- The Washington Times - Friday, September 11, 2009

Dance is becoming an increasingly vital part of this city’s life, thanks to some inspired individual leadership, beginning with Michael Kaiser’s dynamism as director of the Kennedy Center, the verve of Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre and Carla Perlo’s long-running, adventurous shepherding of Dance Place.

In a fascinating addition to the District’s dance life, the Washington Performing Arts Society, which once was a leader in support of dance under the late, great impresario Patrick Hayes, has picked up that mantle anew and created a new festival, Velocity DC, which gives its first performances Oct. 2 and 3 at the Sidney Harman Hall.

Among the talented groups it is presenting are the Washington Ballet, Paul Emerson’s CityDance (which will debut Paul Taylor’s riveting “Last Look”), the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Gesel Mason, and Nejla Yatkin (formerly in Washington, now residing in New York) and Ronald K. Brown from New York.

The fall dance season gets off to a gala start Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater when local dancers — including a wide range of ballet, hip-hop and ethnic performers — join in what has become a fun yearly celebration of the richness and range of area dance.

The Kennedy Center, which usually saves most of its goodies till the winter season, is this fall bringing what promises to be the most glorious two weeks of dance ever seen here — unless you’re of the school of thought that there’s such a thing as too much Balanchine.

Four of Mr. Balanchine’s most inspired, glowing works — “Mozartiana,” “Concerto Barocco,” “Violin Concerto” and “Liebeslieder Walzer” — plus Jerome Robbins’ beautiful “Dances at a Gathering” will be performed in the Opera House Dec. 9 through 13 by Mr. Balanchine’s own company, the New York City Ballet. These works are towering masterpieces but small in scale, which makes it possible for the company to split up and perform in Washington and New York at the same time.

Preceding this, Mr. Balanchine’s setting of “The Nutcracker” — the Christmas ballet all over the country, but never performed here — will be danced Nov. 24 through 29 (also in the Opera House) by the Pennsylvania Ballet, which has performed his version for over 40 years.

The Kennedy Center also has scheduled two feisty contemporary groups — Pilobolus, appearing in a program (Eisenhower Theater, Oct. 3 and 4) that includes “Dreams and Light,” a collaboration with puppeteer Basil Twist, and Keigwin + Company with a look at pop culture (Terrace Theater, Oct. 22 and 23).

Meanwhile, the Washington Ballet starts off a vigorous schedule with “Don Quixote,” the brilliant and demanding 19th-century ballet by Marius Petipa, Oct. 14 through 18 at Harman Hall. TWB also will dance Mr. Webre’s Washington-based version of “The Nutcracker” at the Warner Theatre Dec. 10 through 27.

CityDance, a resident of Strathmore in North Bethesda, will appear at the KenCen’s Terrace Theater Oct. 29 and 30 with a program that features “The Mountain” by Jason Ignacio, a picture of devastation in his native Philippines, set to a score that includes the recorded sound of volcanic rumblings.

Dance Place, as usual, is brimful of dance culled from a wide range of styles. It begins at its welcoming home, 3225 Eighth St. NE, with “Universes” Sept. 19 and 20 and continues with Tehreema Mitha Dance Company performing both classical Indian and contemporary movement Sept. 26-27.

Nejla Yatkin/NY2 Dance will perform her latest work, “Wallstories,” about the significance of the Berlin Wall and its removal, Oct. 3 and 4.

The following week at Dance Place (Oct. 9 through 11) the outstanding local group led by Dana Tai Soon Burgess will unveil “Island,” a multimedia dance-in-the-round about Asian immigrants entering America.

Oct. 17 and 18, El Teatro de Danza de Contemporanea de El Salvador comments on Central American issues, and Oct. 24 and 25, Laura Schandelmeier and Stephen Clapp perform “The Loving Project,” exploring interracial marriage and nontraditional relationships.

Nov. 7 and 8, Dance Place presents Aysha Upchurch in “Life, Rhythm, Move Project,” combining hip-hop, dance and words, followed by Illstyle and Peace Production from Philadelphia Nov. 13 through 15, also focusing on hip-hop. The following week, Nov. 21 and 22, the subject is — guess what? — “The Greatest Hip Hop Cover Story Ever Told.”

December at Dance Place brings the founder of this busy place, Carla Perlo, and her group, Carla and Company, with the Dance Place Step Team, Dec. 5 and 6, followed Dec. 12 and 13 by Lesole Z. Maine’s Lesole’s Dance Project, which mixes African rituals with step styles from black fraternities.

December concludes with a Kwanzaa celebration Dec. 19 and 20 in a special holiday performance by its resident company, Coyaba Dance Theater, with students of all ages.

If you’re after new experiences, George Mason University’s Center for the Arts is a good place to go. This year, it’s bringing the Richard Alston Dance Company (Oct. 10), billed as the largest, most prominent modern dance company in Great Britain and never seen here before. GMU is offering other offbeat groups as well, including Momix (Oct. 31) and Virsky Ukrainian National Dance Company (Nov. 7).

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