Crispin Spaeth, Dayna Hanson, Mark Haim and Wade Madsen are among the dancemakers involved in the 2015 edition of this unique series.

Share story

Creating a new dance is challenging work. Besides composing the movements, pacing and dramatic arc, a choreographer has to make decisions about music or sound design, sets, props, costumes and lighting.

Add the requirement that the piece must be performed on a 4-foot-by-4-foot platform 18 inches off the floor for three to eight minutes, with the audience seated on all sides, and many dancemakers would be overwhelmed.

But not Crispin Spaeth and the numerous other local choreographers who have taken part in “Ten Tiny Dances” over the past dozen years.

Dance preview

‘Ten Tiny Dances’

8 p.m. Feb. 6-8, 10 p.m. Feb. 7, Velocity Founders Theater, 1621 12th Ave., Seattle; $16-$18, tickets are limited (

“I’m a huge fan of short dances, both as a viewing experience and because it’s good for the field,” says Spaeth. “It forces a choreographer to do something well and not put everything from the refrigerator into the stewpot. In a piece that’s shorter, you get right to the nugget.”

The much-lauded Spaeth, who ran her own Seattle dance troupe for 15 years, was captivated by the idea of “Ten Tiny” from her first exposure to it in Portland in 2002. She persuaded originator Mike Barber to let her bring the concept to Seattle. Over the years, it’s become one of our most popular and unusual dance events, presented in locations as diverse as Re-bar and the lobby of McCaw Hall (as a Pacific Northwest Ballet intermission feature).

Spaeth has stepped back as presenter — that role has been taken over by Sara Jinks — but remains involved as a participant. This time around, she’s creating a six-minute solo, to be performed by Kathryn Padberg, that’s based on an improvisation they created together in a large studio.

Spaeth and Padberg didn’t intend for the original improvisation to become a performance work, but when they decided to join “Ten Tiny” they obviously had to make changes, such as reducing the number of steps in a particular sequence or making movements smaller.

Dancers like to stay at least 2 feet from the edge of the stage; here, Padberg moves right to the edge, even placing a foot over it on occasion.

“This is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done,” says Padberg, adding that the challenge is exciting.

As in the past, this year’s roster of 10 choreographers is a mix of emerging and established artists working in a variety of styles. Among the better known, besides Spaeth, are Dayna Hanson, Mark Haim and Wade Madsen.

Newcomers include Kokou Gbakennou, with an African-inflected piece, and Douglas Ridings in an Odissi dance, and Sarah Paul Ocampo, who’s collaborating with musician Aaron Huffman on an alt-rock experience that combines dance with voice and guitar.