It's all about connections

Styles mix: From neoclassical ballet to samba to swing, groups share energy, enthusiasm

March 4, 2011 

The Olympia Dance Festival on Sunday will include a performance that allows audience members to experience a wide range of dance. But the event is just as much about dancers making connections with other dancers.

“It was fun last year to see all of the different dancers and groups interacting backstage,” said Josie Johnson, who with her husband, Ken, runs Ballet Northwest and Johansen Olympia Dance Center. The two groups are sponsoring the festival with The Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

“Maybe the ballet dancers had never had a chance to see Irish dance before and really loved the energy of it. It was fun to watch them telling other dancers how much they loved their dance,” she said.

This year’s festival performance includes pieces by 11 dance companies in styles from contemporary and neoclassical ballet to samba and swing.

“It was a great success last year,” Johnson said. “A few groups that weren’t able to do it last year and came to see it or heard about it were able to join us this year.”

One of those is Radco (Random Acts of Dance Collective), which will perform “A Dance for Marie,” a lyrical contemporary piece.

“It is choreographed, and there is a section where dancers interpret the intent of the piece through their own choreography,” said choreographer Carol Kochta, who created the piece in honor of her late mother, Marie Bruno.

“My mom passed away two years ago on the date we’re performing it – March 6,” Kochta said. “It was really an amazing coincidence when I realized that after we had already committed to it.”

Radco is a loose collective of dancers who create work together and is a perennial favorite at Arts Walk. The group’s pieces often blend improvisation with choreography.

“We’re one of the only groups dancing at the festival that don’t represent a studio of some kind,” Kochta said.

Other groups joining the event for the first time are Samba Olywa, which will perform to live music, and Sunday Night Swing. Because of the larger number of participants this year, each group is limited to eight minutes of stage time, which might be one piece or a few shorter ones.

Other participating companies are Debbie’s Dance Etc., Mas Uda Middle Eastern Dancers, Slieveloughane Irish Dancers, Southwest Washington Dance Ensemble, Studio West Dance Academy and Wild Grace Dance Theater.

In addition to Sunday’s performance, the festival includes master classes open only to dancers participating in the festival.

“There’s a lot of hanging out at the theater and getting to know the different groups,” Ken Johnson said. “Part of it is just being around the theater for the whole weekend. There are already lots of connections there, but it’s just strengthening those connections.”

Olympia Dance Festival

What: Eleven of South Sound’s dance companies get together to share their talents in styles from ballet to samba to Irish to contemporary.

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia

Tickets: $10

More information: 360-753-8586, www.washingtoncenter.org , www.balletnorthwest.org

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