Touch my Building: Dance Place Comes to Brookland

By Phil Hutinet on March 12, 2014

"Touch My Building: Dance Place", Conceptual Proposal, © 2013- PhenomenArts, Inc. Christopher Janney, Artistic Director.
“Touch My Building: Dance Place”, Conceptual Proposal, © 2013- PhenomenArts, Inc. Christopher Janney, Artistic Director.

After a series of permitting delays, the renovation of Dance Place’s theater and office space is well underway despite the grueling cold winter.  Using their existing space as a shell upon which to grow, the upgraded building will expand the non-profit’s office space, theater and lobby area.

The completion of the theater in May will be the second phase of a three part Dance Place expansion.  The first phase, completed in 2011, resulted in the creation of 41 below market artist work-live apartments at the Brookland Artspace Lofts, the Selman art gallery and three spaces for Dance Place rehearsals and other community arts programming.  Phase three will be an “Art Park”  in an adjoining easement between the Dance Place theater and the Brookland Artspace Lofts.  The Art Park will include mobile art and will host a variety of community arts activities.

However, when the construction ends in May, phase two will include a massive piece of public art which will adorn the outside of Dance Place’s renovated theater.  Architect Holly Lennihan designed the new theater so that it could become a neighborhood landmark and a veritable presence in Brookland.

As such, the public art selected for the new Dance Place theater is not just any kind of public art- the massive piece towers over 8th Street NE and will engage the public through an interactive musical component.

Architect and jazz-trained musician Christopher Janney calls the piece “Touch My Building: Dance Place.”  Composed of colored glass, the bright and cheery interactive sound installation invites the public to approach the building, engage with the structure by touch and create “a sound-score of melodic and environmental sounds.”   According to Janney, a minimum of four sound-banks with 12 sound-samples will allow users to create a vast array of different sound combinations with each experience sounding different from the last.

For those of you who have traveled to the Miami International Airport or have been to Miami Basel in years past may have encountered Janney’s work.  At the airport, Janney installed large colorful light displays seen between terminals.  In the Miami design district, Janney created a series of small sculptures that beckoned passers-by with sounds and invited them to interact with the window installations to create individualized sounds.  Now, Brookland will be a permanent home for another one of Janney’s creations.

Janney’s “Touch my Building” perfectly bridges Dance Place’s traditional role as a performing arts organization with the growing visual arts scene of Brookland like the Artswalk at the Monroe Street Market which houses Studio 21, Dance Place’s own art gallery and exhibition space. While only in the rendering phase, if Janney’s “Touch my Bulding: Dance Place” is anything like the public art he created in Miami, Brookland will soon be home to what could become one of DC’s most talked about landmarks.