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This week Velocity Dance Center welcomes new Executive Director, Catherine Nueva España. The new hire marks a shift in organizational structure for Velocity, where artistic and executive positions were previously combined. As ED, Nueva España will “steward and spearhead the operational long-term direction that Velocity is going to take.” That includes meeting the goals of Velocity’s 2018 strategic plan, while also managing day-to-day organizational necessities like payroll, taxes, and IT. Nueva España doesn’t expect to be particularly involved in programing and artistic decisions—her job is creating support structures for artistic programming, currently overseen by interim Artistic Director Erin Johnson. Fundraising will be a big part of that role, but also listening to what the community needs and adjusting priorities in real time. “It’s like changing the tires while driving the car,” she laughs.

Catherine Nueva España. Photo by Timothy Mowrer.

Nueva España says that her first task will be getting to know the staff and teachers and making sure structures are in place so they are supported. Her first day on the 19th is just days prior to the opening of a Velocity produced show (Szalt/Lavinia Vago) and jumping in to help the staff get ready will be a great way to get to know how things are done currently.

Nueva España has an impressive background in non-profit leadership, but what drew her to Velocity is her passion and experience in dance, including an MA in dance studies. When she moved to Seattle in 2017, going to Velocity to take class or see a performance was a priority. “It was one of the first places to make me feel at home.” Already being a fan of Velocity made it a no-brainer to apply for the job. “One thing that really distinguishes Velocity from a lot of similar spaces I’ve been to in the country is that they are super committed to being inclusive. I really appreciate that everyone can come there, they don’t have to be a super professional dancer. They can go and meet other people and move.” Aside from taking dance class and seeing art, Nueva España loves hiking with her dog, Ripley, who’s named for the beloved protagonist from the Alien films. Catch Catherine (and sometimes Ripley!) at the Velocity offices beginning next week.

Another new face around town is Yurie Nishi at Spectrum Dance Theater. If you caught Occurrence #6 last December, you may have noticed Nishi, who stood out for her whip-sharp precision and unstoppable energy. Nishi pairs a strong classical background with recent training in NYC, where she completed the International Student Program at Peridance Capezio and worked with choreographers such as Joyce King, Michael Bishop, Bonnie O’Rourke, and others. She also showed her own choreography in New York and someday hopes to show more in Seattle. It has been Nishi’s dream to be a professional dancer in the U.S., but she also hopes to be an ambassador of contemporary dance to her home country of Japan, and believes that her dancing can act as a bridge between the two. “People say and think about me that Yurie is a small, short, tiny, Japanese, Asian,” Nishi says, “I would like people to see me as a person and dancer, regardless of race, nationality, skin color, gender, body size, appearance. I would like to turn it over with my dance. As a human being, I keep dancing as a dancer.” Catch Nishi in Spectrum’s The Wokeness Festival, April 8-28.

Yurie Nishi. Photo by Nate Watters.

Laura Carella has been bridging worlds with her dancing as well. The YC2 dancer works part time at climbing gym Seattle Bouldering Project, and noticed a lot of crossover between the dance and climbing worlds. Not just people who participate in both activities, but similarities in practice, mindset, and physicality. “When you’re looking at the wall, every person sees it differently, and how to achieve the goal of getting to the top. In that you need to have focus, body awareness, mobility and strength,” says Carella, all things required in her dance career. In both, she finds the necessity of tuning into how her body feels on any particular day and asking, “How can I use the tools I do have and make this move happen? That’s how we develop and grow and learn new things about our body everyday.”

Blair Jolly Elliot. Photo by Marcia Davis.

Out of this realization, Carella had another: a desire to create a series of pop-up dance performances at Seattle Bouldering Project. Wanting to bring “the art side of dance into the sport side of climbing,” she gathered a group of movers from both worlds to perform on Jan 26. Among them, Spectrum dancer and climber Blair Jolly Elliot, who based her choreography on climbing moves, but removed from the wall. Carella also noticed that the gym’s movement classes, designed to help with climbing technique, looked a lot like a floorwork dance class. So she asked the movement instructor Tanner Walker to perform. “Every time I watch his practice in the gym it looks like a performance,” Carella notes. Although Walker doesn’t identify as a dancer, his performance included plenty of choreographic ideas. In one part his hand remains on the floor while he performs tricks and rolls, navigating and exploring around the idea of being “stuck.”

Tanner Walker. Photo by Marcia Davis.

Carella herself performed too, bringing an explosion of energy to the space that married quick precision with gooey contemporary technique. The lineup also included lauded Seattle dancers Thomas House, Carlin Kramer, and Emma Wheeler, a testament to Carella’s curatorial and organizational capacity. Carella reports enthusiastic feedback from both dancers who were introduced to the climbing gym, and climbers who were introduced to contemporary dance. She plans to bring in other artists for future pop-ups, maybe including film or other genres. The unconventional venue is important to Carella, who wants to bring art to people who may not necessarily go to the theater regularly. “Let’s make art accessible to those who would like to hang out and eat pizza.” Cheers to that.

Laura Carella. Photo by Marcia Davis.