Dancer Angela Kiser is one of the performers in Kuntz & Company's production of "Positive," a dance-theater piece that explores the lives of seven local community members whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS.
The production will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 6-9, continuing Feb. 13, 14, 15 and 16 at Firehouse Performing Arts Center, 1314 Harris Ave. Details: kuntzandcompany.org.
Question: What's your dance background?
Answer: I began my dance interest as a sequin-wearing, trophy-winning dance-teamer. I was lucky enough to attend Heritage High School in Vancouver, Wash., where arts funding isn't sparse and the dance program there is thriving.
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Dance at that point was just an extracurricular activity that I was passionate about, so I made my way to Western Washington University with every intent to major in math. After taking a few dance classes "on the side" from the awe-inspiring Pam Kuntz, I was compelled and encouraged to continue investigating my love for dance and pursue a degree in the field. I received my BFA in dance and haven't stopped performing and choreographing since.
Q: And lately?
A: Over the last few years I've also been delving into the world of theater to explore a deeper understanding of performance and storytelling. Ian Bivins introduced me to the Margolis Method, which is a dynamic and physical approach to theatrical performance, and we've conjured up a wonderful artistic partnership based on exploring and developing these methodologies.
Q: What have been some of your most memorable experiences?
A: During my time in Bellingham I've been involved in multiple projects with Kuntz & Company, and "The Family Project" in 2012 ranks fairly high on the list. Not only was I able to meet and work with an amazing group of community members, but I discovered hidden talents that I didn't know I had ... notably, picking my nose while beat-boxing.
Being a part of Bellingham Repertory Dance (BRD) has also allotted some unforgettable performance events. BRD works with choreographers from all over the world, so one could imagine the wide range of learning opportunities that come our way. I've also been fortunate enough to work closely with the Lummi Nation, creating theater that is specific to the lives and histories of the aboriginal peoples of the Pacific Coast.
In a recent, favorable endeavor, I found myself being a lead player in the Commercial Street Theatre Project. I work with an enthusiastic team of community members who are working toward transforming a vacant, downtown space into a state-of-the-art performance venue. I don't think I've worked with a more passionate group of individuals in my life; I am continuously inspired by their enthusiasm and persistence. I have high hopes that the community can come together to help make this much needed project happen.
Q: What brings you joy about performing?
A: The most satisfying audience member comment I've ever received was, "Angela, your piece really made me think about how I behave in the world."
I work to create performance work that inspires these kinds of comments and feelings. I thrive off of bringing audiences to places they've never been before. Getting to perform the fully embodied, three-dimensional character on stage is satisfying too, but there's nothing better than being able to use the power of storytelling to alter how others see the world around them.
Q: What's the backstory of "Positive?"
A: "Positive" is a dance-theater piece that explores the lives of five different local community members whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS. As is typical in Kuntz & Company's work, the performances combine the talents of professional performers with the actual community members whose stories are being told.
The evening includes the perspective of individuals living with HIV, as well as family members who watched a loved one succumb to AIDS while surviving the social, economic and personal struggles that are a part of the disease.
This is a unique project in that there is such a wide spread of dance and theater training backgrounds from the professional artists performing in the show. Pam is highly collaborative and has a knack for bringing out the best from each artist, so this show is guaranteed to bring a variety of high-quality work to the stage.
Q: What is fun for you besides dance?
A: I am a lighting and sound designer for multiple arts organizations in Bellingham and I can't get enough of it. Web design has been a recently developed passion of mine and I'll continue to nurture and pursue that. I visit New York at least twice a year; while the ebb and flow is nice out there, I can feel my roots growing right here in Bellingham. There is much to uncover and delve into here, while relishing the beautiful view we get the pleasure of being surrounded by.