Every so often, we witness a moment in time unabashedly good—good in its intentions, good in its ideals, good from inner core to every outer, polished extremity. CityDance’s benefit performance, DREAMscape, featuring students just as star-like as its guest professional dancers, marked a tick on this timeline, the one charting history so moving sometimes it’s hard to grasp.
U Street lit the way. A narrow avenue, its close quarters, overflowing bars and restaurants on either side, concentrate an adrenaline, an anticipation—born from little space and range of motion. Not a feeling of congestion, but of hype. CityDance used the Lincoln Theatre to feed that urban energy. Before the show, Dire Straits and Journey dripped over the gold-leaf-lined balconies.
Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevards.
Someone behind me said, of the atmosphere, “It’s very not D.C.” Several minutes later, Mayor Muriel Bowser took the stage following the Executive Director to welcome the crowd.
The dance program itself was just as eclectic as the environs, an amalgamation of styles. And as they say, opposites attract—in this case, to form a cohesive whole. The effect was electric.
In the first piece, CityDance students hit a perfect ten in Tango Zero. They smiled, synchronized, and took charge over challenging choreography. These kids can dance. Or, more accurately, these dancers happen to be kids.
Lara Segrillo and Andres Matthew August, CityDance Conservatory students, each kept the bar raised in their respective solos. Segrillo incarnated the title of her haunting piece, Mockingbird, choreographed by Stuart Loungway, with seeming ease. Sharp rotations of the head, broken elbows and arm movements, plus angular lines in the air time of her suspensions created her avian affect. August rolled through his La Bayadere variation with professional confidence but a gentle touch. Bring it on, Monsieur Petipa, he seemed to respectfully say.
DREAMscape also showcased the grace of its guest professionals. Gallim Dance Company seduced with Bruce (Wonderland), a dance of a villain. It was Smeagel, or Ursula, or any other deliciously likeable antagonist in evil sync with his cronies. Upside down like a possessed arachnid, the featured dancer contorted into the hearts of the spectators. We laughed in spite or ourselves—so bad, it was irresistibly tasty.
Anna Tsygankova, of the Dutch National Ballet, and Matthew Golding, of the Royal Ballet of London, were the stars of the evening, the examples of the living dream CityDance strives to realize for its students. Their flawless Don Quixote variations proved a lovely ode to that theme.
Though the CityDance students reappeared, to the joy of the audience, to close the show, their second triumph felt not like an ending, but a beginning. Armed with smiles, they back-flipped, jeted, and hit each formation with poise and precision. Their enjoyment was clear to see, infectious.
Several blocks away, back out in the world again, back out in Washington, I went by a large portrait of Paul Robeson. His quotation, written alongside his mural, reads: “I make no separation between my work as an artist and my work as a human being.” Neither do the people behind CityDance DREAM, a reality for which First Lady Michelle Obama recognized the organization on November 17, 2015, with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.
The plaque next to the painting of Robeson, explaining his life and his role in the city, was called a “Living Timeline.” Then, why is our impulse to question, to say, “It’s very not D.C.?” What is it, exactly? A palpable artistic pulse in our hometown? Positivity? Hope?
Last evening—the students, the venue, the audience—was D.C. It is D.C. Let’s keep making it D.C. Many other figures from our living, breathing dance scene, from our other successful dance schools and programs, were there in support of it. Let’s cease to separate the Washington we think we know from the Washington we witness. We can grasp that. When in doubt, watch those CityDance students. They sure have.
Running Time: One hour and 45 minutes, with one intermission.
CityDance DREAMscape 2016, played Saturday, May 7, 2016 at 8:00 p.m., and was performed at the Lincoln Theatre – 1215 U Street NW, in Washington, DC.For more information about CityDance go to their website.