GW hosts improvisational dance based on discovery

This weekend GW will host the D.C. 7th International Improvisation Festival, a celebration of improvisation as an art form in the areas of dance and music.

The festival, founded by GW dance professor Maida Withers and sponsored by the Department of Theatre and Dance, explores improvisation through performances and workshops, with an emphasis on the dance styles from Latin America. International artists are a regular part of the festival, but GW students and alumni also participate. Brazilian artist Giselle Ruzany and student group Washington Free Collaboration will be part of Thursday’s Gala Festival Opening Performance at 8 p.m. in the Dorothy Betts Theatre.

The Art Museum of the Americas plays host to a “Dance In” Saturday that will feature musicians and dancers. Workshops take place in the J Down dance studio Saturday as well as Nov. 23 and 25.

Withers is enthusiastic about the festival and the art of improvisation.
“There is an aliveness in improvisation, a spontaneity,” she said. “In improvisation, the choreographer is on stage as part of the performance, instead of directing the dancers. The performance is a place of discovery rather than mastering a series of steps.”

She said GW has become a part of a unique community for improvisational dancers.

“GW is a place of experimentation and collaboration, and we’re on the edge of modern dance,” she said. “There is also a community aspect. You are building a community through the festival which creates a safe haven for this kind of dance.”

Washington Free Collaboration was founded three years ago to promote dance and music improvisation as performance art. Members include seven GW dancers.

“It is an improvisation group with musicians, avant-garde styles, with modern and jazz dancers,” said group member Alexis Mastromichalis, a junior.

The groups’ performance Thursday night will be its first this year outside of the J Down dance studio, where it previously held open rehearsals and a jam session, Mastromichalis said.

GW alumnus and musician Ben Takis encourages students to attend the festival.

“Students will be surprised at the quality, especially from the professors and top music students,” he said. With improvisation, he added, “you get inside the conversational process, so the audience is along for the ride, too.”

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