Velocity Dance Center has fueled the careers of dancers and artists and provided a space and classes on Capitol Hill for anyone with an inspiration to move their bodies.
“It would be very detrimental to the entire city if it wasn’t here,” Kate Wallich, a dancer, choreographer, director, and teacher in Velocity’s community told CHS.
The dance center’s entire 2016 season has been celebrating Velocity. The Fall Kick-Off offers audiences a way to relive the season and experience a taste of the upcoming 2017 season. Performances are at 7:30 PM Sept. 23-25 at wthe Velocity Founders Theater, 1621 12th Ave.
About ten years ago, Velocity’s longevity was tested, but the community’s support gave the center a breath of new life. The center hit some rocky ground financially in 2007 when the Odd Fellows Hall at 10th and Pine, its home since 1996, was sold and the nonprofit’s rent was hiked.
Velocity’s debt and deficit nearly downed the center, but dancers and the community rallied to keep it afloat during a successful fundraising campaign. The dance center is now thriving in its current location on 12th Ave between Pine and Olive streets where revenue has grown 265%. Some of that increase comes from its 348% ticket sales growth during the past four years.
“We’re so small, and we’ve grown so fast,” said Velocity’s artistic director Tonya Lockyer, who joined the dance center in 2011.
Lockyer said some of the center’s success comes from not only community support and smart strategy and investment, but also passion accessibility of the center and the diversity and quality it offers.
Wallich, who is also a director and co-founder of the dance company, The YC, began rehearsing and teaching at Velocity in 2011. She started Dance Church, a class open to all abilities where Wallich leads the class with movement cues that same year.
Other classes include hip hop, West African, ballet and various levels of contemporary and modern dance.
“I think that the diversity of Velocity has really opened the community a lot more,” Wallich said.
The center is also a place that has helped cultivate artists’ careers, including her own.
Velocity produced two of Wallich evening-length projects — Super Eagle and Industrial Ballet, which sold out the Moore Theater this spring.
Velocity serves as the dance community’s major hub in Seattle. “It’s not going anywhere,” she said.
In its 20th year, Velocity has taken on a new challenge. It now operates V2, a temporary arts space this year at 1525 11th Ave. Hundreds of artists have used the space this summer, but Lockyer doesn’t expect Velocity will keep utilizing the space very far into 2017 as redevelopment looms.
Its lease on its main space on 12th Ave is up in 2020, and Lockyer said the team is looking at how Velocity can stay on Capitol Hill or open a new space to meet the needs of its growing community.
“It’s about making sure artists who are talented have space to work,” Lockyer said.
Along the way, Lockyer and Velocity have become heavily involved in the Capitol Hill Arts District initiative working to do everything from marking the neighborhood with street signs to helping artists find space to create on the Hill.
KT Niehoff, co-founder of Velocity along with Michele Miller, said she believes the two were aware they were creating a centralized location for the dance community to work and experiment that could potentially grow. But it took a few years for their efforts to take off. At first the two artists operated with a single room studio. If they had money left at the end of of the month, they’d split it. If not, they’d chip in to pay the bills.
In 2000, Velocity became a nonprofit. By the time Niehoff and Miller left Velocity in 2006, it had three studios, a convertible studio theater, five employees, a 12-member board and a $300,000 annual operating budget.
For the first decade the two were just working, Niehoff said. Then they realized Velocity was too much for them as they were simultaneously trying to cultivate their personal paths as artists.
“By the time we took a breath it was 10 years later, and the space needed more than we could give it,” Niehoff said.
Niehoff now has her own dance space, 10 Degrees, and has been working with Velocity to offer residencies to artists there.
With the 20th anniversary, Niehoff has been more involved with Velocity lately and will be presenting “Helium Poised,” a series of community discussions and workshops leading to a final performance all constructed through a choreography lens.
Helium Poised will be presented this fall through a Velocity program that provides support to artists for a year or longer to create dance projects.
Niehoff said she would love to continue working with Velocity.
“I feel reconnected again, and it feels great,” she said.
You can learn more at velocitydancecenter.org.