Are the arts accessible in DC?

The word accessible can be defined in several ways when it comes to the arts. It can relate to ticket price, venue location and also to the work’s mass appeal. No matter what your definition entails, how to make the arts accessible continues to be a topic of discussion. So let me ask you this, are the arts accessible in DC? I think so.

Not only can you stroll through any of the Smithsonian museums for free, but you can also find a number of arts related activities for little to no cost (check out the Free in DC blog or Pink Line Project). If that’s not enough for you, here’s a recap of three different dance performances I attended within the last few weeks. Tickets for each show were less than $30 and all were within walking distance from my apartment.

Thursday, March 24th – Contradiction Dance at The Phillips Collection ($20)

The Phillips Collection

Contradiction Dance (photo credit: James R. Brantley)

Artistic Director Kelly Mayfield choreographed a work based on the modern and contemporary art museum’s show David Smith Invents. I was really hoping the dancers would be performing in and around the exhibit, but the piece was presented in the auditorium of the museum. The dancers incorporated shapes inspired by Smith’s sculptures into the choreography. They also included spoken word based on their personal reactions to his work. The verbal responses were a hit with the audience not only because they were comical, but because they were true. Who hasn’t been to an art exhibition and thought, “I could do that!” or “Have I looked at this piece long enough so that people think I’m thinking deep thoughts?”

Tuesday, April 5th – Bettmann Dances, Nancy Havlik’s Dance Performance Group and Micheline Heal and Dancers at Warehouse Theater ($20)

Three local dance companies came together to put on a show at Warehouse Theater. This was my first time at the venue, so I was excited to find out that it’s located in the back of The Passenger bar. Warehouse Theater is a small black box theater steps away from the Mount Vernon Square/7th Street-Convention Center Metro stop. The show featured an improvisation directed by Nancy Havlik that included all the performers, as well as two pieces each from Bettmann Dances and Havlik’s Dance Performance Group. My favorite piece was performed by Micheline Heal and Dancers. It featured three dancers cloaked in white fabric. Their elongated sleeves acted like ribbon dancers creating interesting movement across the stage.

Sunday, April 10th – New York City Ballet at The Kennedy Center ($29)

New York City Ballet

New York City Ballet (photo credit: Paul Kolnik)

The Kennedy Center Opera House is a grandiose space covered in red velvet and gold details. Surprisingly for $29, I was still able to get seats in the Orchestra section. Travelzoo had a great deal specifically for the show. New York City Ballet went for simplicity during their black and white week. There was no extravagant set and dancers wore plain, black and white costumes. The only dash of color was during the final piece when three ballerinas wore different shades of pink. Apollo, the oldest George Balanchine ballet in New York City Ballet’s repertory, was my favorite part of the performance. It showed that ballet doesn’t have to take itself too seriously with playful interaction among the four dancers.

How do you define accessibility? Do you think the arts are accessible in DC? Why or why not?


Dancer Profile: Kelly Mayfield of Contradiction Dance

Kelly Mayfield

photo credit: Paul Frederiksen

Kelly Mayfield is the Founder and Artistic Director of Contradiction Dance, a company in residence at the Round House Theatre. A self-described ‘dance junkie,’ she learned the fundamentals of dance as a youth through ballet, gymnastics and jazz classes. From there, she fell into the pageantry world performing in Broadway style shows, half-times and parades.

Then she fell ‘hook, line and sinker’ for modern and contemporary dance spending six years professionally immersed in that world. When the abstract became too abstract, Kelly ventured back toward a place that blends styles from tap to hip hop to ballet to jazz with the contemporary modern to create something without limits. Follow Kelly on Twitter @kkmayfield and @lifeanddance.

Where do you usually take class? Who is your favorite teacher in the DC area?

I usually take class with the company at our studio located within Round House Theatre’s Education Center; but I give myself class daily. I don’t have a favorite teacher in the area – there are so many with great insights and perspectives to offer. We all need to take class from many to fully understand our own instrument.

How has dance changed your life? How do you feel when you’re dancing?

Dance keeps me sane. Our first language is movement. We rely less on non-verbal skills as we grow; but it is still a huge part of how we listen and respond to our environment. There are things that simply cannot be put into words. I am the most connected to my inner self, others, and the community when I am immersed in movement. Dancing connects me to my emotional self in a raw, yet objective way that helps me deal with the full range of human emotions without getting lost in it. While dancing, I am grounded, connected and free all at the same time.

