‘Visiting Wolf Trap National Park for Summer Dance’ by Carolyn Kelemen

Wolf Trap National Park is the perfect place to spend a summer evening. The setting is serene, and the music seems to shimmer with the stars. You’re always invited to bring a picnic or indulge in some light edibles from the concession (wine is available or you can bring your own). Then it’s just ‘sit back, relax, and enjoy a concert.’

Company in 'Batucada Fantástica.' Photo by Rosalie O’Connor.

Last Tuesday was one of those memorable evenings of music and dance on the Filene Center stage. Ballet Hispanico performed an all-Cuban program, reminding us how live modern dance touches us in ways like no other art can do.

Founded in 1970, the company is recognized around the world as the foremost interpreter of Hispanic culture in the US. Kicking off the Wolf Trap program, Pedro Ruiz’s Guajira paid tribute to women working in the fields, while his closing piece, Club Havana, showcased the sophistication of city life. Both works are rooted in the rich cultural history of the island country so near yet still so far from our American shores.

Director Eduardo Vilaro (who took over the reigns soon after his mentor Tina Ramirez retired in 2009) celebrated Cuban-American salsa queen Celia Cruz in Asuka, the first piece he created for the company. This piece showcases the talented dancers in a work more daring than the program offered in Columbia a few years back.

Since the New York-based contemporary dance troupe has come and gone , and there’s no word on the next local performance, let’s turn to two noteworthy dance shows in July.

Bill T. Jones. Photo by Andrea Mohin/The New York Times.

Bill T. Jones has been wowing audiences for nearly 30 years with his emotionally compelling, visually arresting, and forward-looking choreography. He has graced the cover of Time Magazine, was honored at the Kennedy Center, earned a MacArthur Fellowship, picked up two Tony Awards for his Broadway choreography, and created more than 50 new works for his company – which still bears the name of his longtime personal and professional partner, the late Arnie Zane.

We’ve watched this master dancer/choreographer/teacher/poet create works that ran the gamut from the controversial Still/Here, created from a unique community outreach program of what Jones calls “survival workshops,” to a new kind of dance program, spontaneously reacting to a combination of film excerpts and computer-generated movements.

Dance fans may remember his spoof of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, presented at Lisner Auditorium, where the dancers stripped naked during the finale. I’m also a fan of his early avant-guard dances and would be thrilled to see him revive D-Man in the Water for the Wolf Trap engagement. Or anywhere his company performs.

Now he’s back in our area with a repertory that will include the D.C. premiere of Story/Time, which was inspired by the music of John Cage. Expect live music to accompany the dancers.

The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company performs at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts’ Filene Center Tuesday, July 31, at 8:30 p.m. In-house tickets are $40, but you can sit on the lawn (and see from any blanket) for only $4.00. Check out a master dance class in the Filene Center Rehearsal Studio Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. Participation is $15.00; observation $7.00.

A performance at Children's-Theatre-in-the-Woods. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.

If you are looking to do something special with the kids outdoors this summer, nothing tops Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods. Presented by the Wolf Trap Foundation and the National Park Service, this much-loved venue (dozens of shows this summer, each 45 minutes in length) is geared for children between Kindergarten and 6th grade.

And, it’s so nice to stroll through the woods, picnic in the meadow, or hang out at the Educational Center nearby.

For dance fans of all ages, check out the Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington presenting The Secrets of Ballet at the Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods Friday and Saturday mornings, July 20 and 21, at 10:30 a.m.

Wolf Trap folks recommend that patrons purchase tickets in advance as performances quickly sell out. Tickets are $8.00

The Filene Center. Photo courtesy of Wolf Trap.

Only three miles from the Beltway, the Filene Center is located off exit 15 on the westbound Dulles Toll Road (Rt. 267), which can be reached via I-495. Or take the Metro. Directions are here.

The Barns at Wolf Trap, 1635 Trap Rd., Vienna, VA. 22182:
An indoor 380 seat winter/spring performance venue (Late September – Early May) and summer home of the Wolf Trap Opera Company.

The Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, 1551 Trap Rd., Vienna, VA. 22182.

Wolf Trap Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods, 1551 Trap Rd., Vienna, VA. 22182:
(Season runs Late June – Early August)



  1. Carolyn, Thank you for such a well written review. I simply love your articles! Looking forward to your future comments.

  2. Great reporting. Very helpful in trying to decide whether to brave weather, traffic, inertia and enjoy dance. Very convincing!

  3. Thank you very much for introducing us to such detailed information about the Wolf Trap National Park. It really seems like a great summer event and I would love to go.


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