Since May 1996, Velocity has advanced contemporary dance and movement-based art in the PNW. With classes every day, performances almost every week and twelve ongoing artist development programs, Velocity embodies the cornerstone of Seattle’s dance ecosystem and contributes significantly to the national and international field of dance. Home to dozens of independent choreographers, it is renowned for producing innovative, cutting-edge work. Since its inception, Velocity has featured performances and workshops by art stars Anouk van Dijk, Miguel Gutierrez, Tere O’Conner, Victoria Marks, Reggie Watts, Kate Wallich, Jody Kuehner (Cherdonna Shinatra), Alice Gosti, Pat Graney, Deborah Hay, Faye Driscoll, 33 Fainting Spells, Amy O’Neal, KT Niehoff, Zoe Scofield /Juniper Shuey, Mark Haim, Wade Madsen and many more.
In 1996, KT Niehoff and Michele Miller opened Velocity Dance Center with the intention to provide the training and rehearsal space necessary for the continued growth of dance in the Puget Sound region. Since its inception, Velocity has grown alongside the Seattle dance community. In 2006, Velocity’s founders decided to move on to other artistic and personal endeavors, and the Board of Directors hired Kara O’Toole to act as Velocity’s Executive Director. Under the direction of Ms. O’Toole, Velocity weathered the challenge of losing its 13-year home when a developer bought the Odd Fellows building and tripled Velocity’s rent, making it impossible for the organization to remain in this space long-term. While continuing to serve the Seattle dance community without interruption, Velocity found and secured a new home at 1621 12th Avenue (former Capitol Hill Arts Center) and launched a Capital Campaign to raise the funds necessary to relocate to and renovate the new facility.
On March 27, 2010, Velocity triumphantly moved into its beautiful long-term Capitol Hill home and reinstated all its programs. Unlike Velocity’s old venue, the new facility is a cohesive space in which the offices, theater, and studios are linked together. With Velocity’s relocation, a vital art space was safeguarded that will now continue to serve dance artists and audiences for many years to come. As a testament to its service to the community, Velocity was recognized by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn with a Mayor’s Arts Award in September 2010.
After serving as Velocity’s Executive Director for five years, Kara O’Toole stepped down as the head of the organization in December 2010. Shannon Stewart, Velocity’s Development Director, served as Interim Executive Director until May 2011, when Tonya Lockyer became the new Artistic/Executive Director.
Between 2011 and 2018, Velocity expanded its programming and national reach, becoming the go-to hub in the region for residency and performance opportunities, professional development and training, and subsidized studio time. Hallmark programs that blossomed during this period include The Bridge Project, Made In Seattle, and Next Fest. Strictly Seattle and SFDI also saw tremendous growth during Lockyer’s tenure, and our Summer Festivals became a destination for new dance artists and seasoned innovators to convene, collaborate, and grow together.
In December 2018, after eight years with Velocity, Lockyer’s left Velocity to pursue personal projects in writing and dance production. Erin Johnson, Velocity’s Associate Producer, became Interim Artistic Director while Velocity’s Development Director Colleen Borst stepped up as Interim Managing Director until February of 2019, when Catherine Nueva España became our new executive director. In September of 2019, Erin Johnson officially became Velocity’s Artistic Director.
Together, Catherine and Erin build on the strength and legacy of this history, stewarding Velocity into a future grounded in financial sustainability, artistic risk and experimentation, and access and inclusion. Velocity has been, and will always be, in service to the many communities of artists, students, and audiences that come through our doors.