Dance in Seattle

Seattle's large and active dance community has always encompassed a wide range of styles and genres.

Many world-renowned dancers and choreographers got their start here, including Trisha Brown, Robert Joffrey, Mark Morris, Ann Reinking, and William Whitener. Merce Cunningham met John Cage at the Cornish School in 1937, beginning the lifelong collaboration that would be instrumental in shaping America's modern dance movement.

However, these dancers and dance makers all left the Pacific Northwest, abandoning their roots in order to establish their careers elsewhere. For those of us who grew up in the Seattle area, they seem more like distant cousins than brothers or sisters. The dancers and dance makers who stayed or immigrated to the Northwest comprise Seattle's immediate dance family, and this eclectic group of artists has grown steadily over the past thirty years, shaping and redefining itself as the art form evolves and mutates.

In 1976, Bill Evans brought his company to Seattle, raising both the qualitative level of concert dance and increasing dance's exposure in the city. His dancers made up a large contingency of the modern dance community throughout the 1980's, choreographing, teaching, and developing dance venues. Contemporary choreographer Pat Graney has been making dances in Seattle for over 20 years, often collaborating with local composers and visual artists. Dayna Hanson and Gaelen Hanson, who co-direct the offbeat dance-theatre company, 33 Fainting Spells, call Seattle their home when not touring nationally.

In addition, Seattle boasts a large pool of excellent dancers - many who are graduates of either the University of Washington or Cornish College for the Arts' reputable dance departments - who have no problem finding pick-up work with the city's many independent choreographers and performance artists.

For the balletophile, Seattle has an internationally recognized ballet company, Pacific Northwest Ballet, which performs a diverse repertory with works by Balanchine and contemporary choreographers such as William Forsythe and Nacho Duato, as well as the classics. Spectrum Dance Theater - now under the direction of New York transplant Donald Byrd - has an eclectic season of both jazz and modern dance. The University of Washington's Chamber Dance Ensemble specializes in re-creating the works of Ruth St. Denis, Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham, and other icons of modern dance while providing a performance venue for its M.F.A. students.

Seattle's world dance scene continues to diversify as it reflects our city's growing ethnic populations. Avocational and professional groups representing dance styles and genres from across the globe meet and perform regularly. Radost Folk Ensemble has been performing Eastern European dance and music since 1976. The busy flamenco artist, Rubina Carmona, runs an amateur group, La Pena Flamenca de Seattle, as well as her own professional company Carmona Flamenco. Ewajo Dance Workshop has specialized in Dunham and African technique for nearly twenty years.

Social dance also plays an important role in our community. Couples and singles alike can meet at such hot spots as the Century Ballroom and Dance Underground to tango and swing late into the night.

There is a wide variety of dance venues in Seattle, and on any given weekend those more interested in viewing than participating can find a dance performance in one of Seattle's many theaters. Pacific Northwest Ballet uses the recently renovated McCaw Hall to perform its repertory. On the University of Washington campus, Meany Hall offers an exciting series of international and national touring companies. On the Boards - now a part of the New Performance Network - has been producing avante garde theater and dance since 1979. Two of its performance series, 12 Minutes Max and Northwest New Works, are dedicated entirely to local work. Velocity Dance Center, founded by former Pat Graney dancers Michele Miller and KT Niehoff, provides our community with a theater, contemporary dance school, and studio space while hosting several festivals and artistic residencies.

Seattle also has numerous studios combining both professional and avocational training in a wide variety of dance styles and genres.

As Seattle's dance community grows and diversifies, its members are pooling resources to provide more information for both the dancer and the dance enthusiast. We are proud of our unique dance tradition and we want to make sure Seattle remains fertile ground for dance in the Northwest. Our community continues to evaluate its identity in a post-millennium dance context where funding and budget cuts have dictated the demise of many dance companies throughout the U.S.

At DanceNet, we hope to provide the Seattle-based dancer as well as the dance enthusiast visiting our city for the first time with a network in which to experience dance in our community. Enjoy, and welcome to the site!