Professional dance is often saturated by white performers. While recent years have brought attention to the need for more opportunities for performers of color, the landscape has been slow to change. The Tint Dance Festival is determined to change that. Founded by Sue Ann Huang and Arlene Martin, who realized they could do something about the lack of racial and ethnic representation in the Seattle dance scene, Tint works to celebrate dancers and choreographers of color. Showcasing diverse backgrounds and a spectrum of dance experiences, the Tint Dance Festival featured valuable perspectives and solid technique. It was one of those programs that makes you wish all dance shows were this plugged into dialogues of identity and cultural history. Engaging and inspiring, Tint is a fantastic project that brings richness and multilayered experience to Seattle audiences.
Tint featured two guest companies alongside individual choreographers. NW Tap Connection featured a talented lineup of mostly young adults. In pieces celebrating “the unity and history of those of the African Diaspora, Captivity, Enslavement and Freedom” and “the dignity and cultural value of African-Americans,” they showed off a variety of movement styles, with spunky, youthful personality at the forefront. Au Collective channeled the “feeling myself” mentality in femmes shall inherit the earth. A collaboration between the dancers, the piece allowed each performer to let their unique style and attitude shine. Vibrant and evocative, these femmes swept the stage and exuded confidence with a smiling sensuality.
Two pieces demonstrated the inextricable connection of music choice to the success of a dance piece. Redemption, choreographed by Noelle Price, started intriguingly in silence, but the magic happened when the music kicked in, a sudden swagger bubbling up beneath the steps as the vocal vibrations of Bobby McFerrin’s “Circle Song Six” snuck in and took hold. BAD B*TCH, choreographed by Alicia Mullikin, started as what seemed like a fairly safe and straightforward contemporary piece that turned on a dime when the music switched from an ominous, ambient piece by Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein (of Stranger Things theme music fame) to “One Bad Bitch” by Ten Ven & Ripley featuring Zebra Katz. My notes, when this happened, were simply a group of exclamation marks (!!!), and I stopped writing so I could whoop encouragement for the dancers—a variety of shapes, sizes, races, and ages, who committed to powerful hip hop choreography that lifted each other up, literally and figuratively.
There were a number of other pieces in the program as well, and while they might not have been as exciting or successful overall, they were still interesting to watch. The costume choices were varied across the board, and dramatic lighting design for all of the pieces by Meg Fox further added visual interest. The Erickson Theater has no bad seats—it’s big enough to allow for good production value and small enough that you can see the dancers’ faces. The community was warm, taking to heart the encouragement of organizers Huang and Martin to cheer and make noise during the performances. The joy of the dancers and of the other audience members was infectious.
Typical white-washed contemporary dance performances pale in comparison to the majority of the pieces exhibited at Tint this weekend. We know that diversity of representation benefits all of us, and Tint proved this yet again. I hope we see lots of more from Tint, and I also hope that we don’t have to. If dance administrators are looking for a way to bring the experiences of their communities to the forefront, they should look to Tint for an example of how to explicitly welcome and celebrate artists of color. By being inclusive of the rich ethnic histories encompassed by many dancers in our community, we can create a richer, more meaningful dance landscape in Seattle.
The inaugural Tint Dance Festival appeared February 9-10, 2018 at the Erickson Theater.