The award-winning Silk Road Dance Company (SRDC) presents traditional and contemporary women's dances from the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Founded by Artistic Director Laurel Victoria Gray in 1995, the ensemble's performances offer a unique glimpse of the life, culture, and art of little known regions. SRDC has won deep respect from the members of the communities represented by the company's repertoire. They were the first American dance ensemble to win an invitation to perform in Samarkand, Uzbekistan at the UNESCO-sponsored Sharq Taronalari International Festival; they were also the subject of a special on Uzbek television. SRDC has been featured performers at events for the Embassies of Egypt, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey and Russia, and are frequently engaged by numerous cultural organizations in the local Middle Eastern community.
In 2003, SRDC won the International Academy of Middle Eastern Dance Award for Best Dance Company; that same year they presented Egypta: Myth, Magic, and Mystery as part of the Kennedy Center's Prelude Festival and Local Dance Commissioning Project. A Joy of Motion Company-in-Residence, the ensemble has been a three-time finalist for the Metro DC Awards. Artistic Director Gray won the 2006 Metro DC Dance Award for "Excellence in Costume Design."
SRDC has performed nationally at Warner Bros Studios (Hollywood, CA), Houston's Museum of Fine Arts, the Field Museum in Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, San Antonio's annual "Coronation of the Queen", North Carolina State University, Ford Amphitheater (Hollywood, CA) the Manhattan Center and the Metropolitan Club (NY, NY), Baltimore's Walters Art Museum, the Agha Khan Foundation in Atlanta, Shepherd College (WV) and the Rakkasah Middle Eastern Dance Festival (Somerset, NJ). The ensemble has also appeared at some of the most prestigious venues and festivals in D.C., including the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the State Department, the National Theatre, the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, National Geographic Society, the National Press Club, the Washington Monument, the Library of Congress, Georgetown University, Dance Place, the Jack Guidone Theatre and Lisner Auditorium. Their clients include the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Amnesty International, RAWA, the Secret Service, the World Affairs Council, the Foreign Policy Association, and the National Peace Corps.
Ethnically diverse, the ensemble's dancers have mastered a wide range of styles. Some rare pieces in the repertoire are no longer performed in the countries of origin. People's Artists of Uzbekistan Qizlarhon Dustmuhamedova and Qadir Muminov have passed on a precious legacy of Central Asian dances to SRDC. Dustmukhamedova teaches a month-long residency with the ensemble each summer. Other collaborators such esteemed performers as Egyptian choreographer Momo Kadous, North African dance ethnologist Amel Tafsout, and violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain. Most recently, in December of 2006, SRDC enjoyed a master class with Yusif Gasimov, People's Artist of Azerbaijan, who taught the ensemble an ancient Azeri dance.
In 2004, SRDC was the subject of a special broadcast by the Arab TV network Al Hurra. In April 2005, SRDC premiered Gray's major folkloric ballet, Haft Paykar: "Seven Beauties", at the 2005 World Dance Showcase, sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. VOA television has created two special programs on the ensemble. Several feature-length articles on SRDC have appeared in the World and I and Azerbaijan International magazines.
Recognized for the beauty, authenticity, and imagination of its productions, SRDC has enchanted audiences with productions like Remembering the Legends; 3,000 Years of Women of the Silk Road, The Lion and the Sun: Dances of the Old Persian Empire, Haft Paykar: Seven Beauties, and An Evening on the Silk Road.. On November 4, 2006, they premiered Laurel Victoria Gray's latest production, The Golden Road to Samarkand, which was filmed by Uzbek State Television.