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FALL ARTS 2019: DANCE — Dance is central component in Kennedy Center’s new Reach programming

Mark Morris Dance Group takes inspiration from classic Beatles album



DC dance 2019, gay news, Washington Blade
The Mark Morris Dance Group in ‘Pepperland.’ (Photo by Gareth Jones; courtesy Kennedy Center)

Patrons are invited to celebrate the 10th annual National Dance Day at the Kennedy Center’s  (2700 F St., N.W.) new campus, the Reach, on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 10 a.m.-11 p.m. 

Emmy-winning choreographer and actress Debbie Allen will host the day’s festivities which will include interactive dance routines and lessons, outdoor performances, panel discussions, film screenings, live music and more. Participants can learn the official, nation-wide 2019 National Dance Day routine, created by the American Dance Movement and choreographed by Matt Steffanina, on the Reach’s main stage. 

The Kennedy Center has also crated it’s own line dance routine to tell the history of the Kennedy Center. There will be a panel discussion and performance by dancer Tiler Peck from New York City Ballet. Other events include 16 dance classes taught from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. including Chinese Ribbon dance, tap, salsa, Classical Indian dance, dancehall fusion and more. 

Attendees can also view film screenings from documentaries such as “Ballet Now,” “No Maps on My Taps” and “NY Export: Opus Jazz. This event is part of the Reach’s Opening Festival. Admission is free. For a complete list of events, visit

The Reach at the Kennedy Center presents a screening of “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé,” on Sunday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. The film follows the pop star’s journey of curating and choreographing her 2018 Coachella performance. Admission is free but timed-entry passed are required. The screening is part of the Reach’s opening festival. For more information, visit

D.C. Style Salsa Academy (7014 Westmoreland Ave., Takoma Park, Md.) presents Cuban Styling for Salseros taught by instructor Jonathan Burke on Tuesday, Sept. 24 from 8:30-10 p.m. The class will teach how to incorporate Afro-Cuban and rumba dance styles. Drop-in class pass is $25. Other class packages are available. For more details, visit

The Silver Spring Civic Center (1 Veterans Pl., Silver Spring, Md.) hosts a Salsa and Bachata Block Party on Sunday, Sept. 29 from 1-9 p.m. There will be dance lessons, a block party and more. Dance lessons will include Zumba, kids Latin dance, hip-hop dance fitness, Caribbean dance fitness, salsa lessons and bachata lessons. Admission is free. For more information, visit

The Kennedy Center presents “Merce Cunningham at 100” from Oct. 3-5. The performance will honor the iconic dance choreographer’s works “Beach Birds,” which translates the movement of birds into dance and “BIPED,” which merges technology and dance by incorporating animated images. Robert Swinston, who danced for Cunningham and worked side-by-side with him for over 17 years, now leads Compagnie Centre National de Danse Contemporaine-Angers, keeping Cunningham’s brilliant flame alive with dancers of today. CNDC-Angers performs the two Cunningham masterworks in its Kennedy Center debut. There will be a pre-performance talk on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $25-79. For more details, visit

The AfroCuban D.C. Dance Festival is at the Dance Institute of Washington (3400 14th St., N.W.) from Oct. 11-13. The festival will include dance and music workshops. On Friday, Oct. 11, there will be lessons on percussion in Rumba and Batá followed by an after party at Songbyrd (2475 18th St., N.W.) at 11 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 12, there will be workshops on AfroModern, Female Orisha Dance, Rumba Percussion, Orisha Song and Orisha Dance. Sunday, Oct. 13 will feature lessons on Batá Musicality for Orisha Dancer, Rumba Dance and Orisha Dance. There is a fee for each workshop. Tickets range from $20-125. Visit for more details.

The Washington Ballet presents NEXTsteps, a collection of never-before-seen ballets from choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, John Heginbotham and Jessica Lang, at Sidney Harmon Hall (610 F St., N.W.) from Oct. 23-27. Tickets range from $25-100. For more information, visit

Dancer Gian Carlo Perez in Washington Ballet’s ’NEXTsteps.’ (Photo by Procopio Photography; courtesy Washington Ballet)

The Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company presents “Origins of Modern Dance Salon” at the Woodrow Wilson House (2340 S St., N.W.) on Friday, Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. The performance, which explores how modern dance evolved during the post-WWI era, will include dances and stories about dancers Isadora Duncan and Michio Ito who pioneered this new form of dance. The opening night performance will be followed by a reception. The Sunday performance will include a post-performance talk with Dana Tai Soon Burgess, the openly gay troupe leader. Tickets range from $25-35. For more details, visit

Dancers perform ‘Exploring the Rise of Modern Dance’ by Jeff Watts. (Photo courtesy DTSB Dance Co.)

