With 2023 less than a week in, things are already shaping up to be an exciting year for Whim W’Him, a contemporary dance company in Seattle.
After years of renting spaces for administrative offices and practices throughout Seattle, a $3.5 million loan from a longtime supporter has allowed Whim W’him Seattle Contemporary Dance to purchase its own building, 1715 Second Ave. N., in Queen Anne.
“It really provides a solid foundation for the future of the company,” Wevers said.
The building, which was previously All Saints Church, is approximately 14,000 square feet was sold to the dance company by the church’s pastor, who converted services to online during the pandemic, and is moving to Arizona.
Wevers said the sale closed Dec. 15 and he received the keys to the building Dec. 20. While staff have begun moving boxes in, before Whim W’Him officially opens for business, the rest of the building will be renovated and converted into dance space thanks to financial support by the Jolene McCaw Family Foundation.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be fast because we’re not a big corporation, so sitting on a property like this for a long time is expensive,” he said, adding if all goes well, the building will open in spring or summer of this year.
When renovations are complete, Whim W’Him will have two dance studios, a larger one that is 50 by 40 feet, and a smaller one half that size upstairs. The rest of the space will be used for administrative offices, a conference room, a lounge and workspace.
Wevers said the building will be an asset and help sustain the dance company, currently in its 13th season.
Opening its own dance space is not only good news after the last few years have been so difficult for arts organizations, especially smaller companies, it will also allow the company to introduce contemporary dance to the broader community.
“What I’m really excited about is creating a sense of community by having our own space and sharing what we’ll do,” Wevers said.
Wevers said, often when many people think of dance they think of ballet, and contemporary dance companies get overshadowed by organizations like Pacific Northwest Ballet.
“I think it’s a culture of this country to think that ballet is more elevated than contemporary dance,” Wevers said.
Because smaller dance companies don’t have the larger fan or financial base as larger ones, they infrequently have their own dance spaces, let alone a “state-of-the-art dance space,” Wevers said.
“It is an incredible feat for any mid-size dance company to own our own space, quite a rarity in this country, and especially at this time with the cost of real estate in Seattle,” Wevers said.
Having a central facility will make it easier for the company’s professional dancers, he said. It will also allow the company to expand its offerings, including workshops and opening a small school with classes taught by the Whim W’Him dancers.
“We plan on creating classes that don’t exist in Seattle yet,” Wevers said.
He said, for example, one class could have an acrobatic focus taught by a dancer with that skill set.
“But we also want to listen to the community and what they want,” Wevers said. “We don’t want to make it a professional school.”
That comes back to the dance company’s primary mission for its school.
“It’s really making contemporary dance accessible and making it accessible for everyone to participate in and enjoy the element of dance,” Wevers said.
He said his dream is for the dance company to have its very own studios and for them to be used and enjoyed by all dancers.
“That’s what we really want to create for the community, is for people to come in at any time and to just dance and participate,” Wevers said.
In addition to starting a small school offering dance classes, Wevers said plans include subsidizing space for artists to come in and use the facilities and create opportunities for BIPC dancers to access the classes, studios, school programs and workshops, Wevers said.
He said every day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the second dance studio will be open for the community members, and after the dance company dancers are done for the day, both will be open.
“We’re really inviting people into our space and showing them what we do,” he said.
According to its website, Whim W’Him was founded in 2009 and is an award-winning Seattle-based contemporary dance company that showcases innovative dance in collaboration with global artists. The dance studio employs seven professional dancer who receive full benefits and presents about 30 performances a year, with pop-up free performances during the summer throughout the city.
Go to https://www.whimwhim.org for more information about Whim W’Him Seattle Dance Company.