Now Playing

Close Encounters

Diane Coburn Bruning just moved the Chamber Dance Project from New York to DC—now she wants to get intimate.

From left: Chamber Dance Project’s Artistic Director Diane Coburn Bruning, violist Derek Smith and dancers Andile Ndlovu, Luis Torres and Francesca Dugarte

Diane Coburn Bruning’s artistic epiphany occurred at the Seattle Opera House 15 years ago. “I was a freelance choreographer, and I noticed that many of the patrons were using opera glasses to watch my show,” she says. They might as well have been a million miles away. That’s when the award-winning choreographer decided intimacy in contemporary dance—small venues with a quartet of musicians also onstage—was essential to her craft. Since that time, Bruning has reeled in an impressive list of fellowships (Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Arts) and worked with luminaries like the Juilliard Dance Ensemble, Ballet Chicago and the Washington National Opera.

In 2000, she launched the Chamber Dance Project in New York City to perform in its hometown and on tour during the summer when dancers are on hiatus from their companies. After recent freelance stints in Germany and Milwaukee, Bruning—who’d done extensive work in DC at The Kennedy Center, Woolly Mammoth and Studio Theatre—thought there’d be a niche here for her dance project. So, this spring, she moved the entire operation to a town that has fully embraced her vision. “I was recently introduced at a cocktail party as someone who’s here from New York. I quickly said, ‘And I’m here to stay!’ The enthusiasm in Washington for our work has been overwhelming so far,” says Bruning, who notes that Chamber already has reeled in seven local board members and a major sponsor that provides an administrative base for the project’s operations.

This enthusiasm manifests itself in June when The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater hosts a world premiere of modern tango-ballet Contemporary Ballet With an Edge by Argentinean choreographer Jorge Amarante and Bruning. Dancers for the show hail from the Joffrey Milwaukee and Washington Ballet companies. “The Terrace Theater has 475 seats—it’s so intimate you can see every move, every breath—you’ll see the sweat and passion. I’m all about demystifying dance,” says Bruning. June 26-28, 2700 F St. NW, 202.467.46000