Dance director Eva Stone’s mission to expose the Eastside to modern dance is entering its seventh year. This year, contemporary dance festival Chop Shop: Bodies of Work will feature the Pacific Northwest premiere of Michigan’s Grand Rapids Ballet, led by Artistic Director Patricia Barker.
“Patricia Barker is a bit of a legend in the ballet world,” Stone said. Barker is the former principal dancer for the Pacific Northwest Ballet and an accomplished international performer many times over; when the ballet company partnered with Hyperion in 1986 to produce “Nutcracker: The Motion Picture,” Barker was their Clara.
The Grand Rapids Ballet’s presence is a nod to a classical art form in a dance festival devoted to the modern style. The creation of that style is “the greatest story ever told,” Stone said.
“Ballet has been around for about 300 or 400 years and, for a long time, it was the sole way dance was performed,” she said. “Then, in the 19th century, the dancer Isadora Duncan broke away from all that. She took off the shoes, took off the corset, and said ‘this is how we’re supposed to move.’ From there, dance began to abstract itself.”
The result was a continuing period of great innovation in dance, but also an evolution so rapid it could be hard for audiences to keep up. Stone wanted to create an Eastside destination where people with little understanding of dance could find their 101 course.
Chop Shop was established in 2008 by Stone Dance Productions. The festival offers both performances and classes. Community classes open to novices were held in partnership with the city of Bellevue Parks and Community Services Department in the latter half of January. Master classes in improvisation, ballet, contemporary style and its creative development are available to intermediate and advanced dancers during the festival.
Visiting performers include Bryn Cohn and Artists of New York, Adam Barruch Dance of New York, Gerard Regot of Spain and the eponymous Ballet Arkansas. Seattle performers will include Spectrum Dance Theater, Anna Conner + CO, Pocket Inc and Price Suddarth.
“I call it a modern dance buffet,” Stone said. “There’s a sampling of everything.
“I say this to my students a lot: In the greater scheme of things, dance doesn’t matter. But a lot of things in life distract us from joy. As human beings, we have to watch other human beings do something miraculous. Watching a human being in motion doesn’t have to be something tricky, it should be something that gives you a way to be connected to other humans.”
Chop Shop: Bodies of Work will be held at The Theatre at Meydenbauer on Feb. 15 and 16. Performance times, tickets and master class reservation information are available at chopshopdance.org.