Mark Morris Dance Group presents “Pepperland,” a dance tribute to the iconic Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” in the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center Nov. 13-16. Along with music composed by Ethan Iverson, the group will dance to Beatles hits such as “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “A Day in the Life,” “When I’m Sixty-Four,” “Within You Without You” and “Penny Lane.” There will also be six additional pieces of music inspired by the album. On Nov. 13, there will be a post-performance talk with the dancers, choreographers, composers and other members of the creative team. Tickets range from $35-99. For more details, visit

Bowen McCauley Dance Company returns to its debut venue Dance Place (3225 8th St., N.E.) on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m and Sunday, Nov. 17 at 4 p.m. Resident choreographer Ilana Goldman will debut her world premiere piece “Crossing.” It will feature music composed for the Kronos Quartet by Stephan Thelen. Other works in the performance will include “Gershwin Preludes” and a surprise work by by Lucy Bowen McCauley. General admission tickets are $25. Senior and student tickets are $15. There will be an opening night after party on Nov. 16 at 9 p.m. with the cast and crew. After party tickets are $25. For more information, visit

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Music & Concerts

Streisand’s ‘Live at the Bon Soir’: Birth of a diva

Album finally released 50 years after being recorded



Album cover for 'Barbara Sreisand: Live at the Bon Soir.'

Happy days are here again!

Sixty years ago, for three nights in November 1962, Columbia Records recorded a young (20-year-old) singer as she performed at the Bon Soir, a small nightclub in Greenwich Village. The singer’s name was Barbra Streisand, and the recording was slated to be her debut album. Streisand wasn’t that widely known then. But as (the character) Miss Marmelstein, Streisand was stopping the show nightly in the Broadway production “I Can Get It for You Wholesale.” After the show’s curtain call, she took a cab to perform at the Bon Soir club, according to the website

But though the recording of Streisand live at the Village club was talked about the way you’d chat about an awesome legend, the album was shelved for more than half a century. Instead of releasing the “Live at the Bon Soir,” Columbia in 1963 released “The Barbra Streisand Album” (which was recorded in a studio) as Streisand’s debut album.

If you’re queer, you know Streisand rules! To the delight of critics, fans and mid-century history aficionados, on Nov. 4, six decades after it was recorded, “Live at the Bon Soir,” wonderfully remastered, was released on vinyl and SACD. It is also available on streaming services.

If you’ve fantasized about spending an intimate evening with Streisand (Barbra singing and engaging in witty repartee for just you and your intimates), “Live at the Bon Soir” is a dream come true. When Streisand says, “I wish there were another word for thank you…I mean, like, anything, you know” and introduces the club audience to her “boyfriend’s suit,” you feel that she’s talking directly to you.

Streisand’s voice is at its youthful, gorgeous best and her one-of-a-spectacular-kind personality comes through in her banter between songs. Listening to the album is an immersive experience. You’re witnessing the birth of a diva.

The album’s 24 tracks range from an indelible version of the torch song “Cry Me a River” to a playful rendition of “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”

One of the best things about “Live at the Bon Soir” is its comprehensive, illuminating liner notes. Produced by Streisand, Martin Erlichman and Jay Landers, the CD of the album is packaged in a hardcover book with 32 pages of historical notes, photos and a message from Streisand. The vinyl version comes with a 12-page booklet. The notes provide insight into not only the making of the album, but of most interest to Streisand devotees, what it was like to perform live at the beginning of her career.

“I had never even been in a nightclub until I sang in one,” Streisand writes in the album’s liner notes about performing at and recording “Live at the Bon Soir.”

“I sang two songs in a talent contest at a little club called the Lion and won,” Streisand adds, “which led to being hired at a more sophisticated supper club around the corner called the Bon Soir, with an actual stage and a spotlight.”

The sound on the restored version of “Live at the Bon Soir” is much better than it was on the original recording.

“The science of recording has made quantum leaps since 1962,” writes Landers on the album’s liner notes, “Grammy Award winning engineer, Jochem van der Saag, has subtly solved audio issues in ways his predecessors could hardly have fathomed.”

Streisand has recorded albums with political and contemporary songs. These recordings are often superb. (Is anything by Streisand ever remotely bad?)

