Watch a medley of movement

feel the beat: Experience various types of motion and rhythm at third annual festival

MOLLY GILMORE; Contributing writerMarch 2, 2012 

Dancers from eight South Sound companies will make rhythms and take wing Sunday at the third annual Olympia Dance Festival.

“The choreography is really diverse, as is the music,” said Ken Johnson, who with his wife, Josie, runs Ballet Northwest and Johansen Olympia Dance Center.

The ballet company co-sponsors the festival along with the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. “We have ballet, modern, tap, jazz, African and Irish. I think that’s it.”

Actually, he forgot the belly dancing. Groups participating – each offering one or two dances for a total of up to 10 minutes – are Ballet Northwest, Debbi’s Dance Etc., Johansen Olympia Dance Center, Mas Uda Middle Eastern Dancers, Radco (Random Acts of Dance Collective), Slieveloughane Irish Dancers, Southwest Washington Dance Ensemble, and Studio West Dance Theatre.

The African dance, “Two Voices,” will be performed by Ballet Northwest. It is choreographed by Joanne Holbrook, who teaches at Johansen Dance Center and is from South Africa.

“I danced in African dance companies in South Africa,” she said. “The piece has a lot of what I learned.”

The African dance, which features the dancers stamping and slapping their legs to create rhythms, is not a traditional dance, but the sort of contemporary dance that you can see in the theaters and on the streets of South Africa today, Holbrook said.

“There’s one dancer who does ballet around the African dancers, and so there is the contrast of the African moves that are hard and strong with the ballet, which is light and gentle,” she said.

The contrast has been a challenge for the dancers. “They are all ballet dancers, and I am asking them to do everything that they have been taught not to do,” she said. “It’s been an interesting process.”

Radco, a collective of modern dancers with varied backgrounds, is the one participating company that is not affiliated with a studio or lesson. The collective, which often performs at Arts Walk and other community events, will present two dances, “Aviary,” choreographed by Meg Hunt, and “Reciprocal,” by Michelle McAllister.

As its name suggests, “Aviary” is a dance about birds. “It’s impressions of different types of birds,” Hunt said. “There are great blue herons, and little tweety birds that come to your feeder like juncos and chickadees, and big raptors.”

Hunt is basing the dance, with nine trained dancers, on a solo she did about two decades ago. The music for that solo was composed by Dan Dissault, then a student at The Evergreen State College.

“He made a wonderful electronic score,” Hunt said. When she decided to expand the piece for the festival, she tracked down Dissault, now living in Seattle.

“I asked him if I could use the music, and he said, ‘Sure.’ He had to transfer it from reel-to-reel tape and quadrophonic sound to digital stereo sound.”

Dissault plans to attend the festival, Hunt said. “We’ve only been corresponding by email,” she added. “We haven’t seen each other for 20 years.”

Olympia Dance Festival

What: Eight South Sound dance companies perform a sampling of styles from ballet to belly.

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,,

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