“I feel we have to be careful that Alvin Ailey and Pilobolus are not the only thing that anybody sees as contemporary dance,” Goode says. “A lot of people think that dance is all about spectacle and scale and entertainment. And so we’re not cultivating artists whose work is more intimate and personal and feels more conversational, more contemporary in its texture. It’s not back here behind the proscenium and you’re way out there. We’re speaking about the human condition and we’re speaking about your life, so we want to be close to you.
“I don’t want people to leave my show and think, ‘Oh, Joe Goode was awesome,’ ” he says. “I want people to think, ‘Oh, that work made me think about my own aging, it made me think about how I am in relationships and about issues of equality.’ ”
Goode, who says he is “completely obsessed with the American West,” explores the light and dark sides of the cowboy demigod in “The Rambler,” which his group will perform next weekend. It’s a mix of movement, monologues, saloon-girl crooning and testimonials by those fated to love a loner.
“At the core of being American, we really value the rugged individual, the guy who walks off into the sunset. Clearly that’s very attractive to us,” Goode says. “But we also suffer from this condition. If you look closely at the icon of the rambler, there’s always someone who’s been left behind, unable to hold on to this person.”
Willis says she got in touch with Goode through Susie Farr, executive director of the Clarice Smith Center, whom she credits as being especially supportive of her fledgling efforts. Willis met with Farr soon after coming to ADI.
“I told her she should be intrepid,” Farr says. “The tendency is to say there isn’t much support for new work in suburban Montgomery County. But when you look at the data, we actually have a large audience.”
Still, Willis doesn’t want to bring in groups that are too off-the-wall. “As long as it is a coherent piece of choreography, we aren’t worried about losing the audience,” she says. “As long as it’s not just being weird to be weird. There’s a lot of modern dance that’s just weird and there’s not a philosophy behind it, no coherence to the work. . . . That’s why it has to be good quality. If we do one piece that’s fringey just to be fringey, I think we’ll lose our audience.”
Word-of-mouth has spread quickly, drawing audiences from the District as well as from Montgomery County. Jane Moya, who works in communications for Freddie Mac, first made the trip from her Dupont Circle home to see Reitz and Rudner a year ago because she wanted “to see something more unusual, not so run-of-the-mill.” Now she’s a regular attendee.