Tim Lynch has many roles. He’s the Artistic Director of and a dancer with Seattle Dance Project, he’s an instructor at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School (he was formerly a dancer with PNB), and lately he’s also been a student at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee pursuing a Master’s degree in dance. Lynch has focused his Master’s thesis on boys in dance, framed by his own personal experience and delving into what keeps boys dancing today. Lynch hopes that “dance becomes mainstream, and that all boys who want to dance would pursue it as they would any other sport and be supported by their families, teachers, and peers.” Lynch has done much to foster this in Seattle and will be presenting his research this Sunday, October 20, at Broadway Performance Hall in Threads: A Journey of Boys that Dance. SeattleDances recently sat down with Lynch to hear more about his research and his upcoming presentation.
“My motto is ‘Prepare yourself for greatness,’” says Lynch. He imparts this idea on his students not only in the context of ballet class, but also in life. In a holistic approach to teaching, Lynch strives to help his students develop as people and as dancers, and his passion for this goal is evident in every class he teaches. For the boys he instructs, a large factor that plays into this individual development is creating a specific community of boys so the younger ones to have role models to look up to and the older ones learn to be leaders. Citing a common problem in dance studios across the country, Lynch said, “I so often hear educators say, ‘I have one boy, and what should I do with them?’” Fortunately, PNBS is a formidable training academy with a robust men’s division, and Lynch was able to help build this community from the youngest ages up. A few years ago, he established a creative movement class for boys ages five to seven years old, and always choreographs a piece for the school performance with the boys in Levels I-VIII. The piece offers a perfect visualization of this community, from the youngest boys marching into place to the oldest executing complicated leaps and turns. Seeing so many boys onstage at once is indeed a rarity and the sense of camaraderie within the group is almost tangible.
Lynch himself received his training at the School of American Ballet in New York before joining Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1993. “I had really good, supportive friends and family,” and besides idolizing Baryshnikov, Lynch said he always admired Peter Boal (now PNB’s Artistic Director) for his clean technique and work ethic in class. And, as it turns out, it was Boal who initially encouraged Lynch to start documenting his teaching and how his approaches differed with boys than with girls. “This is what I know, and what I do on a daily basis,” says Lynch, so it was a natural step to start researching these teaching methods more in depth. Again referencing the lack of boys in most ballet classes, Lynch believes “this is also something that needs to be brought to the forefront.” In his presentation, Lynch sheds light on both the positive impact dance can have on a boys life, as well as the challenges boys often face when pursuing dance.
Threads is a culmination of Lynch’s research that’s half lecture presentation and half performance of his choreography that features all-male casts. The lecture portion of Threads will include a discussion of Lynch’s main points of focus: building a community of boys, the impact his teaching has had on his students, as well as the bigger picture outside of the studio. This section features video interviews with Lynch’s students and their parents discussing what brings them to dance, as well as what they take away from dance. Lynch is also curious about how other people perceive dance, so he’s included a portion at the end of the lecture devoted to hearing from the audience and inviting them to share their experience. The performance half includes three works: a section from his all-boy school performance piece, a work titled Social Exclusion that deals with the subtle forms of bullying ubiquitous among children, and a piece performed by himself and his two sons.
Ultimately, “what I’ve really gotten from [this research process],” says Lynch, “is to see how much my students have grown and how they are really finding themselves and their identity through dance as a vehicle.” Lynch’s students are not the only benefactors of his return to academia, though, as Lynch, too, has grown both as a teacher and a choreographer. His research opened up new ways of approaching teaching—he now incorporates somatics and yoga in his classes to help facilitate the mind/body connection in his students—and how he makes work, and the substance of the work as well. “It needs to have a message,” he maintains, “it needs to be more than just a pretty dance.” This recognition prompted him to create a piece earlier this year about marriage equality, and also to create the work, to be performed Sunday, with his two sons William (ten) and Cameron (eight). Both students at PNBS, the boys have loved working with their father on the piece which Lynch says deals with how “technology and also life, can really pull you away from what’s important.”
As for the title of the program, Lynch says Threads can mean many different things to different people. “It’s a string that goes on and on” and is symbolic of the journey each individual takes through dance, and how this is connected to their teachers’ and peer’s experiences as well. Lynch’s own journey with dance only continues onward. Recently recognized by his colleagues as a Dance Educator of the Year through the Dance Educators Association of Washington, Lynch says the award “really fuels me to keep going and not settle to just be a faculty member, but to do more. It fuels me to continue to learn more and share that knowledge with my students.”
The work of teachers is often overlooked in dance communities, but their impact is tremendous. From building communities, to training healthy and embodied dancers, it’s people like Lynch that are shaping the fabric of the tomorrow’s dance world. Threads provides great insight into contemporary dance education for boys, but it’s also an inspiring look at how one individual’s passion can make a difference in so many lives.
Threads will be presented Sunday, October 20, at 5 PM at Broadway Performance Hall. More information and tickets can be found here.