Choreographer Genevieve Dunn full of dance steps, stories to tell

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJanuary 23, 2014 

Genevieve Dunn

Genevieve Dunn choreographed "The BTG Musical Birthday Bash Revue," which runs Friday, Jan. 24, through Feb. 2, 2014 at the Bellingham Theatre Guild playhouse, 1600 H. St.

DAVID COHN — COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Bellingham Theatre Guild celebrates 85 years of staging live theater as an all-volunteer organization by - what else? - putting on a show. "The BTG Musical Birthday Bash Revue' runs Friday, Jan. 24, through Feb. 2 at the guild playhouse, 1600 H. St.

Genevieve Dunn choreographed the production, which showcases musical numbers from past BTG shows since its first musical in 1963. Kathryn Murray and Martha Benedict direct.

Details about the show are at 360-733-1811 of bellinghamtheatre.com.

Here's more about Genevieve, who is 24.

Question: When did realize that you enjoy performing?

Answer: I was born and raised in Hawaii, on Oahu. I started performing at an early age. When I was very young I created my own performance opportunities with the neighborhood kids, organizing Christmas concerts and Easter parades, which I composed, choreographed and costumed.

My parents chose to channel my love of performance by starting me in ballet at Ballet Hawaii when I was 4, with Imagine acting classes with Honolulu Theater for Youth when I was 5, and choir with Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus when I was 7. At about 8, I added performing in figure skating with my dad, which was a lot of fun.

My specific interest in musical theater started when I went to a musical theater camp with Diamond Head Theatre in Honolulu the summer before eighth grade, and from there my interest continued to grow. I have taken just about every kind of dance class that I could my hands on, or my feet into. I am a Honolulu Waldorf High School graduate, and we were required to take ballroom dance classes, which gave me a strong foundation in partnering.

Q: Who have been some of your mentors?

A: My family has influenced my love for dance and music and a joy for entertaining. I have an aunt who performed extensively as a folk dancer and in musical theater, a cousin who is professional dancer, one who has his own theater, another who is a slam-poet and was featured on HBO's "Brave New Voices," and another cousin, Duncan Kamakana, who was a contestant on the Voice last year. My uncle is a Hawaiian folk musician, and my dad is a figure skater and an all-around ham who loves to make people laugh.

Q: What are some of the highlights of what you've done?

A: I've been in many shows since I was a child - operas, classical ballets, plays and more. Here in Bellingham I've performed with Fairhaven College Theatre and Western Washington's Dance Department, Bellingham Children's Theatre, the Bellingham Theatre Guild. Last summer I choreographed "Mark Twain in Fairhaven."

During the summer of 2012 I went to Vienna, Austria, for a monthlong teacher certification training in DanceAbility, a dance method accessible to people regardless of physical or mental abilities. Since then I have taught classes with school-age children at The ARC of Whatcom County and at North Cascades Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Q: What brought you to Bellingham?

A: I have been visiting Bellingham and in particular Lummi Island since I was a child. My grandparents, Jacqueline Gaines-Aschenbrenner and Rod Aschenbrenner, live on Lummi Island. My grandmother is a longtime resident and was a teacher there until she retired.

I wanted an experience very different from Hawaii and the College of Santa Fe, where I spent my first two years of college. I wanted to live near family and I wanted Fairhaven College's interdisciplinary program.

My concentration at Fairhaven was storytelling; oral tradition, creative movement, and musical expression. Ask me a question and I'll tell you a story! I also have a love of reading folk tales and studying different cultures and traditions. All of these culminated in my Fairhaven concentration.

Q: And your day jobs?

A: This past fall I began working at Perch & Play, a cafe with an indoor playground on State Street. I work in the play area, host parties, and teach movement classes. The children are a lot of fun to work with.

I am also the drama club advisor at Squalicum High School. I love working with the high school students. They are among the most motivated, talented and passionate students that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. They surprise me and impress me every time we meet. We are currently working on "The Man Who Came to Dinner," and it's looking like it will be a lot of fun.

Q: What can people see at the "BTG Birthday Bash" show?

A: I'm the choreographer and also one of the cast members of the Bellingham Theater Guild's Birthday Bash. We're singing and dancing to numbers from favorite musicals since the guild's first musical, "The Boyfriend" in 1963.

We're also doing numbers from "Oklahoma!," "The Music Man," "Guys and Dolls," "The Pajama Game," and many more. We've got a bit of everything for just about everybody in this show. It really should be fun; lots of different eras and styles are represented. Plus the cast is totally top-notch!

Q: What are some of your next projects?

A: At Squalicum High School the students will be performing a musical this spring and then this summer I will again be choreographing and performing in "Mark Twain in Fairhaven." I'm always looking for new and interesting projects to get involved in.

I've taught some DanceAbility classes and I'm hoping that I'll have the opportunity to teach more. I'd love it if I had a series of mixed-ability classes available for anyone who'd like to give it a try. DanceAbility is way to teach everybody about the joy of movement and a great way of uniting communities. People should look out for upcoming Dance Ability classes in the community.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com.

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