Artist Profile: Bellingham Repertory Dance performs at WWU’s Western Gallery

Bellingham native Alona Christman is among the dancers from Bellingham Repertory Dance in “The Night in the Gallery,” which recently received support for a choreograpic project with Seattle dancer Mary Sheldon Scott.

The performance, at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at Western Washington University’s Western Gallery, will include excerpts of that work-in-progress, as well as poetry readings from the Chuckanut Writers Group who took inspiration from the project.

Scott and the dancers will discuss their works with audience members throughout and following the performance.

Here’s more about Christman, who starting dancing with the now-defunct Morca Academy when she was 5 years old.

Question: What’s the history of Bellingham Repertory Dance?

Answer: BRD was established in 2005 by a group of about six local dancers that wanted a semi-professional to professional dance experience without having to uproot our lives and move to a larger metropolitan area.

So I guess you could say we created BRD to bring those “experiences” to ourselves here in our hometown! There are still three original company members left from 2005. Brooke Evans, Diane Williams and myself.

Over the past nine years we have seen many dancers come and go —around 40! — because of the fact that we do audition for new members yearly. As the group is run collaboratively, with members sharing performance, administrative, marketing, production and artistic direction duties, it’s constantly shifting and morphing based on the aesthetics, backgrounds, personal artistic tastes, and training of the dancers that are accepted into the group each year.

Q: How has the dance community in our area changed over the years?

A: I think one of the ways the Bellingham dance community has changed, is that there are more opportunities to take classes in a more diverse range of dance genres. It’s not just ballet, modern and jazz anymore. You see more tap, hip hop, contemporary, social and ethnic classes, to name just a few.

I love seeing that diversity because diversity of movement is one of the things I think makes a strong and compelling dancer. Another shift I have notice is the appetite of Bellingham audiences for dance has been growing and I hope to see that continue!

Q: If someone has not seen contemporary dance, what could you tell them that would make him or her attend a performance?

A: I would tell them there is no “wrong answer” in dance. Heck, half the time you see something, there is no answer at all. Just go to a show for the opportunity to sit and experience. Nothing more needs to “happen.” And after, go talk to the dancers and or choreographer. Like a lot of things in life, making a personal connection to what you just saw on stage will help you understand it that much more.

Q: What’s Saturday’s performance all about?

A: “A Night At The Gallery” is a showing by BRD dancers, as well as an Q&A session with Seattle modern dance great Mary Sheldon Scott, performed in the intimate setting of WWU’s Art Gallery.

BRD will be performing excerpts of our new work we are currently still creating in the studio with Mary Sheldon for our upcoming performance at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center in May. Thanks to our awesome community, BRD successfully raised over $10,000 in order to hire Mary Sheldon Scott to devise a completely NEW piece, from the ground up, on this year’s company, an experience BRD has never been able to afford in the past. The showing at WWU’s Gallery will give our donors, as well as the general public, an insight into the choreographer’s mind and her process as she creates this new dance for us.

Scott, a visual artist and choreographer, has been exploring visual media and creating innovative performance works for over 40 years. Her work has been presented across the United States, and has received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Performance Network/Creation Fund, Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Artist Trust, 4Culture/King County, and Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture.