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Aerin Peterson spinning out of a group circle at practice for "Hood" on Tuesday, Feb. 18. // Photo by Claire Ott

By Carl Bryden

In downtown Bellingham, on Unity Street in a building that could easily be overlooked, lies the Bellingham Dance Company. Holding daily dance classes and events, it stands as a center of dance in Bellingham. 

The studio is a welcoming and committed group for dancers of all levels,  said Brian Beede, an instructor and former student at Bellingham Dance Company. Even if you’ve never stepped on the dance floor, everyone is welcome.

Most artistic spaces in Bellingham could boast about the inclusivity and atmosphere of their studio or space. For Bellingham Dance Company, though, it goes deeper than that.

Mary Simler Evans, the owner and an instructor at the Bellingham Dance Company, has prioritized inclusivity over everything.

“I came back to take lessons after 10 years of being elsewhere, and when I walked in, Mary said, ‘Oh Brian, right? Good to see you.’ She remembered my name after 10 years of teaching classes, that really showed me how welcoming this place was,” Beede said.

All classes are available on a drop-in basis. Anyone is welcome to come to the class that matches their skill level best. The Bellingham Dance Company offers a dance environment that is open to all ages.

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Instructor Brenna Fox (left) and company member Brittany Jorgensen (right) showing the group how to do some new moves. // Photo by Claire Ott

“It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to dance or feel awkward about it. When I started to learn how to dance, I could only step in place and head bang,” Dean Hennen, a Western alumnus, said. Hennen has danced with the company since 2018.

Hustling, a two-person dance that’s usually set to upbeat music from the 70s and 80s, keeps two partners on a back-and-forth pattern along a horizontal line. Hennen describes the dance as “a nice balance between complexity and fun.”

Ray Bedlington, another instructor and student at Bellingham Dance Company, has taken his dance groups outside when Bellingham Dance Company takes a hiatus on offering classes for a specific type of dance. In Bedlington’s case, he teaches intermediate hustle classes in and out of the studio.

Today, Bellingham Dance Company hosts Hustle Club the last Sunday of every month, with beginner and intermediate classes weekly.

“Some people might think that it’s only for older or younger people, but the classes are really welcoming of people from all ages,” Pam Hunnicutt said. After spending years invested in Bellingham’s dance community, few know it like Hunnicutt.

On how Bellingham's dance scene stands out, Hunnicut said, “If you want to dance seven days a week, Bellingham allows it. Any night of the week, you can find a place to dance.”

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Members of the Bellingham Dance Company practicing partner dances for their show, which will take the stage in June. // Photo by Claire Ott

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