Damian Woetzel, a former New York City Ballet star and the incoming president of The Juilliard School, loves bringing together different kinds of artists. It was he, for instance, who introduced famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma to Lil Buck, master of a street-dance style called Memphis jookin. The meeting sparked an ongoing collaboration, not to mention a viral video that landed Lil Buck a role in Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl halftime show.
Lil Buck is among the performers that Woetzel is assembling at the Kennedy Center on Wednesday for “DEMO by Damian Woetzel: Now,” a Direct Current program showcasing collaborations between some of the most innovative dancers, musicians, composers and choreographers working today.
Known for his fluid movements and rolling footwork, Lil Buck (real name: Charles Riley) will showcase Memphis jookin techniques in a piece called “Orbit” that features music written by minimalist composer Philip Glass especially for Lil Buck. Another program highlight: Sara Mearns, one of the New York City Ballet’s most electric soloists, will perform a contemporary dance called “Fandango,” in which she ends up dancing with the onstage string quartet, Brooklyn Rider, Woetzel says.
“As [choreographer] Alexei Ratmansky was working on this piece, he thought, ‘I don’t just want the musicians in the pit. I want them to be a part of this,’ ” Woetzel says. Luckily, the quartet was happy to take on the challenge.
“Brooklyn Rider are really dedicated to collaborations across all of the arts, which really goes into the theme of this program,” Woetzel says.
The group will accompany most of the program’s dances, playing a range of music including a classical work by 18th-century composer Luigi Boccherini and a new piece by Caroline Shaw, a modern, experimental composer who has also collaborated with Kanye West.
“Caroline is not only performing an existing work, but she’s going to share with us a work in progress, a commission she is doing for my Vail Dance Festival this summer,” Woetzel says.
Though some of the program’s dances have been performed once or twice before, they are all fairly new, and many are still evolving, Woetzel says.
“The choreographers are speaking new languages of movement, the music is hot off the presses, and we are going to watch these artists as they take these dances and put them on their bodies, right in front of us,” he says. “Anything can happen!”
Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW; Wed., 7:30 p.m., $39-$49.