FCDC Goes Formal with… A Celebration of Dance

With black ties and ball gowns at the ready, the Fairfax County Dance Coalition (FCDC) is making A Celebration of Dance not just a showcase, but a full gala affair. Now in its third year running, the FCDC’s gala event is overflowing with an array of area talent, featuring twelve companies and a mix of ballet, tap, jazz, modern, hip hop, musical theatre and international dance styles. Not just the dancers will be dolled up for this event; the audience is encouraged to show off their own glitz and glam.

A Celebration of Dance will be presented Sunday, October 7th at 3:00 p.m. at the Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus theatre. A brief reception is open to audience members following the performance in the upstairs gallery.

“Every year, the reasons we produce this show become stronger,” says Marilyn York, FCDC President, Gala Director and artistic director of Dancin’ Unlimited Jazz Dance Company. “The Gala not only provides an opportunity for advanced and professional dancers to share their artistic talents with each other across this dance community. The Gala also helps to build a network of dance enthusiasts beyond family and friends of dancers.”

Drawing together these twelve specialized groups has put Fairfax County dance on the map in the DC Metro Area, and the FCDC has created this dance production with the purpose of sharing its talent across county lines. Participating companies include: BalletNova, Center Stage Dance Company, Dancin’ Unlimited Jazz Dance Company, Encore Theatrical Arts Project, Gin Dance Company, Impact Dance Company, Lasya Dance Company, Nrityanjali Dance Company, The Ballet Arts Ensemble of Fairfax, The Fairfax Ballet Company, The Kintz Mejia Academy of Ballet and the Virginia Ballet Company.

“It’s amazing how we all get along,” states Caroline Frankil Warren, Executive Director of BalletNova Center for Dance. “The Gala is a watershed collaboration among 12 dance groups, resulting in a wonderful showcase of the dance talent hidden within Fairfax County.”

BalletNova will perform in two pieces – the Pas de Deux from Les Sylphides and a contemporary piece by Amy Tuck. The Gin Dance Company will present “The Core,” a contemporary piece about universal interconnectivity, energy and strength. Center Stage will perform a modern take on Frank Sinatra’s iconic song “New York, New York,” fusing classic Broadway and rhythm tap. “White Out,” a contemporary jazz piece performed by Dancin’ Unlimited, encourages the audience to get past, or white out, life problems. The Fairfax Ballet Company will perform a contemporary lyrical piece inspired by the journey of adolescence. Encore will present “Kick Line,” a Rockette-style number. The audience can also expect several traditional Indian dance works.

For the second consecutive year, the Fairfax County Dance Coalition and the Arts Council of Fairfax County will announce scholarship awards to two 2013 high school graduating seniors from among the FCDC member companies planning to pursue studies in dance. Mason District Supervisor Penelope Gross and Arts Council President Linda Sullivan will present the scholarships at the Gala.

Gala tickets are $20 in advance and $23 at the door. To purchase tickets and find more information, visit www.dancefairfax-gala.org, or contact any of the participating dance organizations. The NVCC Annandale Campus theatre is located at 8333 Little River Turnpike in Annandale, VA; convenient to Beltway exit 52A.

This information is from a Fairfax County Dance Coalition press release. Lauren Green of danceDC will be performing at the event with Dancin’ Unlimited Jazz Dance Company.

Part and Parcel – A Performance Duo by DancEthos and Word Dance Theater

With a scarf to tempt Isadora herself, Cynthia Word gracefully wafted across the stage opening a two company performance that featured the works of Word Dance Theater and DancEthos. “Part and Parcel” was staged at Dance Place on June 23rd and 24th.

Word Dance Theater (Photo Credit: Stephen Baranovics)

Word Dance Theater preserves the works of Isadora Duncan and creates original works inspired by the Duncan technique. It’s disorienting to take in the intense operatic scores and head-wrapped women without knowing that Isadora was greatly influenced by her time spent in the Soviet Union. Duncan’s work can be very internal and the dances often felt far off despite the black box feel of Dance Place.

The stage was back-dropped by images that reflected the mood of each piece. They were purposeful while not being distracting. Each flowing crepe fabric dress billowed around the dancers’ form, adding dimension and femininity to their strong shapes. Pianist Carlos César Rodríguez superbly executed every violent piano score and each delicate Chopin piece.

