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One singular sensation

Olympia Dance Festival's thrilling combination

This year’s Olympia Dance Festival features So You Think You Can Dance Tap All-Star, Melinda Sullivan, at the Washington Center for Performing Arts, March 3. Photo credit: Melinda Sullivan/Facebook

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And one and two and ball change, kick. Each year since 2010, dance troupes from all over Western Washington have come together to show off every little step they take on one expansive stage, The Washington Center. Organizing the 2018 Olympia Dance Festival program is Ken Johnson, artistic director for Ballet Northwest, who proclaims, "It's just a great celebration of dance in the South Sound."

The other baker's dozen companies represented this year are Ballet Theatre of Washington, Capital City Belly Dance Collective, Debbi's Dance Etc., Fang Fei Chinese Dance, Harbor Dance, High Impact Dance, Johansen Olympia Dance Center, Mas Uda Dancers, Olympic Ballroom Dance, Slieveloughane Irish Dancers, South Sound Dance, Southwest Washington Dance Ensemble and Studio West Dance Theatre. "The groups have been rehearsing on their own," Johnson explained. "They don't come together until dress rehearsal the day of the show."

This year's special-guest performer will be tap artist and choreographer Melinda Sullivan. "We have a mutual friend in Los Angeles who connected us," Johnson continued. "I've only seen her dance on TV and in movies." Sullivan made the top 10 of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance and performed on the 25th-anniversary tour of Cats, but she also made appearances on Dancing With the Stars, Glee and in the Oscar-winning La La Land. She's even won a World Dance Award. "We're excited to see her on stage," Johnson gushed. "She's just a really charismatic performer that I think everyone will appreciate."

In addition to Sullivan's electric tap dancing artistry, Johnson notes this year's program will include ballet, ballroom, hip-hop, jazz, modern and the regional dance techniques of China, Ireland and the Middle East. "It's a really great show to introduce people to so many kinds of dance. It's great for audiences of all ages, for people who are really experienced audience members and some who are totally new to dance. So it's really a great showcase for our region's dance groups, as well as a chance for our local dancers and audiences to see this amazing guest artist." Bringing these acts together for one cohesive, two-act show is quite a challenge. "The rehearsals span three days, so the logistics are pretty extensive. But when the show comes off without a hitch and you see the enthusiasm from the audience and from the performers, it's just really exciting.

"All of the participants take master classes that day as well, so there's an educational component," Johnson continued. "We all do our different shows and classes, but it's rare for us all to come together and celebrate dance in our region. ... We do a finale that all the groups participate in, so there'll be 200 dancers on stage for the finale. It's a neat thing to see all those dancers of different ages and backgrounds come together for that."

2018 OLYMPIA DANCE FESTIVAL, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 3, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, $15, 360.753.8586,

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