From the DC Dance Journalism Project
PREVIEW: DC Contemporary Dance Theatre at Dance Place
by Rachel Turner
In times of tension and turmoil, art can serve many roles. Art can be a protest, art can make statements, art can offer a place for reflection, art can allow for mourning. Art can also bring beauty to the world, and this is just what Miya Hisaka and D.C. Contemporary Dance Theatre (DCCDT) seek to do with their presentation of Ubuntu: For the Whole of All Humanity at Dance Place on Saturday, December 3rd and Sunday, December 4th.
One of DCCDT’s strengths is their ability to build bridges. From their beginnings in 1984, DCCDT has always been a multi-cultural company (they were even based in El Salvador for a period) that brought together artists and styles from Latin America and African traditions. Hisaka describes DCCDT’s distinct aesthetic as a poetic mix of the hardness and power of African dance softened by the elegant qualities of Latin dance. The audience at a typical DCCDT performance reflects their ability not just to build artistic bridges in their work but to truly bring together people from different cultures and worlds. First generation Latin Americans sit next to art lovers from Mount Pleasant and are mixed in among families from Southeast DC who have been reached through DCCDT’s outreach programs in that area.
DCCDT’s own dancers reflect this diversity as well – their ranks feature dancers of Latin American, African-American, Asian, and Anglo-Saxon descent. A challenge for the company is creating a cohesive aesthetic with their diverse cast and with their limited rehearsal time together – only 6-9 hours a week. Hisaka prioritizes company class as a part of their schedule. The dancers train together in modern, indigenous styles, and ballet. Hisaka says the time spent doing class together, as well as the immense skill of her dancers, makes it possible to have a consistent style. Her dancers, while coming from different backgrounds, share their deep training in dance, a similar way of hearing the music, and self-expressiveness. The final common denominator bringing them all together is the choreography they perform.
The theme of the evening, Ubuntu, is an African term representing compassion, interconnectedness, and community. This term was frequently used by Nelson Mandela, as well as Archbishop Romero, a prominent priest in El Salvador who was killed during the war after standing up for injustices in the country, making it an excellent show title for a company with deep roots in both Africa and Latin America.
The show will feature seven works that showcase the range of DCCDT. The first half of the show includes works that showcase both the indigenous roots of the company and their contemporary explorations. Lloyd Whitmore of Atlanta Ballet and Francisco Castillo, founder and co-director of the company, each present larger group works. Sandwiched between these will be a solo by DCCDT company member Chandini Darby. Darby is a young choreographer who has been with the company for ten years, and her work, “Legacy’s Voice” looks at the identity of the African-American female in today’s world.
The second half of the program presents works that are more classical in style – in addition to the Latino and African influences in DCCDT’s repertoire, all the dancers are extensively trained in classical ballet. To Hisaka, classical dance has an especially important connection to her experiences in post-war El Salvador. After the war, classical dance offered a place of escape, security, and healing for many affected by the tragic events.
Three of the four works that make up the more classical half of the program were choreographed by Gloria Contreras, a hugely influential Mexican choreographer. Contreras passed away last year, and DCCDT is proud to honor her legacy by presenting some of her works and their messages about life, love, and hope. One of the works to especially look out for is “Solo Para Angel Contemporaneo” performed by internationally renowned Cuban guest dancer Fidel Garcia.
The final piece of the evening is a world premiere by Lloyd Whitmore. Whitmore’s signature is contemporary and classical works that employ African rhythms. “Songs Without Words” is an uplifting neoclassical piece set to the music of Bach, Brandenburg, and Cantabile that promises to bring the show to an inspiring end.
Hisaka says that her company’s shows always create an experience for the audience, and it’s your chance now to come be a part of this poetic, uplifting, unique, and healing experience this weekend.
Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8:00 PM and Sunday, Dec. 4 at 4:00 PM.
“Ubuntu: For the Whole of All Humanity-Building Bridges Between the Latino and African American Communities.” (Multi-cultural dance program of classical, contemporary and indigenous works).
3225 8th Street NE, Washington, DC 20017
(two blocks from Brookland Red Line metro stop by Catholic University).
$30/General Admission at the Door;
$25/Admission (Advanced Sales only)*;
$20/Artists, College Students, Children 17 & Under.
*Advance Sales end 4 hours prior to performance start time
To Purchase Tickets and Venue Information: http://www.danceplace.org 202-269-1600.
For more information about the Company: www.teatrodedanza.org