After years of watching, taking dance class, and performing in the Seattle area, dance friends and social justice advocates Arlene Martin and Sue Ann Huang realized they were missing a piece of the picture they wanted to see. Both women identify as people of color, and they found that their dance community was seldom representative of their own diverse experiences, or the experiences of others. Driven by a desire to see dancers and choreographers like themselves gain visibility, the two decided to start Tint Dance Festival. In its inaugural year the festival presents contemporary, modern, and hip hop pieces by five choreographers: Alicia Mullikin, Markeith Wiley, Mary Tisa, Noelle Price, and Zsa Mae. The team of choreographers and festival producers have all come together to present a strong and upbeat selection of works, highlighting the viewpoints of artists of color.
In a recent run through of the festival, cast, crew, and choreographers gathered to show the nearly completed pieces. The dancers have been rehearsing for just over a month and the pieces are not yet finished, but full of potential. Festival founders Martin and Huang welcomed all to the showing. The duo are clearly passionate about their project, figuring out how to put together a dance festival for the first time ever while keeping focused on community, process, and progress. Tint Dance Festival is instrumental in helping to strengthen Seattle’s dance community by filling in a vital missing piece. More than half the dancers performing are artists of color, something uncommon on Seattle stages of any size.
The dances begin, and as much as the show celebrates community, it also showcases the distinct individual voices of the choreographers. Markeith Wiley’s piece draws audiences in with watching eyes and fluid isolations. His cast also vocalizes, creating a sense of group harmony and projecting a strong collective voice. In Mary Tisa’s work, the dancers float and weave through each other with a soft lyrical sensibility. Detroit native Noelle Price’s dance is hard hitting, bringing a joyous sense of communal release and celebration through grounded and undulating movement. Zsa Mae, a hip hop dancer, teacher, and choreographer, presents a work that is full of groove and attitude, sure to be captivating for viewers of any background. Alicia Mullikin’s piece is particularly strong, due to her experienced and fierce cast of dancers who commit fully to her modern and contemporary jazz movement.
These five pieces showcase strong choreographic voices from both emerging and experienced artists. They will also be joined by two guest groups, Northwest Tap Connection and AU collective. Both groups have a focus on race and social justice, easily fitting into the Festival’s mission. AU collective presents “Femmes Shall Inherit the Earth.” As the title suggests, expect sharp, sassy, and strong movement pointedly highlighting the power and strength in their femme cast.
The Tint Dance Festival premieres February 9th and 10th at the Erickson Theater. Motivated by a love for movement and a strong desire to make dance accessible to all, festival founders Martin and Huang have assembled a dynamic and joyful program. The inception of this festival is progress towards building an inclusive community of dancers and choreographers that will reach far past the first ever Tint Dance Festival performances. Tickets and more info at TintDanceFestival.com.