THERE'S PLENTY OF DANCE here in the Washington area; it just needs to be recognized, says Kristen Brogdon, manager of dance programming administration at the Kennedy Center. That's where the Metro DC Dance Awards come in. Founded with the intention of igniting greater awareness of dance throughout Washington and suburban Maryland and Virginia, the awards honor choreographers; dancers; costume, lighting, sound and media designers; artistic directors and educators. "This is a chance to help people step back and see what is happening in the community and to really celebrate that," says Brogdon, who was on the founding steering committee of the awards program.
In its fourth year, the Metro DC Dance Awards is a rare chance to see such a large segment of the local dance community together. On Monday at the Terrace Theater of the Kennedy Center, much of the area dance community will be on hand. It's a chance for dancers and dance lovers alike to take stock of the year's works.
"When I came here six years ago," Brogdon reflects, "while the [dance] community was very strong, there wasn't any unifying force behind it. . . . Missing was the sense of celebration and excitement about everything that was happening. To a certain extent, people were busy in their own studios making their own work." The curtain will rise Monday on a program that showcases some of the year's most productive companies: Arachne Aerial Arts, Dana Tai Soon Burgess and Company, Ludovic Jolivet, Tappers With Attitude, Tiempo de Tango, Young Dancers of the Washington Ballet and Ziva's Spanish Dance Ensemble will perform. Movers and shakers in the area dance community will open the envelopes and announce winners in 14 categories.
This year with 231 nominations, competition was tough. From June 1, 2003, through May 31, anyone who saw a dance concert could make a nomination in any of 13 categories. After nominations were compiled, a group of 150 professionals in the field narrowed them to five in each category. Finally, an 11-member selection committee voted by secret ballot. Just watching the finalists in each category, the selection committee viewed nearly 100 hours of dance, either live performances or videotapes, before voting.
The same 150 artists who narrowed the nominations selected Liz Lerman to receive the Alan M. Kriegsman Award for lifetime achievement and service to the field. Lerman, founding artistic director of the internationally renowned Dance Exchange, a MacArthur "genius grant" recipient and a leader in innovative contemporary dance and community arts, has been making dances and teaching in Washington since 1975.
For Brogdon, the dance awards provide a snapshot of the dance happenings in and around the District. "I think there is a great sense of history in the community," she says. "But there are also a lot of fresh ideas that are coming from people who are moving into the area." That's D.C. dance. The envelope, please.
METRO DC DANCE AWARDS -- Monday at 7:30 at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. 202-467-4600 or www.kennedy-center.org.