Arts and Entertainment

Dancing on a dream stage

Galletta dancers Johanna Lund (left) and Maggie Hotchkiss have grown up watching the Alvin Ailey company and now they will accompany it on stage at the Paramount. - Bill Mickelson/Staff Photo
Galletta dancers Johanna Lund (left) and Maggie Hotchkiss have grown up watching the Alvin Ailey company and now they will accompany it on stage at the Paramount.
— image credit: Bill Mickelson/Staff Photo

On March 30 at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrates its 50th Anniversary — to the day.

And two Kitsap dancers from Poulsbo’s Galletta Dance Company — Maggie Hotchkiss, 18, of Bainbridge and Johanna Lund, 15, of Poulsbo — will be there. 

On stage.

Hotchkiss and Lund are two of 23 regional dancers who were selected out of more than 100 who auditioned to be a part of the anniversary performance of a little production called “Memoria.”

“Actually that’s very unusual,” AAADT rehearsal director and Ronni Favors said of auditioning local students to be a part of a production. “The very last time we did this was five years ago in Seattle, when ‘Memoria’ was last performed.”

On top of performing at the Paramount for the half-century celebration of a company that has earned a reputation as international ambassadors for American culture and modern dance, “Memoria” is a legendary production in itself for Lund, Hotchkiss and all 23 of the student dancers selected.

It’s an amazingly emotional piece which Ailey choreographed and produced for a fellow dancer, friend and choreographer named Joyce Trisler, who died an untimely death in the late 1970s. It’s only been performed in three places across the globe — Seattle, New York and South Africa.

At the time of Trisler’s funeral, Ailey and company were on a European tour and he wasn’t able to come back to pay his respects. Ronni Favors, AAADT’s current rehearsal director and longtime dancer/teacher who is working with the Seattle student dancers, was there with Ailey when he choreographed the dance.

“He choreographed this for her — in memorial of Joyce — and also as a celebration of her life,” Favors said. “She was an avid teacher of dance ... and the Seattle students are representative of all the students that she was able to touch.”

“It is beautiful and lyrical, but modern dance,” Lund said of “Memoria.”

The dance segues from somber and emotive feeling in the opening half to a jovial, excited, brightly colored celebration in the latter.

Through the first few sessions of rehearsals, which are every night from about 6-9 p.m. on the other side of the water for Hotchkiss and Lund, the girls say they’ve learned a few new techniques and much about how to do things “the Ailey way.”

“This is really an opportunity to become a great dancer,” said Hotchkiss, who at age 18 is trying to decide where her career path will lead and whether it involves dancing professionally.

“Aside from all the physical attributes and (dance) technique, what we really strive to do at Alvin Ailey is bring our passion to the stage,” said Favors, who auditioned local dancers at the beginning of February. “There’s a certain type of person that can’t breathe right if they’re not doing what they do ... we were looking for dancers of that spirit.”

That spirit is found in both of the Galletta girls.

“I didn’t watch Barney or Sesame Street as a kid, I watched the Kirov Ballet dancing the Nutcracker Suite,” Hotchkiss said, noting that she’s basically grown up with the Alvin Ailey Company through VHS tapes she would check out from the library. “I just love it.”

“If you love to dance, it’s a part of you, you can’t get rid of it,” Lund agreed.

Dancing with and learning from the Alvin Ailey Company, Hotchkiss and Lund will see that sentiment at its pinnacle firsthand. The AAADT troupe has been on the road for seven weeks, prior to arriving in Seattle.

Thus far at the midway point, they’ve traveled from their home in New York, through the Southern heartland across to the California coast and onto Seattle — obviously one of their favorite cities — where they will mark the exact day the company was born, 50 years ago.

The AAADT began with a now-fabled performance in 1958 at the 92nd Street Young Men’s Hebrew Association in New York. It was there company founder and legend Alvin Ailey and a group of young African American dancers gave a performance that is said to have changed the perception of modern American dance.

Since, the company has gone on to perform for an estimated 21 million people in 48 states and 71 countries around the world.

“Alvin Ailey always said, ‘I believe that dance came from the people and it should be given back to the people,’” Favors said. “That is our mission.”

THE ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER will mark its 50th anniversary celebration with a three days of dance March 28-30 at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St. in Seattle. Tickets are $25-50.

Info: www.alvinailey.org, www.gallettadance.com, www.theparamount.com or call (206) 628-0888.

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