From a one-day festival a decade ago, the annual Eastside dance showcase “Chop Shop” has grown to a multiday, multicompany, multicultural dance showcase.
Choreographer Eva Stone had lived in the Seattle area for about a dozen years, running her own dance troupe and teaching dance classes in Redmond, when she came to a realization. While there was a growing number of student dance companies on the Eastside, there was nothing on a professional level.
In 2008, after learning that Bellevue’s Meydenbauer Center had a Sunday afternoon open in its calendar, she figured she’d try doing something about it.
“I don’t know what possessed me,” she recalled in a recent interview, “but I decided I’d try to produce a show. Of course, I immediately panicked because I had four dancers in my company and two pieces that they knew.”
‘Chop Shop: Bodies of Work’
7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 18-19), Meydenbauer Center, 11100 N.E. Sixth St., Bellevue; $26-$28 (800-838-3006 or brownpapertickets.com).
That wasn’t enough to fill a bill, so she asked Seattle dancers/choreographers Mark Haim and Jason Ohlberg to jump aboard. The one-day event, called “Chop Shop,” drew a good crowd. Still, Stone had to tell her collaborators afterward, “I broke even, but I have no money to pay you.”
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Their reaction: “Fantastic!”
They were just glad she hadn’t ended up in debt.
The following year, with funding from 4Culture and the city of Bellevue, “Chop Shop” expanded to two days. The festival made a profit and all the artists were paid, albeit modestly.
Ever since, “Chop Shop” has helped Eastsiders “access this weird thing called contemporary dance,” as Stone puts it. The festival celebrates its 10th annual performance this month.
Favorites returning from past festivals include Haim, Joshua Beamish’s MOVE: the company and Donald Sales’ Project20 (both from Vancouver, B.C.), Adam Barruch and Bryn Cohn’s companies (New York) and Alex Ketley’s The Foundry (San Francisco). Stone Dance Collective will revive “Me Over You,” Stone’s feminist skewering of an 1845 ballet classic, presented at the first “Chop Shop.”
Spectrum Dance Theater’s Donald Byrd contributes a three-minute solo to be performed by Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Miles Pertl. New to the festival are performers from New Zealand School of Dance.
These days when Stone puts out a call for “Chop Shop,” she gets as many as 150 responses from as far afield as Timbuktu, Morocco and China. This 10th-anniversary show was curated as a best-of-the-fest lineup, with no calls going out. Even so, Stone got 50 applications for it.
“I find that I have artists that are willing to lose money just to come to perform here,” Stone says. “I know that the fee I’m paying them is not covering everything. But somehow they’ll do some of their own fundraising. Some get support from their governments.”
How has the festival lasted this long?
“I am really good at begging for help,” Stone laughs. “I drastically plead my nonprofit status.”
On a more serious note, she adds, “We’ve just been very fortunate by opening the doors, both to artists and audience, and saying, ‘There’s no pretense. There’s no mystery.’ … Our purpose is accessibility and transparency. And I think that formula has made people interested, less intimidated.”