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A triple bill of jazz, flamenco, and performance art for three bucks. Twice-monthly screenings of award-winning West African films. Weekly classes in yoga, tap, African dance, and the Brazilian martial art capoeira. Since opening its doors in October, Joe’s Movement Emporium has been cranking out the multicultural jams in Mt. Rainier, Md.
Joe’s impresarios Brooke Kidd and “Ajax” Joe Drayton each ran a dance company when they met in 1993. They began dancing in each other’s projects as well as in the Blagden Alley happenings of the now-splintered Betapunks and the Saturday afternoon improvs at St. Stephen’s Church in Mt. Pleasant. While they had certainly tired of scrounging for stages, the pair envisioned Joe’s as more than a home for Kidd’s World Dance Focus and Drayton’s Ajax Moving Company. Their Friday-night coffeehouses indicate an appetite for style-blending diversity: World-beat-jazz-funk combo Franko Jazz drew 150 people in December, and 60 or so trudged through a flash snowstorm in February to take in jazz duo Axis Mundi, flamenco dancer Sarah Wigman and guitarist Torcuato Lamora, and Reggie Crump’s Acid Box Cabaret (Unplugged).
Kidd and Drayton believe such mixed bills will foster an appreciation for dance, which they admit can be a hard sell. “People will pay for trash pickup, but they want dance to be free,” Kidd laments. Drayton, who managed d.c. space in the late 1980s, tackles the misperception of dance as inaccessible or elitist by “giving audiences the thrills and shocks” they want. In the competition for the entertainment dollar, he grants live perfomance the edge over Hollywood product, “because skin is more exciting than technogadgetry.”
But the best way to bring dance to the people is to get the people to dance. The presence of ringers seems to inspire rather than intimidate the crowd, which has gotten downright Dionysian at several of Joe’s DJ- or band-propelled dance parties. Kidd, who teaches five of Joe’s 20 weekly classes, as well as at senior centers and schools, proclaims dance “one of the best tools of life.” Drayton chimes in: “I’m thrilled to have a place that folks can come and get their own groove on. I’m all about that dance ecstasy.” On Friday, March 8, there will be a coffeeshop featuring flamenco, Indian, and modern dancers and a flute/percussion trio at 9 p.m. at Joe’s, 3802 34th St., Mt. Rainier. (301) 699-1819. CP