With little pause between works, Word Dance Theater presented nine pieces that transitioned seamlessly between each other. In “Dubinishka,” the dancers flocked gracefully as one, banking and straining to pull invisible giant taffy. Scarves in hand, the dancers transformed into warrior-like Rosie-the-Riveters. In “Revolutionary Etude,” Hannah Goldberg gave the dusty work a fresh level of intention. Seeming to dance for life itself, Goldberg put a driving fury behind each dragging and diving motion.

It’s rare to see works that could be coined with such a description as “original,” but DancEthos presented a diverse array of works that poked at such an acclaim.

DancEthos (Photo Credit: Amanda Kilgour)

In Carolyn Kamrath’s “Incessant,” three dancers lay belly-up, flopping and spasming in timed spurts. The traveling moments were limp and uncontrolled, yet phrased in patterns that created a cryptic beauty. The play on controlled and spastic motion imitated the tremors and instability of Parkinsons patients. The wind in the background was like an incessant white noise, drowning out the waves of raspy French music.

In “Matriculate,” choreographer and poet Matthew Bennett fueled the movement phrases with his vocal nuances. The pedestrian-like dancers created family relationships – mother to daughter and father to daughter – that showed defiance on the part of the children and self-sacrifice on the part of the parents. Bennett begged the audience to love and cherish their families or end up “graveside and holding nothing but what we wouldn’t say.”

A picture frame dictates where to look, but in “Framework,” choreographer Vladimir Angelov drove the focus to everything beyond. The black-dressed dancer created an impassioned Disney-like fairytale of a picture-frame girl come to life. She freed herself from her two-dimensional cell. Liberated but vulnerable, she gradually retreated to her frame but closed with one arm reaching away and the other holding the empty frame out to her side. Even when we want to escape, we can’t let go of the things that hold us up.

Not Dancing With the Stars… Dancing for a Cause!

The DC Dance Marathon is a party with a purpose. The 13.1 hour dance event raises money for Metro Area Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. While the event has been workin’ it on college campuses for years, it’s only in its second year in DC, but after raising $37K in 2011, it is back with boogie fever! Taking place on Saturday, November 17th at the FHI 360 Conference Center, the DC Dance Marathon is open to anyone with a passion for dance, no skill required! The event will feature a variety of dance styles, performances, games and activities, as well as stories from the lives impacted by this charitable dance marathon.

I had a chance to speak with Brandon Weathers, head of public relations for the DC Dance Marathon. Brandon chasséd into this role last year and said that while he doesn’t have a professional dance background per se, “If I have to go out there for a good cause and look like I’m having a dry heave, bring it on!”

How do you complete a marathon with dance?

It all comes down to a combination of dance, entertainment and games. We have an opening ceremony and start off letting everyone gather and socialize. Certain hours of the event are dedicated to dance styles. In rave hour, everyone [wears] glow sticks, then we turn the lights off and everybody acts like rave kids. The most important thing is that everyone is dancing however they want, whenever they want, to any kind of music that they want.

Do patients from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals participate?

We bring in patients and patient families, and they come and tell their story. If this is your first time experiencing the dance marathon, you don’t really know what that means until a kid comes up and tells you that Children’s Hospital saved their life from cancer. It adds a sense of personalization to what we’re doing. I’m partying with a purpose here and it really does make a difference in someone’s life.

What do you tell someone who says, “I don’t dance.”?

I tell them that it doesn’t matter if you can’t dance; you’re there for a good cause. We have a variety of things that you can do. If you don’t want to dance but still want to give back, find a team to sponsor, join a committee or pass our information along.

We always tell people, if you have a bad knee, do what you feel most comfortable doing. You’re not here to audition for “Dancing with the Stars.” You’re here to have a good time and help out with the community. It’s something you can be a part of no matter what.

Why is DCDM important to you personally?

When I first started, I didn’t really realize the people I was going to be impacting. It turns out my nephew’s cousin was in their hospital. I didn’t know that what I was doing had a direct impact on somebody I knew.

The Deets


Dancin’ Unlimited Goes Broadway and Beyond

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dancin’ Unlimited

Dancin’ Unlimited will perform “Dancin’ on Broadway and Beyond,” a Broadway showcase tribute, at the Port Tobacco Players playhouse in La Plata, MD.  On April 21st at both 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., audiences will experience the thrill of Broadway smash-hit numbers, with a few concert style jazz dance works mixed in.

Directed by Northern Virginia jazz dance icon Marilyn York, the Dancin’ Unlimited Jazz Dance Company packs the show with signature songs and dance pieces from Chicago, A Chorus Line, Fosse and Pajama Game.

