At Century Ballroom, her lively Capitol Hill showplace, Hallie Kuperman has offered salsa and swing classes, staged concerts by leading world-music performers, hosted dances with...
At Century Ballroom, her lively Capitol Hill showplace, Hallie Kuperman has offered salsa and swing classes, staged concerts by leading world-music performers, hosted dances with live bands, and catered to her patrons’ appetites with a tiny, top-notch cafe.
Now Kuperman is jumbling all that together, wrapping a dramatic story around it, and presenting her own weekly, full-service bash: the Musica Vitae! Cabaret.
“It’s a full night of being entertained and entertaining yourself,” is how Kuperman describes the new venture, which runs Saturday nights, from Jan. 8 through 29, and may extend longer. “It’s a well-rounded package with beautiful singing, good food, a great live band and a story. And I think it would be appealing to just about anyone.”
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Described on its advertising as “an evening of global music, dance and intrigue,” Musica Vitae! Cabaret bears some stylistic resemblance to One Reel’s long-running dinner/cabaret extravaganza, Teatro ZinZanni.
But the Century Ballroom event is a lot cheaper ($45 gets you a show ticket, plus a three-course dinner and a glass of champagne. Or you can just catch the show for $20).
And while Teatro ZinZanni regales you with a spree of circus acts and interactive clowning between soup and salad, Musica Vitae focuses on world music and ballroom dancing, and invites you to shake a leg along with the experts.
In fact, after the two-hour show, those so inclined can stick around for a salsa dance lesson and a couple of hours of open dancing to music selected by deejays.
To create a dramatic format for the unusual production, Kuperman went straight to two Cabaret de Paris veterans: writer-director David Koch and co-writer and actor David Scully.
“We wrote a kind of open-ended scenario for Hallie so that different dancers, singers and emcees can move in and out of the show from week to week,” explains Koch.
“It’s based on the idea of the ‘musica vitae,’ a legendary collection of songs believed to be so powerful that if you hear them the right way, you’ll live forever. So our first scene takes place in Florence during the Italian Renaissance. And as the emcee searches for those mythic songs, he finds clues in modern times, some even in the audience.”
Musica Vitae! Cabaret premiered in late October, with local salsa combo Tumbao as its ongoing house band. Kuperman also has booked in a variety of singers (jazz chanteuse Greta Matassa, gospel group Total Experience Gospel Choir), and such novelty artists as jugglers and contortionists.
Always on hand are top-notch local dancers such as Michelle Badion, Adam Israel-Brozowski, Joon Chang and Deron Hayes, who burn up the dance floor with their swing, salsa, lindy hop and other routines.
For January’s shows, Scully will serve as the emcee/narrator. Also slated to appear are soprano opera singer Deeji Killian, hip-hop dancer Daniel Cruz, youth tap troupe Tap Central, singer Karyn Schwartz and funnyman Godfrey Daniels (who specializes in slo-mo gags with a giant red ball).
News of Century Ballroom’s unique cabaret-dance revels is still spreading, and Kuperman hopes it will pique the interest of eclectic music aficionados as well as dance fanatics.
“The only night we haven’t had much of an audience was on Halloween,” she confides. “But I think folks really love this show, and it’s become quite a group entertainment thing. Some people will invite 10 of their friends to come and make it a party.”
Misha Berson: firstname.lastname@example.org