CityDance Ensemble presents Hold Your Breath Until the End

Friday night, I made my way to the Cultural Arts Center at Silver Spring for CityDance Ensemble’s Hold Your Breath Until the End. It was a night of premieres for the contemporary dance company with new choreography from Christopher K. Morgan, Gregory Dolbashian, Loni Landon and Artistic Director and Co-Founder Paul Gordon Emerson. According to Emerson who greeted the audience prior to the performance, the Cultural Arts Center at Silver Spring is a remarkable space that is finding its footing in the dance community. He was excited to bring the company to the stage and especially thrilled to create choreography with this specific space in mind.

CityDanceThe show started out with Roger & Lucie, a piece choreographed by Ludovic Jolivet and first presented in 1999. Jason Garcia Ignacio performed the endearing piece as a lonely janitor flirting and dancing with his mop Lucie LaFrange. The second and final piece of the first half was Christopher K. Morgan’s Limited Visibility, part one of an evening-length work. Limited Visibility was my favorite piece of the show. It was visually stunning, exciting and creative. Three different level tables provided separate stages for dancers to jump off of in a daring fashion. A variety of lights cast giant shadows on the Cultural Arts Center’s cement walls. Dancers stripping down to their skivvies, a male solo in heels and writing on the body with marker added to the work’s element of surprise. The piece challenged the audience to ponder the question ‘What are the things we hide from public view?’ and gave a glimpse as to what possible answers could be.

The second half included two premiere duets: Hold Your Breath Until the End choreographed by Greogory Dolbashian featuring dancers Jason Garcia Ignacio and Robert Priore and You Go First choreographed by Loni Landon featuring dancers Giselle Alvarez and Kathryn Pilkington. The second half concluded with the world premiere of Conversations With My Father, a group effort with choreography from Emerson and several of the company’s dancers. The mix of music went from radio static to funeral like organ music to the theme song of the video game Super Mario Brothers. The Super Mario Brothers part of the piece was my favorite. It was playful and unexpected and for a lack of a better example, reminded me of that McDonald’s commercial that features hand dancing from Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding.

If you’re interested in seeing the show, sorry you’re out of luck. It ended this past Sunday. But the company has a great YouTube page you can check out that includes videos of Hold Your Breath Until the End promos and footage from rehearsals. For more information about CityDance Ensemble, visit their website.


danceDC Weekend Event Guide 2/26-2/27


CityDance Ensemble performs 'Hold Your Breath Until The End' this weekend.

INTERSECTIONS: A New America Arts Festival starts tonight at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. Lots of great visual and performing arts to take in. I’m checking out the festival next week since I’m booked this weekend. Tonight, I’m heading to the Cultural Arts Center at Montgomery College in Silver Spring for CityDance Ensemble’s ‘Hold Your Breath Until The End.’ They also perform Saturday and Sunday if you can’t make it tonight. Thanks to Marketing Manager and all around cool girl Anna Sebourn for the ticket! Saturday, I’ll be dancing in my seats while I root for the Syracuse Orange as they play the Georgetown Hoyas at the Verizon Center. And hopefully Sunday, I’ll be joining tons of fun peeps at James Madison University for KODACHROME (sometimes I wish I had a car!). Enjoy your weekend and keep dancing!

Saturday, February 26th

Sunday, February 27th

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

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 and 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

danceDC Weekend Event Guide 11/05-11/07

This is one of those times when I wish I could clone myself because there are so many great dance events going on in the DC, Maryland and Virginia region this weekend. I’ll be at Silk Road Dance Company’s 15th Anniversary Celebration Concert on Saturday and am headed to Strathmore on Sunday for CityDance Ensemble’s performance of Esplanade. If I had multiple Ceciles, I would make my way up to Maryland tonight to see Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. I would also try to catch Maida Withers Dance Construction Company at Dance Place and The Washington Ballet’s Romeo + Juliet. If that wasn’t enough, Choreographers Collaboration Project presents its Fall Concert on Saturday and Alight Dance Theater will be performing Speechless at the Greenbelt Community Center on Sunday. For more details about these two performances, check out my previous posts on danceDC.

