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ARC Dance From Rehearsal to Stage

Nestled in the Crown Hill neighborhood of Seattle, ARC Dance houses both a pre-professional dance training school and a resident company. Even in the midst of Seattle’s current heat wave, the ARC company dancers, led by artistic director Marie Chong, have been hard at work rehearsing for the annual Summer Dance at the Center performances. As the professionals rehearse, the next generation of dancers peeks in to watch; ARC’s summer intensive program shares the space. On July 17-19 at 8 PM at the Leo Kreielsheimer Theatre at Seattle Center, ARC will present six works, including Mark J. Kane’s Of Passion You Have Plenty, Alex Ketley’s Duo, Kirk Midtskog’s A Short Bourée, Jason Ohlberg’s The Blue Room, Chong’s Something Fun, and the world premiere of Recurring by Gérard Théorêt.

ARC dancer Victoria Jahn
Photo by Paul Sanders

The process of studio rehearsals can often look vastly different from the final product an audience views onstage. The compact duration of performance contrasts with a full day of rehearsals, where works are often rehearsed hours apart or even on separate days. Without theatrical elements of costuming, lighting, scenic design, even makeup, in rehearsal, the dancers appear more human and less ethereal, their sweat and effort more apparent. Rather than detracting from the beauty of the ARC dancers, this evidence of mortality elevates their athleticism. Chong has chosen dancers capable of technical feats executed effortlessly. Rippling muscles and sweating brows accompanied elegant long lines and explosive jumps.

Under Théorêt’s watchful eye, dancer Cameron Auble-Branigan rehearsed a solo section from Recurring, his movements precise and athletic. This section of Théorêt’s longer premiere provided a great teaser for the full work. In ARC’s largest studio, Erin Crall and Graham Gobeille rehearsed Duo which created an interesting juxtaposition between the dancers and the negative space around them. While they purposefully limited their use of space to conform to the more intimate setting of the Leo K. Theatre, their movements were uninhibited and clear. Rehearsal time provided the opportunity to run through the entire piece twice, with an interlude in between to allow Chong to work on specific details with Crall and Gobeille. With each correction, Chong guided toward a more delicate touch, a smoother lift, a cleaner angle. “If it’s not real, then don’t do it,” she said, referring to an organic rather than manufactured sensibility for the dancers.

Ketley’s Duo exemplifies contemporary ballet partnering, switching between soft arches and jarring, uncomfortable bursts and utilizing difficult floor work and unconventional lifts. With Crall in flat technique slippers (as opposed to pointe shoes,) her dancing was more obviously grounded, especially since she most often left the floor supported in some way by Gobeille—a more equal-seeming partnership than traditional classical ballet pas de deux. The second run-through displayed the intelligence of the dancers under Chong’s direction: gentle moments contrasted more sharply with the explosive ones, and the layers of meaning peeled back to reveal an oddly comfortable dysfunction.

Between the choreography and the beautiful dancer-athletes, ARC Dance’s annual Summer Dance at the Center will provide something for every taste. Performances run July 17-19 at 8 PM at the Leo K. Theatre at Seattle Center. Advance tickets available here.