If you’re familiar with Discovery Theater – the Smithsonian’s Theater for Young Audiences in Washington, DC – you probably know that the high-quality, live educational performances don’t run for long and usually sell out. So our team of reviewers, mom and daughters ages 8 and 13, were excited to catch one of only eight SOLE Defined percussive dance performances at the Theater.
After making our way down the winding steps and long escalator to the third sublevel of the Ripley Center (elevators are available for strollers), we followed the signs to the Theater and entered a long hallway lined with dozens of young faces. Discovery Theater is a popular field trip destination for school groups and summer day camps.
We waited on one of two benches outside the box office window and shortly were invited as individual ticket holders to enter the theater first, followed by the large groups. The theater space is clean and comfortable, with lots of floor seating, as well as two sets of risers at the back and chairs around the perimeter. Adults are encouraged to sit in chairs or on the risers to keep the view from the floor unobstructed. We sat in chairs at the back and had a perfect view of the stage.
The performance started a few minutes late, but we received an energetic welcome from theater staff before the show began. Soon the five SOLE Defined dancers were on stage, immediately filling the entire space with good humor, high energy and a cool vibe. Showing off their individual styles, the dancers tapped, stepped and clapped their way across the stage, interacting with one another and with the audience throughout.
The show was part performance, part history lesson (complete with video montage), part good-natured competition, and part dance lesson. We watched and cheered as the tap dancers competed against the step dancers (a tie-breaker round ultimately decided the step dancers as winners). The audience even learned to stand at attention followed by a brief step routine. The experience was great fun for all ages. The program closed with a short Q&A session that allowed for only three questions, though many more hands were raised and waving for a chance to be called upon.
SOLE Defined was a fantastic and fun educational experience that is representative of the many quality performances offered by the Smithsonian’s Discovery Theater.
Good to Know
- On-street parking is very limited, but the Ripley Center is metro accessible. The Smithsonian Metro stop is a short walk.
- There is no eating or drinking allowed inside, but snacks are available via cart outside the building and in the Smithsonian Castle café, which is located next door.
- Two family restrooms with changing tables and a water fountain are located immediately outside the theater.
- Tickets for Discovery Theater are $6 for ages 2 and up, $3 for children under 2, $8 for adults, and $5 for Smithsonian Associate Members. Group rates are available.
Junk Music with the Junkman, July 14-17, at 10:15 and 11:30 a.m., and Robert Strong: the Comedy Magician, July 21-24, at 10:15 and 11:30 a.m. Both shows are recommended for ages 5-12 and run about 40-50 minutes. Our Kids recommends purchasing tickets online in advance as performances generally sell out. The theater is dark during the month of August, so stay tuned for their 2015-2016 theater schedule.