Sunday, May 3, 2009

Save The Next Dance For Me - TONIGHT

Celebrate Dance Is The Answer by joining everyone at Chief Ike’s Mambo Room in Adams Morgan!

Save the Next Dance For Me: Dance Is the Answer Closing Party from 8:30 PM on into the night! Shake your groove thing, dance with me, I want to be your partner, change partners at dance: whatever lyric from whatever era, come state how dance is the answer for you!

An opportunity to rub elbows and bump posteriors with the all the dancers and arty types you’ve seen both on-stage and off during the last ten days of Dance Is The Answer! This is all about theme and variation, so wear your best dancing outfit and dance to the drummer you hear. Say good bye to this year’s Dance Is The Answer, make nominations for MetroDC Dance Awards while the memory is clear (do that early in the evening, please!) and tell us what we did right and what you’d like to see combust on stage differently next year. A load of surprises, including impromptu performances by some of your best loved performers – including the accumulated, abbreviated and abridged version of EVERY dance performed during Dance Is The Answer in three minutes flat.

This event is FREE, however, donations are suggested and encouraged. All proceeds benefit DanceMetro/DC’s programs including Dance Is The Answer 2010.

Sunday, May 3rd at 8:00 PM
Chief Ike’s Mambo Room, 1725 Columbia Road NW, Washington, DC 20009

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dance and Wisdom, Straight From The Horse’s Mouth

By Peter DiMuro and Cheryl Sidwell

Attempting to preserve the legacies of the NY dance world, Jamie Cunningham and Tina Croll, two stalwarts of that city’s dance scene, created the performance work FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH. The piece thrilled sold-out houses in subsequent versions worldwide while capturing a multiple decade’s eye-view of dance and dancers’ lives—on-stage, off-stage and behind-the-stage—in dynamic movement and stories. FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH now premieres in Washington, DC on May 1 & 3, 2009 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center located at 1333 H Street NE, including a mix of the wise and sage voices of our own region’s infamous pioneers in dance, alongside a vibrant group of young’uns who have squeezed a lot of living in their young bodies.

Brought to you through a collaboration of the Atlas and Dance/MetroDC’s Dance Is The Answer 2009, FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH is part improvisation and part story-telling, always moving (literally and otherwise). Yvonne Edwards, long the matriarch of Knock-On-Wood tap students and professionals, tells her story in words and rhythm, improvising with a new riff on the word riff. Marcia Freeman’s years of teaching dance at Gallaudet University—including communication in American Sign Language, another conceptual non-verbal language like dance—hits the stage with double dose of authenticity and simpatico. And renowned dance-critic George Jackson shares an his story with Sonia Henje’s ice-dancing troupe in Austria’s Vienna prior to the Nazi occupation where chances at stardom are left skating circles in the cross of time and world politics. The ever-evolving cast of approximately 30 DC area legends—and near legends—also includes Melvin Deal, Helen Hayes, Doug Yeuell, Gesel Mason, Sukanya Mukherji, Deborah Riley and the list goes on and on.

Friday, May 1st at 8:00 PM and Sunday, May 3rd at 2:00 PM
Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE, Washington, DC
Tickets are $25; DancePass discounts are available.
Dance Is The Answer 2009:

What Have You Seen? What Have You Taken?

Please share with everyone the performances that you have seen and/or the classes that you have taken?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Guess Who's Dancing to Dinner?

by Lotta Lundgren

Not for the polished and perfect, for the packaged finished.

But for exploration. For searching and researching.

For falling flat on you face. And for rising high above.

For daring not to know. And for inviting the minds of others, right then! in that shivering moment, when the idea is taken into its first form, its first shape, its first existence.

For sharing what we cannot share in any other way than by performing it.

It's a about you, and your work.

It's about ....

Lotta Lundgren is a dancer and choreographer originally from Sweden. Along with Ilana Silverstein and Amanda Abrams she is co-organizing The Dinner Party, a monthly performance series that is turning one year this month.

