Steamboat Dance Theatre steps into 50 years
It was 1972 when seven local dancers had the idea to host a community dance performance. That show brought the start of Steamboat Dance Theatre, and now, that same organization that began with 12 members is celebrating 50 years.
From the first show throughout the past five decades, the organization has grown significantly. Now with an average of 130-150 members each year, Steamboat Dance Theatre offers a wide array of dance programs and performances with the goal of enriching, enhancing and educating the community.
Best known for their dynamic annual concert, this year’s event will not disappoint. The theme for the show is “Turn the Beat Around,” which, artistic director Gina Toothaker explained, literally means to change up the beat in a song or dance.
“There’s a bit of that happening this year,” Toothaker said. “We’re using some music that you would never expect and we’re trying to do all different things.”
It’s a theme that allows for reflection on the past 50 years of concerts, said executive director Kristen Jespersen. “How (our concerts) have led us to today and this year, and it’s also a mantra for this point in time (and) how we are using dance to get us through the hardships that the past two years have created.”
With 15 different pieces, no one dance is the same, and there’s a little bit of everything from belly dancing and African dance to contemporary, jazz, hip hop, tap and — if you’re familiar with the annual concert — likely much more.
Footage from past concerts will be featured in video installments, and a revival of past choreography will take the stage in one piece. Another piece will be in a music video format as a nod to their wildly successful virtual concert last year.
With many members wearing multiple hats, Jessica Whalen is a board member, co-producer, dancer and choreographer. Her goal for this year, she said, was to be as inclusive as possible.
“I wanted anyone — at any ability level — to be in the dance because I think that goes back to what Steamboat Dance Theatre is all about,” Whalen said. “It’s about being inclusive and being an organization that gives you the opportunity to meet new people.”
So she choreographed a high energy, all-inclusive piece, where, she said, she felt like she was dancing with all of her friends. With 25 dancers, it’s the largest piece in the show.
And while there are always surprises in every annual concert, Jespersen said that the audience can expect the same fun, creative performance that Steamboat Dance Theatre has been known for over the past 50 years.
For Toothaker, who has been with the organization since 1986, the biggest takeaway is the talent.
“Over all of these years, there’s been so much talent that has come to Steamboat or grown up here,” she said. “From former professional dancers to first timers on stage — to have everyone dancing together is really cool. We have something in this community that is very unlikely to exist anywhere else. I’m really proud of being involved in something that has such a long tradition.”
What: Steamboat Dance Theatre’s Annual Concert
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, and Friday, Feb. 4, and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5.
Where: Steamboat Springs High School Auditorium, 45 Maple St.
Info: Purchase tickets online at SteamboatDanceTheatre.org. Tickets are available for both in-person and virtual format.
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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