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caption: Sara Jinks in "Cowgirls", choreographed by Pat Graney
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Sara Jinks in "Cowgirls", choreographed by Pat Graney
Credit: photo by Teri Pieper

'Ten Tiny Dances': A Dance Sampler In Only 16 Square Feet

When you think about a dance performance, you may envision something grand and expansive, like “Nutcracker.” Or maybe a sparkly ballroom competition comes to mind, something akin to “Dancing With the Stars.”

Whatever the dance style, these performances are about bodies moving in space. In this case, big spaces.

But what happens when the performance space is tightly circumscribed?

This weekend ten Seattle-area choreographers explore that question in a performance called “Ten Tiny Dances” at Velocity Dance Center on Capitol Hill.

“There are a lot of things that are tiny about this show,” producer Sara Jinks says. “The number one most notable thing is the stage itself.”

The ten dances are performed on a 4-foot by 4-foot, 18-inch high platform. The audience sits very close to this tiny stage. They are so close, Jinks explains, that it can be unnerving for the dancers.

"The whole thing feels like the edge,” Jinks says. She thinks anyone who’s performed onstage understands the sensation of unease, of being a bit off-kilter. In a tiny dance, Jinks says you are always within two feet of the edge of the stage, always right next to the audience. “It’s a vulnerable performance.”

“Ten Tiny Dances” was first conceived in Portland by a dancer named Mike Barber. Seattle-based choreographer Crispin Spaeth collaborated with Barber on some bi-city productions several years ago. Eventually, Spaeth started a local Tiny Dances "franchise."

This year Jinks takes on the producer mantle. She’s invited an array of choreographers to participate, including Spaeth, as well as established local dancemakers, Wade Madsen, Mark Haim and Diana Cardiff.

But Jinks wanted to expand the reach of the performance beyond the city’s contemporary dance scene, so this year’s program includes both Indian and African dances.

Most of all, Jinks wants to encourage people who are new to dance of any kind to attend "Ten Tiny Dances" with an open mind.

“I think people beat themselves up a bit when they’re watching contemporary dance,” she explains. “But I think some of those same people would go into Seattle Art Museum and they’d look at a piece of art on the wall, and they’d like it or not like it, and they don’t feel frustrated by that.”

Jinks admits looking at an inanimate painting or sculpture is different from confronting a live human being right in front of you. That experience can scare people away from dance.

She advises potential audience members to think of "Ten Tiny Dances" as an easy entry point to the art form, a dance version of a Whitman's Sampler.

“If you don’t like what you see, something different will come along very soon.”

"Ten Tiny Dances" will be performed Feb. 6 - 8 at Velocity Dance Center on Seattle's Capitol Hill. A late night show was added on Feb. 7 to meet demand for tickets.