How we began... where we are
In 1994, Richard Jessup, facing frustration with the lack of opportunities for men in concert dance, envisioned an evening performed and choreographed entirely by men. Eight Seattle dancers/choreographers were invited to participate in a discussion about this idea, and their views of what it could ‘look like’. Richard and a colleague wrote a grant to the King County Arts Commission, with a proposal to produce an evening of this kind. They received the grant, and Against the Grain/MEN IN DANCE was born. The first concert took place at the Old Freehold Theatre in 1996, and was an immediate success. The organization incorporated in 1998 and was granted its 501©3 Non-Profit Status. An advisory producing Board was created, and still maintains the organization today. It was decided that the Festival would be produced every two years.
The 1998 Festival brought the addition of female choreographers, as well as the growth from one to two weekends of shows. That year also marked the first year of what has become an ongoing association with the Children’s modern dance company, Kaleidoscope. In 2002, MID toured with a concert on Bainbridge Island - these performances were dedicated to the memory of Stanley Knaub, who had been very active in the organization. In 2004, the Festival moved to the larger Velocity MainSpace Theatre. With ever-growing audiences and community financial support, MID then moved the Festival to Seattle’s Broadway Performance Hall in 2008, where the Festival still plays today. In 2012 the Festival was dedicated to the memory and talents of Jesse Jaramillo, who had worked extensively with MID. The 10th Anniversary Festival in 2014 celebrated 20 years since the inception of the organization, and the resulting growth of MID and the region it serves.
2015 brought an important addition to the MID performance schedule. Beginning that year the organization began producing the Adjudicated Choreographers Showcase, which brought five choreographers together from Seattle and beyond, to produce new group pieces which receive immediate live feedback from its audience and a panel of dance professionals. The 2016 Festival of MEN IN DANCE paid tribute to the talents of Stanley Perryman, who had done so much for the Fosse style of jazz dance in Seattle and beyond. The 2017 Choreographer Showcase was dedicated to the memory of Kabby Mitchell, another male dance artist who had made a large impact on jazz dance in Seattle and Tacoma.
Against the Grain/MEN IN DANCE continues its mission of finding the highest quality choreography that features the dynamic impact of male- identifying artists on stage. We have continued to expand our roster of choreographers, now bringing in individuals and companies from all across the US, as well as artists from Europe! Even as the acceptance of men in the world of dance has grown since the organizations beginnings in the mid ‘90s, we still work to feature the creative impact, and inherent diversity that male-identifying artists can bring to the live concert dance stage in Seattle!