There’s nothing like a tight deadline to spur the creative process. At least that’s the idea behind Bellingham Repertory Dance's (BRD) fifth annual 7-Day Dance Festival (7DDF) — which culminates in an invigorating showcase of the week’s work. The festival is open to people of all movement backgrounds and levels of experience, and as teacher and choreographer Damian Cade added, “without gatekeeping or preference to those who would perform.”
Hosted by BRD, a professional contemporary dance collective, the 7DDF offers choreographers access to valuable resources such as rehearsal space, audiences and dancers. Additionally, it serves as an opportunity for dancers and curious-minded people to connect, take risks and perform in two shows open to the public at 5 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17.
Laine Pennington, left, and Courtney Holleman rehearse during Bellingham Repertory Dance's 7-Day Dance Festival at Evolution Dance Studio on Sept. 12. Performances of the finished product can be seen Saturday, Sept. 17 at the FireHouse Arts and Events Center. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
I signed up for this year’s festival as an individual to be placed with a group, in the hopes of retraining my fuzzy mom-brain and meeting other dancers. Sitting on the floor of the FireHouse Arts and Event Center last Friday, I felt fortunate to be assigned to choreographer, festival coordinator and BRD dancer Juliette Machado. I was both nervous and excited to get to know the other members of the B’BAMS (a team name derived from the initials of our first names).
Aspects of the festival are modeled on the 48-Hour Film Project, of which Machado has been a participant. Required elements are assigned during the 48-Hour Film Project. Similarly, the 7DDF’s choreography guidelines include three movement ideas and one prompt drawn from a hat. The 48-Hour Film Project uses these elements as “honesty checks”; in the context of the 7DDF prompts such as “create a phrase with hands behind your back” and “all dancers crawling for 10 seconds” help choreographers narrow down choices and remain open to inspiration. My group, the B’BAMS, drew “include at least 10 percussive sounds.”
Camryn Carpenter and Emily Borders choreograph a dance with a teammate over Zoom at the Evolution Dance Studio on Sep. 12. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
Tara Reiter, a choreographer, dancer and dance videographer who participated in past festivals shared what it’s like to work within a condensed time frame.
“It has always been an eye-opener for me,” she said. “I have learned to embrace improv, how to work with another choreographer and how to listen to my own unique, artistic voice.”
Improvisation was one of the tools Machado used during our first two rehearsals. It was energizing to think creatively, share movement that stuck, create abstractions of the three-movement ideas and put together phrases.
After 2020’s shift to an online format and last year’s hiatus, the 2022 return to in-person classes and performance is a boon to the community. A silver lining to the challenges presented by the pandemic is the addition of the “From Anywhere” track, which allows participants outside of Bellingham to share their work.
Although registration is now closed for this year’s showcase, the public is invited to take classes hosted by BRD during the week of the festival, including Beginner Ballet and Astrology Improv. Classes occur in various studios throughout Bellingham that have donated rehearsal space including the FireHouse, Presence Studio and BAAY.
Advance ticket purchases are recommended for the showcase, as performances do sell out. With 18 new dance works, eight of which are dance films, the 7DDF offers something for everyone. And with 2- to 5-minute works, Machado hopes to “leave the audience wanting more.”
“It’s a really special and rare experience, and it is seriously so much fun for both the performers and the audience,” Machado said.
The 7-Day Dance Festival performances take place at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at the FireHouse Arts and Events Center, 1314 Harris Ave. Tickets are $8–$15. Masks are required for audience members. The 7-Day Dance Festival class series takes place through Sept. 17. Class times and locations vary. Classes are $15 for non-participants. Find out more at bhamrep.org/7ddf.