Preview: DANCE This 14 Years Strong

Written by Mariko Nagashima
DANCE This choreographer Siya Manyakanyaka
Photo by Gabriel  Bienczycki   

DANCE This has seemingly done it all. Mexican folk, Tahitian, Irish step dancing, hip hop, tap. These are just some of the genres that have graced the Moore Theater’s stage over the program’s past 14 years. By bringing a huge range of styles and choreographers together, DANCE This simultaneously showcases cultural vibrancy and local youth in an evening of high-octane performance. This year’s line-up of African, Tibetan, Chinese, and a solid dose of Broadway from the hit production FELA!is no exception. The performance takes place this Friday and Saturday evening at 7:30 pm at the Moore Theater. Also on the bill are pieces by well-known local choreographers Sonia Dawkins, Mark Haim, and Daniel Cruz.
The program began as a way to broaden the horizons of teen dancers. “I thought there was a gap working with young performers in terms of genre,” says Vicky Lee, the producer of DANCE This. “We all enjoy the ballet. We all enjoy hip hop. But I really wanted to reflect the cultural community in Seattle and bring everything under one roof, so it wasn’t so silo-ed.” In this, Lee has been enormously successful. She says the most common feedback from dancers is that they most enjoyed learning a different form from someone else.

This could not have been more evident in a recent rehearsal of DANCE This participants with Gansango Music and Dance Company. The students (ranging in age from 13 to 22) were bursting with enthusiasm as they flicked and pulsed their arms, gleefully stomping their feet and undulating their hips, to the ceaselessly rhythmic drumming. Having only 2 weeks to put the piece together, choreographers Etienne Capko and Siya Manyakanyaka have both enjoyed the challenge. “The students are very open,” says Manyakanyaka. “You can try whatever you want to try in the moment and if it works, it works.” This is especially fruitful because the piece fuses many African styles, as Manyakanyaka is from South Africa and Capko hails from Benin. “It’s more fun to get to play with lots of different styles,” says Capko. “It’s bringing different cultures together. It’s really important to give this education to young people through DANCE This. It’s a good opportunity for them to grow up and study.” 

With high caliber choreographers setting work on them and an opportunity to explore their own choreographic techniques through the Young Choreographers Lab, DANCE This provides a professional environment for youth to be challenged, grow, and rise up to the next level. “It’s an artist development program, and we’re really proud of that,” says Lee.
For more info on DANCE This and to purchase tickets for this weekend’s performances see: http://stgpresents.org/artists/?artist=1605#.