Do You Have a Taste for the Atypical?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Despite the title, the Warehouse Theater's monthly event known as the Dinner Party doesn't have a thing to do with haute cuisine or compelling conversation: It's an evening of experimental dance, performance art, music and film.

But there's something to that title. If it were a dinner party, it would be like dining with Anthony Bourdain. The fare is challenging, and your palate had better be honed.

The night we went, one woman performed a work about Hurricane Katrina that flitted from hymns to dance to spoken word. A trio of men improvised comedy around the subject of Jell-O. And then, the giggle: A dancer surrounded by several workout balls scrawled a smiley face on one and held it high in the air -- a pas de deux with a workout ball.

Three professional dancers, Ilana Silverstein, Lotta Lundgren and Amanda Abrams, organize the Dinner Party, and the evening -- which lasts about two hours -- can lean heavily toward dance. But it's their hope to offer a space for a mix of artists to test works-in-progress and push boundaries. There are no sparkly costumes, no fancy sets.

"This is the type of performance we would wish for ourselves," says Lundgren, a dancer with Daniel Burkholder/the PlayGround.

But the Dinner Party shouldn't be confused with an open mike. The organizers "curate" the events, choosing eight to 12 acts after putting out an open call. (The e-mail list of about 200 people might account for the crowd; the space was nearly full the night we went.) Afterward, the artists have to face the music: The audience is invited to offer feedback and ask questions.

Says Lundgren: "Initially, I wanted it to be for the artists, to try to get artists to see how their work is being perceived." Perhaps it's just a bonus, but the audience is pretty entertained, too.

Admission is $5. The Dinner Party is Tuesday at 8 p.m. sharp. Warehouse Theater, 1021 Seventh St. NW. or 202-783-3933.

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