“We will take you on a jazz dance journey through dance styles that made Broadway famous,” says York. Dancin’ Unlimited’s motto is “Jazz Dance with Class.” They hold true to classical technique and clean lines with the exuberance to light up Broadway to boot.

Dancin’ Unlimited’s mission is to promote, produce and perform quality jazz dance, a uniquely American dance art form that has evolved with our history and absorbed our cultures. Founded in 1973, Dancin’ Unlimited is the only professional jazz dance company in Northern Virginia with a focus on both concert and musical theatre jazz dance. Marilyn York, the artistic director, produces new and exciting programs each year with an emphasis on artistic excellence, broad variety and professionalism. The Company repertoire ranges from classical jazz dance to hip-hop, from the Big Band era dance to Broadway. Company dancers are all classically trained in ballet and modern as well as jazz dance. Dancin’ Unlimited is a non-profit 501-(c)3 arts organization, a member of the Arts Council of Fairfax County, and a founding member of the Fairfax County Dance Coalition.

The above information is adapted from a Dancin’ Unlimited press release.

The Deets

  • Dancin’ Unlimited Presents Dancin’ On Broadway and Beyond
  • Port Tobacco Players –  508 Charles Street; La Plata, MD 20646
  • Saturday, April 21st, 3:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
  • $17 Adults; $14 Students/Seniors/Military
  • Dance students and others are welcome to meet the Director, Marilyn York, and Dancin’ Unlimited dancers after the first show around 5:00 p.m.

Attack with Fluidity – Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company Celebrates 20 Years of Dance-Making


"Becoming American" Photo Credit: Zain Shah

Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company attacks choreography with poise and fluidity. They celebrated their 20 year anniversary April 5th and 6th at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre at George Washington University, the same theatre where they first began their artistic journey. In a four-piece concert, part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Burgess uses his contemporary style fused with multimedia art to frame the societal and cultural themes of identity, constriction and betrayal. A celebrated DC artist, Burgess makes each element of the theatre – lighting, music, costume, space and movement – work together towards clear concept.

The solo work “Khaybet,” performed by dancer Connie Lin Fink, is a beautiful and desperate elegy of a woman in restricted surroundings, told from beneath her rust-colored veil. Bathed in a path of orange light, only her arms are visible. The Gregorian Chant-like song of male voices is the impetus for each caressing and maternal motion dotted with militaristic and warrior stances. Never stepping beyond the boundary of her pool, she finally lifts her veil and walks beyond the stage into the light.

A hyphen is a connector and a separator. In “Hyphen,” dancers are outfitted in deep gray with a black line dividing the chest. It opens with the dancers using choppy hand motions that cup around the face to hide their identity beneath. Burgess captures the uncertainties of being identified as an Asian-American, latching on to two cultures simultaneously, as well as portraying a struggle between the surface identity versus the internal identity. A formal bow before moving in spurts of disengaged combat – a moment of Tai Chi broken by folding in on oneself – all the while, the dissonant tones of heartbeats and echoes blend uncomfortably. A 1950s-esque TV set is rearranged periodically, as if to find a better signal. The black and white fuzzy images of buttoning a shirt or a face spliced into two images capture identity confusion. Much like a skipping DVD, the dancers stop, go, pause and play – in an endless monotony, finishing with the filming of a dancer’s face, de-hyphenated.

Playing into a more accessible theme, “Fractures” is a love-triangle played out in angular movements and desperate reaches, in which each of the three dancers is a broken piece of the puzzle. As the husband divides his heart and gives a piece to his wife and the other to his lover, all that is left is the question of whether a fracture is really enough. The emotional turmoil is a believable portrayal, both facially and physically.

Closing with their new work “Becoming American,” Burgess elopes with the piece on a Dorothy in Oz tale, where the female dancer descends from her cloudy Geisha screen into Americana. There is no yellow-brick road in this portrait, but Burgess uses white-washed stools, dishes, suitcases and boxes, as well as a masked Greek chorus and Kabuki-like shuffling to show the disorienting path of this Asian girl’s journey towards fulfilling the Pleasantville couple’s expectations to conform. The most disturbing sequence is the ESL class, when a lesson on learning the “S” consonant has all the hissing qualities of landing in a snake pit. Each episode is spun together by a phrase from the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Clinging to her identity, she sweeps across her heart, grabs a piece of what’s inside and folds it into her lap, just as a projected picture frame captures the picturesque American family, generously opening their arms to their Asian-adoptee, but never adjusting the seesaw of understanding. For more information about Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company, please visit their website.

