If you love dance, you're in good hands in Seattle, where you can find everything from classical ballet at its best to socially engaged contemporary work, plus programming to make both accessible for young audiences.
If you’re into ballet
We have a world-class ballet company right here in Seattle: Pacific Northwest Ballet, born in the 1970s and thriving today under the leadership of artistic director Peter Boal, is acclaimed both nationally and abroad. (The company recently returned from performing at Les Etes de la Danse festival in Paris earlier this summer.)
Ticket prices have a wide range — but there are ways to see the company for less. Before every show, PNB hosts a conversation (with the artistic director, visiting stagers, or dancers) on some aspect of the performance, followed by admission to the dress rehearsal; it’s just $30 for both. The company’s popular Friday Previews (taking place Sept. 14 and Oct. 26 this fall) let you into the studio to watch an hourlong rehearsal up close, for $15. And PNB’s “Ballet 101” series provides a behind-the-scenes look at the art of ballet; this fall’s presentations include “Dressing the Dance: Costumes and Wardrobe at PNB” on Oct. 9 and “Ballet Basics: Ballet in Form — Online Dance Education Resources” on Nov. 17; each is $25. For more information or to buy tickets, see pnb.org/season/events/. — Moira Macdonald
If contemporary is more your thing
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- Where to see theater in Seattle, from musicals to more adventurous fare
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Whenever I go to Capitol Hill mainstay Velocity Dance Center (velocitydancecenter.org), I feel like the uptight ballerina protagonist in the 2000 teen drama “Center Stage” when she sneaks off to a contemporary class — it feels like I’m breaking the rules. And Velocity does, in the best way. It’s where you go to see exciting contemporary work — like “New Dances II,” showcasing new choreography Sept. 20-23 — or even become part of it, at classes like Kate Wallich’s wildly popular Dance Church, a thrice-weekly raucous dance party/exercise class/opposite of a ballet barre. Wallich covers the studio mirrors, turns down the lights, and cranks up the Top 40, for a massively crowded, massively openhearted celebration of movement. You will leave ecstatic and covered in sweat.
But don’t stop there. Whim W’Him (whimwhim.org), the contemporary company from former PNB principal dancer Olivier Wevers, is an avant-leaning treat that pairs rigor with innovative new work. Whim W’Him dancers have taken on choreography covering everything from phone-addicted existential dread to Charlie Chaplin’s anti-fascist ethos — it’s material that could be inaccessible in less-capable hands. But Whim W’Him makes it equal parts urgent and fun.
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Spectrum Dance Theater (spectrumdance.org) has been around since 1982, but has gained a reputation for bold, socially engaged performance under the influence of artistic director Donald Byrd, described by The Seattle Times’ Tyrone Beason in a 2012 profile as “one of the nation’s most daring modern-dance choreographers.” Byrd has worked with dance-world luminaries like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and studied with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Speaking of which: In December, Spectrum will present a series of studio performances inspired by Cunningham’s “EVENTS,” which pulled excerpts from the company’s repertory into one fragmented, intermission-less performance. — Megan Burbank
If you’re under 40 (or a teen)
Dance appreciation can be an expensive hobby, and while there are ways around this (see Moira Macdonald’s oblique points of entry into PNB programming, above), it can feel even more out of reach if you’re young. Fortunately, the Seattle scene has a couple key cheat codes for budding patrons of the arts.
If you can’t get enough ballet and are between the ages of 20 and 40, The Pointe, PNB’s email newsletter for young ballet enthusiasts, is a dance nerd’s dream, with #TutuTuesday sales on performances and invites to events like Beer and Ballet, which pairs drink specials with sharply discounted tickets to Thursday night shows. (You’ll also get advance notice for offstage events like Trivia on Tap, arguably the only trivia night where all your arcane ballet knowledge will finally come in handy.) More information at pnb.org/season/offers/thepointe/.
If you’re a teen (or the parent of an art-interested teen), you should know about TeenTix (teentix.org). Started by Seattle Center in collaboration with the slew of arts organizations that call the downtown hub their home, the program provides passes to local teens ages 13-19 that allow them to purchase $5 day-of-show tickets to local arts events. The options include dance performances from Spectrum Dance Theater, Whim W’Him, and PNB, plus numerous arts organizations covering everything from improv to opera, so you aren’t limited to dance. — M.B.