Reveal, this weekend’s show at CityDance, marks two big steps for the dance organization.
First, it’s the grand opening of the group’s new black box theater, an easy-to-operate space where outside artists and budding divas—aka the school’s dance students—can perform. Simultaneously, it’s the inaugural performance of a new company, Christopher K. Morgan & Artists, that’s headed by CityDance’s very first artist-in-residence.
All of which is pretty heady for an organization that saw its professional modern dance ensemble fold this summer. That could have been tragic, but the CityDance folks took a lemons-to-lemonade view of things.
“Once the company disbanded, we looked at our assets, and asked ourselves, ‘What can CityDance still do to produce, support, and create professional art?’” says Executive Director Alexe Nowakowski. She and the board and staff took stock of the 15-year-old organization’s administrative strengths, its enormous, airy studios—which are located at Strathmore and underutilized during the day—and the black box theater whose construction, already underway, would allow for in-house performances.
And then they turned to Christopher Morgan, who’d served for four years as the professional company’s choreographer-in-residence and rehearsal director.
Even while the company was dissolving, Nowakowski and her colleagues knew they wanted to maintain a relationship with Morgan, who formerly ran a modern dance company in New York.
And thus the artist-in-residence initiative was established. Morgan will provide in-class and performance opportunities for the school’s 500-plus young students, and in return he’ll receive free rehearsal space, administrative and marketing support, and at least two produced shows per year. It’s a pretty good deal for everyone involved.
Maybe that’s why Morgan decided to go ahead and launch a new company, rather than simply work as an independent artist. “First, I thought I’d be a resident artist on a project basis—pull together a few dancers and put on shows more as a freelance artist, with a bit of support from [CityDance],” said Morgan. “But as we evolved, I saw it would behoove me to plow more deeply in and start my own company, that that would support the work more.” And voila: One of the area’s newest dance companies was born.
This weekend’s show features four works. Probably the most ambitious is In Plain Sight, a piece created in collaboration with cellist and composer Ignacio Alcover and photographer Kay Chernush that focuses on the individual casualties of human trafficking. Morgan describes himself as having been, at times, “completely intimidated” by the subject matter, but says the collaboration was fascinating.
The other pieces are Tarantella, which premiered at Velocity DC in October; Ties That Bind, set on CityDance’s conservatory students; and a solo for himself.
Reveal runs this weekend in the CityDance Studio Theater at Strathmore. Shows are tonight and tomorrow night at 8:15 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. $25.
Photo by Brianne Bland