This fall, dance enthusiasts will have the opportunity to learn from members of one of the metropolitan area’s most prominent contemporary dance companies at Glen Echo Park.
The Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company (DTSBDC), which tours nationally and internationally, began teaching a modern dance class in the park’s renovated Hall of Mirrors Dance Studio last year. Now the company is expanding its offerings.
Classes will be offered for teens and adults and will include ballet, modern dance, hip hop, Asian movement from Bollywood to mixed martial arts, improvisation and choreography. With the exception of an intermediate dance class, no prior dance experience is required to participate in those programs. A class just for teens will allow young dancers to learn an entire dance or sections of a dance from Burgess’ repertory and requires students to have intermediate dance experience, said Jan Tievsky, educational director for DTSBDC at Glen Echo Park and vice president of its board of directors.
All classes incorporate Burgess’ style of movement, she said, and most of the teachers have been in the company as a dance member or apprentice. That’s important, she said, because it ensures continuity between the classes.
DTSBDC decided to increase its fall offerings due to a need in the area for more classes and also to “offer the community more access to the different aesthetics in dance,” said Dana Tai Soon Burgess, the dancer and choreographer who founded the company in 1992. “Glen Echo is quite a jewel. It is a haven for the arts and strengthening its dance offerings seems a natural fit for the company,” he said.
As a child, Burgess was a competitive martial artist. But one day, his father suggested he take a dance class and Burgess said he was instantly hooked. “Dance was the intersection of movement and art,” he said. “It allowed me to express myself within the parameters of a disciplined form.”
Initially, Burgess was a modern dancer. But while serving as a cultural envoy for the U.S. Department of State—a role he has held for more than two decades that allows him to use dance to promote a cultural dialogue—he became interested in all dance forms because “dance is a universal language.”
“All of humanity dances and expresses their stories and emotions through dance,” Burgess said.
He hopes participants in his classes at Glen Echo gain a love of dance and are able to get in touch with their bodies as a medium for art in movement.
Glen Echo has a rich history of dance and once had a thriving dance company that Tievsky founded in the late 1970s. The park also once featured a free summer dance festival where a number of dancers and choreographers performed, including Cl.
Tievsky left the park in 1990 to start a dance program at Georgetown Day School and began working with Burgess in the late 1990s. “I was bowled over by not only by his brilliance as a choreographer, but also how he worked with young dancers,” she said.
Tievsky said she always knew in the back of her mind that she wanted Burgess to have his own studio. After she retired from Georgetown Day in 2014, she and Burgess began talking about classes. After he held a trial modern dance class last fall at Glen Echo, they initiated plans expand offerings. “I wanted the rest of Washington to be able to have access to his teaching,” Tievsky said. “He is one of the great choreographers of his generation.”
Having Burgess at Glen Echo is a boon for the community, she said. “This would be the equivalent of if Leonard Bernstein were to start a music program at Glen Echo Park. What an extraordinary thing for the community to have an artist of this caliber!”
To learn more about Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company’s classes at Glen Echo and to register, visit www.glenechopark.org/dtsbdc.