Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ten Tiny Dances

Sara Jinks in Pat Graney's "Cowgirls"
photo by Teri Pieper
When you think about a dance performance, you may envision something grand and expansive, like “Nutcracker.” Or maybe a sparkly ballroom competition comes to mind, something akin to “Dancing With the Stars.” No matter the dance style, these performances are about bodies moving in space. In this case, people moving across large stages or big dance floors.

But what happens when a performance space is tightly circumscribed?

This weekend ten Seattle-area choreographers explore that question in a performance called “Ten Tiny Dances,” onstage at Velocity Dance Center on Capitol Hill.

I've never attended one of these productions, and was curious what makes something a "tiny dance."

“There are a lot of things that are tiny about this show,” producer Sara Jinks told me. “The number one most notable thing is the stage itself.”
it really IS a tiny stage
photo by Kenneth Aaron

The ten dances are performed on a four foot by four foot, 18-inch high platform. Apparently, the audience sits very close to this tiny stage; they're so close, Jinks explains, that it can be unnerving for the dancers.

More than that, “the whole thing feels like the edge.” Jinks says anyone who’s performed onstage understand the sensation you get when you're within two feet from the edge. It’s a sense of unease, of being a just a little off-kilter. In a tiny dance, Jinks says you're always within two feet of the edge of the stage, always right next to the audience. “It’s a vulnerable performance.”

“Ten Tiny Dances” was first conceived in Portland by a dancer named Mike Barber. Seattle-based choreographer Crispin Spaeth collaborated with Barber on some bi-city productions, and eventually started a local 'franchise.'
Dayna Hanson in a Tiny Dance
photo courtesy Dayna Hanson

This year Sara Jinks takes on the producer mantle. She’s invited an array of choreographers to participate, including Spaeth, as well as other established local dancemakers,like Wade Madsen, Mark Haim and Diana Cardiff.

But Jinks wanted to expand the reach of the performance beyond the city’s contemporary dance community. This year’s program includes both Indian and African dances.

Most of all, Jinks wants to encourage people who are new to dance of any kind to attend Ten Tiny Dances, and to come with an open mind.

“I think people beat themselves up a bit when they’re watching contemporary dance,” she explains. “But I think some of those same people would go into Seattle Art Museum and they’d look at a piece of art on the wall, and they’d like it or not like it, and they don’t feel frustrated by that.”

But when live humans are moving, on a tiny platform or a huge stage, right in front of us, Jinks admits it can challenge the audience.

None of these dances lasts longer than eight minutes. In that sense, it’s the Whitman's Sampler of dance. And that makes it the perfect entry point for people who don’t know much about contemporary dance. “If you don’t like what you see, something different will come along very soon.”
wow, you can fit a lot of performers on the stage for one Tiny Dance!
photo by Kenneth Aaron

You can check out the 2015 edition of "Ten Tiny Dances" February 6-8 at Velocity Dance Center on Capitol Hill. Ten Tiny Dances

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