Hometown Heroes by Alight Dance Theater
The Greenbelt-based Alight Dance Theater’s latest project is titled “Hometown Heroes: 75 Years of Extraordinary Greenbelt Women.” This is “a site-specific dance/movement installation situated in and around the Greenbelt Museum home which explores the experiences of the women who lived in Greenbelt as young mothers and ‘homemakers’ in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s to the present day.” The piece premiered on Sunday June 3 during Greenbelt Day weekend (when the city celebrated the 75th anniversary of its charter), and these photos are from a dress rehearsal the day before.
Michelle Cardoso hangs clothes in the service side yard. This Greenbelt Museum house is a two-bedroom, two-story, cinderblock townhouse from 1937 when Greenbelt was founded. This side of the house facing the road is called the service side (the opposite side is called the garden side). The original city manual specifies that clothes can only be hung at the service side on weekdays and Saturdays before 4 p.m. The plaque on the wall says that the Museum was dedicated on October 10, 1987, “On the Occasion of the City’s 50th Anniversary.”
Monica Warren (right), Melissa Brady, and Valerie Branch dance at the garden side of the house.
Michelle Cardoso comforts a baby in the second-floor, small bedroom.
Cardoso dances in the second-floor, large bedroom to the tune of Sammy Kaye’s “Love Walked In”:
Love walked right in and drove the shadows away
Love walked right in and brought my sunniest day
One magic moment and my heart seemed to know
That love said “Hello” though not a word was spoken
Cardoso looks out of the bedroom window. These casement windows let in lots of light and impressed many early residents who moved here from cramped city apartments.
Cardoso sets the table in the downstairs dining area.
Angella Foster (left) and Valerie Branch dance at the garden side of the museum house. Foster is the founding artistic director and resident choreographer of Alight Dance Theater, and she lives in one of Greenbelt’s frame townhouses built in the 1940s.
Valerie Branch dances in the living room to Bing Crosby’s “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams.” The furniture in the room was designed by the Resettlement Administration and made available to early residents of Greenbelt on an installment buying plan. Note that these original Greenbelt block houses also came with shiny black-tile floors which impressed many first residents.
In the bedroom
Setting the dining table
Melissa Brady adjusts clothes on the clothes line.
Angella Foster and Melissa Brady dance at the garden side of the house.
Valerie Branch (left) and Michelle Cardoso dance on a pedestrian pathway. The planners of Greenbelt designed a network of inner pathways that separates pedestrian traffic from vehicular traffic. The wagon with paper grocery bags inside suggests that the women have just come back from the co-op grocery store which is only a few blocks away.
Melissa Brady dances in the living room.
An audience member watches as Melissa Brady cradles a baby in the small second-floor bedroom. Note the 9 inch-by-9 inch black tiles on the floor and the large windows on two walls because this is an end-unit townhouse.
Melissa Brady sets the table.
Monica Warren irons a shirt on a large wooden ironing board. At several points in the performance, the dancer looks out windows facing the service side. This side is where the road and the parking garage are.
Bing Crosby’s “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” plays in the background:
Just remember that sunshine
Always follows the rain,
So wrap your troubles in dreams,
And dream your troubles away.
As an audience member watches, Monica Warren pauses from drying dishes and looks out of the kitchen window.
These photos are from four performances of 30 minutes each. Each has a different lead dancer who starts at the service side clothes line and is joined at the garden side by three others. The lead dancer then enters the house and performs at different areas. She is accompanies by audio recordings of Greenbelt women talking about life in the early years of the city, musical selections from Bing Crosby, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington and others, and radio commercials and programs from the 1930s and 40s. The costumes worn by the dancers were designed and made by Angella Foster, and the props are donated or loaned period pieces. This project is supported by local government and non-profit organizations and a group of individual backers via Kickstarter.com.
Hometown Heroes will be performed on three more days on June 24, July 15, and July 22. More information about the project can be found at Greenbelt Museum’s website.