by Kirby Lindsay
Native Seattleite Karin Stevens is pursuing her dream. She has chosen Fremont, and specifically the supportive community at the Fremont Abbey Arts Center, as the foundation upon which she to build it - her own dance company.
Stevens gained her dance degree at the University of Washington then further pursued dance in Florida, and California, at Mills College, for graduate work. She and her husband set down roots in the Bay Area which, according to Stevens, has the second largest dance community in the nation (after New York), “but after two years, we couldn’t see a future there.”
Instead, “we felt a pull to raise our family here,” she explained. Despite the passion and pull she feels towards dance, Stevens admitted, it comes second. “My children are my primary focus,” she said of her two daughters - ages 2 and 8 – and her third child due in April.
Hardly Second Best
“This is where I want to make art,” Stevens said of Seattle, and the Fremont Abbey. “I left behind a very significant network,” she acknowledged, to come where she is not known as a choreographer. She allowed that she may have more contacts and support here, but not those related to the world of dance – yet.
She began Karin Stevens Dance in October 2008 with herself as sole performer. In December 2008, auditioning eight hopefuls gave her only one dancer, Maia Vague, who had talent and abilities to satisfy Stevens’ high standards. Through posted ads – on CraigsList, and Facebook DanceNet – forwarded among other dancers, Stevens found Amy Daniel and Caprice Abowitt. With four dancers, and cellist Emily Ann Peterson, whom Stevens met through the Abbey, she held their first show in June of 2009.
Auditions last October, along with an expanded network of contacts, add five more dancers - Brittany Schank, Hannah Taylor, Melanie Williams, Naphtali Beyleveld and Morgan Houghton (the company’s only male dancer). With Stevens choreography and direction, these eight dancers will perform March 19 & 20 in the Great Hall of the Abbey, their rehearsal/performance space. In addition, the company has a scheduled appearance for August at Festival Amadeus in Whitefish, Montana.
Invested In Community
As she aims to build a widely respected, known Seattle dance company, she acknowledges, “it’s really challenging, really hard.” She has sought grant funds and recently began a campaign for private donors - those angels who give money simply to support talent, hard work and dance. “I have good people around me,” she said of times when the challenges might overwhelm her, “who say, ‘look at how much you’ve done already!’”
For now, she and her dancers do this for the love of dance. The dancers all hold ‘day’ jobs – as Pilates, yoga, and dance teachers, physical therapy assistants and ‘doing the restaurant thing’ – in addition to giving six hours, plus, to rehearsals. Houghton admitted to having up to seven part-time jobs, and roles in four different companies. Stevens described this as atypical, although given the shortage of male dancers, and Houghton’s talent, not unlikely.
Stevens, in exchanged for use of rehearsal and performance space in the Abbey, serves as their Dance Curator. She describes the benefits she gains from the collaborative relationships among the varied artists that work at the Abbey. She hopes to see more dance companies perform at the Great Hall, like the Katy Hagelin Dance Project on January 29th.
“I feel very, very fortunate,” she said about being at the Abbey. “I feel what I do is more than about me,” she explained, “I have the opportunity to invest in the community.”
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.