Families Are People Too

Families may come in all sorts of sizes and shapes but they share many common life experiences.   That’s exactly what Bellingham choreographer Pam Kuntz explores in her newest dance-theatre work–“The Family Project.”

The title couldn’t be more aptly named.  This wonderful piece which will be performed this Thursday through Sunday at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center,  was inspired by stories collected by Kuntz and her team of artists from and about  Whatcom County families.  There’s the Native American couple whose story is set on a beach and told in a stunningly creative and beautiful pas de deux by dancers Vanessa Daines and Ian Bivins.

Choreographer Pam Kuntz is artistic director for the Bellingham-based Kuntz and Company. I love making dramatic portraits in the studio such as this one.

In another,  dancer Angela Kiser appears as the woman of an elderly couple who reminisces about her younger years together with her husband who now suffers from dementia, performed by Bivins.  The touching piece was especially personal to me as in it, I could see my own father and my mother, who also now has dementia.  Throughout “The Family Project”,  Kiser (always a favorite dancer of mine whenever she appears in Kuntz’ or other company’s works), and Zach Wymore provide some comedic relief in a series of three very funny table-top duets.

Interwoven with the dances are video clips of the participating families with their own narratives providing the story.  It’s a bit of a departure for Kuntz who usually incorporates the community participants into the dances themselves but I think is a far more effective and creative way of presenting her theme to the audience.  This then allows the dancers and Kuntz to do what they do best, communicate through dance.

Funding for this premiere. also the first offering in the new season, was provided in part by the Washington State Arts Commission.  Kuntz was also just notified that she was selected as one of 62 Washington state artists as a recipient of the Artist Trust Grants for Artists Projects (GAP). It is very unusual for the Artist Trust to bestow this  grant on dance artists located outside of Seattle.

As an arts reviewer and editor,  I saw a lot of professional dance while covering it in Phoenix and, to some extent, in Los Angeles.  At the time, Arizona State University’s modern dance program was among the first in the country and was emerging as a nationally-known program.  As a result,  many major companies and choreographers, such as Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, Joan Woodbury and Shirley Ririe came to perform and conduct workshops.   I covered them all, interviewing the guest artists and reviewing the performances.

I think we in Bellingham are fortunate to have a choreographer of Kuntz’ caliber to be actively working here in town.   I am happy to be among those currently serving on the board of her non-profit dance company, Kuntz and Company.

You have four more opportunities to see this newest creative effort by Kuntz and her dancers.  I’d urge you to go.   Tickets can be purchased at the door, Village Books in Fairhaven or on-line at:  www.brownpapertickets.com.

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