Metro Weekly

Kennedy Center presents citywide festival “Direct Current: A Celebration of Contemporary Art”

Two of the biggest attractions to come in the festival's first week are Taylor Mac and Damian Woetzel

Taylor Mac — Photo: Teddy Wolff

The Kennedy Center presents the first edition of Direct Current: A Celebration of Contemporary Art, a planned annual festival, a two-week, citywide celebration of contemporary art and culture — with an emphasis on events that are multidisciplinary, new to D.C., and address topical concerns.

Among its other notable developments, the inaugural Direct Current presents the long-overdue Kennedy Center debut of composer Philip Glass, who performs twice: On Friday, March 9, at 8 p.m., he will offer 20 Etudes: A 5-Pianist Performance along with Jason Moran, Aaron Diehl, Devonte Hynes, and Jenny Lin; and on Friday, March 16, at 8 p.m., marks the Kennedy Center debut of Koyaanisqatsi: Film & Music, the multimedia collaboration between experimental filmmaker Godfrey Reggio and Glass, whose eponymous ensemble will render the score live with the Washington Chorus.

But two of the biggest attractions to come in the festival’s first week are Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Abridged) on Tuesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. A New York-based artist who performs in gender-ambiguous conceptual drag, Taylor Mac began developing this show, which the self-identified genderqueer artist refers to as a “performance art concert,” several years ago.

Built around songs that chronicle our country from its founding in 1776 to today, the work was originally performed in New York in 2016 as a one-time, nonstop, 24-hour event. Mac has since developed a condensed version, offering an immersive and entertaining crash course in American culture and dysfunction — with a clear LGBTQ bent.

Demo by Damian Woetzel: Now on Wednesday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m. is also worth noting. A former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet recently named the next president of the Juilliard School, Woetzel offers a program featuring some of today’s most creative voices in dance and music. The one-night-only concert includes Blueprint, a world-premiere commission choreographed by Pam Tanowitz and danced by Patricia Delgado, Victor Lozano, and Jason Collins, and set to music by Caroline Shaw to be played by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider.

The program also includes: Fandango, Alexei Ratmansky’s work set to the music of Boccherini and danced by NYCB star Sara Mearns; Orbit, a rarely seen solo work by Memphis street dance pioneer Lil’ Buck and set to the music of Philip Glass; Solo for Patti, a work by Tanowitz for former Miami City Ballet dancer Delgado; Dig the Say, a duet created and danced by Lil’ Buck and fellow Memphis jooker Ron Myles and set to a score by Vijay Iyer; and Desire Liar featuring former Merce Cunningham Dance performers and modern dance luminaries Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener and set to Glenn Kotche’s Ping Pong Fumble Thaw. There will also be additional musical performances by Shaw and Brooklyn Rider, plus classical guitarist Scott Borg and jazz percussionist Savannah Harris.

There will also be two piano recitals at the Phillips Collection, both structured as personal responses to the gallery’s current exhibition Ten Americans After Klee: Jason Moran on Thursday, March 8, at 5:30 p.m., and Myra Melford on Friday, March 9, at 5:30 p.m. Another off-site attraction on Friday, March 9, at 10 p.m., takes place at Dupont Underground, where the Washington Chorus and DJ Justin Reed will perform a centuries- and genre-spanning mash-up, Madrigals Meet Minimalism Pop-Up Party.

Direct: Current runs to March 19. For full details on all the performances and pricing, call 202-467-4600 or visit

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.