Wet and Wonderful in Washington DC (National Plaza)

Original Performance on June 24, 1983

1983 –Wet and Wonderful in Washington, DC (Western Plaza) – a dance, music, and water sculpture event conceived by Maida Withers constructed in collaboration with John Bailey, Rogelio Maxwell, MWDCCo and the dancers, and Susan Jamieson.

This site event was an environmental dance and water sculpture event at National Plaza (Western Plaza) at Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Sts. NW, Washington, DC on Friday, June 24, 1983 at noon in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation Summer Programs.  The one-hour performance took place on the National Plaza and in the beautiful fountain in that location as well. Recorded and live music by Rogelio Maxwell.

Dance Construction Company members and other guest dancers, eleven total, rehearsed each morning, Monday thru Friday, for 15 days from 9 am to noon.  Mornings helped survive the intense Sun and reflection from the cement.  The final day was a designated public performance even though each day was a performance for the tourists and the workers watching from the buildings along Pennsylvania Avenue.  National Theatre was under renovation and covered with sheets of plastic.  We incorporated large sheets of plastic in our performance by creating primitive/futuristic animals for the event and ran with the sheets of plastic based each day on the direction of the wind at the Plaza.  We were allowed to dance in the large black water fountain.

No video documentation was made.

Script for Event:
(1) Nine dancers run in large circle holding the plastic sidewards in the center of the plaza end to end.  Find the direction of the wind; (2) Nine dancers run the plantar section; (3) 12 people do the plastic roll down Plaza/Run the plastic back to SR; 12 people roll the plastic down plaza (let go); groups lay the plastic down twice; groups lay the plastic down on top of each: Michael take it away; MRW take it away; Jesse take it away and all but MRW and John Bailey exit; (4) Lifting duets (plastic people have walked dancers down to SR – MRW walk Susan down to SL; (5) Walk all dancers under plastic to SR; (6) Claps and runs and the Star and 1/2 of the running pattern again to get to SL (John does the hose in center of the star on plaza);  (7) Name calls; Squirt hoses (two men squirt each other); (8) costume sculpture parade; (9) Climbing pattern: Maida and John Sunbath on the plastic sheets.  Vertical shots of water that fall down by two men- 3 each.  Ends with running/fall through the water, on the lawn; (10) Wall of water if cue for dancers to do unison movement; (11) All dancers walk in line to fountain; (12) Fountain trio; squirters in the fountain; (13) At the fall, dancers perch on the edge of black fountain; Dancers follow Barbara Chan; MRW works the plastic; dancers to to center of fountain or wherever the large balloons are and cut them one at a time to release the small ones; look up at the balloons….THE END



What the press is saying

Withers...described her newest work as a "dance, music, and water sculpture event." Everyone who passed by the plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue stopped to watch, if only for a moment. "I think it's great, a happening right here in the District," said one man whose attention was caught by the white balloons tethered at the plaza's entrance." "Usually," Pronounced another noontime stroller, "I really don't understand it. It's very....freestyle." The dance began with a recorded Vivaldi oncerto. Eleven dancers in leotards, shorts, and sneakers ran through the plaza holding sheets of plastic that flew behind them. They eventually wrapped each other in the plastic, and paraded with kite-like structures of the same material." Afer the dancers discarded the plastic, the wind picked it up and it danced on its own. The music changed to the recorded sounds of sirens, electric drills and traffic. "We will use recorded, ambient sounds from this area to abruptly pull the audience out of the 18th century and into the 21st." said Rogelio Maxwell, who compiled the music for the event. The local composer also played his cello. "It is my ultimate dream to synthesize the cello. It can be done." As the dance event cprogressed, assistants turned on hoses and John Bailey's water sculpture took shape. bailey, who painted the Marilyn Monroe portrait on a Connecticut Avenue bilding, jined the other dancers frolicking beneath the bridge of water from two hoses that spanned the plaza. Bailey later activated scattered sprinklers, and as one dancer stood in the middle of a circle formed by the others, a hose spurted high into the air. "We wanted to verticalize the space, so we did it with water," said Withers. "We wanted a weather balloon as tall as these buildings, but it was too expensive." Part of Withers' purpose is to expose dance to those who don't normally see it. "Dance and a lot of the arts are isolated. If you don't have the money, interest or education, you don't have access. I want to change that." "Withers has always danced in unconventional spaces. In 1975, her "Dance Construction Company" performed in a cemetery. "When you move into a space, yhou understand something so intimate about that space." Withers said. "I was hungry to do this dance. So I invited a bunch of other people, and we met for 15 days everyday before noon to eplore the space-sounds, wind, everything. It's not really a dance, we just wanted to coexist and add to this particular space." "Whatever. During the dance, those who had to pass across the plaza did so without hesitation. A woman walked her bicycle through the dance. Two dancers apeared in street clothes, one pushing a wheelbarrow and the other a suitcase on a trolley. "Each pedestrian that walks across here is on stage." Withers exulted. "What a wonderful arena for the human being!" "The event culminated with dancing in the shallow pool. When it was over, the traffic continued, as did the construction and the stream of lunchtime strollers. "We have become part of the scenario," said Withers, "and now people expect every day for us to show up. After 15 days, it's sort of sad that it has to end." "A dancer unfastened the red balloon in the middle of the fountain. The Vivaldi concerto resumed. The crowd clapped and whistled as the dancers began to splash, play and dunk each other in the water. "Is it over?" asked an audience member. The applause faded. The balloon disappeared into the sky." Elizabeth Alexander