By KAREN LUNDE
Each year, Ballet Northwest celebrates dance in all its forms by bringing local dance groups and guest artists together for its annual Olympia Dance Festival. The group pulled out all the stops for its 10th anniversary this year.
The festival always invites a high-profile, guest artist to complement an exciting collection of local talent. For the 10th anniversary there will be two guest artists. The first is Julia Erickson, a ballerina who was a principal dancer with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. Erickson trained at Pacific Northwest Ballet School in Seattle and performs as a guest with dance companies all over the country. The second is Sam Picart, a hip-hop dancer who trained at Cornish College of the Arts, won the Ellen DeGeneres Dance Off and travels all over the country teaching students at dance conventions. “In addition to solos of their own,” said Ken Johnson, co-director of Ballet Northwest, “Julia and Sam will join together in a duet juxtaposing classical ballet and street dance. They’ll have live musical accompaniment from Joe and Naoko Sokolik, who teach locally and have played with the Olympia Symphony.”
Despite the challenge of coordinating 13 different dance groups comprising over 200 dancers, Johnson says, “It’s always fun to see the wide array of dance from our community and how the groups keep improving every year. I also love how the dancers and their fans root on the other groups — it’s a great community.” He explained six of this year’s groups have participated in the festival each year since it began: Ballet Northwest, Debbi’s Dance, Johansen Olympia Dance Center, Slieveloughane Irish Dancers, Southwest Washington Dance Ensemble and Studio West Dance Theatre.
“The diversity of the festival is really great for both seasoned dance audiences and people totally new to dance,” said Johnson. “All of the pieces are fairly short and encompass a wide range of styles: ballet, contemporary, tap, jazz, hip-hop, ballroom, Irish, Chinese and Middle Eastern. We even have a short dance film this year. There’s definitely something for everyone.”
Olympia Dance Festival
7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2
The Washington Center for the Performing Arts,
512 Washington St. SE, Olympia