during that time people would only send their females to fetch water. This piece involved more acting than dancing, but featured pretty elaborate costumes with long braided wig extensions. The second piece had a bit more dancing and was inspired by the tulips covering the countryside of Tajikistan. I didn’t really see the connection, but there was one move that looked like they were mimicking a seed blossoming into a flower.

Ballet Teatro Internacional closed out the dance preview with two duets choreographed by Francisco Castillo. The first was a dance choreographed as a poem to the nature of Lain America. Some of the arm movements reflected waves in the ocean and their one strapped multicolored unitards seemed appropriate for the piece. Alvaro Maldonado, Artistic Director and Founder of BTI Dance Institute on 14th Street NW, was an impressive partner – holding the female dancer over his shoulder while she did an attitude. The second piece was set to beautiful Spanish music with the dancers sporting more formal attire. The dance ended with an over the shoulder lift again displaying Alvaro’s strength.

If you missed this year’s Arts on Foot Festival, definitely be on the look out for next year. The previews were a great way to get a taste of what the District has to offer in the world of dance and you know you can’t beat FREE.

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About Cecile
Cecile Oreste is an arts marketing and public relations professional living in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @cecileoreste.

8 Responses to Dance Performances at DC Arts on Foot Festival

  1. Luis Gomez says:

    Wonderful review Cecile!

  2. I am writing concerning your comments about the Tajik dances performied by Silk Road Dance Company at the Harman Center’s “Arts of Foot” presentation. As a dance educator, I am always fascinated to
    discover what people see — and don’t see — when first encountering an unfamiliar dance form.
    You noticed the “acting” element,. For those more familiar with the often impassive expressions in contemporary Western dance, the animated facial expressions of Central Asian performers is something new.Like many Eastern ethnic dance forms, story telling is often a component in Tajik dances. But is was puzzling that the deep backbends, fast traveling spins, running on the knees, shoulder isolations, graceful arm undulations and staccato head movements were dismissed as “not much dance.” Central Asian dance emhasizes movements of the torso, arms, hands, neck, and spin, as well as turns and spins. But the women’s dances do not have leaps and high kicks, so if these elements are needed to qualify as “dance” then a large portion of the dances of the Islamic world would be disqualified.

    Every culture has its own unique definition of beauty and its own special dance vocabulary. Perhaps it takes more than one viewing to appreciate the nuances of Tajik dance, Here is a video clip of Silk Road Dance Company performing “Tulips” at the Kennedy Center :

    And a clarification. The first dance, Farishta, had nothing to do with Alexander the Great, although he
    did pass through this area and married Roxanne, a girl from this region,. The comment about “our young Alexander” was a playful joke about the man in the dance who was trying to catch the fancy of the Tajik girls sent out to fetch water. This daily task is common in the East, so there are dances from many cultures that involve grils dancing with water pitchers.

    As for the “tulips” dance — it was inspired by the color and vitality of spring time tulips, “Lola” means “tulip” and it is a popular girl’s name. Young girls are often compared to flowers, but the choreography was not intended to be a botanical representation. If you watch HGTV Design Star, you know that the designers are often given an object — a flower, an article of clothing, etc, — to inspire their creativity. But as Vern always says, “don;t be too literal,” Such us the case in this piece,

    • Cecile says:

      Thanks for your feedback and thorough response. I appreciate your comments. Most of my posts are based on the individual experience I have so yes, I agree it does take more than one viewing to appreciate the nuances of a dance form I am not familiar with. I’m glad you brought up some elements of the dance that I did not personally observe. I hope people who read this blog also read your comment as this is what I hope the blog will prompt – discussion and learning.

      • Dear Cecile,

        Thank you for providing an open forum and showing an open mind.

        World Dance is deeply encoded with all sorts of “insider” cultural values and specific traditions that are not always accessible to “outsider” audiences. It can be a challenge, like learning a foreign language or appreciating the music of another country. And personal tastes will always vary.

        We would be happy to have you as a guest at Silk Road Dance Company’s 15th Anniversary Concert on November 6th. We will be presenting a wide spectrum of World Dance styles. Maybe you will see something that speaks to your heart.

        Just let us know and we will arrange a ticket for you.

  3. Pingback: VelocityDC Dance Festival 2010 « danceDC

  4. Pingback: VelocityDC Dance Festival 2010 at Sidney Harman Hall

  5. Pingback: Oklahoma!, Silk Road Dance Company and CityDance Ensemble « danceDC

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