Dance Exchange Goes Into the Wild – A Search for the Origins of Energy

The stage is set with a mountainous display of card castles and a toddler’s wooden chair; one rogue breath of wind could blow the whole set away. With that air of vulnerability, three dancers begin an excerpt from Dance Exchange’s “How to Lose a Mountain,” to be completed in the Spring of 2013 based on the experience of hiking 500 miles to find the origins of domestic energy. As the dancers toss the playing cards across the stage, a path is laid before them. Dancers Sarah Levitt and Shula Strassfeld embrace on the precipice of a toddler chair. One foul move and the whole card castle could tumble down, but if they hold together, they can balance on the edge of the cliff.

Photo Credit: John Borstel, Courtesy of Dance Exchange

Dance Exchange and Artistic Director Cassie Meador are on the brink of a transcendental journey to bridge the 500 mile distance from Meador’s home in Takoma, Maryland to a strip-mining site in West Virginia where several mountains once stood, and where the origins of the electric energy that powers Meador’s house begins. In their Tuesday, April 3 concert at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center entitled “First Steps in the Development of How to Lose a Mountain,” Dance Exchange is laying the groundwork for this trek.

After “living off the land” in 2009 for two weeks in a rainforest in South America, Meador had an epiphany – the essentials she needed to survive there only traveled from the source to her fingertips. Upon returning home, she couldn’t shake the thought that she was “surrounded by all this stuff, and I have no idea where it came from,” said Meador.

The program notes read, “Behind every product we use is a distance that has been traveled and a story that can be shared.”

“I have a need to cover that distance, to trace the source,” said Meador. Throughout the eight week journey, Meador, along with several of the Dance Exchange dancers and collaborators, will create opportunities for community members, environmentalists, artists and documentarians to come together at various events, share their stories and even join the walk for a portion of the trip.

The cards that the dancers picked through in the opening piece represent stories to be collected along their path. In each community they hit, Dance Exchange will offer prompts written on a playing card, such as, “Describe an object that means a great deal to you,” or “What is the most valuable part of your inheritance?” The responses will be collected and compiled on www.500miles500stories.com, the interactive website map.

While the journey requires Meador and her companions to strip down to survival essentials, the promotion of such a cause demands extensive technological resources and media outreach. The transcendental expedition is built upon a social media platform, or as Levitt puts it, “taking the experience through technology.”

Dance Exchange will kick off their journey on Tuesday, April 10th, making their first stop at the Kennedy Center at Dance Exchange in Takoma Park at 8:00 a.m. for a “Sunrise Send-off.” In the evening, Dance Exchange will have a free performance at 6:00 p.m. at the Kennedy Center.

To share thoughts and donations, visit www.500miles500stories.com or download the app (TBA) to help Dance Exchange reach their goal of $5,000 $10,000 by June 22nd to help fund the 2013 completed dance work of “How to Lose a Mountain.”

Bowen McCauley Braves “Rite of Spring” at the Kennedy Center

The audience gasps as the curtain reveals a cosmic scene – a blood-red scrim protruded by a gargantuan tinfoil moon structure and Bowen McCauley Dance’s eight member company strewn in makeshift positions across the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater stage. “Le Sacre du Printemps”(or “Rite of Spring”) is Lucy’s variation on the original Nijinsky work. The 33 minute score of asymmetrical tribal rhythms is a feat to attempt, and Lucy bravely gave the work a contemporary makeover, adding a new level of humanity to the portrayal of the virgin sacrifice who dances herself to death.

Photo Credit: John McCauley

Debuting at the John F. Kennedy Center March 1st and 2nd, 2012, “Le Sacre du Printemps” closed BMD’s four piece concert.  Composed by Igor Stavinsky, Vaslav Nijinsky’s original work was set on Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes.  It debuted in Paris in 1913 to an outraged audience. Compared to the Romantic ballets of the time, the low contracted, turned-in and grotesque shapes riddled with violent bouncing and harsh rhythms were no doubt shocking.

Now almost in its centennial year, “Rite of Spring” is credited with being “the first modern dance,” the work that set into motion a new generation of modern visionaries. Lucy has counted herself amongst those inspired for more than half her life. “I have loved this music since I first heard the orchestral version at Interlochen when I was 14,” she said.

