Now in its twelfth season, Bellingham Repertory Dance (BRD) continues to present high quality contemporary dance performance from choreographers from across the country. A nonprofit collective of highly accomplished performers, BRD brings two vibrant contemporary dance productions as well as youth and adult classes to the Bellingham and Whatcom County community each year. A new 7-day Dance Festival takes place Sept. 14-22, 2017.
I spoke with dancer, teacher, filmmaker and company member Juliette Machado to learn more about BRD and their work.
What is Repertory Dance?
Since I’m not a dancer myself, I wondered what the term ‘repertory’ means to a dance company. It means that they purchase and perform existing works from choreographers, rather than creating their own original works in house.
For BRD, that means that choreographers from all over the country submit their works for review year round, each vying for their work to be produced. In the past, BRD has presented the work of choreographers from as far as Portland, Seattle, Boise, New York, San Diego, Minnesota and Vancouver, B.C.
What is Contemporary Dance?
Contemporary dance is a style of expressive movement that combines elements of and draws its roots from several dance genres including modern, jazz, lyrical and classical ballet. Contemporary dancers work to connect the mind and the body through fluid dance movements. Developed during the mid-twentieth century, contemporary dance has grown to become one of the dominant genres for formally trained dancers throughout the world. In contemporary dance you’ll see the strong, controlled legwork of ballet mixed with modern dance’s stress on the torso. Common elements also include contract-release, floor work, fall and recovery, and improvisation that is characteristic of modern dance. Many choreographers use unpredictable changes in rhythm, speed, and direction as well.
BRD was created to fill a void. Back in 2005, a number of talented dancers were seeking opportunities to hone and present their craft in Bellingham and Whatcom County. But other than the incredible Kuntz & Company and Western Washington University’s dance programs, there just weren’t a lot of other options. So, out of their own ingenuity, the founding members of BRD created their own outlet.
The story goes that during their first season, while they were getting their footing, the company paid their choreographers in I.O.U.s that they later made good on from ticket sales.
In addition to performing in the sophisticated, yet modest Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Bellingham’s historic Fairhaven neighborhood, BRD has taken their shows to Seattle venues and to Western Washington University at its Performing Arts Center and Western Gallery.
The fact that the company is in its twelfth year and still going strong speaks to the passion of its founders, members and the support of the community that attends each performance.
BRD is a collective, so all the dancers in its volunteer-run company make decisions together democratically. Meaning that each dance piece is chosen by the dancers themselves, rather than an artistic director. The company does have a core group of dancers that are nominated and lead in major decision-making, but in general, every company member participates in some way to accomplish the costuming, publicity, ticketing, venue rentals, class coordination and other administration required each year.
The BRD dancers come from differing backgrounds, currently consisting of ten company members and one apprentice, with the company changing slightly each year. BRD prides itself on holding a high technical standard for its performances. As a result most or all of its dancers have classical dance training including ballet, while also having additional specialized training in other areas like hip-hop. Many have graduated from WWU’s dance program. Setting the bar high allows BRD to be flexible in the types of movement they tackle. Their performances include a wide variety of styles because their dancers are able to execute the work with confidence and comfort. Many are also teaching artists, meaning that they both love to perform higher level professional work and also teach their own students. A few members have been with the company for many years.
Some other members also hold additional jobs in creative areas. For example, Juliette, who is in her fourth year with BRD also works as a filmmaker. Her short films have been selected to screen at festivals throughout the U.S. as well as internationally in Vancouver, Scotland, and Portugal. She trained extensively in ballet and modern dance techniques up through college, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from WWU and receiving the Outstanding Graduate Award in 2014. She also works at Bellingham Arts Academy for Youth (BAAY) as their marketing director and after school enrichment program coordinator and has instructed for Whatcom Community College’s dance program and teaches weekly company community classes for BRD.
Brand new this year, BRD is coordinating a new 7-Day Dance Festival that kicks off on September 14 and ends with a single show on September 22 at the Firehouse. The goal is for teams of dancers to create, rehearse and perform a brand new original dance piece in only one week. Many local dance studios, theaters and other organizations have donated space to support the effort including Ballet Bellingham, Opus Performing Arts, ABCDance Bellingham, Harper & I, Kuntz and Company, BAAY, Sylvia Center for the Arts, Love to Move Studioz, La Vida Dance Studio, Bell Tower Community Center, Lydia Place and the Majestic. Teams from Seattle will be participating as well as local teams. BRD hopes that this festival will become a regular annual event.
In addition, BRD presents a Fall and Spring Repertory Performance each year. For 2017, the fresh, fun Fall Repertory Show will be held on November 10, 11, 17, 18 and 19 with work by choreographers from Seattle, Portland and San Diego.
Bellingham and Whatcom County are lucky to have BRD’s nonprofit collective of highly accomplished performers in our midst. The work they bring by top choreographers from across the country and the classes they teach means that our community and its visitors can experience the culture and art of vibrant contemporary dance in our own back yard. Those interested in the art of contemporary dance can check the BRD website for more information and upcoming show and class dates at www.bhamrep.org.