In the Moment: Chamber Dance Project Brings ‘Chant’ to the Lansburgh Theater

The summer season of DC’s very own Chamber Dance Project will be in residence this month at the acoustically rich, 450-seat Lansburgh Theater in downtown DC. The contemporary ballet troupe will be premiering Chant, the latest dance vision from Chamber Dance Project (CDP) Artistic Director Diane Coburn Bruning.

Chamber Dance Project in rehearsal for Chant. Photo by Sheila Smith.
Chamber Dance Project in rehearsal for Chant. Photo by Sheila Smith.

Making for full evenings of dance and live music, Chamber Dance Project will also perform the Washington premiere of Vespers choreographed by former Paul Taylor dancer David Grenke, Wild Swans by New York choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie and highlights from Bruning’s witty and poignant Time Has Come, a lively tribute piece for her late New York Ballet teacher David Howard, with music from Scarlatti, Mozart, and Telemann.

Now in its fifth season in Washington, D.C. after thirteen years in New York, the mission of Chamber Dance Project is to create intimate new personal experiences in contemporary ballet with live music. A unique feature of CDP is that its dance works are accompanied by live musicians under the leadership of principal musician Claudia Chudacoff.

So what is the newly choreographed Chant, described by Chamber Dance Project marketing material as “a powerful work with live Gregorian chant creating a cathedral of sound, movement and light”?

Choreographed by Chamber Dance Project Artistic Director Diane Coburn Bruning and company dancer Andile Ndlovu with the creative talents of Michael McCarthy, the National Cathedral’s Director of Music, Chant features seven dancers, five singers, a djembe (West African percussion instrument) drummer, and a string quartet.

According to CDP marketing material, Chant aims to draw on “the majesty and emotional sweep of Gregorian chant, the work journeys from traditional chant to African textured chant that builds into a contemporary overlay of strings and voices.”

Chamber Dance Project Artistic Director Diane Coburn Bruning. Photo by Eduardo Patino.

In an interview with Bruning, she said, “I wanted to create an experience for the audience of sound, light, movement to envelop the audience into the performance.”

Asked about the impetus to create Chant, Bruning recalled her own early childhood experiences with Gregorian Chant and its effect on her. Now it is the right time to let her memories become what she hoped will be “a visceral experience for the audience; one that is simple and effective. An experience for the audience of sound, light, movement that will envelop them into the performance.”

Bruning chatted about the beauty and mysteriousness of the Gregorian chant sound that can become even more than intriguing with its long melodic lines. As she spoke I had my own immediate reaction thinking of meditation techniques and health activities such as Yoga or Tai Chi or walking in the woods in the early morning with birds chirping and the water of a stream flowing over rocks.

In our interview, Bruning noted that Chamber Dance Project offers patrons more than just dance and music for adults. As an example, she spoke of a special matinee performance on Saturday, June 23, which will include an onstage workshop with the artists and a “Bring a Child for Free” opportunity.  Adults may bring a child (18 and under) to the performance for free.

Chamber Dance Project is also committed to community engagement. It has a program that provides 150 free matinee performance tickets to children and adults from social service agencies including N Street Village, Capital Partners for Education, Jubilee Housing and BEST Kids Inc.

And there is the uniquely named Ballet Play-by-Play audio description by the Artistic Director at the Friday evening, June 22 performance. Complimentary headphones will be provided by the theatre.

So, in these times of an ever-quickening news cycle, never-ending tweetstorms, and the external world too easily impinging on personal and private time, Chant is a way to give oneself a time to quietly reflect. And, perhaps even have some unexpected moments of divinity and spirituality at the Lansburgh.

Chamber Dance Project is in residence June 21 to June 23, 2018, at The Lansburgh Theater – 450 7th St NW in Washington, DC. For information and tickets call 202-499-2297 or go online.