Velocity DC Dance’s seventh annual festival looked exclusive and at times exquisite when it opened Thursday night. Ten dance troupes, couples and solo artists performed on the Harman Center for the Arts stage, and there wasn’t a dud among the bunch.
Velocity was founded in 2009 by a coalition of D.C. arts groups looking to emulate New York’s annual Fall for Dance, a low-cost festival featuring an array of companies. As past Velocity attendees can attest, however, the quality of festival performances usually varies, with at least one number that causes audiences to cringe.
Not this year. The organizers — including Washington Performing Arts, the Shakespeare Theatre and Dance Metro D.C. — spread the word farther and deeper in the dance community, and they received more than 120 applicants for roughly two-dozen slots as a result. Thursday’s excellent line-up repeats Friday night, while a fresh slate of companies dance on Saturday.
Yet to say Washington boasts 20 strong dance companies isn’t accurate; many standouts were independent artists, duos or offshoots of dance schools. Newcomers Gavin Stewart and Vanessa Owen offered an intricate modern pas de deux that was intimate but not erotic. The best solo effort of the night featured Annielille Gavino-Kollman, another first-time Velocity artist, performing dressed as a French mime. She’s obviously a strong technician, cleverly turning tight spins into backward rolls, but she interrupted her own Marcel Marceau jokes by smearing white paint onto her face, and turning the suite into a smart commentary in support of immigration.
The best ensemble efforts included SOLE Defined, a percussive group that effectively fused tap and stepping footwork with call-and-response vocalizations. Longtime D.C.-based choreographer Christopher K. Morgan worked with a larger and stronger pick-up troupe than usual to present “Selective Sync,” a piece notable for both its nine-dancer unison movement and standout solos.
Although the American Dance Institute recently closed its school, much to the dismay of many, a handful of local dancers are still working with choreographer Runqiao Du, and under the “Ballet ADI” moniker they presented an excerpt from his “Blank Canvas.” The young female dancers performing this uptempo movement with lots of tricky petite allegro included Maggie Kudirka, a Howard County native who was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer last year, when she was just 23. If her debut on the Velocity’ s stage doesn’t inspire hope in the Washington-area dance community, than nothing else ever will.
Ritzel is a freelance writer.