Last year, the velocityDC dance festival debuted at Sidney Harman Hall with great success, fulfilling the momentum found in its name and hopefully ensuring many years into tradition. At risk of hyperbole, you can say that it is an overwhelming or exhausting encounter with Washington's finest formal dance, compressed into two programs across four performances October 7-9. Conceived as a sort of sampler for each respective troupe's season, already it has poised itself to be the official start for Washington's whole dance season, and easily the most important single event above all else. Yet it comes and goes quickly: with just four performances October 4-9, there are two programs/line-ups that showcase a variety of our best dance companies. And more, each respective company showcases its finest work in the time they have. This non-stop procession of master performances is breathtaking, and in the spirit of promoting patronage through the forthcoming season, seats are made affordable at a flat $18 for each performance (from the "your nose will bleed" seats, to the "you'll get splashed with sweat" seats).
To these eyes and ears, last year's highlight was the Washington Ballet's presentation of Edwaard Liang's brilliant Wunderland (pictured above), choreographing various string quartets of Philip Glass including his pinnacle No. 5. (We had another occasion to experience the work later that season, as mentioned here.) In an opposite order to that -- of repeating a work from velocityDC within the company's formal season -- this year we have the great privilege to experience a work at velocityDC after further refinements from its initial development when CityDance Ensemble performed +1/-1 by Christopher K. Morgan earlier this year. From what I saw at that performance, you are in for a masterpiece. Most of its appeal for me is the music that it sets; Michael Gordon's Weather arguably revitalized (in the wake of his Trance) the whole genre of minimalism that had ironically, for all its avant-garde pretensions, begun to sound conservative. Weather represents the evolution of that species musically, and Morgan does wonderful things with the score that I can't wait to see in final form. At last year's velocityDC, CityDance had put on a brilliant performance of Paul Taylor's Last Look that it also revived later in the Spring. With similarly stunning but even more agitated music by Donald York, Last Look was a psychotic display of physicality that effectively (and reflectively, through mobile mirrors) set its audience up for a restless night of nightmares.
It is advised again this year to get tickets as early as possible, since the shows may sell out. Wisely, velocityDC has ditched an experiment from last year, a late-night cabaret show that sort of pandered to hip-hop culture, and awkwardly at that; but this year's fewer stagings leave fewer seats for attending the festival, so you'll want to get on this now. Though you could try to attend both programs, I'd argue that the golden ticket is Program B, which solely features that Morgan work, along with the Washington Ballet, and another favorite local troupe, Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company. (Goofy sidebar to that: I've been stopped several times across the years by random people who thought I resembled the virtuoso for whom the company is named -- I am half-Korean too -- but the inevitable double-take on my comparative physique only results in a quick correction. That is of course an easy compliment to Mr. Burgess.)