Hello! Dance is a performance art form. At some point the art form needs to go to that next step, to the theater. To make that step possible, Michelle Miller and KT Niehoff, who cofounded Velocity in 1996, have incorporated Velocity's Main Space as a nonprofit. With their board they've raised over $20,000 toward the physical improvements needed to make a theater out of a really big room.
Dancers have rather peculiar requirements when it comes to performance space: a level, resilient, splinter-free floor (not too sticky, not too slick), wide enough to be able to get a run going, deep enough so two or three people won't collide; a ceiling high enough that you don't crack your head when you're lifted; generous offstage space; a seating area on risers so people can see movement on the floor as well as at eye level; power for stage lights; speakers for sound.
If you want something like this, you usually have to make it yourself, which is what the directors of the Velocity Studio at the Odd Fellows Hall are in the process of doing. They've installed a lighting grid overhead, and there will be four full curtains on each side, an enhanced sound system, and, most importantly, enough room to dance without feeling like you're in a box.
Velocity will continue to host a quarterly works-in-progress showcase, Under Construction, and they'll also keep their Bridge Project running, offering rehearsal space and a small stipend to choreographers for a three-week period with a showing at the end. With their newly refurbished digs they can add a performance element to their guest-artist workshops and residencies as well, so we can see what happens when someone's ideas move from the studio to the stage.
Miller and Niehoff hope to program a regular series of local choreography in the future. "It's a legitimizing factor," says Niehoff. "There's something about self-production. Being produced just feels more legit."
Goodbye! When Shirley Jenkins first opened Dance on Capitol Hill in 1987, her goal was to create a studio and performance space for the community, and through most of its history, that's what it was. DoCH has been a home for everything from ballet to belly dancing, offering classes, presenting informal showings and small scale performances, teaching inner city kids in summer dance camps, and subsidizing rehearsal space for young choreographers. Sometimes the work was great, sometimes less so, but most of the time it was a good place to dance and a good place to see dancing.
The studio went through some hard times over the last couple of years, though, and David Sparenberg, the current director, finally decided to look for someone else to take over the organization, perhaps moving it in a different direction but still keeping the basic commitment to the dance community. When he approached Anthony Manuel, a teacher at DoCH and director of Fusion Dance Company, it looked like that might be able to happen. But the process stalled and then disintegrated. What people had hoped would be an orderly transition has fallen apart, with bad feelings and a fair bit of vitriol on all sides. DoCH has asked for a grace period, to wind up its business and earn a bit of money towards settling its debts—and as of this writing it's unclear if Fusion, the new tenant as of September 1, will grant that favor.
Beyond the accusations and financial difficulties is a sadder kind of accounting: Teachers who had thought their autumn classes would start this week are unsure of their status. The artists who were thinking of auditioning for the autumn production of Choreofest probably won't have that venue. And an organization that has been an active part of the dance community has, partially through their own fault, come to an abrupt and unhappy end.