Don’t hurry out of town for the summer just yet or you will miss the new summer season of DC’s own Chamber Dance Project in residence at the Lansburgh Theatre at Shakespeare Theatre Company. Known for its inspired dance style called “contemporary ballet with an edge,” Chamber Artistic Director Diane Coburn Bruning indicated the troupe will be breaking new ground in its second summer season.
At the Lansburgh, the Chamber company will perform two different repertoire programs with six performances from June 24-28th. The repertoire will feature the signature live string quartet onstage collaborating with celebrated dancers from The Joffrey, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Washington Ballets. There will be works both new to area dance audiences and those known from celebrated choreographers such as Ann Carlson, Darrell Grand Moultrie, and Jorge Amarante, as well as Bruning.
In a recent interview, Bruning make clear that she wants to explore her ambitious vision of “boldness and artistic risk.” She is aiming to bring “the audience closer to the work. Live music with dance. Incredible artists form major ballet companies and contemporary choreographers with contemporary resonance. A visceral power that lingers long after the curtain.”
”I want to stretch artistic and conceptual boundaries in new ways. It’s important to me that our events put our edgy and collaborative spirit on display by bringing the dancers, choreographers, musicians and audience members together in a welcoming space,” added Bruning. “I want to create a new experience for the audience and the artists; live music with musicians onstage, intimacy with the works in smaller theatres, intense collaborations between choreographers and the artists, and inviting audiences into the process….”
At the Lansburgh, Chamber Dance will perform two world premieres including Wild Swans based upon the famous early 20th Century short poem of Edna Vincent Malay as choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie with a score by Ecuadorian composer Chia Patino. The troupe will also perform Bruning’s new work Arranged, about women’s lives with two women dancers and nine chairs. The dancers will bring DC premieres of the ever-so witty, DC-relevant, suited-up-workers caught in a box, Four Men in Suits by Ann Carlson as well as a sensuous pas-de-deux, Journey performed to Samuel Barber’s Adagio.
The Chamber Dance Project‘s summer repertoire will also include, what I can only describe as a searing, poignant male duet, with a Philip Glass score entitled Exit Wounds. Exit Wounds pierced me when I first encountered it several years ago at an early rehearsal. For those especially with military service or have known those who served in the military, it is quite breathtaking. There will also be the vibrant fun of Bruning’s Time Has Come as well as the romantic tango ballet, Sur from Jorge Amarante with music of Astor Piazzolla and Peteris Vasks. The evening’s allure will include live musical interludes with the likes of Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins.
The troupe will also employ its “Structured Improv.” With Structured Improv the audience becomes a key part of exposing the choreographic process. “The audience will have some input into the framework of the improvisation, which we then relay to the dancers. The musicians, for their artistic dive, will sight read from a new score they only receive moments earlier. Our dancers, who have no idea what the music will be before they hear it, cut lose and do AMAZING things,” said Bruning.
Chamber Dance will have a Saturday Family Matinee with a special feature: complimentary tickets to underserved populations so that they can attend. The Family Matinee will provide an opportunity for children to join the artists to try some dancing onstage after the show.
“We are certain that those who take time to attend one or more of the performances will be captivated and moved, not only by the dance and music, which will be impressive, but by the overarching mission of CDP to make these performances accessible to all populations,” noted Reina Brekke, a Chamber Dance Project Board Member.
I took the opportunity to chat with several of the featured Chamber dancers, Davit Hovhannisyan and Luz San Miguel.
Davit Hovhannisyan, who was born in Armenia, has been dancing from an early age. After his training with the National Ballet School of Armenia, he began his professional career with the Armenian National Ballet Company. After arriving in the United States he danced with companies throughout the country, joining Milwaukee Ballet in 2004 where is now a principal dancer.
San Miguel from Madrid, Spain, received her training at Carmina Ocana Ballet School and the Municipal Institute of Ballet in Antwerp, Belgium. Prior to joining Milwaukee Ballet, she danced with BalletMet, Charleston Ballet Theater, Tulsa Ballet, Dresden Ballet, and Leipziger Ballet in Germany.
When asked why they dance, Hovhannisyan said, “I can’t imagine doing anything else, dance is my passion, my love and, my freedom.” He went on to say, “I’ve been dancing as long as I can remember, but I became a dancer when I truly understood the meaning of performing.”
For San Miguel, dance “is my life, my passion. I absolutely love it. I can’t imagine my life without dance.” With a great smile she spoke of “always remembering wanting to be a dancer. My parents ran a restaurant in Madrid when I was a child. I would dance on the tables; always a little performer.”
Asked about performing with live music, Hovhannisyan called live music “crucial…we rehearse with piano and a recording, in the studios but I cannot wait to go to the theater to rehearse and perform with the chamber because I feel every moment and feel complete.” As for San Miguel, “live musicians become another partner for me as I dance. I partner with the music and with the musicians as I perform.”
As for learning a new work, “the challenges of learning a new piece is being patient and trying things over and over until everybody is satisfied and that can take hours. The joys of doing a new piece is when it’s set and done and you perform it, and it becomes your own because you were the original. This is a very wonderful feeling,” said Hovhannisyan. For San Miguel: “I think the challenge is to make the choreography feel natural to your body. To adjust to new ways of moving. That is also the joy of it, to push your boundaries and your body to new limits, and to grow as an artist each time.”
Both San Miguel and Hovhanniswayn invited audiences to the summer season even if “they have very little knowledge of dance or ballet in general. Not only will it be a unique experience,” but they will be able to feel the thrilling freedom that dance brings.
One other note. Later this summer, the Chamber Dance Project will be performing at the famed Joyce Theatre in New York City.