Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record
Juliana Brielle, left, and Kelsey Lampe dance together in a routine during a rehearsal practice.

Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record Juliana Brielle, left, and Kelsey Lampe dance together in a routine during a rehearsal practice.

Dance troupe to meander ‘into the woods’

A contemporary dance company founded during the pandemic is planning its first show outdoors.

A contemporary dance company that took flight during the pandemic is planning its first show in an unusual location.

The six members of the Meander Dance Company will be taking the amphitheater stage at South Whidbey State Park from 6-7 p.m. on Sept. 3-5.

The new company began as a pilot project last spring when South End dancer and choreographer Beck Diamond sent out a message over social media asking if anyone would be interested in joining the creative project.

“I’d always wanted to start a dance company and COVID took all my work from me,” Diamond said.

To meander is to wander aimlessly. It’s a name that was chosen in part as a societal critique, as Diamond explained when people expect artists to make something for “the greater good.”

“For me, Meander is about finding contentment and just enjoying and being where you’re at and it’s okay if you do get better or more skillful at an activity, but that’s not necessarily the only reason that we’re doing it,” the company’s founder said, adding that they see the company as being an “anti-capitalist praxis.”

“I think in particular people take dance for granted and they don’t look at it the same way they look at, say, musicians and other artists, painters,” Diamond said. “I want people to understand that we’re a professional company that is continually working on our craft.”

The company aims to provide dance performances in an accessible way. Meander’s first show in the woods will have a “pay-what-you-can” model. If anyone has accessibility concerns about the show, Diamond said they would like people to email meanderdancecollective@gmail.com.

“I don’t want to just be an elitist company that you can only go to if you have $50 to pay to get in,” they said.

Dancers of the company come from all different backgrounds and skill levels, from the classically trained at Whidbey Island Dance Theatre to the passionate newbies. Hunter Fox, one of Meander’s youngest members, has never been technically trained but has been described as “a natural mover.”

“I was that person when I was younger and somebody took a chance on me and let me into a show. And that was it, then the next year I was choreographing,” Diamond said. “When I see Hunter, I remember that young person. He just brings a lot of positive energy to our rehearsals and I think really adds to the group dynamic.”

Diamond added that it’s important that the whole community gets an opportunity to dance and perform if that is what is wanted. Another goal of Meander is to eventually expand into a youth company, which would supplement what’s already on the island for young dancers. Three kids will be performing as part of the dance company’s first show.

Juliana Brielle, another member of Meander, said the new company is inclusive for people of older generations who grew up dancing on Whidbey but now have kids that might also want to be involved with the activity.

“It is a total bridging of the gap of something that was missing for being an adult and wanting to perform professionally,” she said.

Brielle performed as Clara in Whidbey Island Dance Theatre’s 2009 production of “The Nutcracker.” She now has a daughter of her own who might someday also want to dance.

“It’s really exciting being able to pull from all the different sides of dance that Whidbey already has, like with the codified movement and the free movement and the contact improv, even part of the acro world,” Brielle said.

The group has a GoFundMe fundraiser that can be found by searching “Meander Dance Company.” Donations will help cover costs for spaces the company plans to rent for future performances, such as the stage at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts.

But the beauty of the group is also its versatility.

“I can totally see us being at the amphitheater in the woods, in WICA, on the beach, in an open field, on a basketball court,” Brielle said.

“We’re willing to meander anywhere,” Diamond joked.

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