WWU professor to share a dance journey

On peaceful evenings at his hilltop Bellingham home, Rick Merrill pours himself a glass of wine and takes comfort in the steady lull of trains passing by below.

“Listening to the trains provoked all this nostalgia for journeys,” says Merrill, an adjunct visiting professor at Western Washington University. “It just made me think about train traveling and how when you get on a train it’s very different from when you fly. There’s a willingness to just sort of drop your story and sit down.”

From this surprising source, Merrill drew inspiration to choreograph his dance piece, “Night Training.” He and three other dancers will perform the piece for this week’s Summer Dance Concert at Western Washington University. The concert will also include choreography and performances from students, Western faculty and visiting artists from Montreal Danse.

Using light, movement and sound, Merrill constructed his onstage world, one he hopes reminds his audience of the feeling of traveling.

“The dancing itself is fairly simple; it’s kind of more of a dance theater piece,” he says. “I wanted the piece onstage to have the quality of film noire. It’s lit dimly, kind of as if you’re on a train at night. You see people momentarily and then they disappear.”

The concert’s performances should appeal to all levels of dance fans, he says.

“I think that people who already like modern dance, it gives them an opportunity to really realize the high quality of work being done here at Western and in Bellingham,” he says. “For those people who’ve never gone to see a modern dance performance or don’t have much experience, it’s also a good opportunity for them to connect with dance.”