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How Bainbridge dance instructors spend the off season
Bainbridge Dance Center puts its instructors on stage for its annual Fall Faculty Showcase, Sept. 13-14 at BPA.
Bainbridge Dance Center has more than 180 students on its class roster this year, with some students taking multiple classes — some up to three, four and even five times or more a week.
The fall session started Monday.
Each week, the school-aged students are instructed on technique, molded intellectually and pushed to their limit by BDC’s core of instructors, during hour-long sessions in ballet and jazz, tap and modern dance on afternoons throughout the school year.
Then every June for the past 27 years, the students put on a showcase for the community on the stage at Bainbridge Performing Arts.
But in the past few years, a new tradition has been developing: That of showing off the BDC’s instructors to the community at the beginning of the year with the fall faculty showcase each September.
“We show off their choreography all the time with our students,” BDC Director Susan Thompson noted of her instructors. “But to get to show them in their company work and working on each other’s work and working on things that are either a slightly different format or topic, does show them off a bit.”
And while the student showcase in June is nothing to balk at, the fall faculty showcase is much more of a professional performance, Thompson added.
It showcases the instructors, many of whom are professional dancers themselves, and some of their professional companies, along with the things they work on when they’re not teaching at BDC.
“It’s really a chance for our students and our students’ families to see what we do,” BDC faculty Kristen Legg said. “That we’re not just teachers, we are artists.”
Some of the instructors — like Legg, BDC faculty and artistic director of the Redd Legg Dance Company in Seattle, and Jill Leversee BDC faculty and co-director of the oaklanDrive Company in Seattle — never planned on becoming teachers.
Legg never even planned to be a choreographer, or a company director for that matter.
Studying dance from age 3, growing up on a strictly Russian ballet routine in Michigan, she went on to study more in modern and jazz with pro-level teachers and earned a bachelor’s degree of fine arts from Western Michigan University, planning on performing as a career.
So she moved to New York, taking classes at the Broadway Dance Center and looking for work on the musical theater circuit, where she began to see the unfortunate logistics of professional performance.
“You can’t make money performing,” Legg said.
Teaching is a way to make money while adhering to your passion, added Leversee, a Colorado native who graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor’s in dance and studied in Chicago before making her way to Seattle.
She never intended to teach.
“You do it because that’s what you’ve got to do to make money,” she said.
But in her five years as a full-time instructor at BDC, she said it’s been much more than a source of income. She’s found a passion for practice over performance, a passion for the experience more than the finished product and a passion for passing that on to both the dancers in her company and the students at BDC.
Both Leversee and Legg have shuffled schedules with their Seattle-based companies and commuted to and from Bainbridge for the past few years, just to teach at BDC.
“They’re mixing and matching their days and weeks, and that always brings an element to the school that is excellent,” Thompson noted. “Very contemporary.”
“A community like this can get so, I mean, it is so isolated,” Leversee noted of Bainbridge in the connotation of the dance world. “That’s why (Thompson) is so smart to bring teachers from Seattle. Because you kind of have to be a part of what’s going on right now to really give students what they’re going to need to take it to that next level.”
Being a part of the Seattle scene, performing with their companies at places like the Intiman Theater and the Broadway Performance Hall, instructors like Leversee and Legg are currently reaching for that next level themselves.
“It’s very fun to bring some of that material here so that all of the students in our school, and the families, and everyone on the island, can see what our faculty are doing over there,” Thompson said.
Bainbridge Dance Center presents its Fall Faculty Showcase at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13 and again at 3 p.m. Sept. 14 at Bainbridge Performing Arts, 200 Madison Ave. on Bainbridge. Tickets are $18 for adults, $10 for youth and seniors. Info: www.bainbridgedancecenter.com, www.bainbridgeperformingarts.org or call BPA at (206) 842-8569.