In Memory: Jesse Jaramillo, 1953–2012

Written by Sandra Kurtz

Teacher, choreographer, and dancer Jesse Jaramillo
Jesse Jaramillo came to Seattle as a part of the big wave that followed the Bill Evans Dance Company in the 1970s. Many of the dance institutions that we take for granted today were jumpstarted by that influx, and Jesse was an integral part of that effort. In Seattle, he found colleagues and a community, working as a dancer, a choreographer, and a teacher. He and Gail Heilbron founded Co-Motion Dance, along with a group of dancers and dancemakers who needed a vehicle for their own work—the company thrived, in several guises, for over 25 years. As well as presenting their own choreography, they commissioned dances from a wide variety of artists, and staged reconstructions of classic modern works. Their collaboration with Clay Taliafero was especially significant, and their fidelity to the dramatic and emotional base of American modern dance was reflected in that work—Jesse was particularly effective in the repertory from that humanist perspective.

Jesse was originally from Texas, where he had been an athlete, but like so many men of that generation, started dancing in college and never looked back. You could still see the football player in him, though, in his compact physique and physical alertness. He was able to make small moments powerful on stage.

Jesse began teaching early on, and spent considerable time working with artists in the schools programs. As a man working in dance he would automatically be a role model for boys and young men in the field, but his nature made him an outstanding mentor. He had a part in almost every dance endeavor that took place here since he arrived—it is difficulty to think of a project that didn’t benefit from his contributions. Jesse was a wonderful teacher, a thoughtful choreographer, a passionate dancer, and a well-loved friend. Everyone who knew him will miss him, but will take a little of his spirit forward with them.