District of Dance

Modern Moves Festival celebrates local contemporary dance

”Our intent,” says Carla Perlo of Dance Place, ”is to shed light on the fact that yes, we have world-class companies that have chosen to make Washington, D.C., their home.”

In fact, all 12 companies participating in the Dance Place-organized Modern Moves Festival, running this weekend at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, regularly tour nationally and internationally. ”They’re famous touring companies,” Perlo says, ”and then they come home and they don’t always get the same respect.”

These companies, including Bowen McCauley Dance, Dance Exchange and Company E, consider Dance Place a home venue. This leading local dance organization’s main venue, in the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast Washington, is closed this year, undergoing renovation and expansion. Modern Moves is just one of several festival-type events Perla developed as transitional programming during the renovation.

”I think we have programmed a very exciting, well-balanced program that showcases some of Washington’s best,” Perlo says. Included in the two programs are at least three LGBT-led companies: Christopher K. Morgan & Artists and Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company — both performing Saturday, Jan. 4 — and VTDance/Vincent E. Thomas, performing Sunday, Jan. 5.

The dance scene in Washington has grown significantly in the 33 years since Washington-native Perlo started Dance Place, soon after college. She saw it as her only ticket to staying in D.C. ”I didn’t feel that it would be right for me to have to move to New York in order to work in my field,” she says. And today’s burgeoning D.C. dance scene is collaborative, not competitive. For example, the Atlas, which offers its own dance programming in its now decade-old venue, is hosting Dance Place’s Modern Moves festival.

But Perlo is equally pleased by the recent revitalization of Dance Place’s Metro-centered Brookland home base, which now includes a visual arts space, Studio 21. Dance Place will lead a series of community-wide events during its grand opening festivities in September. ”You’ll have to come and see what’s going on here,” Perlo says. ”It’s marvelous.”

The Modern Moves Festival runs Saturday, Jan. 4, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Jan. 5, at 4 p.m., at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Call 202-399-7993 or visit atlasarts.org or danceplace.org.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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