Costumed in torn flesh-colored bike-tards ripping at the seams and muscle-like roping holding on stripes of charcoal fabric (design: Chesley Schuller and Tony Cisek), “Le Sacre du Printemps” was set to Stravinsky’s four-hand piano score (musicians: Fabio and Giselle Witkowksi). The melodic nature of the piano seemed to alleviate the severity of the monotonous chord pounding.

The tribe of dancers paints an apocalyptic scene, meshing classic stag leaps and hieroglyphic images joined with Lucy’s signature fluidity. Men and women seem to share power over each other, choosing their mates while also stalking the chosen sacrifice. When the choice is made, dancer Alicia Curtis draws out the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance, shown by a resigned intensity in her gaze. In a theatrical display that would’ve made Gelsey Kirkland proud, Alicia lets loose her hair and pleas to her kinsmen for mercy. Finally succumbing to her isolation and the emotional turmoil of this Vagner-like operatic drama, Alicia sprints to the edge of the orchestra pit cliff, just as the tribe encapsulates her. Blackout.

In “Beethoven Bits,” choreography by the late Eric Hampton, and “Resuitened,” smooth technique is interjected with pops of color – humorous moments of unexpected gesture implanted in such an unconventional way that the audience has to chuckle. The dancers are fingers on the keyboard, the theatrical depiction of each classical note.

“Ozone” was a rich collaborative project. With music by Larry Alan Smith, BMD’s music director, and inspired by Rita Dove’s poetry, “Ozone” blended the organic artistry of a cello, a flute, a soprano voice and graceful movement, with moments of discomfort – a breathy note of the flute, a piercing high of the soprano or a note held to the point of dying out on the cello. These moments were gradually extended much like expansion of atmospheric holes.

Lucy was awarded The Pola Nirenska Award, presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society for her achievements in dance in the DC Metro community. “[Lucy’s] company serves as a challenge for audiences and a frame for Washington talent,” said WPAS representative George Jackson.

Mich-Mash Productions Showcases DC Dance’s Next Generation of Choreographers

So you’re a recent graduate. Made it to the top of your university dance program. You’ve tossed your Gail Grant and your Anatomy text book and replaced it with your headshot and resume. There are stars in your eyes, and you’re ready to start living. Now what?

Only a handful of dance programs prepare dancers to answer this question. Some artists find their way through trial and error, and others give up all together. Micheline Heal, Artistic Director of Mich-Mash Productions, has found a way to fill this gap – to help dancers make the leap from college dance program to real life and take the loneliness out of the process.

The Young Choreographers Collective or YC2 (pronounced “why see squared”), a support network created by Heal, is designed to give recent grads the business skills necessary to ease the transition from diploma to dance scene, alleviating the mystery that holds back many potential dance artists.

Mich-Mash Productions presented YC2, an evening-length concert performed, choreographed and marketed by Heal and two YC2 choreographer-hopefuls – Matina Phillips and Elizabeth Odell. Held at The Jack Guidone Theater at Joy of Motion Dance Center Friendship Heights, Mich-Mash Productions experienced a nearly full house on Sunday, February 26th.

“There’s Something About Marriage” was Odell’s take on four marital situations and the common stigmas attached to each – arranged, same-sex, long distance and polygamous. In “Arranged,” the dancers often appeared forced together in awkward angles, portraying the uncomfortable resignation attached to such unions.

Seasons as a theme is a difficult task. It has been interpreted in movement since nearly the beginning of dance-making so making it new in some way would be a feat. In “Still Lifes: The Seasons,” Heal broke up the distinct four-part calendar year into four very similar pieces. Opening with the fall season, the dancers tumbled and sliced through the space in an unpredictable pattern, creating the look of leaves. Blackout. Winter. Blackout. Spring. Blackout. Enter shorts-clad dancer with sunglasses and beach towel to make sure the audience knows it’s the summer section.

In “Nightly Thoughts,” Phillips explored sleeplessness. The stripe-clad insomniac was manipulated by two nightly shadows. The piece shifted between boredom, discomfort, anguish, euphoria and yearning, eventually collapsing from sheer mental exhaustion. While the meaning is accessible to a wide audience, certain formation choices were unclear in how they contributed to the overall intention.

It takes guts to draw contemporary meaning from tap, but Phillips is an optimist. Her clean riffs and shuffles added percussion to the streaming music, constructing an image of a young woman making her own happiness, traveling through life and overcoming bumps and bridges with barrel turns and over-the-logs. For more information about Mich-Mash Productions and YC2, please visit www.mich-mash.com/yc2/.

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