In the Moment: Chamber Dance Project Prepares for 2015 Summer Season at The Lansburgh

Who wouldn’t find it fascinating to listen to a performing artist describe a path to creativity to “put myself in a box as a way to take on a task or a new problem. Then to force myself to go and find new directions to get out of the box; just to continually push and push myself to find my way out until I do.”

Diane Coburn Bruning: Choreographerand Artistic Director of the  Chamber Dance Project.
Diane Coburn Bruning: Choreographer and Artistic Director of the Chamber Dance Project.

Add in a fervent desire “to break creative and conceptual bounds in an intense collaboration” with dancers, musicians and the audience as well as to step-out to go beyond the tried-and-true. These are some of the “take-aways” from a recent conversation with Diane Coburn Bruning, Artistic Director, Chamber Dance Project.

Bruning re-established the Chamber Dance Project (CDP) in the DC area several years ago with “a total commitment to live music,  performing works of contemporary choreographers and sharing the creative process, all  while dancing in intimate performance settings.” The CDP motto is “contemporary ballet with an edge.”

With choreography inspired by contemporary life, Bruning wants to reach across gender and generations to explore a wide range of making emotions visible;  whether tilt-of-the head fun or an absorbing look at what war can do to an individual or depicting human feelings in new ways.

When asked about developing an evening of dance performance for those not only deeply immersed in the art of dance, but for those who may be more causal patrons, Bruning indicated she wanted to heighten,”an audience’s engagement, experience and understanding of contemporary feel included in the performance” and not be a passive on-looker.

A great deal has happened since I first wrote about Bruning and the CDP in October 2013. The CDP became the resident company at Northern Virginia’s BalletNova. In  March 2014, Chamber Dance Project performed at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore.

Then in June 2014,  the CDP received glowing reviews for performances at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater and Chamber Dance Project is now developing a summer 2015 season. It will be at the 450 seat Lansburgh Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company from June 24-28, 2015. “We are pleased to embark on a relationship with the Chamber Dance Project, and that we are able to make our facilities available for use by local performing arts groups who need a space to showcase their work,” said Chris Jennings, Shakespeare Theatre Company Managing Director.

Still in the midst of finalizing the six performance run of two different programs, Bruning indicated that she likes, “to combine works that are known and beloved by audiences with new works. In this way I am free to take risks and follow my images for a new dance.”

“We are aiming to have performances with strong images, tremendous visceral energy and physicality, all accompanied by a live string quartet. I  expect the programs to includes works that are premieres and works known to dance audiences,” added Bruning. All with principal dancers from around the world and close-by with live musical accompaniment by a string quartet and lighting by local lighting designer Maya E. White.

The CDP summer program will include dance performance works not only by Bruning such as Exit Wounds, a male duo exploring the aftermath of battle with music by Philip Glass, and Time Has Come, a lively tribute piece for her late New York Ballet teacher David Howard, with music from Scarlatti, Mozart, and Telemann. She is also developing several new works to be premiered, including one entitled Arranged, centered upon a duo of female dancers with about 9 chairs on stage with them.

Ann Carlson. Photo illustration by L.A. Cicero
Ann Carlson. Photo illustration by L.A. Cicero

Living choreographers will be well-represented during the 2015 summer season. Ann Carlson will be restaging her refreshing, Four Men in Suits about everyday life of, well, men in suits and ties. Certainly, here in DC, there are plenty of men who still dress every day in suits and ties as they toil away.

Darrell Grand Moultrie will be choreographing a new work based upon the Jazz Age poet Edna St. Vincent Millay’s eight-line poem entitled Wild Swans, with its stanza: “I leave you and lock your door.”Add to these will be Argentine Jorge Amarante’s tango-inspired Sur with music from Astor Piazzolli.

When I spoke with Carlson by phone she noted the “power of seeing oneself represented by dance.” She mentioned that she will be taking into account DC as a political town for her restaging of Four Men in Suits with its focus on “masculinity and power” when first performed in 1986 with four lawyers in suits.

Darrell Grand Moultrie. Photo by Franklin Thompson.
Darrell Grand Moultrie. Photo by Franklin Thompson.

Moultrie was in Madrid when I spoke with him. He was developing choreography for a new opera based upon Spanish dramatist Frederico Garcia Lorca’s El Publico about the conventions of life and love and lust as he saw them. “That I wanted to work with Diane and the CDP because it’s a special thing when a fellow choreographer strives to create their own and want to share it with you.”

Beyond the live music for the dances, there will also be music alone such as the lively Don’t Tread on Me or my String Quartet by Russell Peck, as well as violinists Claudia Chudacoff and Chaerim Smith performing Prokofiev’s Duo for Violins.

Before the June season performances, Chamber Dance Project is having a gala called Stretch Your Soul on February 28th at the Katzen Arts Center at American UniversityThe host for Stretch Your Soul will be Tony Award-winning playwright, lyricist, and stage director Murray Horwitz, ‎Director of Special Projects at Washington Performing Arts.

A special feature of Stretch Your Soul will include interactions between performers and the audience; something Bruning calls “structured improv.” The audience will be able to guide the dancers with ideas or themes for movements. The dancers will then turn the audience’s notions into a dance. “The dancer will not know before- hand what to expect, as the audience provides their ideas for movement. That will certainly put the artists on the edge and in the moment. And the audience will be able to see how their ideas translate into a dance, right before their eyes,” said Bruning.

Since CDP is dedicated to sharing their art and exposing it to a diverse audience who may not otherwise have the opportunity, the Stretch Your Soul gala will help raise funds to provide free tickets donated to area social service agencies and veteran’s groups to a Family Matinee performance during the CDP summer series.

One final note, CDP is developing a film for Exit Wounds with a goal to provide a mechanism for distribution to Veteran’s Groups who work with those returning back from tours of duty in war zones or those with PTSD.


The power of a live dance performance can be one of those “you gotta see this!” moments. Bruning and Chamber Dance Project aim to induce, amuse, challenge, and provoke. I was reminded of something Bruning had said to some years before, “Choreography can say better in movement that which may not be otherwise expressed.” Yup. sounds right to me.


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