Skip to content

Interview: Katy Hagelin Dance Project’s Artistic Director

Written by Carla María Negrete Martínez
(Photo: KHDP Company dancers Kenaniah Christian Bystrom and Elizabeth Gordon.
Photo by Whittaker Dunn)
“I didn’t think of myself having a company, but realized it was happening as I was just making my own projects,” says choreographer Katy Hagelin. Katy Hagelin Dance Project officially became a company in October 2008. Hagelin, also a dancer and choreographer with Ballet Bellevue, will be presenting “Purple Triangle // Purple Dagger” at Velocity Dance Center on December 2nd and 3rd at 7:30pm (tickets at Brown Paper Tickets). This is KHDP’s fourth full show, and SeattleDances was able to get the inside scoop, in a discussion with Hagelin herself.
SD: This show has a mix of old and new pieces. Tell us about “Purple Triangle // Purple Dagger” and what audience members will see.
KH: One new piece titled, Purple Triangle // Purple Dagger is about the dream of a girl who murdered someone. I don’t know if it’s intense, I’m not sure I can make intense pieces, but maybe the audience will be disturbed by it. Controller (another new piece)is the longest. It explores video games and controllers. It’s a little bit melodramatic, but it works in the show. Hours was first performed in October 2010; it’s about the FDNY and September 11, 2001. We performed it at a benefit dinner for the New York firefighters in Bothell, Washington. Kiss It Good-bye was performed in February of this year. It’s a comedy duet piece about dancers, a cliché. There’s always a story going on in my pieces and almost always a hopeful message because I want it to be uplifting. So Controller and Kiss it Good-bye will balance the other, more serious, pieces.
SD: What process are you using with the new pieces and how has it been different from creating Hours and Kiss It Good-bye?
KHDP Company dancers Tori McConnell, Danny Boulet,
Katy Hagelin,
and Courtney Dressner.
Photo by Whittaker Dunn
KH: Hours and Kiss It Good-byeare more like my typical work, they incorporate ballet and my style; they’re to counts and it feel more like what I usually do. The difference with Purple Triangle // Purple Dagger is that I made it up a year and a half ago. I knew exactly what I wanted and had to get it out. Controller was way more of a process. I had to study a lot of videogame avatars and the evil guys. I also studied a lot of kung fu moves. It’s been a process of mixing dance and fighting, and has been challenging because not only is it 17 minutes, but I also have three different characters. They can never dance together at the same time, so teaching the humans, the avatars, and the bad guys, has been like teaching 17 minutes of material for each character. It’s not typical of my work, so I wonder what people will think; I hope they enjoy it. Fly through the air (another new piece) came to my mind when I listened to the music. That’s how I usually come up with my choreography.
SD: Tell us about your music choices. You have used Go Periscope and other ambient electronic music; will you be using something similar this time?
KH: Yes, I used Go Periscope in Kiss It Good-bye; it’s more like techno-pop. For Purple Triangle // Purple Dagger I used Nils Petter Molvaer, he is a jazz trumpeter, but his music also sounds a bit middle-eastern. It fits the dreamy-like motif of the piece. Controller has music by Kodomo. He is a Japanese composer and his music definitely sounds like a video game. I definitely use ambient beats and did intend for the show to be contemporary, all a certain style of contemporary. I have done work with classical music in the past though.
SD: From watching Hours, it seems like your dancers have a strong classical ballet background. Is this your background as well? How does the classical ballet aesthetic and technique weave its way into your work, and how does it challenge contemporary thought?
Choreographer and dancer Katy Hagelin.
Photo by Whittaker Dunn
KH: Yes, I’m very classical. In college I really got into modern, but my body doesn’t fit modern, so I had to learn how to mesh both styles in my body. I’ve come up with a weird style that mixes that. I’m in between both techniques and that’s how it comes out in choreography. If the movement fits the theme and it happens to be a ballet line, then I’ll put it in. I think that it all depends on the movement phrase; Hours is very leggy but it has floor work as well. Not necessarily modern floor work, but floor work with lines. I use the legs but not necessarily basic technique like fifth or first position.
SD: What challenges did you face when founding the company and what challenges do you still come up against?
KH: Challenging things were answering questions concerning the business plan, like “what is the company about, what is its purpose?” For our first show, in April 2009, I hired a lot of dancers from out of state that had danced with me. They eventually moved here after that to dance in Seattle and dance for me. Doing the PR work and fundraising is challenging. I teach and work full time to make enough money for this. Sometimes I don’t have enough time to advertise my work, so at times I end up giving my own money for it. Rehearsal space is also difficult; I don’t have a residence space and it’s challenging to schedule my dancers as well. Because the dancers and I are looking for opportunities in our career, not knowing whether my dancers will continue in the company is a challenge as well.
SD: What plans do you have for the company? In which ways do you see it growing?
KH: I do see it growing, but I can see [my dancers] getting other opportunities and the momentum of the company changing. I’m excited about what I’m doing, and I would like to hire dancers out for a season. That way we could meet weekly, in the sense of taking class together and have time to work on things with them without a deadline so they can learn how to dance together.
SD: If SeattleDances readers would like to learn more about your choreography, where can they see videos of your work online?
KH: On under Katy Hagelin. Also my website: has a link to videos.