Dance Place turns 25 this year, and for 19 years the organization has made its home on Eighth Street NE in Brookland. Renovations to the former industrial building have been modest -- meeting the needs of a busy schedule of performances and classes but hardly suggesting a ripe target for thieves.
Yet burglars targeted Dance Place early last year, stealing eight office computers, including the server that backed up data. It was a disruptive blow, says co-director Deborah Riley, affecting everything from fundraising and marketing to public relations and basic daily communications.
The company, a not-for-profit with an annual budget of less than $1 million, added an alarm system, and operations eventually got back to normal.
Last month, as Dance Place was gearing up for its largest annual event, the Dance Africa DC festival, the same office was ransacked again. Riley's and a publicist's computers were stolen, along with a printer and digital camera.
"It makes all of us angry," says Riley.
Having to deal with insurance claims, changing locks, cleaning up the aftermath -- all taxed an overstretched staff, especially as the African festival neared, Riley says.
"We don't notify our maintenance department," she adds. "We are the maintenance department."
But Riley also notes that all staff members are dancers, who have an innate ability "to put one foot in front of the other and go forward -- take that next step."
And so she prefers not to dwell on the loss and disruption. Dance Place's nearly two decades in Brookland, after starting out in Adams Morgan, have been positive, says Riley.
"It's a nice little neighborhood," she says. "We're not going to let this keep us from doing what we offer here."
As much as a small arts organization may reel from theft, any place in the city can be a target if it lacks adequate security, says 5th District Detective Steve Dekelbaum. "If people had the chance to break into the Smithsonian," he says, "they would."
Outdoor Film Options
Screen on the Green kicks off its seventh season of movies on the Mall on Monday with "The Way We Were," followed by "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" on July 25, "Suspicion" on Aug. 1, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" on Aug. 8 and "The Big Sleep" on Aug. 15.
But if the thought of Mall crowds is discouraging -- organizers project a turnout of at least 20,000 for each film -- or if the lineup leaves you desiring something with a little more bite, perhaps Screen on Stead is the right alternative for you.
Here's the litmus test: A mostly gay crowd of 700 or so watching "Mommie Dearest," gleefully screaming along with Faye Dunaway as an unhinged Joan Crawford: "No . . . wire . . . hangers . . . EVER!"
That was the scene at Screen on Stead last month. If it sounds like your cup of tea, note that the series continues Wednesday with "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and wraps up Aug. 17 with a film to be determined by votes cast at www.screenonstead.org from the choice of "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," "But I'm a Cheerleader," "Grease," "9 to 5" or "The Women."
Screen on Stead, which is held in Stead Park near Dupont Circle, is sponsored by the Washington D.C. Center for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People. The center, which opened in rented quarters near Thomas Circle in February, provides meeting space for community groups and a resource library and will soon open a computer lab. Programs also include quarterly art exhibits.
Center President Michael Sessa says everyone is welcome at Screen on Stead: "We're inclusive, not exclusive."
The center was pursuing a deal with the District to lease Stead Park and build a new facility on the site. Neighborhood opposition to the proposal has been vocal, however, and Sessa says plans for a new building are now "on the back burner."
Screen on the Green on the Mall between Fourth and Seventh streets NW. Mondays at sundown through Aug. 15. Free. Call 877-262-5866 or visit www.aolcityguide.com/washington/screenonthegreen.
Screen on Stead at Stead Park, P Street between 16th and 17th streets NW. Wednesday at sundown. Free. Call 202-682-2245 or visit www.thedccenter.org.