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Dancer and choreographer Jane Jerardi spent a monthlong residency at School for the Arts in Learning teaching improvisational dance to an after-school group of students. On Thursday, March 29, the filmed results of those lessons will be shown on the walls of the very building where they were taught.
Supported by a Creative Communities grant, Jerardi worked with fifth- and sixth-graders three times a week in February. An instant after she wondered out loud how to turn her video camera on, she says, the children not only figured it out but started holding it at odd angles and pushing it into one another’s faces, with Jerardi egging them on.
“It seems like they’re used to doing art within the classroom,” she says. “It’s a different idea to do an art project where…part of it is sharing it with an audience and learning that that’s part of the project.”
In one video, Jerardi prances and spins with a flock of kids and vanishes against a gray building. A moment later, a hula hoop falls from the sky. A boy fidgets with his fingers right under the camera; a girl casts a long shadow as she dances in a circle. The videos, Jerardi says, will eventually become part of a larger work titled Chance. Jerardi hopes the details—such as the falling hoop and the fingers—will suit the work’s theme: spontaneous movement as an illustration of random life. “Things are already happening around you, and we’re going to harness that to create something that is a chance, that it might work, and it might not work,” Jerardi says. The final cut will be projected on the outside of downtown buildings; the project is meant to seem like coincidence to people on the street. “On a summer night,” Jerardi says on her Web site, “those passing by will happen upon dance infused into their life, by chance.”
Jerardi, 31, came to D.C. after college as a first step toward moving to New York. She never took the second step. She has lived in D.C. for the last decade, and in that time she’s worked on such urban art projects as a “sensory tour” of a construction site and a walk through a fictional apartment, both at the Warehouse Theater. Two collaborators from those events, videographer Michael Wichita and dancer Ginger Wagg, are contributing to her current project. Wichita shot some of the videos of the children; Wagg and dancer Brian Buck will appear in other videos.
The inspiration for her theme, Jerardi says, comes from random events in her own life. “A lot of things happened to me last year that seemed like chance coincidences,” she says. She mentions starting a relationship, being rescued from a drunken assailant in Columbia Heights, and simply making the train on time.
“That’s also part of how artmaking is…you start and you don’t know where it’s gonna exactly go,” she says. “You can’t totally control the process. And so when I worked with the groups of kids…I really wanted to use that as an idea as well, that you can make art from anything.” This wide-ranging nature of chance, Jerardi hopes, will be the biggest strength of her concept: Anything fits. At least, anything that can fit on the side of a building.
A rough cut of Chance shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at WVSA ARTs Connection, 1100 16th St. NW. Free. For more information, call (202) 296-9100.