The Dinner Party
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H St NW, Washington, DC 2002

An evening of raw and untamed performance art! Works-in-progress of various genres will be presented and followed by a facilitated feedback session involving the audience.

The Dinner Party moves even farther downtown for a special menu of dance and performance. Creating a buzz in the underground scene while in residence at DC’s The Warehouse, The Dinner Party is an always eclectic group of surprising performances by dancers, yes, but also musicians, actors. It has the feel of an arts salon, without the fine linen or finger sandwiches.

Tickets: $15.00, Dance Pass Discounts offered.
For more information email

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The official message for Dance Day: April 29, 2009

Statement by Prof. Alkis Raftis
President of the International Dance Council CID

Dance On Site

By Roxann Morgan Rowley

Dance On Site kicked off on last week on Friday April 24th with a bang! Twist ! Open! Run! Robot?

Sylvana Sandoz, Marissa Guerrero, and Heather Doyle entertained the lunch crowd at noon on Friday in Freedom Plaza. The dancers improvised several sets of structured dances for the crowd to watch. Dancers shouted commands, partnered, jiggled, wiggled and moved their way up and down the marbled open space. Each one was featured in their own private improvisation as one dancer called for the other. Ms. Guerrero, soloed next to an unsuspecting pedestrian, creating a humorous impromptu. Ms. Sandoz allowed the audience to participate in her solo by calling out cue words from the previous improvisations . She twisted, contorted and had a chat with a couple on the other side of the plaza. It was a treat to get a glimmer of these three improvisers on such a perfect day at Freedom Plaza. A great kick off to the Dance On Site festival happening April 24- May 3.

Be on the look out for more site specific and site based dances happening throughout DC in conjunction with Dance/MetroDC's Dance is the Answer festival.

To see complete schedule go to

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Izzy’s Polka

By Debra Cash

My great-uncle Izzy was a scamp. Just ask his sisters.

As a teenager he didn’t wait his turn to leave the Ukrainian shtetl where he was born to join his older sisters in America. Instead, he stole the produce delivery horse and went over the Romanian border, landing in Philadelphia without so much as a by-your-leave or I’m-sorry-to-leave-you-in-debt-for-the-warm-blooded-transportation.

He was a scamp as a kid, a twinkle-eyed soldier in his young manhood, a doting old man when I knew him.

And Izzy loved to dance.

His wife, my great-aunt Pauline, was no dancing partner. A big woman, Pauline’s legs bowed like the supports of a Chippendale chair jammed into tiny heeled pumps that were often balanced with a commensurate cocktail hat.

So at family weddings, the dancing fell to me.

He’d come by to the table and take me away from my parents who were finishing desserts and cigarettes. He took my right hand in his left hand. He put his right hand on the small of my back where the sash was caught in a drooping bow and instructed me to reach up to the shoulder of his suit jacket.

Then Uncle Iz taught me to polka.

It didn’t matter if the music was a real polka. Anything with the requisite thump would do. One and two and. One and two and. Two gallops east and a little hiccup, then two gallops west. You could dance a polka backwards and forwards. You could dance it left or right. You could twirl or make a beeline for an open spot. You could cover a lot of ground doing Uncle Izzy’s polka and we did, getting in the way of grownup couples, brushing past the uniformed waiters with their trays and barely skirting the edge of the hotel ballroom bandstand. The room swam, kaleidoscoped. Guests, relatives I knew and those I didn’t, were smiling at us, a girl dancing with an old man, but I only caught those smiles in snatches as we whirled past. One and two and. One and two and.

Polka, you see, was a kind of handkerchief wave to the Eastern Europe Uncle Izzy had so resolutely left behind him. Polka was a dance of defanged peasants and good cheer, of courting couples and communal links. Nothing was indiscreet about the polka; nothing was too hard to do if you had breath and stamina and a good band – or even a mediocre one – pumping away behind you. Dancing the polka I was a girl from the suburbs of Detroit, but I was also a kid who came over seas and years on the tailwinds of the shtetl’s remembered music. If I listened for that skipping hiccup on and, polka would even teach me how to change direction midstream without losing momentum.

