Artsy Hotel Raises the Barre

The Washington Post profiles the goofy-ass training at a new the hotel where I’ll be for Adaptive Path’s UX Week

And so the sleek marble lobby bobbed with the compact frame and overflowing personality of Washington Ballet Artistic Director Septime Webre, who commandeered a troupe of lavender-shirted bellhops in a lesson of classical ballet.

“Fluid movements, one two three, one two three,” Webre chanted, extending his arm toward the lobby’s textured wallpaper. “Tuck in your [backside]. No booties out in Maryland, please. It’s 202, not 301.”

Greenbelt resident and Palomar bellboy-in-training Alvin Green tucked in. “This is extensive training,” he said. “It’s a . . . uh . . . different experience.” Sighing at Green’s port de bras, Septime said only, “Very, very good” before swanning away to adjust the shoulders of a future concierge.

The Palomar hopes to tell its story to gallery-hopping guests who would get excited about chocolates hand-painted by an “artist chocolatier” and nightly “art of wine” tastings at which local artists mingle with the crowd. The Dupont Circle hotel will have its grand opening in September, but is currently accepting guests on a limited basis. It is Kimpton Hotels’ seventh location in the District; others include Hotel Monaco and the Hotel Madera, just two blocks away.

By a carved column of dark ebony, comedians Amy Saidman and Natasha Rothwell theatrically complained yesterday, throwing up their hands like prima donnas, while bellhops improvised ways to calm them.

As she ran her finger over her chest flirtatiously, Rothwell stage-whispered in a low, breathy drawl, “I could stay longer than three nights.”

Amid the hoots and whistles of the watching employees, bellhop Wendell Williams said, in absolute deadpan, “That won’t be possible, ma’am.”

Or, as Orlando described it: “We’re as minimalistic as possible to allow the guests to experience art. So our lobby is discreet and philosophical.”

Looking around the lobby, ballet master Webre explained what he saw to his students: “The theatrical experience is going to have a beginning . . . when the curtain goes up and the lights go on. This is that beginning.”

Orlando agreed with Webre’s vision: “Art starts at the curb when the bellman opens the door.”

Sigh. I’ve stayed at other Kimpton Hotels before (the Allegro in Chicago, the Monaco in Chicago, the Argonaut in San Francisco) and I just find the experience to be silly and unrelated to what I’m there for. I don’t need art, ballet, music, guys in silly pith helmets, or whatever in the foreground. I’m not asking the hotel to be purely functional, but I don’t think the hotel needs to demand that I participate in its concept, to ram that concept down my throat. If I want a specifically-art experience, I’ll go to a museum. If I want to sleep, eat, check-in/check-out, and hide from the busy world, I’ll go to a hotel. There are ways to differentiate, and enhance the experience with a bit of “isn’t that cool!” but I feel like Kimpton just takes it too far, creating parodic experiences with no authenticity at all.

And this article further takes the wind out of their self-inflated sails; their approach to corporate training just seems ludicrous.

I’ll report back in late August on our experience!


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