Back in 2009, I thought it would be fun to list all Seattle dance companies on my brand-new blog, SeattleDances. I figured there’d be—oh, I don’t know—15 or so local companies?
I hit 40 companies before the internet trail went cold.
That blog (which has grown into a beautiful, comprehensive website under the direction of Mariko Nagashima and Anna Waller) now lists more than twice as many companies. And the list is growing.
We have such a breadth and depth of dance here. We are so lucky!
And yet, our vibrant dance scene is still a bit of a secret, if you can believe that. It seems impossible, but I still run into arts-savvy Seattlites who think there are only a few companies here.
I think that in a weird way this is because we have so much of this ephemeral art. For those who aren’t living in the dance world day in, day out, it’s hard to keep track of who is who, and who is doing what.
I thought about this a lot in 2013, since I didn’t get to see much dance that year, and I didn’t get to read much about it either. What had happened while I was away from the dance world? What had I missed?
To the rescue: the Seattle Dance Annual 2013.
Did you know there could even be such a wonderful thing as a dance yearbook? I found out years ago, at the Friends of the Library Book Sale, where I picked up a stack of them for 10 bucks. They’re marvelous. The 1950 Ballet Annual has a full-page photo o —not Maria Tallchief, but her sister—Marjorie Tallchief. Go figure. The 1953 Dance News Annual shows Serenade’s opening scene à la Paris Opéra Ballet: the normally outstretched arms are crooked at the elbow and the dancers look like clawing cats in cute white tunics. Say what?
When I was looking around for a book to design in January, the Annual idea was pretty much right there waiting for me. I didn’t want to use those old yearbooks as a template for the Seattle Dance Annual, because in some ways they’re not entirely satisfying. I wanted to create something that could help Seattle’s dance PR—not in fluff way or slimy way, but substantively. But still, those old yearbooks were one of my primary inspirations.
And the results? I love this book! Mostly because it is so fun to see so much Seattle dance in one place. And, dang! We have some fine photographers of dance here too. But like the old yearbooks, the Annual is not entirely satisfying. Folks have been left out. And in creating this catalogue, I had to cut some of the detail that makes our scene special. I did a lot of editing down on the company listings in an effort to be consistent and fair. One listing I didn’t edit, though. It was one of the first responses I got, from Amy O’Neal, and I left it as it came in, as a reminder for next year’s annual, that perhaps there is a different way to talk about what happened here in 2014. I’m looking forward to that!
The book is free online, but there’s a print-on-demand version, too, at Amazon.com for those who like books made out of paper. Velocity has volunteered to hold onto a desk copy so that folks can leaf through it and see what it’s like. It should arrive at the end of May. If you do stop by to take a look, please consider signing it. The plan is that it could be auctioned off to support Velocity’s programs and your signature will help the cause!
Rosie Gaynor is a writer, editor, and designer living in Seattle. She studied dance for 10 years, in Milan and in Minnesota. Her dance writing has appeared in Dance, Pointe, DanceInternational, City Arts (Seattle), and in the London Financial Times. Her writing and design can be viewed a seattlescriptorium.com.