In a city with an evolving arts scene, the often-stodgy Kennedy Center can get a bad rap. Now and then, though, the hardworking programming folks at the behemoth on the Potomac do hit the nail squarely on the head.
At the moment, I’m talking about the Millennium Stage Local Dance Commissioning Project. Now in its 10th season, the initiative supports roughly three Washington-area dance companies per year in their efforts to create brand-new pieces. This isn’t a city with lots of arts-targeted resources to pick from, so the $7,500 stipend, free studio space, and serious emphasis on critical discussion and development are more than welcome.
Not least, the project ends with two performances on the Millennium Stage (with its guaranteed tourist-bolstered crowds) and a commitment by Dance Place to show the piece later in the season. There aren’t many stages in town that reliably show dance, so the project has helped a number of companies find their legs. Oh, and it’s all free—can’t complain about that, either.
Head to the Millennium Stage tonight or tomorrow night at 6 p.m. and you can watch Dance Box Theater, one of this year’s commissioning project recipients. Founded by a Mount Rainier-based duo, Laura Schandelmeier and Stephen Clapp (who also happen to be husband and wife), the company will be showing “Affectations,” a piece incorporating dancer Ilana Silverstein, video artist Lorne Covington, and composer James Harkins. Expect real-time collaborations between movers and videographer, with an original soundscore by Harkins, all highlighting parallels between movement, societal structures, and the environment we operate in.
But wait, there’s more! Next week, Oct. 28 and 29, you can catch another free Millennium Stage performance that’s part of the commissioning project. The company is the D.C.-based Unevenlane, and the piece is “what R U missing?” Conceived by director Mary Lane to connect audience members to the art-making process, the piece was built on audience members’ previously submitted stories, and production elements were chosen by nondancers.