MARCH 19, 2014
I stood in the hallway Sunday afternoon at the Anacostia Arts Center with a silly grin on my face, thinking this place is kind of incredible. The glass fronted, airiness about the space is so bright and full of light, you just can’t help but smile. But maybe I was just picking up on what everyone there seemed to be filled with, it was almost gleeful. I know I sound a little corny, but if you’ve been there then you know what I’m talking about.
When I arrived I was greeted by two extremely cheery fellows who were eager to fill me in on all that the center had to offer: boutiques, art instillations, classes (in progress that afternoon), galleries, the Nürish Bar and Cafe, and lots of wide open, inviting space. Oh, and a black box theatre, which was the reason I was there.
At precisely 3pm one of the cheery gentleman announced that the house was open, an unassuming door swung open, and the audience walked through to find a seat. The black box at Anacostia Arts Center is an intimate space, but for Kelly King, Artistic Director of Contradiction Dance, the space serves her purpose absolutely. Kelly is there to start a conversation with her audience, and that she does, literally. Contradiction Dance, a hybrid, mash-up of theatre and movement, is primarily focused on experiential performances that evoke self-reflection and discussion. Walk a Mile, King’s latest collaborative effort with Melissa-Leigh Bustamante, and Ben Drexler, ignites this experience from the top of the show. Walk a Mile is feel-good, witty dialogue, paired with smooth and energized choreography. Like I said, the smiles are infectious in this place, and you can’t even look a dancer in the face without the smile being passed forward. (At one point I even thought back to those cheery dudes out in the hallway, and I’m still not convinced they weren’t part of the show).
Walk a Mile is described as “a dance-based theatre experience about shoes and the creatures who wear them.” Well, that is true. It is about shoes, and modern dance, and zombies (yep), but this production serves a very personal purpose, as well. As a mother of three children, King intended to sit this year out in order to focus a bit more on her family. That didn’t last long. She was offered performance space, her daughter was eager to return to dance and join her on stage, and before long King was calling her company together again to start this new journey. You know, things happen, and families understand.
King speaks about Walk a Mile as if it were necessary, and the notion of art becoming necessary is something I keep returning to. How do we make the visual or performing arts vital? How do we make it an intrinsic or native retreat, like listening to music, or reading a book, or checking Facebook before you go to bed at night? For Kelly King, it is clear that dance is all of these things, and her mission is to make it infectious. This piece grew out of a personal need to create and seize some unforeseen opportunities. What is so happenstance is that through this process Walk a Mile becomes necessary to the audience, as well. It almost illuminates you and keeps you bright through the rest of your day. It encourages a frank dialogue between artist and audience not ordinarily experienced in dance or theatre; others should sit up and take notice.
So I encourage you to walk this mile and have this conversation with Contradiction Dance. When you step through that black box door, you enter their world, so lean into it, soak it up, and smile; it’s simple, but something we forget to do. And don’t worry, if you get lost, Carlos will explain everything.