Any advice for people who are interested in dance, but have never danced before?

The hardest part is walking through the door… wherever that may be. If you’re intimidated to go to a formal class, start in your living room. Then try a free class at a social dance scene – the salsa and swing dance communities offer a lot of these weekly. If you’re drawn to formal studio training, call or write to see what the culture of the studio/teacher are like and what they offer for absolute beginners. Most importantly – just show up. I always tell students, ‘85% of life is just showing up!’

Contradiction Dance

Contradiction Dance performs 'Living, Breathing, Human Organism?' (photo credit: Michael J. Avilez)

Anything you want to promote? Anyone you want to give a shout out to?

I’m surrounded by incredible people on a daily basis – their wisdom inspires me to keep putting dance in front of people – in class or in performance. The family of dancers, teachers, administrators, board members, students and supporters that make up the Contradiction Dance family provide me with guidance, purpose and responsibility. Also, Round House Theatre has been a huge source of support and advice – they provide us with space and expertise through our partnership. Without their support, the company would probably not have made it through the past year.

I’d be remiss not to promote our weekly classes and upcoming performances: We offer class to adults, teens, and children in a range of styles and techniques – from 80’s hip-hop aerobics to contemporary modern! The company will be performing a commissioned work at the Phillips Collection on March 24th. We’ll also be at Round House Theatre Silver Spring April 22 & 23rd, performing The Disorder of Things. Later in the spring/summer, I am choreographing Forum Theater’s upcoming production of BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA and co-directing a 10-minute play for the Source Festival.

danceDC Weekend Event Guide 11/19-11/21

Living, Breathing, Human OrganismLots of events going on this weekend – workshops, performances and auditions. Tonight, make your way to College Park to see Faces of 7 Deadly Sins featuring guest performances from Big League Crew, GnC and Tito BoyScouts. Also support Baltimore Dance Crews Project at the SLAM 3rd Annual Hip Hop Show in Baltimore.

Saturday, three dance companies – DancEthos, Bettmann Dances and Choreographers Collaboration Project – come together to present a full night of dance at Joe’s Movement Emporium and Contradiction Dance (picture on left) has their final performance of Living, Breathing, Human Organism at The Round House Theatre.



Friday, November 19th

  • 7pm: FCA, KSA, CSA presents Faces of 7 Deadly Sins with guest performances by Big League Crew, GnC and Tito BoyScouts at UMD College Park STAMP Grand Ballroom
  • 7:30pm: The Suzanne Farrell Ballet at The Kennedy Center
  • 7:30pm-10:30pm: The Washington Ballet and Urban Artistry Hip Hop Jam at The ARC
  • 8pm: Contradiction Dance Presents Living, Breathing, Human Organism at Round House Theatre (Silver Spring)
  • 8pm: SLAM 3rd Annual Hip Hop Show BDCP Benefit Dance Show at Johns Hopkins University Shriver Hall (Baltimore)

Saturday, November 20th

  • 11am-3pm: Baltimore Dance Crews Project presents Dance 4 B’more at Patterson Park Public Charter School (Baltimore)
  • 1:30pm: The Suzanne Farrell Ballet at The Kennedy Center
  • 4pm-10pm: Top Notch 2 Two vs Two B-Boy/B-Girl Battle at U Street Music Hall
  • 7pm: Dhol Baje Folk Dances of India at Gunston Arts Center, Theatre One (Arlington)
  • 7:30pm: The Suzanne Farrell Ballet at The Kennedy Center
  • 8pm: Contradiction Dance Presents Living, Breathing, Human Organism at Round House Theatre (Silver Spring)
  • 8pm: DancEthos, Bettmann Dances & Choreographers Collaboration Project at Joe’s Movement Emporium (Mount Rainier)
  • 8pm: Jane Franklin Dance presents Pete and Repeat: Done Before Dances at Wooly Mammoth Theatre
  • 8pm: Lesole’s Dance Project at Dance Place

Sunday, November 21st

  • 1:30pm: The Suzanne Farrell Ballet at The Kennedy Center
  • 2pm: Jane Franklin Dance presents Pete and Repeat: Done Before Dances at Wooly Mammoth Theatre
  • 4pm: Lesole’s Dance Project at Dance Place
  • 4pm: Silk Road Dance Company Auditions at Joy of Motion/Bethesda
  • 7:30pm: The Suzanne Farrell Ballet at The Kennedy Center
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