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More often than not, anything described as “modern” is an attempt to improve on the traditional that fails miserably. The word usually precedes talk of fashion that isn’t wearable, visual art that resembles kindergarten art projects, and dance that abandons elaborate sets and costumes in favor of colored lights and flesh-toned body stockings. The Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theatre, however, escapes the curse of modernity. Artistic director and founder Michael Medcalf isn’t willing to create art that passes over the heads of everyday folks just for the reward of being labeled an innovator by his peers. “I want my mom to understand what I am dancing about,” he has been quoted as saying. In an effort to captivate Mom-Dukes and anyone else unfamiliar with the world of dance, the seven-person ensemble tackles issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse, and racism, and uses not only movement but video, speech, and even the music of Marvin Gaye to get its message across. The company, which celebrates the roots of black dance in America, will perform a series of works in support of Washington’s Black Pride Weekend. Among them, Ceremonies, a piece that tackles love, identity, acceptance, HIV/AIDS, and other issues facing gay men, particularly those of color. The CCDT will donate a portion of the proceeds to the AIDS service organization (and Black Pride sponsor) Us Helping Us, People Into Living Inc.—proof that even in these modern times, old-fashioned altruism remains intact. The Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theatre performs at 8 p.m. Friday, May 24, and Saturday, May 25, at Dance Place, 3225 8th St. NE. $16. (202) 269-1600. (Sarah Godfrey)