Uncle Iz went on to the World Above where I imagine him drinking tea from a glass. He has a lump of sugar jammed into the side of his cheek and it doesn’t melt until the glass has been emptied. This, I believe, was his idea of Heaven. I still dance at parties, of course. But it’s been a long time since I’ve danced Uncle Izzy’s polka.

Debra Cash, a poet and user-centered design researcher, is a longtime Boston dance critic. She will be Scholar in Residence at the Bates Dance Festival in Maine this summer. Read her program notes for World Music/CRASHarts events posted at

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Sportsman at the Ballet

by Daniel Hurst

I’m lucky enough to have a friend, Leslie Cooper, who works with the Alabama Ballet. I’ve been pestering her for a while about watching a ballet practice, so she graciously set me up to watch the final dress rehearsal of the Ballet’s upcoming performance. The show - running this weekend only - pairs Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs with award-winning resident choreographer Roger Van Fleteren’s new piece, Messin’ with Mozart. After my preview, I recommend it.

For the record, I am not a particularly big dance enthusiast. I was born and raised in the deep south, love college football, mostly prefer beer to wine, often don’t shave when I’m not required to, and use as few grooming products as I possibly can. With the exception of an embarrassing breakdancing class my mother signed me up for as a kid, I have never danced in any formalized setting, my body looks nothing like a dancer’s, and I kind of feel like a cross between Michael Stipe and Chris Farley when I get on down with my bad self. I admit that I’m completely unqualified to judge “good” dancing in any form.

Why did I feel compelled to write that last paragraph? Because men aren’t supposed to like dance, that’s why, and there are people that’ll think it’s weird that I wanted to go to the ballet - by myself - and without having a pretty girl to dress up, hold hands with, and try to impress. Why is that? Even though I’m not a person that lives and breathes for the ballet, I do appreciate it and I’m almost always glad I made the effort to go. So what exactly does a normally sports-watching man get out of going to a dance performance? Here’s my list of what exactly I’m paying attention to when I get an opportunity to watch dance.

The Pretty Girls
Even though it’s among the finest of the fine arts, there’s no one forcing me to appreciate it solely on that level. I’m unaplogetic about watching it from a less-sophisticated viewpoint. For the most part, dancers have spent years working on flexibility, strength, control, and grace. They have beautiful, almost un-American bodies. For performances, they fix up with pretty hair and pretty makeup. Dance outfits are notoriously revealing and the ballet, in particular, puts a premium on showing off all those spectacular legs. Maybe most importantly, you’re supposed to watch. A big part of the fun in watching television and movies is that they remove the social stigma in staring, because the actors can’t catch you and they won’t think you’re being rude. The same is true of dance, concerts, and the theater. How often do you get a chance to really watch, linger over, and appreciate someone attractive without a lurking fear of being “caught”? I honestly don’t know why more men don’t go to the ballet if just for this reason alone.

Falling in Love
Just like the ubiquitous drama masks, there are a few basic emotions that artists are trying to make you feel. Comedy and tragedy of course. But, unless they’re playing bad guys, every dancer wants you to fall in love with them. If you don’t fall for someone up on stage - at least a little - then they simply haven’t done a good job. When I go to performances, I always begin by watching everyone on the stage, but there’s almost always a favorite or two that draw my attention. It’s different things with different dancers, just like meeting people in the real world, but I typically find someone that holds my attention during the rest of the performance. During the dress rehearsal, I think it was Lily Ojea. I have little concept of her skill level, technical mastery, concentration, or whether she’s mean to animals or kids in the real world, but she held my attention almost the whole time. Je ne frickin’ sais quoi. And that’s what’s supposed to happen, though it may be someone different every performance. Find someone you like and watch them. Allow yourself the simple joy of appreciating someone else’s performance.