But “Live at the Bon Soir” is a gift to anyone who loves standards from the American song-book – from “I Hate Music” (Leonard Bernstein) to “Right as the Rain” (Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg) to “Come To The Supermarket (in Old Peking)” (Cole Porter) to “Happy Days Are Here Again” (Jack Yellen/Milton Ager).

Even if you’re allergic to show tunes, you’ll be entranced by “Live at the Bon Soir.”

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Music & Concerts

Riding the joy train with Amy Ray

New solo project ‘If It All Goes South’ focuses on healing



Amy Ray’s new solo album ‘If It All Goes South’ is out now. (Photo by Sandlin Gaither)

Whether out singer/songwriter Amy Ray is performing with longtime musical partner Emily Saliers as one half of the Indigo Girls, as she has since the mid-1980s, or going solo as she did with her solo debut “Stag” in 2001, you recognize her instantly. Her distinctive vocal style, which suits whatever genre she’s performing – folk, punk, Americana, or gospel – has become as much her trademark as the outspokenness of her lyrics. 

“If It All Goes South” (Daemon), Ray’s exceptional seventh solo album is a welcome addition to her singular output, touching on themes of queerness and social issues, all performed in her warm and welcoming manner. Amy was gracious enough to make time to talk about the new album around the time of its release. 

BLADE: Before we get to your new album “If It All Goes South,” I wanted to go back in time a little bit. Your 2001 solo debut album “Stag” and its 2005 follow-up “Prom” are firmly rooted in a punk rock/riot grrrl aesthetic. While the Indigo Girls are more than capable of rocking out, did you feel that the songs on those albums wouldn’t have been a good fit for what you do with Emily (Saliers)?

AMY RAY: Yes. I think it was because of two things. One was the collaborators. Those were people I’m a fan of, most of them are people that Daemon Records (Ray’s record label) had an association with, in some way or another. It was kind of like this other camp of people that were different from the collaborators that the Indigos would typically play with. It tended to be more studio accurate, in some ways. As opposed to that punk rock ethic which is music being from a different place, and accuracy maybe being less important than technical prowess.

BLADE: A little more DIY.

RAY: Yeah! And I also think the subject matter, the songs were just a little more singular in a way that was hard to do them as the Indigo Girls and not dilute the message. As soon as you get us together, we really shift the other person’s song, it becomes a duet. The subject matter to me was so specific and gender queer and punk rock edge that it didn’t feel like it would work. At that time, when I wrote (the song) “Lucy Stoners,” Emily wasn’t interested in doing some of those songs. She wasn’t down with the attitude. Now, she would say, I’m sure just knowing her, that [laughs] she’d do it now. Because her attitude has changed. I was hanging out with and influenced by people that were from that DIY movement, and there was lots of gender queer conversation. It was a different place than Emily was in as a gay person. Now, I look back on all of it and I think I was, all the time, reaching around to different collaborations because I love collaborating with different kinds of people. It always teaches me something. It’s also a different itch that I get scratch.

BLADE: In terms of trajectory, to my ear, your most recent three solo albums – 2014’s “Goodnight Tender,” 2018’s “Holler,” and the new one, “If It All Goes South” (Daemon) – in addition to being alphabetically titled, feel like an Americana trilogy. Do you consider them to be linked?

RAY: Yeah. I mean I didn’t say to myself, “This is the third one and then I’ll stop.” But “If It All Goes South” was definitely a record where there was a thread from the other ones and some things that I wanted to achieve that I didn’t feel like I was able to do on the other ones. I think I didn’t even know that until we started making this one. This is more successful at combining a few of my punk-abilly influences into an Americana world. Also, some of that spontaneity we were starting to get on “Holler.” Now that we’ve played together as long as we have as a band, it was at its peak on this record. I think we just needed to make a couple of records to get to that place. I like them all, but for different reasons. They do different things for me. This one gathers up all the loose ends of “Holler” and “Goodnight Tender” musically and ties them up and puts them in a different context, and almost raises the bar. Lyrically, I wanted to have songs that were about healing, a “you’re not alone” kind of vibe, because of the time period that we had just been through. It’s also the same producer (Brian Speiser) on all three, and we’ve worked together on projects. It started off casually – “Hey, I’ve been wanting to do this country record with these songs. Let’s do this together.”

BLADE: Am I reading too much into the album’s title “If It All Goes South,” or is it a play on words, as in “goes south” as a direction and as deterioration?

