According to her online biography, Alona Christman started dancing at the age of five. And, judging by the amount of times she’s been seen on local and regional stages over the years, she presumably has never stopped.
As a founding member of Bellingham Repertory Dance (BRD), for the past seven years Christman has helped see to it that modern dance is alive and well in this town—and that those who appreciate the art form don’t have to travel to farther points north and south to watch professional dancers in action.
But, as she points out, the location is a good fit for the dancers as well as for those who fill the seats in the audience when they put on their biannual shows.
“It allows dancers to make Bellingham home, but they still have the opportunity to work with choreographers from British Columbia, New York, San Francisco, Minnesota, and beyond,” Christman says.
That’s the case once again for BRD’s annual fall performance, “Fulcrum,” which includes, among others, pieces by dance-makers from Seattle’s Catherine Cabeen and Company, New York City’s MOVE: the company, and Boston’s Digby Dance.
And, in an effort to make sure the performances cross the entertainment spectrum, Christman says the dancers in the company work together to find the perfect mix of pieces to bring to the stage.
Because BRD is a collective in which everybody’s voice deserves equal attention, this can take awhile. After viewing countless DVDs of pre-shown—and thereby pre-approved—performances from companies located across North America, the group must then decide what ones they want to work on. After they’ve picked their favorites, they then have to figure out if they can afford to use the piece, and, if possible, bring the choreographer to town to help perfect the moves.
“We’re not under one person’s artistic thumb,” Christman says of the process of putting together shows such as “Fulcrum.” “We’re trying to create a really well-rounded show, so if an audience member sees one piece that isn’t for them, the next one probably will be.”
While this can be a time-consuming process, Christman says it’s more than worth it. And because all the dancers share responsibilities—everything from handling publicity to bookkeeping to directing the individual pieces—everyone takes part in the heavy lifting.
“I love the challenge of it,” Christman says. “We try to find pieces that will not only feed the audience, but feed us as artists. It’s great to be challenged, and we all know we have to work together to pull it off. I also appreciate the support from the other dancers, and the fun we have—despite all the hard work.”
In short, Christman says, the dancers who are part of the movement collective know they’ve got to hold their weight when it comes to making BRD a success. And judging by the mostly sold-out shows they’ve presented in the past seven years—not to mention receiving a Mayor’s Arts Award and featuring choreographers who return on a regular basis to share their talents—they’ve been successful in their mission to bring high-quality, contemporary dance to Bellingham.
For those who’ve never been to a Bellingham Rep show, Christman says she’d love to see them discover something new.
“Don’t be afraid of the words ‘modern dance,’” Christman says. “We’re not just going to be rolling around on the floor in our leotards. There’ll be something in there to grab your attention. All our dancers are really strong, and we’re all working really hard.”
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