Chop Shop: A dance showcase that aims to engage the community

Contemporary dance, as with many modern art forms, can be a bit daunting for those new to the experience.

The annual contemporary dance showcase Chop Shop includes a variety of dance performances that are hand-picked to be engaging for all audience members, even those new to dance.

Chop Shop is not only meant to provide entertainment, it is also a community engagement project. Leading up to the two-night event are workshops and introductory dance classes on Sunday, Jan. 31 which allow anyone in the area to learn for free. Participants in either class get to attend the Chop Shop performances for the discounted price of $5, and with a deeper understanding of the art.

Eva Stone and Chop Shop students at the Sunday workshop.

Since 2007, the event has delivered a wide array of different styles of contemporary dance and received consistently positive response. Seattle Dances described the 2014 rendition as a “well-curated, well-produced festival whose good reputation will undoubtedly only continue to increase,” and Critical Dance said this year that it is “recognized as one of the most important dance events of the year.”

The creator and curator of this event, Eva Stone, said the main goal of Chop Shop is to “make modern dance accessible to the public.”

“I want to be able to have my mailman watch this performance and identify himself within it,” Stone explained. What she expects will engage anyone are dance pieces with a strong narrative arc.
Her workshops are also designed to help newcomers learn more about the art form. These two classes are offered at community locations throughout the Eastside.

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Eva Stone and Chop Shop students at the Sunday workshop.

One class, called “Reading Dance,” gives participants insight into the craft and creation of contemporary performance and choreography. Stone brings in her dance company, and shows clips of past performances. She then breaks down the background of the thought, story and emotion that goes into creating each piece.

“Intro to Modern Dance” is a dance class open to anyone at any skill level to try. Stone said in the past she’s had anyone from “grandma and grandpa to a mom and her nine year old daughter” all taking the class together.

Stone has been involved in dance for 30 years, and founded the Stone Dance Collective in London in 1993. She has also been an instructor at Bellevue College for the past three years. This quarter she is teaching two contemporary dance classes.

She has held one of Chop Shop’s community workshops on the BC campus, including both “Reading Dance” and “Intro to Modern Dance.” Other locations include Crossroads Community Center, Mercer Island Library and Bellevue Youth Theater.

If a student is interested in getting involved in Modern Dance, Stone says some local resources include “The Studios,” “Spectrum Dance” and “Velocity.”