Preview: A Look at SCUBA’s Past, Present, and Future

Written by Mariko Nagashima 

SCUBA artist Gabrielle Revlock
Photo by Bonnie Friel 
“SCUBA is really a collaboration between artists and presenters,” says Tonya Lockyer, SCUBA coordinator and Executive Director at Velocity. “In many ways you can say it’s an artist driven program…a response to dwindling resources for dance artists to tour.” Originally conceived by Velocity founder KT Neihoff, SCUBA came out of Neihoff’s realization that she and her peers had the skills to produce and advertise shows, but lacked the networks, relationships, and funding systems to effectively do so in other cities. As a cooperative effort between VelocityDanceCenter, ODC Theater in San Francisco, Philadelphia Dance Projects, and independent contractor Lauren Van Wieren in Minneapolis, SCUBA National Touring Network for Dance now provides opportunities for locally established artists to tour at the national level. Designed for “artists who are established locally and ready to emerge on a national scene,” SCUBA provides the infrastructure and funding for these networks and relationships to blossom.

Now celebrating its 10th season, SCUBA has helped launch many artists onto the national scene. Past SCUBA artists have included Neihoff’s own lingodancetheater, zoe│juniper, Amy O’Neal, Ben Levy/LEVYDance, Kate Watson-Wallace, and Morgan Thorsen, all of whom have received national acclaim. Lockyer believes it is the program’s adaptability, including its application process, that has enabled it to survive a financially difficult decade. “Every year, each city does a call and collects applications, then a local panel distills that down to two to five local artists. All these videos are sent out to these other partners, and then there’s a phone conversation.” Where artists are selected from and tour to vary each year. “Some years, one artist from each city is selected. Other years San Francisco decides they’re very excited about an artist in Philadelphia, but no one else feels their community would be engaged.” This year is particularly exciting for Seattlebecause it’s the first year where two local artists were selected. The artists to perform this weekend at Velocity are Alice Gosti and Allie Hankins, both Seattle-based artists, and Gabrielle Revlock of Philadelphia. Ledges and Bones from San Francisco and Angharad Daives from Minneapoliswere also selected and will be performing in SCUBA’s other three cities.

Alice Gosti/Spaghetti Co. in The Bridge Project
Photo by Tim Summers
Lockyer says she’s “honestly excited about all of it [this year].” In regards to Revlock, Lockyer relates that “her work has a fantastic personality. It’s funny, it’s theatrical.” As for the local artists, “Allie has been working on this project intensively for over a year. She went through this entire process, and came out on the other side, and we’re going to get to see what that is. And Alicecreated a work that I know for her was a really big risk [in the Bridge Project]. It was a really new direction for her, enough that she wants to dive back in and see what’s there.” Because SCUBA is designed for early to mid-career artists, “you get to see them right before they take off, and that’s really exciting,” says Lockyer.

The beauty of SCUBA is that it mutually benefits the artists selected and the audiences in each city. Especially for a more isolated city like Seattle, sharing local artist’s work with other cities, and seeing outside artist’s work presented here is a vital experience. “I think it’s really exciting for people outside of Seattle to see what Seattleartists are doing, because Seattleartists do great work,” remarks Lockyer. “And I’m always really excited when I see Seattleartists come back from the tour because I can see how much the work has deepened. [You] can see it in the dancers and in the choreography.” The program also helps to freshen the palette of audiences. “One of the things you learn from [SCUBA] is that, actually, Americais an incredibly diverse scene and you have really different things going on in these different towns. It really shows the texture and the diversity of the American scene.”

As for the future, SCUBA won’t be slowing down any time soon. Currently supported by the Mellon Foundation, the organization has received funding to create a strategic plan for its future. “SCUBA is now seen as a model for alternative ways of touring, and for partnership and collaboration,” says Lockyer. “Many other cities have approached us and they want to be a part of SCUBA or create their own SCUBA.” A bit further on the horizon might even be a partnership with the KennedyCenter. Lockyer relays that “the KennedyCenter was interested in…all the SCUBA circles coming together. [creating] this sort of snap shot of what’s happening in American dance today.” The idea of a collaboration of such magnitude is an exciting prospect indeed. As the founding city of SCUBA, Seattlewill undoubtedly be on the forefront of new developments and will continue to contribute talented artists to the national dance community. Don’t miss your chance to see three of these artists this weekend, May 4–6, at VelocityDanceCenter.

Tickets for this year’s SCUBA can be purchased at: https://velocitydance.secure.force.com/ticket#details_a0SF0000006N0v4MAC. SCUBA is also currently accepting applications for 2013. To apply visit: http://velocitydancecenter.org/program/scuba/

Velocity is also hosting a roundtable discussion at High 5 Pie at 12pm on Thursday, May 3. Joing the SCUBA artists for a discussion about making art and their national touring experience thus far.

For more information on this year’s SCUBA artist’s see:


Alice Gosti: http://gostia.net

Gabrielle Revlock: http://www.manodamno.com/

Ledges and Bones: http://ledgesandbones.org/