“People feel like they should be understanding everything about dance,” says Jennifer Lane, 56, a former dancer and elementary school principal-intern who lives in Rockville. But since a healthy dose of mystery is often part of what experimental artists offer, at ADI “they really make a big point of helping people put the work into context.” Lane attends with her boyfriend who, she says, knew nothing about dance until he saw David Dorfman last year “and he — shockingly — really loved it a lot.” The pre-show talk helped, where the message was: You see what you see, and that’s okay.
While ADI is building its audience, it has also launched two “incubator” programs to help build new work. Metro Incubator offers local artists eight months of rehearsal space and a public showing; this year’s recipients are Erica Rebollar, Karen Reedy and Vincent Thomas. The National Incubator Program is designed to put the finishing touches on a work-in-progress; it gives four groups a week of rehearsal space, unlimited use of the technical crew, help with travel costs, lodging, a per diem and a public showing.
Jane Comfort will be one of the incubator artists next fall (the others are Brian Brooks Moving Company, Doug Elkins Choreography Etc., which is performing at ADI April 13-14, and Rashaun Mitchell & Silas Riener). She’s eager to use the week to try out something she has had in mind for a new dance. She envisions clouds of water vapor cascading down the walls of the theater, lit “so it’s like the way you see mist in the morning.”
In the past, Comfort would have had to shelve her vision. How could she afford to work out the engineering of beautifully lit mist, when studio time for the dancing was costly enough?
“You get into the mechanics of it and you say, ‘Oh well, it was just an idea,’ ” she says. “But I’d just like to try it, and maybe it only happens at ADI. It could be a disaster. But maybe that would happen on a Tuesday and we’d have the rest of the week.” The incubator program “allows you to dream.”
Willis has also launched plans for a multiyear program of Israeli dance, with support from the Israeli Embassy. New York-based ZviDance, founded by Israeli-born Zvi Gotheiner, is the first installment, with performances May 4-5. Willis hopes to invite artists from Israel to ADI next year.
“The more we can bring audiences in and be comfortable with what they’re seeing, we can grow the audience,” she says. She looks out onto the road in front of her building, a road that has already carried its commuters off to their jobs and lies empty this recent morning.
“I’m a dreamer,” Willis says. “If you get people into the space, nothing can compete with that experience.”
American Dance Institute presents the Joe Goode Performance Group, March 2 at 7:30 p.m. and March 3 at 2 p.m. $15-$30.