In 2005, motivated by a desire to bring high-quality contemporary dance to the Bellingham community, a group of artists founded Bellingham Repertory Dance. Their approach: to choose previously performed, well-received works for their repertoire, with the aim of producing shows at once edgy and accessible. Over the years, they’ve found firm footing and a devoted community of dance enthusiasts who seem honored to call BRD their own.
Now in its 10th year, BRD is celebrating the milestone with Decade, a program reprising six of the collective’s most audience-loved works, as well as a company debut, an ensemble work featuring BRD alumni from all 10 years of the company’s history. After staging one well-attended show in Bellingham’s Mount Baker Theatre earlier this month, the company will bring Decade to Seattle this weekend for a two-night run (April 29–30) at Velocity Dance Center.
Choosing the program, BRD looked for works that had, to quote founding member Alona Christman, “sizzled” audiences in the theater. The result is a dynamic set of works from both local and national choreographers: Eva Stone (Readymade), Marlo Martin (Look at Me with Your Eyes Wide Shut), Jackie-Lou Breakey (Breathing Required), Ryan Corriston (Exodus), Mary Sheldon Scott (Duet from Home), Deborah Wolf (Arc Angle), and Mark Haim (Parade).
This lineup of work makes for a heady and kinetic survey of the company’s strengths and its audiences’ inclinations—from the controlled athleticism of Deborah Wolf’s Arc Angle, (performed in 2006 and again in 2010), to the hypnotically precise and rhythmic sass of Jackie-Lou Breakey’s Breathing Required (2014), to the sometimes explosive abandon of Ryan Corriston’s Exodus.
Asked to describe some of the characteristics that make Decade‘s works so compelling, Christman reeled off a string of descriptors and associations: precision, structure, isolation (Breathing Required); what goes through your head in the moments before falling, held breath (Readymade); desolation, the weight of oppression, the burning hot anger of humiliation, power, restraint (Parade); strength, geometry, weight, partnerships (Arc Angle); sisters (Duet from Home); freedom, movement, weight, community (Exodus); contrast, internal tension, the need and fear to be recognized/seen honestly and fully (Look at Me with your Eyes Wide Shut).
“Looking at the show now, it is clear that there is a darkness, a heaviness to the program, but I think that it is grounded in a passion for challenge, for power and space and emotional exploration,” Christman said. “Most of the women in the company are mothers, and all of us have other jobs that we are invested in not only financially, but also socially or intellectually. Finding time to rehearse and run the company is a stretch for most of us, and so we want the process to be juicy, to push us and to make us play. All of the works in the show are pieces that we love to dance and pieces that ask us to invest artistically.”
This desire to play and move comes through, especially in works like Arc Angle, Look at Me with Your Eyes Wide Shut, and Exodus, rich with powerful partnering, soaring jumps, and extensions whose reach never seems static.
It seems fitting, too, that the one new piece featured in the program, bringing alumni and current dancers together on the same stage, is Mark Haim’s Parade, an ensemble piece featuring 14 minutes of unison that, rehearsal director Kate Stevenson pointed out, the dancers had just six weeks to pin down. By turns saturated and sassy, it glints at a shared will to persevere, and a humanity that finds strength in numbers. The context isn’t made clear, but it’s not really important. BRD might suggest it’s up to the audience to decide. -Emily Horton