There's a new dance company in town: Seattle Dance Project, a nine-dancer repertory company dedicated to an approachable blend of ballet and modern dance.

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There’s a new dance company in town: Seattle Dance Project, a nine-dancer repertory company dedicated to an approachable blend of ballet and modern dance, will take its first bows tonight at ACT Theatre with a weekend program. Its founding artistic directors, Julie Tobiason and Timothy Lynch, are both former members of Pacific Northwest Ballet, as are several of the company members.

Tobiason, on the phone last week between rehearsals, laughed when asked about the challenges of taking on an endeavor as vast as founding a company. “It’s helpful not to have any idea of how huge that endeavor is!” she said. The idea for SDP came from Tobiason and Lynch’s own work post-PNB (from which they retired in 2002 and 2003, respectively), stepping out of the ballet world into a greater variety of dance.

“PNB is wonderful and fabulous,” remembered Tobiason. “But I think when people are really invested in what they do, there comes a point where they maybe want to do something on their own, or see what they can do with what they’ve done all their life.” During her years in the company, “We’d talk about, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be fun to put on a show?’ ‘Oh, I’d love to do a work of some choreographer;’ ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to get together and do what we feel like doing?’ Sort of a little pipe dream.”

After leaving the company and spending some time teaching and working with local modern-dance choreographers, Tobiason and Lynch decided to form a group that would commission new works — one “that could offer something back to the dance community.”

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SDP’s debut performances will include four world premieres, choreographed by Donald Byrd of Spectrum Dance Theater; former Fulbright scholar Pat Catterson; New York-based choreographer Molissa Fenley (whose “State of Darkness” was recently performed by PNB); and PNB principal Olivier Wevers, whose work has been performed locally and internationally. The dancers include Dana Hanson; Kory Perigo; Michele Curtis; and former PNB company members Alexandra Dickson, Oleg Gorboulev, Melanie Skinner and Linnette Hitchen.

All of the dancers are classically trained, but their backgrounds are diverse. “A few people have had a more modern-track performing career,” said Tobiason, naming Perigo and Curtis specifically. “Some of us have worked primarily in the ballet world and have gotten the opportunity to do very diverse work in that world, and some of us have never done any modern. Everyone has their different reason for saying, ‘I would love to do this.’ ” For example, said Tobiason, Hitchen had her ballet career cut short at a young age because of arthritis in her feet; SDP provides an opportunity for her to continue to perform, in a slightly different idiom.

Tobiason described the four dances — all of which were created specifically for the company — as a blend of modern and ballet. Some of the work will feel recognizably modern; others more like ballet.

“There will be some pointe shoes,” said Tobiason. “It’s really the dancers’ choices, whether they want to work on point or on flat. It really feels very much like a collaborative effort from everyone involved. That’s the thing that’s most attractive — [the dancers] they can have a say to a certain extent in what they do. They don’t have to fit into someone else’s shoes, if you will. Or nonshoes.”

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

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