The week-long festival, which begins Sunday, is the center’s grand experiment in taking performances out of its halls and into places where crowds can stumble onto them, almost serendipitously, and find themselves drawn into the action.
With hipster marching bands, jugglers, dancers and high-flying aerialists, the free festival will be innately family friendly. The key, says Garth Ross, the center’s vice president of community engagement, is to take “the art outside to the community. We want to step outside our own walls.”
The first performers — stilt walkers, jugglers and a mildly garish plush thing known as Mouth Monster — make their debut not in the Kennedy Center’s lush Opera House or Eisenhower Theater, but somewhere amid the vintage purses, rhinestone necklaces and poster art of Eastern Market.
On another evening, a San Francisco-based dance troupe will fly high above the city in a performance staged on the side of a historic building. And on the final day, contemporary artist Nick Cave will give a rare performance with a group of talented local dancers. In between, office workers can immerse themselves in “Lunchtime Invasions” in Farragut Square and mingle with the Yo-Yo People. (The “invasions” are just one of the mini-series within the festival.)
“It’s going to be this amazing collection of the greatest performers from all over the country,” says Molly Ross, director of the Baltimore company Nana Projects, which will stilt-walk its way through two shows during the week. “People in D.C., you’re going to almost feel like you’ve got whiplash. Every time you turn around, you’re going to see something that’s going to make you want to stop and watch.”
Below, we take a look at some of the performers about to capture audiences on Washington’s streets, in its parks — even in the skies. (For a full schedule, see Page 24.)
Eyes on the skies
It could well be the most daring feat ever attempted at a government building: a half-dozen would-be Spideys and a jazz musician will scale the iconic Old Post Office Pavilion building in little more than modified rock-climbing gear and put on a graceful, modern ballet nearly 300 feet in the air.
“While we dance in theaters, on the ground, in the air, on structures, on sculptures and on climbing walls, we specialize in dancing on buildings,” says Amelia Rudolph, artistic director of Project Bandaloop.
The San Francisco-based dance company, which has leapt from glass towers in Mumbai, the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York and Seattle’s Space Needle, will add the 19th-century Washington building to its list of conquests next week when it stages its full-length work “Bound(less)” on its surface. Musician Dana Leong, who provides the score, will be hoisted up right along with the dancers.