Friday, November 5th

Saturday, November 6th

  • 10am-3pm: Silk Road Dance Company World Dance Workshops at Joe’s Movement Emporium (Mt. Rainier)
  • 2:30pm: The Washington Ballet presents Romeo + Juliet at The Kennedy Center
  • 4:30pm-6:30pm: The Spontaneous Self: An Introduction to Solo Dance Improvisation with Daniel Burkholder at Joy of Motion/Friendship Heights
  • 5pm: J Smooth Workshop & Sampler Cypher Vol. 1 at DC Dance Collective
  • 6:30pm: Maryland Youth Ballet Gala at MYB Studios (Silver Spring)
  • 7pm: Choreographers Collaboration Project Fall Dance Concert at The Athenaeum (Alexandria)
  • 7pm-11pm: No Gimmicks Cypher Only Event at HeartBeats Studio (Springfield)
  • 7:30pm: Silk Road Dance Company 15th Anniversary Celebration Gala Concert and Reception at Joe’s Movement Emporium (Mt. Rainier)
  • 8pm: Maida Withers Dance Construction Company at Dance Place
  • 8pm: CityDance Ensemble presents Espanade at Strathmore (Bethesda)
  • 8pm: The Washington Ballet presents Romeo + Juliet at The Kennedy Center

Sunday, November 7th

VelocityDC Dance Festival 2010 at Sidney Harman Hall

VelocityDC Dance Festival was this past weekend at the Harman Center for the Arts. Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington Performing Arts Society and Dance/MetroDC presented the event which featured fourteen dance companies from the DC area. I attended the performances on Thursday, October 7th and Friday, October 8th, which were also presented in two performances on Saturday, October 9th.

Both nights, attendees were greeted by dancers in the lobby area of Sidney Harman Hall. Jane Franklin Dance climbed and danced on a metal contraption that spun around and could be reconfigured in different ways. Andile Ndlovu of the Washington Ballet performed a beautiful solo piece titled ‘Wording’ while people milled around before the performance. When you walked into the auditorium, you had to breakdance battle with Urban Artistry to get to your seat and groove to the music blasting from DJ BaronhawkPoitier and DJ Obeyah.

On Thursday and Friday night, Urban Artistry opened the show with ‘Funk In Focus.’ I’m not well versed in the bboy world, but it looked like a strutting combination that also featured popping and locking solos by the two performers. The piece was followed by flamenco both nights with Furia Flamenca taking a more traditional approach on Thursday with colorful shawls and dresses for costumes and Edwin Aparicio bringing a modern take on Friday with his dancers dressed in sharp black suits. Both were huge crowd pleasers generating a roaring applause from the audience.

The Washington Ballet also performed the same routine both nights but with different casts. ‘High Lonesome’ choreographed by Trey McIntyre featured music from Beck’s album Odelay and according to Trey McIntyre Project’s website is an autobiographical piece that premiered back in 2001 by Ballet Memphis. The white streamers hanging from ceiling to floor created a playful set that allowed the five performers to enter and exit the stage in unexpected ways. The juxtaposition between traditional ballet movements and modern hip hop moves also made for a unique twist that captivated the audience.

CityDance Ensemble performed both nights as well, but presented two different works. Thursday night they closed the show with Paul Taylor’s ‘Esplanade’ which they also performed at the DC Arts on Foot Festival. Friday night they performed Christopher K. Morgan’s ‘+1/-1’ before Suzanne Farrell Ballet closed out the show with George Balanchine’s ‘Tzigane.’ ‘Esplanade’ had a much warmer reception from the audience than ‘+1/-1’ but I thought the Morgan piece showcased their talent and athleticism more.

One of my favorite pieces on Thursday night was ClancyWorks Dance Company’s ‘Driven [by the female heartbeat].’ This piece, which featured four female dancers, started with spotlighted solos – one of which included a crazy headstand balance that generated an audible gasp from the audience. Unique use of lighting and a blend of both individual movements and group choreography created a cohesive modern dance piece. Friday night, Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company’s ‘Khaybet’ performed by Connie Lin Fink stood out in my mind. The soloist danced within a sepia tone diagonal light on stage with her face covered by a veil. The haunting image of the dancer and majestic music created a moving piece about death and mourning.

Overall, my favorite piece was Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s ‘Still Crossing,’ performed on Friday night. All ages, races and body types were represented in this piece which featured dancers dressed in different shades of blue. The ethereal lighting and music had somewhat of a sci-fi quality to it, but created a somber setting for choreography that literally moved me to tears. I don’t usually cry in public, but the sight of everyone dancing in unison – including a man with a cane and a man who did not have full movement of his arms – really spoke to me. I hope you’ll get a chance to see this piece sometime.

Did you attend the VelocityDC Dance Festival? Which performances did you like best and why? What other dance styles would you like to have seen represented in the show?

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.

danceDC Weekend Event Guide 09/11-09/12

Liz Lerman Dance Exchange The Matter of Origins

source: Enoch Chan (

The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange presents the world premiere of The Matter of Origins at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland on Friday, September 10th. Sad that tickets are sold out as I heard that it is an amazing show (and they serve chocolate cake in the second act).

Don’t worry though! Lots of other events going on this weekend including several dance performances at Sidney Harman Hall for the DC Arts on Foot Festival. Excited to see some of the biggest names in DC dance including The Washington Ballet and CityDance Ensemble for FREE. Hope to see you there.

Saturday, September 11th

Sunday, September 12th

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