A world tour of contemporary dance

Khambatta Dance Company, producers of the Seattle International Dance Festival. (Photo by Briana Jones)
Khambatta Dance Company, producers of the Seattle International Dance Festival. (Photo by Briana Jones)

As a cheerleader at a small town high school, I was surrounded by people who all danced — and looked — pretty much the same.

But by simply taking the ferry over from Poulsbo to Seattle, I discovered a world of dance that goes far beyond pom poms and a uniform.

People come from all over the world to Seattle just to dance. I found out as much when I decided to tryout for the Seattle Seahawks cheer squad and met young women that came from as far away as Russia and Japan for the auditions.

So when I heard about the Seattle International Dance Festival (SIDF), I was thrilled to discover an organization that has been bringing international dance to Seattle for almost a decade.

The nine day festival is an opportunity for the community to experience the diverse way dance is expressed all around the world.

“It gives you the opportunity to see what culture is and how we express ourselves in different cultures through art,” said Cyrus Khambatta, artistic director of SIDF.

Almost 200 artists come from all over the world to present their works in Seattle during SIDF.

Among these many artists are Jerome Aparis and the Massive Monkees B-boy crew; their group started when the members were in middle school and high school. Since then they’ve grown to become well known dancers around the world. They won the B-Boy World Championships twice, once in London in 2004 and again in South Korea in 2012. They’ve also appeared on Season 4 of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew.

“Some of the guys are African American, Asian, Hispanic, and Caucasian, all the colors you would expect and that’s what makes it beautiful,” Aparis said.

Renowned Seattle breakdancing crew Massive Monkees. (Photo by Vivian Hsu)
Renowned Seattle breakdancing crew Massive Monkees. (Photo by Vivian Hsu)

Aparis and the Massive Monkees are a prime example of what diversity in dance is. Despite different backgrounds, they find success as a group.

“We take pride in being a family, and if you put diverse people together that come up from diverse backgrounds, it can cause a lot of conflicts,” Aparis said. “But through dance and through battling, winning, losing and performing, the art is what glues us together and gives us the understanding that it is for more than just ourselves.”

The Seattle International Dance Festival kicks off today, June 13, and runs through June 22. Throughout the festival, dancers from a diverse range of backgrounds will showcase their talents for the community. Audiences will not only watch international dance performances — they’ll be able to participate in them as well (see schedule below).

“It really helps the community get involved in dance, and it’s the most successful program we have with people coming from all over the world,” Khambatta said.

The festival provides an opportunity to discover issues facing different cultures, and the ways people strive to overcome them through art.

Khambatta explains one of the pieces from Romania which deals with the issue of beauty and the body.

“It’s a very vulnerable and intimate piece where people actually write on a female dancer’s body,” Khambatta said. “By the end of the piece you feel like this dancer is actually very strong, powerful, and confident in her body and who she is.”

SIDF provides dancers and groups a platform to showcase their forms and styles of dancing, opening the door for mash-ups and mixed performances — which might pair a breakdancer like Jerome Aparis with Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Ezra Thompson.

“It’s a beautiful festival because it brings everybody together from different diverse backgrounds, and you learn from and are inspired by each other; that’s what we love about it,” Aparis said. “There are more diverse dance styles at this event and the audience is open to it, so that’s what makes it really fun for us.”

Brazilian dance company Experimentus will be featured at this year's festival. (Photo courtesy Experimentus)
Brazilian dance company Experimentus will be featured at this year’s festival. (Photo courtesy Experimentus)

Highlights of the Seattle International Dance Festival:

Saturday June 14: The first weekend of the Inter|National series will include dance companies from Brazil and France.  Saturday evening will feature Paulo Lima/Experimentus from Fortaleza, Brazil performing a work entitled “The Grey Color of Things,” inspired by the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer.

June 16-22: The Threshold Institute offers all day study with national and international artists/teachers, culminating in a professionally produced performance at the Seattle International Dance Festival choreographed by acclaimed artist, Dayna Hanson, Co-Founder of 33 Fainting Spells. Classes and rehearsals run from 9:30am to 5:30pm daily and are open to intermediate and advanced dancers.

Friday, June 20: The second weekend of the Inter|National series kicks off with Sumeet Nagdev Dance Arts from Mumbai, India, presenting the U.S. premieres of “Saki Naki,” a piece about the director’s interaction with a homeless person over one year and “Talkative Dancer” a humorous work parodying contemporary dance.

Saturday, June 21: Cristina Lilienfeld Bucharest, Romania presents an intimate one-woman work questioning the concept of the “female body” in society today. She exposes the nakedness of the body and asks spectators to write what they think of her on her body — a vulnerable and ultimately powerful work.

For event locations and schedules visit: http://www.seattleidf.org

For more information on year-round dance classes from the Massive Monkees visit: massivemonkees.com and for online classes visit jermoneskeecoaching.com

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