Things to Do

Dance Place’s Community-Driven Facelift

The local studio celebrates its renovation with free classes and performances.

Dance Place's new season includes Deviated Theatre (above) on September 27 and 28. Photograph by Enoch Chan.

This month, a local institution gets in on the grand Washington tradition of returning from summer vacation with some not-so-subtle tweaks. Dance Place, which for 36 years has been bringing dance performances and education to the area, has undergone its first full renovation and will introduce the new look at a free community day on September 6.

Carla Perlo and Steve Bloom founded Dance Place in 1978, and in 1986, due to quadrupling rents, they moved from Adams Morgan to a former welding warehouse in Brookland. “We set it up with a theater space and wooden risers—nothing mounted, nothing more comfortable than a folding chair,” says communications director Carolyn Kamrath. “It’s been well loved, but it needed a facelift.”

It got that thanks to four years of fundraising, corporate and private donations, and support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

During the “Be in Brookland” community day, guests can tour the improved facility, which includes fresh hardwiring and a semi-enclosed tech booth in the theater, a larger dressing room with space for 40 dancers, and a new second-story studio—plus comfortable, high-quality seats. The open house also features free classes for children and adults, free performances, and a $15 nighttime dance party led by the Cuban company DC Casineros.

Dance Place’s upcoming season offers a diverse lineup, including four international companies. November brings Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Dança, for instance, and March welcomes two Cuban artists. Kamrath says the larger space will also allow for an extended class schedule and more residency opportunities for visiting artists.

She’s perhaps most excited by the impact Dance Place can now have at home: “We’ve always been a hub for our community and the youth who live in DC’s Ward 5,” and the expanded facilities will allow Dance Place to offer more classes for children. “All the kids are thrilled to be in the new building—and we’re definitely filling it.”

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This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Washingtonian. Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai