Progress Edition

Mid-Columbia Ballet: Cultivating the future of dance

From classical ballet to cutting-edge contemporary dance, Mid-Columbia Ballet is the area’s premier performing dance company.
From classical ballet to cutting-edge contemporary dance, Mid-Columbia Ballet is the area’s premier performing dance company. Courtesy Mid-Columbia Ballet

Mid-Columbia Ballet (MCB) is best known in the Tri-Cities for our annual performance of “The Nutcracker”. Our December 2017 production of this beloved holiday tradition featured a cast of 185, was enjoyed by 5,736 patrons, and reached an additional 4,344 people through special outreach performances.

Recognized nationally as Southeastern Washington’s premier performing dance company, MCB produces much more than the annualNutcracker”. Our repertoire spans from classical ballet to cutting-edge contemporary dance and is complemented by a suite of education outreach programs that focus on dance experiences for K-12 students and make dance accessible to the elderly and to those with special needs. In 2018 we will reach more people than ever, bringing dance into communities that are unable to come to us and kindling new collaborations featuring the next generation of artists.

In support of our mission, we create at least one new dance each year. Our flagship piece for 2018 is choreographed by San Francisco-based Rex Wheeler. It is a collaboration with Mariachi Halcón del Río (Chiawana High School; director Allen Madsen).

During creation of the piece, Wheeler was struck by how eager both groups were to socialize and learn from each other about their respective art forms. These 12 dancers and 19 musicians, all high school age, care about the art first and foremost and their unified focus provides great hope in the potential of future generations. Wheelers choreography capitalizes on the integration of dance and music, staying true to the vocabulary of neo-classical/contemporary ballet while using the musical structure of Mariachi to guide a narrative celebrating the female spirit through themes of beauty, playfulness, humility and strength.

Professional choreographers, like Wheeler, provide a bridge for the dancers of MCB to connect with a national network of professional artists. This exposure often cultivates emerging choreographers from within our organization. Willow Whitney (MCB dancer, Richland High School senior) and Phillip Strom (MCB alum, NYU Tisch student) both created new contemporary dance works in 2018.

Whitney will debut her first choreography with the company, featuring 6 dancers and reflecting on the presleep state of mind. Strom created his fourth piece on twelve dancers using concepts like reflection, echoes, and boundaries.

Mid-Columbians were able to see these works, along with the childrens ballet “The Jungle Book”, on March 16-17 during our spring concert. Additionally, MCB will present some of these pieces at the Regional Dance America/Pacific festival April 10-14 in Spokane. We use pieces like these at invited performances around the Tri-Cities as well as at outreach events like our May 2018 collaboration with LIGO Hanford Observatory and Libby Middle School, “The Science of Dance; Exploring Gravitational Waves”.

Sharing dance is rewarding for participants and audience members, but there are many long-term challenges. One of the biggest challenges for the arts, both locally and globally, is advancing the field in a way that builds future generations of patrons and audiences.

Our main goal at MCB is not necessarily to build professional dancers, although that is sometimes a product. Rather, we nourish them into adulthood by encouraging perseverance and passion in everything they do; teaching them how to collaborate, communicate and network; and setting high standards for the way they engage in the world. Wherever they may live and work after they leave Mid-Columbia Ballet, we hope that we have built a life-long supporter of the arts in each of them.