Diane Coburn Bruning, founder and artistic director of contemporary ballet company Chamber Dance Project, began her remarks at Georgetown Media Group’s April 5 Cultural Leadership Breakfast by asking each attendee to introduce him- or herself with a movement.
Most stood up and more or less bowed. There were hand flutterings, some to indicate a profession (writer, pianist). Two or three individuals nearly told a story in gesture, to the amusement of all.
Bruning was getting across the idea of communicating through physical motion. Later, she carried out some basic choreography on three volunteers, asking for suggestions and reactions from the audience.
With degrees in dance from Butler University in Indianapolis and New York University, Bruning has been choreographing for ballet, theater and opera companies — including Shakespeare, Studio, Woolly Mammoth and Washington National Opera productions — for more than 30 years.
The first ballet she choreographed, as her NYU master’s thesis, was “The Scarlet Letter,” with “women pulsing in their Puritan skirts.” The positive reviews convinced her to continue to “create new worlds,” rather than to perform as a dancer herself (or go to law school).
Bruning founded Chamber Dance Project after the birth of her second son, she said, wanting to do something that would go beyond her own work. The guiding principles of the company — which is marking five years in D.C. — are intimacy, live music onstage and collaboration.
Performances at the Lansburgh Theatre on June 21, 22 and 23 will feature the world premiere of “Chant,” choreographed by Bruning and company dancer Andile Ndlovu to live Gregorian and African-textured chant. The singers will be led by National Cathedral Music Director Michael McCarthy.
The opening-night performance will be followed by a summer solstice party at the Hotel Monaco. For the Saturday matinee, which includes a short post-performance workshop for kids, a free under-18 ticket can be reserved with each adult ticket purchased.
Chamber Dance Project’s formula is also based on hiring dancers from major companies when they aren’t working, in January and over the summer. Another boost: Metro Offices on 12th Street NW offered subsidized office space to the company.
“What I’m most happy about is how D.C. has embraced us,” Bruning said.