Being In Space

This last weekend, The PlayGround had an on-site performance at The Kennedy Center for our upcoming performance of Acts of Arriving. We will be performing on the North Plaza, just adjacent to the Watergate Hotel. It is a large space, with lots of straight lines, next to two large buildings, and very open to the big sky above. When we arrived and began to discuss how to situate ourselves in this space, it was somewhat overwhelming. Often, as dancers, we wish we had more space (in the studio we're rehearsing, or the stage we're performing on), but, as they say, too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing.

The challenge with any site-specific, or site-semi-specific performance, is that the site can so easily dominate the performance. You have two choices (at minimum two) - either try to contrast the site to stand out against it, or blend into the site to a certain degree to integrate with it. You can do both in a single performance, of course, or ride the continuum from one end of this spectrum to the other. Some sites are more appropriate to integrate with, and others are more inviting to contrast.

The North Plaza at The Kennedy Center, with its white stone floor and straight lined walls, highly manicured bushes opening to the sky, and its large gold-ish pillars, seems to invite contrast. There are not many details in this place, just a vista with a view. So, we choose to place Acts of Arriving along one of the walls, just over from the Potomac River, with the sky overhead. For the majority of the dance the site will frame our work, without direct interaction or comment.

About two thirds of the way through the performance there is a section in which the dancers spread out to interact with the space more directly. This section is more specifically site-specific. The other Acts of Arriving sites (Mount Rainier/Joe's Movement Emporium, Brookland/Dance Place, and Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park) are rich in details with many areas to explore. The Kennedy Center has space. Plenty of it. But, not many nooks and cranies to explore. Thankfully, we were able to find three serparate spaces for the dancers to create something specific, and unique.

Here is a short video of Daniela and Anthony exploring thier spaces:


Sherry's Neighborhood

As part of our ongoing research for Acts of Arriving, we are holding creative workshops at four DC area sites in partnership with other organizations: Mount Rainier/Joe's Movement Emporium, Brookland/Dance Place, Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park/Washington Parks and People, and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In these drop-in workshops we are offering visual art, writing and mapping, and movement sessions, along with mini-performances of dance and music. On September 13th we offered one of our creative workshops at Monroe St Market in Brookland during their farmers' market. Unfortunately it was raining, so there was a light turn-out, but we had a number of people pop into Dance Place's Studio 21 to partake in our offerings.

Here is Sherry showing her drawing of a neighborhood she grew up in and some of the things that made it a home for her:

Find out more about Acts of Arriving workshops and performances HERE


The Smell of a Place

A little over three weeks ago my family and I left DC with a loaded down car and moved north to Milwaukee. We had lived in the same house for over 10 years (packing was a trial), and I had (mostly) lived in the DC area for the last twenty years. My wife and daughter have lived their whole lives in Maryland. It is a time of big change and transition.

We knew where we were going - we had already found a place to live. When we arrived I was struck by the smell of the place. It wasn't bad nor good, it just didn't smell like home.

Smells are, as we all know, powerful indicators of place, or memories, they are vital to our sensation of taste. Holding our nose as we take a bite of something drastically changes its taste. A smell of a certain perfume can remind one of someone you haven't thought of in years. For myself, I know there is a certain cleaning product my mother always used and whenever I smell it, as it is fairly common, I am instantly reminded of the house I grew up in. 

We also connect certain smells to different cultures or places. I know the smell of my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, or think of Bali with a certain flowery smell I remember. Smell is a primal sense that ties deeply into our subconscious. It is direct communication.

So, since we arrived, and since our stuff has arrive, we have been busy unpacking, arranging, and cleaning. Every once in a while I have paused and noticed this house's smell. It hasn't changed, is more familiar, but still not my smell.

Yesterday I was out in the garage working on boxes as my daughter rode her bike up and down the street. I had to run back inside for something, and for the first time since we moved into this house my wife was cooking to make dinner. The aroma of the cooking hit me, directly. And in that moment, as clear as the sky, I thought, "This is what home smells like".

Meet Anthony!

Meet Anthony - not only does he create and perform with The PlayGround, but he works for the Turnaround Arts program for the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, which uses the arts to help narrow the achievement gap, increase student engagement, and improve the culture and climate in the country's highest poverty schools. He also teaches color guard clinics across the country (you'll see him do some color guard work in Acts of Arriving!), is a counselor for Tau Beta Sigma (a national honorary band sorority), and is a little bit of a Star Wars fanatic (just a little...).

Acts of Arriving - Anthony's Solo from Daniel Burkholder/The PlayGround on Vimeo.