By Alan M. Kriegsman, The Washington Post
The recent turn of good fortune for the Contemporary Dancers of Alexandria (CODA) could lift some drooping spirits among the Washington arts community.
Last November, CODA was told It would have to vacate its studio space at Christ Church in Alexandria, site of the troupe’s teaching and rehearsal activities for a number of years. Founded In 1978, CODA has become one of the area’s leading modern dance companies, featuring original repertory by both indigenous and visiting choreographers. The Christ Church ouster was particularly disheartening because it was coming at a time when CODA’s artistic star, under the direction of dancer Ellen Gray Denker, was decidedly on the ascent.
“Even our most loyal board members were afraid this would mean the end of CODA,” says Pier Ashley Stock, the troupe’s manager and newly appointed studio director. “Artistically, we had made great progress in the four years of our existence. This past year especially, we had much reason to be proud, both of praise we received in the press, and of our audience, which had expanded sufficiently to permit us to tour for the first time. Financially, however, our situation was not promising, and although we knew we had to stay in Alexandria, we also knew we could never afford the commercial rents here.”
The search for a new location began with the help of Washington dance pioneer Hedi Pope, whose students have included Betty Ford, Jan Van Dyke and Cathy Paine, and who founded CODA as an outgrowth of a studio she established in 1947. A partial solution was reached when Alexandria’s Department of Recreation agreed to lease space for CODA classes at the Lee Center, where the troupe often performs. No church in Alexandria was willing to accommodate CODA’s full class and rehearsal schedule – “they all wanted to offer aerobics instead,” says Stock.
But in late June, an “angel” appeared on the horizon in the person of Beau Brincefield, manager of a partnership that owns an office building (ironically enough, converted from a historic church building) at 125 S. Saint Asaph St. in Alexandria. Starting Sept. 19, CODA will offer the majority of its classes and company rehearsals in a fine studio space in the building’s basement, with the Church Limited Partnership donating part of CODA’s housing costs. An open house kickoff Is scheduled Sept. 25, with a raffle to help defray moving expenses. Additional CODA classes will be offered at the Lee Center.
Reprinted from The Washington Post, Wednesday, August 31, 1983.