The Divas in Front of Their Fav Arts Organization on their Wedding Day

Velocity Dance Center: Your Dance, Your Center

Velocity, eh? Stop. Open the door. Get your bootie on in there and shake it!

You? Yes, I’m talking to you. Really.

Because Velocity Dance Center isn’t just for dancers. It’s for dancing. And dancing is for everyone.

Here’s how widely they construe that term “everyone” at Velocity: I took a hip-hop class there last year. Overweight, out of shape, twice as old as the “kids” in the class, I nonetheless felt welcomed. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t do the steps right. What mattered was challenging the body, brain, and soul to try. Oh my gosh, it was so fun to even try to move like that. During a break, I met the woman who had been dancing on the other side of the sea of gyrating youth between us; she was 15 years older than me even.

At Velocity, casual dancers mix it up with amateurs and pros. A few years ago I had a random chat with a modest, pleasant fellow in the lobby. He was in town and so had decided to drop in for a class at Velocity, which he described as Seattle’s main hub for dance. Later I saw a picture of this same fellow in the New York Times dance section. It turns out he was a professional. I’m not big into celebrity, but I do think it’s super cool when a casual dancer can take a class right alongside a pro.

They have a kazillion classes at Velocity. Or, more accurately, according to their website: “Velocity offers an average of 1,700 classes per year taught by renowned local teachers. The backbone of the curriculum is contemporary dance with many additional genres taught to diversify and expand our adult student base.” The studios are small but pretty. You can even rent them out for pretty cheap.

They offer a ridiculously high number of programs too. They told me that in 2013 they presented 150+ original works and 80+ companies, and that there were 52 Velocity-commissioned performances. (One of those commissions was Ezra Dickinson’s “Mother for you I made this”, a piece that showed up on a many a Seattle dance critic’s “best of” list for that year.) Velocity has an online journal, STANCE, which “aims to activate and foster thoughtful discourse on dance, movement-based research and choreographic culture in and beyond Seattle.” They’re big into thinking about things: the discourse keeps going in their Speakeasy Series, whose purpose is “to encourage cross-disciplinary dialogue, promote civic engagement, create meaningful links between artists and the community, and support initiatives at the cutting edge of change.”

I live in Ballard, so Velocity isn’t on my everyday schedule. Nonetheless, I have a disproportionate number of good memories of this place. I saw my first Amy O’Neal performance at Velocity. I saw my first Men-in-Dance show at Velocity. And here is where I saw dance teacher Michele Miller coax a dancer’s lower back into a more relaxed state. (Does that sound uninteresting? It was like watching a horse whisperer, I assure you. Miller, by the way, was one of the co-founders of Velocity, back in 1996.) I watched the Salt Horse duo teach a choreography class. (This had the surreal feeling of a sleepover where the intimate, flash-light discussion is about deeply excellent literature: very heady stuff…) And last year Divas Kim and Chavi threw their Disco wedding here. (It was a very happy, very awesome party!)

So go in. Stretch or play or think or watch. Or party. It’s your dance, baby.