It’s Fun, Right?
All the artistry and technical skill in the world might not matter - except to specialists - if it’s not fun. I’d think this responsibility rests equally on the choreographer and the dancers. If the steps aren’t fun, it’s hard for a dancer to have fun with it and, in turn, persuade the audience that it’s fun. Transversely, if the most fun choreography in the world is given to boring people, then it can’t be fun for the audience. A parallel I know much better is songwriting and singing. If the song’s no good, it’s tough for any singer to make it sound decent. But even the best song in the world can’t sound much good with a bad singer.

It’s fun to look for the fun. Where did the choreographer add the playful touches? Whether it’s one of the dancers chewing gum on stage; an intentionally stumbling, bumbling series of moves between a couple who can’t quite seem to get on the same page; or a gratuitous use of the “Junior Birdmen” goggles, there should be a lot of mischief in a good piece. Plus, much like individual singers, each dancer brings a unique, signature set of skills and talents to each move. The little fingerprints of a dancer’s personality just can’t help but come out on a stage. “Art is a wicked thing. It is what we are.” I enjoy looking for each dancer’s strengths and trying to get an idea of why they’re an interesting person worth knowing and watching. Dance must be at it’s best when the dancer’s strengths are matched precisely to the piece.

Pairing Up
It’s a natural human feeling upon seeing two people together to try and forge a connection in your head between those people. I remember at least one photography exhibit where the artist took a series of black and white shots of paired up people. Most of the people didn’t know one another, if I remember correctly, but seeing these people paired together for a picture, the audience couldn’t help but wonder. Do they get along? Do they like each other? Would they like each other? What do they have in common? Do they come from the same place?

Put any two dancers together and the audience starts to wonder the same thing. Do they like each other? Are they similarly skilled? Is one better than the other? Are they frustrated with one another? Do they speak the same language? Does she like him more than he likes her? Is it the other way around? There’s often a couple at any dance that looks like they can barely stand to touch one another. And there’s often that couple that looks like they’re on a honeymoon. It’s a fun game to try and pick up on the social clues.

Visible and Invisible Difficulty
I’ve had this same discussion with both Leslie and another of my friends, who is a dancer and dance critic. It’s easy to miss how difficult dance is, because the dancers are making it look so easy.

When an NFL defensive end forces his way around (or through) an offensive lineman to sack a quarterback, I have some intrinsic knowledge of how hard that is to do. When Chipper Jones hits a 12-to-6 curveball out of the park for an opposite field home run, I know exactly how hard that is. When LeBron dribbles around the defender and dunks, I know I can’t possibly do it. But you can often see the stress of competition and physical exertion on their faces. The difficulty of performing at that level is obvious.

Dancers, however, put on their best smiles even as they’re stretching and punishing their bodies. It’s an important element of the craft to try and hide just how difficult it all is. No matter how many bruises, bumps, strains, and sprains a particular move has caused oh-so-many times in practice, you’ve still got to go out there and make it seem effortless. Smile and look pretty.

For men who are used to watching sports, I think it’s difficult to get over this flip-flop in emphasis. Dancers are hiding the ball in a way that other athletes do not. It’s part of the reason I like going to dance practice, as opposed to shows, and to any dance event that allows me to get up close and personal with the clopping, huffing, and sweating. What they’re doing can be incredibly difficult. One good way of watching and enjoying a dance performance is just to pick out all the things that look easy, but really aren’t, even if it’s just a specific turn of an ankle or a quietly, gracefully held position. In the same way that I could never dunk a basketball, I could never do ballet.

For the casual fan, however, appreciation of the stress and difficulty itself probably can’t eclipse appreciation of the personalities which are expressed through the rigors of dancing. For me, dance is a means to an end. It chooses an interesting person with an artistic sensibility and asks that person to sculpt their body through intensive practice. It observes that person’s individual skills and makeup and then prepares an activity which will stretch those talents and the confidence in being able to complete it on stage, in front of people, and while making it look effortless. It’s under this sort of strain - complete with wobbles, slips, and winces - that artistry and character may be ideally expressed and exposed.

