By Maria Rodriguez
All this week, the national performing arts center has played host to those who kept their beanies fresh and their hair long.
The Kennedy Center, home of the Washington National Opera and the National Symphony Orchestra, has become the temporary home to a skate park.
Last Friday, the festival opened with a bang, showcasing the talents of a skate crew as well as the myriad of locals who showed up to try their hand at the custom skate bowl. A vibrantly orange bowl with tight swooping curves was the center of focus and energy for skaters and audience members combined. A set of bleachers was erected behind the bowl which let even non-skaters participate in the festival.
The soundtrack was provided by even more local flavor. D.C. has a storied punk heritage, and the festival drew on that to present a dynamic lineup of energetic bands. On Friday, D.C.-based group Loud Boyz showed up to rock the evening and rally the crowd. Between the heat of the air and the heat of the moment, the lead singer whipped off his shirt later in the set revealing a full set of tattoos. The jury is still out as to whether or not this was a crowd pleaser.
While there are not many food or drink options nearby, the Kennedy Center provided festival attendees with a drink and snack bar. Looking around the bleachers, one could see many hands holding foamy topped cups of beer from the drinks cart.
The excitement of the crowds showed no signs of lagging on Saturday and Sunday. Some skaters appeared each night, eager to continue pumping the festival for another round of memories. The age range was much wider than one might anticipate, with older generations mixing together with newbies in the impromptu park.
Conceived by Jason Moran, the Kennedy Center’s Artistic Director for Jazz, and curated by local D.C. skater and George Mason University professor of design, Ben Ashworth, the festival was meant to look at the unorthodox relationship jazz and skateboarding share.
Moran had tried this stunt before, albeit on a much smaller scale, with his band in San Francisco. He and his band improvised jazzy tunes to a crew of skaters turning tricks on a small indoor ramp. When he came to the Kennedy Center, he found the perfect opportunity to ramp-up his previous endeavor.
The Kennedy Center has been treading new water recently. The new president, Deborah Rutter, pushed her circle of artistic directors with a hiring spree that included a previous member of the prestigious Barbican Theater in London and composer Mason Bates who is composing an opera about Steve Jobs. This festival, pushing a subversive sound and art form, coming from the institutional Kennedy Center, is a welcome change and a hopeful trumpet of things to come.