Near the new Connecticut Avenue terminus of Metro's Red Line, there is a new theater that promises some relief for Washington's performing groups in need of an ample proscenium stage with a house of moderate size and good sight lines. It is the Performing Arts Auditorium on the University of the District of Columbia's Van Ness campus, and last night it received its professional dance christening by the Jason Taylor Company.
The dance group is well-known in Washington for its jazzy, mild mix of ballet and modern dance. Two novel pieces on an otherwise familiar program were Jason Taylor's "Solo for Woman," a thin, moody vehicle for Alyson Lang as a dancer who auditions for and conquers Taylor, as the on-stage observer; and Jimmy Thurston's "Ghost," revived from 1978. Thurston's ghost horde, like that in Lar Lubovitch's 1970 "Whirligogs," stalks to Luciano Berio's "Sinfonia," but more pedantically. On this occasion it was the place, not the show, that was foremost.
Like the campus with its catwalks, holds and decks at different levels, the new theater has the air of a ship. Walls and ceiling panels are whitewashed; the seats, front curtain and some lobby metalwork are a vivid red. Wooden grillwork on the back wall of the auditorium and across the balcony's bow adds another color and texture.
There are 941 seats, and only those in the first four rows upstairs have a slightly obstructed view because of the balcony railing. Down in the orchestra, one can see the stage floor from even the front row. And, that floor is said to be sufficiently sturdy for scenery, yet comfortably pliant for dancers. Welcome!