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, 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 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.”


Shared Graduate Dance Concert at CSPAC

Last Friday, I made my way to the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland/College Park for the Shared Graduate Dance Concert. I was especially excited to see this performance as I had a buddy to go with – Angella Foster, Artistic Director of alight dance theater. Angella and I first connected after I wrote about their performance of Speechless at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. She not only kept me company, but also had a lot of insider information to share as she was a UMD-College Park Dance MFA Graduate herself.

as far as I know

Graham Brown rehearses 'as far as I know'

The Shared Graduate Dance Concert, directed by Paul D. Jackson, presented five different works including as far as I know performed by Graham Brown, Uncertainty…and then again… performed by Emily Oleson and Florian Rouiller, Of What I am Not and What I am performed by Diedre Dawkins and Bintou Kouyate, My Ex-Boyfriend (One Short Story) performed by Shannon Dooling and Opus 80 choreographed by Valerie Durham featuring Devin Brosnan, Diana Lopez, Lara Magill, Claire Smith and Kristin Yeung.

Angella said it best in her blog post about the show: “With the exception of the closing number (Opus 80), a light-hearted tribute to 80’s culture, all the other works explored questions of identity: Who am I? Who has shaped me? Who do I want to be?” The first piece choreographed and performed by Graham Brown resonated with her the most. She could relate to the story he told through movement, visuals and spoken word which discussed a complicated relationship with his father.

Shannon Dooling also shared a personal story through movement intertwined with spoken word in her piece My Ex-Boyfriend (One Short Story). I loved that she incorporated a live cellist into the performance, but I thought the narrative lacked the depth of Graham’s work. I had the same response to Diedre Dawkins and Bintou Kouyate’s Of What I am Not and What I am which explored the issue of race. I enjoyed the high energy performance, but it left me wondering how they have personally struggled as African-American women. What was their unique take on the subject matter?

I thought more about my reaction to these pieces as Angella and I recapped the show at Silver Diner. I started to ask myself: What stories would I share as a choreographer? Would I be able to create movement that delves into my deepest sorrows, my darkest secrets? What would it be like to expose your inner monologue to an audience? Perhaps I will find out someday, but for now I commend all the performers at the Shared Graduate Dance Concert for having the strength to provide a glimpse into their worlds.

For more information about the University of Maryland School of Theatre Dance and Performance Studies, visit their website; and for details on upcoming events at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, click here.

danceDC Weekend Event Guide 3/12-3/13

Clarice Smith Performing Arts CenterGreat Culture Shock DC class with Esperonto Bean last night at DC Dance Collective. Looking forward to checking out his other classes at BTI Dance soon. Tonight I’m headed to the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park to check out the Shared Graduate Dance Concert with Angella Foster of alight dance theater. Pretty sure Angella is excited too. UMD is her old stomping grounds. Maximum India is going on at The Kennedy Center and lots of dance performances for the final weekend of INTERSECTIONS at the Atlas. Keep dancing!

Saturday, March 12th

  • 1pm-4pm: Sessions Volume 1: Eric 3D Cruz Popping Workshop at Jamz Dance Center (Pasadena)
  • 2pm: The In Series and The Washington Ballet present WAM 2! at INTERSECTIONS/Atlas Performing Arts Center
  • 2:30pm: Step Afrika! presents Step to the Beat at INTERSECTIONS/Atlas Performing Arts Center
  • 4pm: Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble presents Something to Dance About at INTERSECTIONS/Atlas Performing Arts Center
  • 7pm: Ballet Theatre of Maryland presents On the Move at Baltimore Museum of Art
  • 7:30pm: Shantala Sivalingappa presents Swayambhu at The Kennedy Center
  • 8pm: Coyaba Dance Theater at Dance Place
  • 8pm: Dance Box Theater presents Affectations at Joe’s Movement Emporium (Mt. Rainier)
  • 8pm: Dance Performance Group presents SENSation at Flashpoint
  • 8pm: House Dance: A Tribal Legacy featuring Urban Artistry, Coyaba Dance Theater and Good Foot Dance Company at INTERSECTIONS/Atlas Performing Arts Center

Sunday, March 13th

  • 12pm-6:30pm: Ballet Theatre of Maryland’s Summer Intensive & Company Auditions at the Conte/Lubrano Building (Annapolis)
  • 2pm: House Dance: A Tribal Legacy featuring Urban Artistry, Coyaba Dance Theater and Good Foot Dance Company at INTERSECTIONS/Atlas Performing Arts Center
  • 3:30pm-6:30pm: Dissonance Dance Theatre 2011-2012 Company and Apprentice Auditions at Flashpoint
  • 5pm: Joy of Motion Dance Center presents Common Ground at INTERSECTIONS/Atlas Performing Arts Center
  • 7pm: Coyaba Dance Theater at Dance Place
  • 7pm: Dance Box Theater presents Affectations at Joe’s Movement Emporium (Mt. Rainier)
  • 7pm: Paco Pena presents Flamenco Vivo at GWU Lisner Auditorium
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