RAY: You’re not reading too much into it. There’s even more you can read into it, politically. When I was writing (the song) “Chuck Will’s Widow,” Georgia was the epicenter of some big political movement. When Warnock got elected and Abrams declared running for governor again, I was like, “Oh man, I’m in the right place for once.” But we knew it wasn’t always going to be easy. My perspective in that song was a couple things. “If it all goes South, count it as a blessing, that’s where you are.” Yes, it’s directional, and also like, if things get really shitty, try to make the best of it, of course, it’s what you tell your kids all the time.

BLADE: As any Indigo Girls fan or follower of your solo output knows, you have a history of playing well with others, in addition to Emily (Saliers), “If It All Goes South” is no exception with guest vocalists including Brandi Carlile (“Subway”), H.C. McEntire (“Muscadine),” Allison Russell (“Tear It Down”), Natalie Hemby (“From This Room”), and the trio I’m With Her (“Chuck Witt’s Widow”). When you begin the recording process for an album do you have a wish list of musical guests or how does that work?

RAY: I usually have a wish list when I’m writing the song. Alison Brown, she’s part of the band, so I always think about her banjo playing when I’m writing. She doesn’t tour with us, but she’s in the band. I started writing “From This Room” a long time ago, and I started writing it as a duet. I didn’t have anybody in mind at that point, but I hadn’t finished it yet. When I was finishing it for the record, I had just seen Natalie Hemby with The Highwomen and had also just had met her and Emily writes with her sometimes. So, I knew her and I was thinking about her voice. When I wrote “Subway,” in part, in tribute to (the late DJ) Rita Houston, who had been so crucial. She and Brandi Carlile were super close. She really helped develop Brandi’s career in being such an indicator station, getting other people on board. So, I was thinking about Brandi and the chorus vocals that would be there because I was writing kind of an ambitious chorus for me [laughs]. I’m like, “I’m gonna have to have Brandi in here!” For “North Star,” that kind of gospel song at the end, when I wrote it and Jeff Fielder, the guitar player, and I were demoing it, I was like, “This is not right. There’s another ingredient. I don’t know enough about the kind of music I’m trying to write to do it.” I got Phil Cook to come in, as a co-writer really, to finish the song musically. Fill out the chords and make it the gospel song I was trying to write. The only person I wanted to do this was Phil Cook. I am just very specific. Like Sarah Jarosz, on this record in particular I wanted to get a mandolin player and I wanted Sarah to play mandolin. We’re always covering the parts ourselves. Jeff’s a great mandolin player, but Sarah Jarosz is a fucking prodigy [laughs]. … It’s never like a wish list of, “Who’s famous? Who can we get?” It’s more a case of who are these songs geared towards, so that when they come into the studio, you don’t tell them anything, really. They just do what they do great, and it works.

BLADE: You mentioned the late, queer, influential WFUV DJ Rita Houston, and I was wondering what you think the loss of Houston means for new artists?

RAY: It’s a huge hole in the universe of people that would take a new artist and sort of help develop them, take chances at radio, and give people that space. She also was a mentor to artists. She wasn’t ever judging your art by whether you were gay or not, or what color your skin was. … She was a mentor in shared musicality. Being able to trust her and understanding how that taught you about the terrain that you’re in and who you can and can’t trust in that way. 

BLADE: “Subway” ends with the line “This Georgia girl has got it bad for New York.” With that in mind, could there be an Amy Ray or Indigo Girls musical on Broadway at some point in the future?

RAY: [Big laugh] That’s Emily’s territory. She’s working on some things. A couple of different musicals, and I’m not working on them with her. She’s developing two different ones, and I think one of them has actually gotten some traction and some workshopping that’s pretty important. There is a musical that a friend of mine from high school has been writing that’s really interesting and it’s gotten a lot of workshops. It’s still in the early stages. It uses Michelle Malone’s music and my solo music. Then there’s a movie coming out called “Glitter and Doom” which is a movie musical that’s just Indigo Girls music. It’s coming out next year, I think. We’re still working on the final credits song.

BLADE: After the current Indigo Girls tour wraps up, is there a possibility of an Amy Ray solo tour?

RAY: Yeah. We’re booking dates in February for the South. I’ve tried touring in cold places in February, and it’s hard [laughs]. We’ll head up to the North in May.

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Music & Concerts

DC Different Drummers Jazz Band to perform ‘Oasis’

Performance by combo ‘2nd Independence’ scheduled



The DC Different Drummers Jazz Band will perform on Sunday, Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Central Library.

This concert, titled “The Oasis,” will feature the 20-person big band playing jazz pieces in a variety of styles, from swing to bossa nova to jazz fusion and more. There will also be a performance from the improvisational jazz combo, 2nd Independence.

Admission is free and more details are available on the event’s website

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