I have been a dance photographer for over a year and Glade Dance Collective was the very first dance company that I worked with. The first show that I saw them perform contained a piece called District. Defined? I was struck by it’s young and eager take on the city. As native of the DC area, it was easy to see it’s perspective as that of a DC transplant, and dismiss it as different from mine. Over the last few years, having seen it a couple times, I’ve started to realize that there is much more that it has to say about our city.
I think the key is in the second part of that title. While the dance has set themes and movements, there have been subtle variations and different dancers perform it almost every time, which give different stories to the movement. The short storytelling segments are the most obvious manifestations of these changes. The first time I saw it, the story may have been about going out late to a party. Later it may have been about staying up late worrying about having a baby. By changing the stories with the changing lives of the performers and even the performers themselves, you start to see that the piece is not really about defining the District. To me it is more about defining each performer’s relationship with the city.
In the latest incarnation, Glade asked if I would provide images to freshen the projections used in the piece. As a photographer this was a really exciting opportunity to express how I see the city. And one of the challenges is to actually try to define this city that I have known for 34 years in a finite set of photographs. Being a photographer here means that I have hundreds of photographs of the city that can’t be defined in just thirteen minutes. It was a struggle to decide on the twenty-two images I came up with for the piece, and even then only seven photos will actually appear in the final cut.
Through this process, I have renewed appreciation for the ways in which Glade revisits District. Defined? By rethinking and changing it, they come closer to a better definition of the District. Each performance seems like a snapshot of a long-term relationship. I originally felt limited by the way the piece defined Washington, DC, but now I realize that the piece gives it’s performers a place to say something about how they define our city (and now in a small way me).
You can see District. Defined? at Glade’s Voices from the Glade Show at Dance Place May 7th and 8th. In addition to District. Defined? show contains many new and developing pieces that explore the changing lives of it’s dancers and choreographers.
The dance photos featured here are of work to be shown at Voices from the Glade. All other photos were either re-edited for or inspired by District. Defined? Actual photos used in the piece not featured. All photos copyright Rob Cannon.