Captivating Melodies of Chamber Music Meet the Sultry Rhythms of Tango

By Sophia Hall

The sound of music resonated within the echoing walls of Dupont Circle’s underground heart on May 29. The Chamber Dance Project hosted an evening of musical performance and tango dance in the Dupont Underground, D.C.’s erstwhile subterrain streetcar station that has been reimagined into a semi-circular studio for showcasing the performing and visual arts.

Reflecting the space’s inherent transformation, the performance itself transformed the sound of chamber music, blending together traditional string sound and percussive tango into captivating melodies.

Immediately, the Chamber Dance Project’s String Quartet set themself apart. With bold streaks of red accenting their otherwise traditional concert black dress clearly represented the subversive nature of their contemporary performance.

Violinist Karin Kelleher and violist Jerome Gordon performed Martinu’s “Three Madrigals,” a lively duet reminiscent of two friends having an impassioned conversation.

Then, principal violinist Sally McLain pulled out her red-and-black, nearly skeletal, electric violin. She ferociously played the fourth movement of Richard Einhorn’s “Maxwell’s Demon,” the first public performance to offer a glimpse into the mesmerizing world of Ulysses Dove’s ballet, “Red Angels,” set to premiere in 2025.

Lastly, cellist Benjamin Wensel came onstage to complete the quartet. Together, they played music from the contemporary tango ballet “Sur,” transfixing the audience with their unique tango-specific musical techniques.

Since tango is a percussive genre, the cello can be played almost like a drum. A sandpaper noise––reminiscent of D.C.’s annual summer cicada boom––can be produced by placing heavy pressure and playing upbow on the upside of the violin’s bridge. The quartet also demonstrated how to create a “whip” sound by sliding up into a harmonic and how glissando produced a siren-like effect by sliding a finger up and down on the string.

The evening immersed the audience in not only melodic chamber music but also the sultry rhythms of tango. Afterwards, audience members were invited to join a tango dance workshop led by two expert instructors, who taught participants the basic steps of Argentine tango: the open walk, the closed promenade and the rock turn.

There is another chance to see the Chamber Dance Project perform their revelatory choreography and music onstage in “Ramblin’ ” at Harman Hall from June 27 through 29.

Tony Award-winning bluegrass band, the Red Clay Ramblers, will perform live in the world premiere of “Book of Stones,” choreographed by Christian Denice, alongside the D.C. Premiere of the smash hit “Ramblin’ Suite,” choreographed by Diane Coburn Bruning. Chamber Dance Project’s contemporary tango ballet, “Sur,” and the poignant “Weave the Wind,” will be performed as well, accompanied by the string quartet.

The Chamber Dance Project’s String Quartet performs in the Dupont Underground on May 29. Photo by Sophia Hall/The Georgetowner.

The entrance to the Dupont Underground on Connecticut Avenue. Photo by Sophia Hall/The Georgetowner.



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