Final Score for the Alabama Ballet: Pretty people? Yes. Did I fall a little? Yes. Was it fun? Yes. Dancer personalities? Yes. Difficulty? I sure think so…

Currently living in Birmingham, Alabama, recovering lawyer Daniel Hurst was advised to spend several sensible years at college and law school. He then practiced several more sensible years as an attorney. His website,, is part of his recovery process.

What Have You Seen? What Have You Taken?

Please share with everyone the performances that you have seen and/or the classes that you have taken?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ask a Simple Question...

by John Borstel

“So are you a dancer?”

I hear the question a lot, usually when I’m out at meetings or presentations wearing my hat as a member the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange administrative staff. And who wouldn’t be flattered by a question like that? But once I’m finished blushing I have to deal with actually answering -- which presents numerous challenges, including the questions of how to define “dancer” and what it means to “be” anything, at a personal, spiritual, or vocational level. Over time, though, I’ve evolved an answer with which I’m reasonably satisfied. It has three parts.

First part: “Everyone’s a dancer.” I say this with conviction -- just as I would also say that everyone can draw, everyone can sing, or that everyone is a storyteller. I really believe that the artist is in-born within each of us. Educational and cultural systems in our society, unfortunately, seem more geared to teaching people (usually by adolescence) that they can’t do these things, rather than to nurturing our innate capacities for these expressive and functional acts. Dance may be the most primal of them. After all, we’re already doing it when we’re in the womb.

Second part: “So yes, I am a dancer.” And it’s true. I dance when I grind the coffee (a great time to practice hip isolations), I dance when I talk (mostly unconsciously, I have to admit, though video has made it abundantly clear how effusively gestural I am once I get going), and, yes, I will dance at your wedding (especially if the DJ spins “The Locomotion”). More to the point, I have danced in structured, intentional ways that have made a difference in my life. I have danced to meet people, to find a cultural bridge, to manage and understand emotions, and to organize ideas. I’ve danced because the music is so beautiful or the idea is so big that I have to take it into my body. I have taken dance classes and they have changed my life. Not by setting me on a path as a performer, but by retuning the engine of my body/mind/spirit vehicle in decisive ways. So yes, I am a dancer, and I believe I am a better person for being a dancer.

Third part: “But when I say that I’m a dancer, please don’t think for a minute that I’m comparing myself to those who make a vocation of dance.” Don’t think that I’m likening myself to the performers, creators, and teachers of dance, people who have channeled their gifts through training and devotion toward the diverse movement disciplines. Unlike me, they have the ability to take dance beyond themselves and impart its extraordinary power to their fellow human beings. They hold unique knowledge because they are dancers, and most of them are zealous about finding ways to share that knowledge with others. Usually I illustrate my point by describing particular dancers I know and the wondrous attributes they have: their utter honesty in performance; their striking ability to think in three dimensions and to grasp both linear time and the non-linear coexistence of ideas; the deep insight into the human condition that they have gained through their informed perception of bodies and their interactions; their gifts for teaching all kinds of information and building all kinds of community connections by getting people to engage the power of their bodies; their capacity to delight, startle, enlighten, touch the heart and ask excellent questions. I could go on and on. People who make dance the focus of their lives contribute so much to our society, and contribute even more when the power of what they hold as dancers is recognized by society – a recognition that we, as a field, need to continue working on.

So yes, I am a dancer. Everyone is. And those who (unlike me) practice dance as a life’s calling have extraordinary ideas, insights, and experiences to offer to society at almost every level.

Simple question. Simple answer.

John Borstel is Humanities Director for Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, where he as been part of the staff since 1993.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dance Is The Answer and Deeka Vameed are back!

It's just a few "official" days away, but for me, Dance Is The Answer has been a way of life!

I can't wait to introduce myself to you all! I have been away for some time, but Deeka Vameed is Back!

More this coming week...get ready -

Best, Deeka