Next generation of great dancers may not be able to call Hill home — but Velocity’s Bridge Project will help some get their start here

IMG_0181 IMG_0191 IMG_0207 IMG_0221 IMG_0242 IMG_0995 IMG_1010Tonya Lockyer, artistic director of Capitol Hill’s Velocity Dance Center and co-chair of the Capitol Hill Arts District, is trying to help keep Capitol Hill as a focus of arts energy, though it is getting increasingly difficult. She said that in a survey of the district’s artistic community, many dancers and performers want to live on the Hill to be a part of the performer community, but the cost of living here is making it ever more difficult.

One way to try and rise above that is to give emerging performers an opportunity to show their stuff. That’s what Velocity does through its annual Bridge Project. The 2016 edition takes place next week at the 12th Ave studio.

The Bridge Project started in 2006, Lockyer said, though at the time it had a different model. When she arrived in 2011, it transitioned to its current state, giving four choreographers who are either new to Seattle, or have been working here for fewer than three years, a chance to produce a show.

Lockyer says Seattle is on the rise in the dance world.

“We’re drawing people to Seattle from around the country because we’re the new hotbed for dance,” she said.

Lockyer credits this to the city having two organizations, Velocity and On the Boards, dedicated to creating a community for dancers.

“(Velocity) was founded to create a Seattle dance scene, and that’s what it’s done over the past 20 years.” Lockyer said.

For the Bridge Project, the center gives each of the budding choreographers 45 hours of rehearsal time with a group of auditioned dancers over about a month. This allows the artists to rehearse five days a week, which Lockyer said is a rare opportunity in these days of limited funding.

It also gives the dancers technical and administrative support. At the end of the show, Lockyer said, the audience members get feedback cards, so they can tell the artists what they thought.

“This is like a big, beautiful gift for everyone,” said Stephanie Liapis, one of this year’s choreographers. “This feels like a really big opportunity to try some new things.”

Liapis, who studied at the UW before moving to New York, just relocated back to Seattle in August. All that moving got her thinking about displacement; the voluntary sort of displacement — moving to a new place and the freedom, and lack of freedom it can give a person.

“It’s my experience right now, and I’m really interested in it, so I’m trying to figure it out,” she said.

In her work, she said she gave the dancers some early ideas, but much of the work will be contributed from them, with her acting as more of an editor or curator.
IMG_1014 IMG_1061 Another of the choreographers, ilvs strauss, said she has also been working with her dancers to develop her show — one section is her own, but much of the rest is what the dancers have found on their own.

She thinks of herself as a storyteller who finds different mediums for her work. She said she finds herself interested in the movement that comes from language, for example, people who make hand gestures while they talk.

“There’s all these movements we do that are tied to the words we say,” strauss said. “Dance is the newest element I’ve worked with.”

Her work for Bridge will deal with text, subtext and supertext, and the interaction between the three, she said.

And if the idea of understanding those themes expressed through dance is intimidating, it shouldn’t be, Liapis said. A show like the Bridge Project should be able to help people better understand the world of dance.

“It’s a nice way to introduce yourself to dance, or re-introduce yourself to dance,” Liapis said. “It’s like a mini-festival.”

The Bridge Project performances take place from January 29th to the 31st at Velocity Founders Theater, 1621 12th Ave. For more information, or to buy tickets, visit the Bridge Project’s website.

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