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Velocity dances through rent hike to keep Capitol Hill a hub for original choreography

Velocity had lots of help for its 2010 moving party/parade (Image: CHS)

Velocity had lots of help for its 2010 moving party/parade (Image: CHS)


Anna Conner’s show Colony will feature dancers wearing masks made out of flowers. (Photo: Anna Conner)

This weekend, Velocity Dance Center will kick off a slate of performances that show why the city’s true community dance center is an asset worth making space for on Capitol Hill.

On Friday the studio will feature performances from choreographers from its 14th annual The Bridge Project, which provides space and a small amount of funding for four emerging  choreographers to develop a performance in four weeks. Anna Conner, a 2009 Cornish graduate, will be joining five dancers to perform her piece, Colony.

“There aren’t many places that give you time and space and dancers on top of that,” Conner said of the intensive three week program. “It challenges and pushes you to keep working, you have to work, it’s just non-stop.”

Colony will touch on a theme sometimes all too familiar here in the big city: the loss of human kindness in society. “It’s how we always push each other away … Colony is dark, about staying in your own group,” Conner said.

While artists continue to thrive under Velocity’s wing, the dance center itself has struggled to meet a booming demand for space and performances in the city. Velocity’s executive and artistic director Tonya Lockyer came into her role during a time when Velocity was challenged by the opportunity to grow.

“Our mission is a dance center, and expanding to actually meet the demand,” Lockyer said. “Right now we have to turn people away from our shows. We don’t have the capacity to meet the need.”

Like many arts organizations, Velocity has also struggled to keep up with Capitol Hill’s skyrocketing rents. In 2010 Velocity’s rent shot up 300%, sparking their move from the Oddfellows Building into the space formerly occupied by the Capitol Hill Arts Center near 12th and Pine. By last year their rent had risen to the Oddfellows level. Lockyer said around 22% of Velocity’s budget now goes to rent. “It’s money that should be going to the artists and the community,” she said.

Velocity’s staff are experts in creative space making, transforming one room to act as a studio, theater, and resource room. In order to find a more sustainable space, Lockyer organized a facilities committee to look into a new performance space or creating a network of shared spaces to meet the center’s growing demand. However, Lockyer said Velocity remains committed to staying in Capitol Hill and growing with the creative corridor along the street where the 12th Ave Arts project is set to open this fall.

Velocity co-founder Michele Miller's Class (Photo: Velocity)

Velocity co-founder Michele Miller’s Class (Photo: Velocity)

This weekend, Velocity will also feature original works from Babette Pendleton McGeadyShannon Stewart, and Colleen McNeary — all part of the Bridge project. 44 artists have choreographed original works through The Bridge Project since 2000, and countless dancers have had the opportunity to perform. Conner is also working on an evening length performance titled Luna, which will premiere at Velocity in March.

In addition to the shorter Bridge performances, Velocity also commissions original evening length works from Seattle dancers and choreographers through its year-long Made in Seattle program.

On February 13th Velocity will be featuring Super Eagle, an original work commissioned from Kate Wallich and her company, The YC. Wallich told CHS the project came about after Lockyer approached her about commissioning a piece.

“It was a little daunting at first, but we had a year to figure it out,” she said of the hour-long piece. “Having the space to develop and dive into the subject matter has allowed us to make something we want to make.”

Super Eagle is Wallich’s first evening length work. The performance will also feature Andrew Bartee, a Pacfic Northwest Ballet dancer and fellow rising star in Seattle’s dance scene. Super Eagle is Bartee’s second collaboration with Wallich, who comes from a modern dance background. Wallich said the piece derives inspiration from the melding of styles.

“It has duets that happen throughout the piece, like deconstructed ballet duets,” she said.

Audiences will also be treated to a unique perspective as they sit in the round, just feet from the performers. Prior to the Super Eagle premiere, Velocity will screen a complementary short film on Feb. 9th that Wallich says includes many of the visual elements represented in the dance. Following the final performance there will be a Q/A with Wallich and fellow performers.

“It’s incredibly exciting on Capitol Hill. You couldn’t have planned a better arts corridor,” Lockyer said. “One of the challenges is to make sure these cultural organizations that made it so vibrant in the first place can afford to stay on the Hill.”

You can learn more at

The Bridge Project 2014 Jan 31 – Feb 2 / 8PM Velocity Founders Theater 1621 12th Ave TICKETS $18 / $20 at the door / $12 students + seniors / MVP $15

Made In Seattle: KATE WALLICH + THE YC WITH ANDREW BARTEE World Premiere SUPER EAGLE FEB 13 – 16 / 8PM Velocity Founders Theater 1621 12th Ave TICKETS $20 / $25 at the door / $15 student + senior / $17 MVP

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  1. Pingback: City Arts on Capitol Hill’s ‘fleeting creative playground’ | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle