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Ten Tiny Dances descend on Jazzbones

Dance series to perform in Tacoma nightclub

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When the dancers hit the “stage” on April 28, their moves won’t be the expansive, sweeping leaps and 12-person corps pieces associated with dance pieces such as the Nutcracker or Swan Lake. 

Ten Tiny Dances, a series that features 10 choreographers and dancers working within a four-foot by four-foot space “budget” is the brainchild of Mike Barber, whose background in dance placed him in New York, Seattle and Portland, where he currently works as a Special Education teacher.

When he’s not in the classroom, he curates the dance series that he began in 2002 as a one-time “low budget, but different” fundraiser in a wine bar.

Barber explains, “I’m interested in constraint.  It gives us a different form, tweaks dance.”

While on the one hand, the “experiment in confined space” provides accessibility to an art form occasionally shrouded in snobbery, on the other hand, Barber enjoys the conflict the constraints pose.

According to Barber, “People have been incredibly creative, though we’ve had all sorts of wild things happen.”

The series stayed in Portland for the first three years, with guest dancers and choreographers invited from places such as New York and San Francisco.

“Then two years ago, I had this idea of doing a bi-city thing,” Barber says. The “bi-city thing” became a collaboration with Seattle performing artists, with five from each city, and performances in both cities.

For this Tacoma performance, 10 Portland artists to the stage, since, according to MLKBallet Executive Director Alexa Folsom-Hill, Tacoma doesn’t have the depth of established professionals yet.

But that doesn’t mean a Tacoma exchange won’t happen in the future.

Folsom-Hill met Barber at a Seattle show, as she looked around to see what other communities were doing to promote dance, and worked with him to bring the show to Tacoma to promote the sort of accessibility to dance that she hopes will inspire others to become involved in the performance art form, and potentially to lure them to MLKBallet, or inspire them to support the venture that will create the future generation of these artists.

“It fit really well into our vision,” Folsom-Hill says of Ten Tiny Dances.

Another perfect fit was the venue.

Ten Tiny Dances has a history of combining dining and drinking with dance, establishing itself in performances at some of Portland’s most interesting and trend-setting restaurants.

Folsom-Hill explains, “Jazzbones is the premier choice of venue,” adding, “They have the most flexibility.”

And flexibility, especially where dance is concerned, is a good thing.

[Jazzbones, Saturday, April 28, 6 p.m., all ages, $15-$18, 2803 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.396.9169]

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