Open Classes Encourage All-Comers

A neighborhood cafe links, window to window, with a wide-open space — symbiotically, a dance studio. At the Firehouse Café, lattes are not the only treats on the menu. Open dance classes are offered in the next room over. Ballet, modern, and contemporary are taught throughout the week. An open dance class is a place for movers of all shapes, sizes, and skill level. All you need is the ability to exercise and the willingness to let go…and dance!

On a Monday in March, a Bellingham Repertory Company dancer, Juliette Machado, teaches modern dance at the Firehouse Cafe. She begins the class with an ode of togetherness. We sit in a circle, introduce ourselves and answer two simple questions: What is our favorite fruit? What is our favorite flower? After this moment of greeting, we spread out on the floor.

Let the day pour away and breathe, she says. The class begins with improvisational movement, also called improv (the process of spontaneously creating movement). We are told to walk around the room to feel the space. Then warm-up takes place. She leads us to floor work, tendus, pliés and choreographic sequences to get the body ready for across-the-floor. Machado then teaches a movement phrase. The dance we learn swings our bodies up and down with a few flares, a fondue arabesque for those ballerinas out there, and a butt roll to stand-up pike. This is contemporary dance, a way to move, exercise, and experience the art of expression.

Bellingham Repertory Dance (BRD) offers contemporary dance on Sunday from 10 – 10:30 a.m. and Monday from 6 – 7:30 p.m. The dancers rotate, which means that the classes change as well. Each instructor teaches with his or her own style and class structure. Machado explained this gives people a chance to experience a variety of movement aesthetics.

These dance classes welcome any dancing spirit to participate. “I love teaching BRD’s classes at the Firehouse because of the diversity of the people that come through the door to take class,” Machado said. “Their love of movement is palpable, and the fact that they create space in their weekly schedules to dance with me continues to fuel my fire for dance.”

A few studios in Bellingham offer open adult dance classes. ABCDance offers tap, swing, and jazz in a charming building on North State Street. Tabetha Clark, the founder, says on her website the focus is on creating a strong technical base while nurturing each individual’s creativity.

La Vida Dance Studio downtown offers Dance Fitness with Sonja Hintz. This is a class for core, cardio, balance and strength. Other classes include: Authentic Movement, Belly dance, and Tango.

Presence Studio offers a variety of movement classes and workshops. Three Sixty Step is offered on Monday mornings and Wednesday evenings. This is an aerobics class that combines energy, fitness, and wellbeing. Contact Improv is offered on Wednesdays — a class rooted in listening (to the music and the response of one’s body).

Bellingham is a place where runners, hikers, bikers, and yoga enthusiasts thrive. We are a pretty active community. There are plenty of ways to stay healthy and fit. Dance just happens to be a great to way to stay fit as well, and is available throughout Bellingham.

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"This is contemporary dance, a way to move, exercise, and experience the art of expression."