In 1980, when Lula Washington decided to start her own dance company in Los Angeles — many dance experts doubted she could succeed. After all, many big name choreographers had tried to do the same thing, but failed.
In January of 2015, the Lula Washington Dance Theatre (LWDT) turns 35 years old. What started as an apparent “Impossible Dream”, now entails a year-round school of dance with 150 inner city students; a youth dance ensemble; a dance studio which the LWDT non-profit organization owns; and a professional dance company that has travelled all over the world and which will do more travelling in its 35th year.
In 2015, the Lula Washington Dance Theatre tour company will perform at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in a concert co-sponsored with Rutgers University. The company will teach master classes and lead a community engagement discussion on using dance to address social issues.
LWDT will also dance in Washington, DC at Dance Place and at the Kennedy Center. It will perform in Pennsylvania at Cheyney University; in Redbank New Jersey at the Count Basie Theatre; in Virginia at the Alleghany Highlands Performing Arts Center; in Indiana at Butler University; in Nevada at the new Smith Center of Las Vegas; in Minnesota at the Ordway Theater; and in Billings, Montana at the Alberta Bair Theater. The Company is booked in 2016 at the Kravis Center in Palm Beach Florida — and many new dates are still under discussion across the US.
Lula will tour excerpts from her 35 years of dance, including her trademark “We Wore The Mask” and new works “Random Thoughts” and “Search For Humanism” — all in Lula’s risk-taking style of using dance to explore social ideas.
The company will also tour works by Tamica Washington-Miller; Christopher Huggins; Donald McKayle; and Rennie Harris.
At home, the dance company will premier an augmented site specific version of “Message To My Peeps” by Associate Director Tamica Washington-Miller as part of a commission by Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance At the Music Center.
The dance school will present its recital at the Japan America Theatre once again, but LWDT is planning a collaborative youth-focused concert at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in partnership with the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles. The date is TBA.
Lula remains the main choreographer and teacher for LWDT, both at home and on the road. Wherever the company performs, Lula teaches master classes for students of all levels. Below, Lula leads autistic children in a movement class at the Blackrock Center in Germantown, Maryland.
In between the performing, the organization is preparing a 35th anniversary celebration (TBA) and home season concert at home at a site TBA. It will continue its year-round dance classes; its Summer Intensive; its Kwanzaa Festival; its Dance All Day Festival during Taste of Soul — and more.
At 35, Lula Washington and the organization she built is hardly slowing down. It’s going forward as robustly as ever.