USA Dance’s 2011 Mid-Atlantic Championships in Bethesda

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that I am also an arts contributor for online news site Borderstan. Borderstan covers news, crime, business, arts and entertainment, and food in the Dupont, Logan and U Street neighborhoods. Last Sunday, fellow contributors-editors Michelle Bradbury and Mike Kohn competed at USA Dance’s 2011 Mid-Atlantic Championships in Bethesda. Several Borderstan team members, myself included, were on hand to cheer them on at the ballroom dance competition. Mike and his partner Sara took 5th place in the Adult Novice Latin category. Here’s part of the interview with Michelle and Mike. To read the full story and to see more pictures from the competition, click here.
Mike Kohn

photo credit: Luis Gomez Photos

Michelle: I have been dancing ballroom for the last two-and-a-half years. I got started through school my freshman year. But I did ballet and jazz for seven years before college.

Mike: I’ve been ballroom dancing for seven years now. I started when I was a freshman in college and I got hooked — I’ve been dancing ever since. At the beginning it was more about social dancing and having fun with my friends, but I slowly got more and more into competing, which I do about once every two months or so in a full year.

How often do you compete? What’s the prize for winning?

Michelle: My partner and I currently compete three to four competitions per semester, so somewhere between six and eight a year. But, we don’t compete in the summer because we aren’t in the same state and can’t practice together.

At some competitions the prize for coming in first is a scholarship if that event is sponsored. Often times, making it to the final is an indicator as to whether or not you are ready to be moving up to the next level… placing several times in a row is a pretty good way of knowing that you are ready for the next step. But you don’t have to be number one to make that decision.

Mike: For me, the “prize” of winning has always been an intrinsic one: knowing that I’m getting better, having validation from a judging panel that I’m improving and generally loving being out on the floor. At the highest level, there are some scholarship awards in the competitions that I attend, but they tend to be just enough to offset the cost of registration for the event with a little leftover, not enough to earn a living.


Bettmann Dances ‘Quis Custodiet’


Bettmann Dances

source: Luis Gomez Photos


Conversations about security and what that means for our nation often come to the forefront around 9/11. This year is no different for Robert Bettmann, Artistic Director of Bettmann Dances, who aims to explore the issue of security through his company’s latest project Quis Custodiet.

Quis Custodiet, an abbreviation of the Latin phrase ‘Quis custodiet ipsus custodet?’ which translates to ‘Who will watch the watchers themselves?’, is inspired by the personal connections Bettmann has with the issue of security. His grandparents met as refugees in New York during World War II, and Bettmann himself experienced life in the District both before and after 9/11. The title of the project also plays with the idea of performing for an audience. Spectators watch the dancers, but who watches the audience?

In addition to inspiration from his personal questions about security, Bettmann hopes to infuse the year-long project with feedback from the local community. He plans to hold dance workshops in different areas of the District, inviting participants to share their experiences through movement. Bettmann Dances will also be launching a website where visitors can exchange information and learn about the issue of security. According to Bettmann, the idea behind these initiatives is “to project local voices into a national dialogue.”

In regards to the dancing itself, Bettmann describes his style as theatrical, modern dance. He works toward creating beautiful and meaningful choreography that can be enjoyed on a variety of levels. If you’re interested in learning more about Bettmann Dances, visit You can also help support the project by pledging to their Kickstarter until Sunday, September 26th.

BTI Dance Institute Opens in Logan Circle

Long before moving to the District, Alvaro Maldonado resided in war torn El Salvador as a youth.  Free dance classes at the National Ballet School kept him away from the violence and gangs that surrounded him and the lessons he learned in the classroom truly changed his life.  “I wouldn’t be able to be here without dance,” he said.  “Dance transformed my life and I hope to use the power of dance to transform the lives of others.”

Alvaro Maldonado (source: Luis Gomez Photos)

Inspired by his personal experience, Maldonado, who is also a nutrition consultant and co-owner of personal training gym Fit on 17th Street NW, began to implement dance programs in his home country, as well as other troubled areas in Central America.  According to Maldonado, the goal of the program is not to create dancers, but instead to inspire students and provide them the tools needed to succeed in life.   He now brings this transformational outreach program to District schools and youth groups through BTI Dance Institute, which opened its doors on 14th Street NW last weekend.

In addition to its outreach programs, BTI Dance Institute has both an adult and youth dance training program.  To promote its repertoire of classes and to test out the current schedule of its adult dance training program, the studio is offering free classes until Friday, July 23rd.  First time students and experienced dancers alike will have the chance to try a variety of classes before regular rates go into effect this Saturday.  They will also be able to purchase discount cards at reduced rates before the 24th.

The success of the first few weeks of BTI Dance Institute is not only important to keep the studio going, but it is also key to building a solid financial base for its youth dance training program scheduled to start this September.  Maldonado, who serves as the Founder and Artistic Director of BTI Dance Institute, hopes to train the modern dancers of the future through this program.

Students of BTI Dance Institute’s youth dance training program will take dance history and other relevant academic classes, as well as daily technique and modern dance classes.  Graduates of the program will receive a diploma in contemporary dance concert performance and will be prepared to audition for modern dance companies all over the world.

Students interested in the training program and ballet dancers who have been out of practice may be interested in BTI’s Classical Ballet Performance Workshop with Elizabeth Wisenberg of the Stuttgart Ballet.  The two week intensive workshop runs Monday through Friday 10:30am-12:30pm from August 16th until August 27th.  Total cost for the workshop is $190, but students can also pay for drop in classes with Wisenberg.  Dancers who participate in the workshop will take an hour of technique class and an hour of repertory to learn one of the well-known pieces from “Swan Lake.”  The workshop culminates with a small performance of the “Swan Lake” piece for family and friends at the studio.

Maldonado noted that BTI is still working on its studio but hopes to complete everything over the next couple weeks.  Classes will be adjusted and added to meet the needs of the studio and its clientele, but hip hop and flamenco fans will be disappointed to hear that these types of classes will not be included in the roster.  For more information about BTI Dance Institute, visit their site or read Lawrence Luk’s story from Express.  You can also read this story and see more photos on local blog Borderstan.

10/05/10 Update – BTI Dance Institute recently added hip hop classes to their schedule.

1/15/11 Update – As of February 12th, classes will be held at 1643 Connecticut Ave NW.

12/6/11 Update – BTI Dance Institute will be closing as of December 9th, 2011.

Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess my name.

No need to guess.  My name is Cecile and I moved to the District last November.  I’ve been living near Logan Circle for almost eight months now, but I still feel like I have so much to learn. 

When I was living in the suburbs of Boston, where I’m originally from, I danced all the time.  I rehearsed with Rainbow Tribe, took classes hosted by Static Noyze, and even taught hip hop at the Brookline Academy of Dance.  Since moving to DC, I’ve only been to a handful of classes.

I haven’t just been sitting around doing nothing though.  I am currently a contributor to local blog Borderstan and also volunteer for Cultural Development Corporation and Artomatic.  These experiences have introduced me to some great creative types in the DC Metro area, but I have yet to brush shoulders with the big names in DC dance.  Actually, what are the big names?  I plan to answer this question along with many others I have about the dance community through danceDC.

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