Lead by Artistic Director Donald Byrd

The mission of Spectrum Dance Theater is to produce and present contemporary dance of global caliber that challenges expectations and calls forth strong emotions, deep feelings and thoughtful responses.

Spectrum Dance Theater ignites audiences through the ambitious artistic agenda of Donald Byrd, whose appetite to explore the arts knows no boundaries. Donald Byrd achieved international visibility for the creation of the Harlem Nutcracker and his choreography for the Broadway smash, The Color Purple. No less ambitious in the 21st century, Mr. Byrd leads his company through several programming themes that gives an insight into his far-ranging artistic ambition. Under Donald Byrd’s visionary artistic leadership since 2002, Spectrum has emerged as a company of regional and national significance.


The Spectrum Dance Theater Company and guest dancers join ‘Nordic Utopia?’ in Seattle, performing a companion piece to this unique exhibition choreographed by Artistic Director Donald Byrd.
This original performance is inspired by ‘Nordic Utopia?’ African Americans in the 20th Century. Why did African American artists go to the Nordic countries to perform and study in the 20th century, and how were they transformed through their Nordic encounters?
Performances will take place between May 1-4 and May 8-11, beginning at 11:30 am.
The performance is included in the price of Museum admission.
The upcoming exhibition ‘Nordic Utopia?’ at the National Nordic Museum illuminates the untold story of African American artists in the Nordic countries through their artwork – paintings, photographs, textiles, film, music, and dance.


Spectrum Dance Theater Artistic Director Donald Byrd speaks on this new season for Spectrum Dance Theater.

As the opening performance of Occurrence 12 for Season 2023/24: Signs of Life quickly approaches, Donald Byrd shares his reflection on the impact of his recent milestone during the 40/20 Anniversary Season on the new season. Byrd also shares his intentions behind the changes we will see in this new season.

Spectrum Dance Theater’s 40/20 Celebration Season was “many things”. And I do mean that in the most nuanced sense, positives, and negatives. Firstly, there was so much excitement about what had been accomplished over those years – Spectrum’s 40 years of continuous contributions to the Seattle community and my 20 years as the artistic head. Yet I was also painfully aware of where Spectrum and I had faltered, had stumbled… and the celebration year was just exhausting, mired in pandemic ‘coping fatigue’. There were internal disconnections and what felt like endless turmoil and disruption… However, despite it all the result has been deep and ongoing reflection, and (re)evaluation. All positive things…

As we enter the 2023-2024 Season: Signs of Life, Spectrum is in a very different place, not physically (still at 800 Lake Washington Blvd.), but rather its “headspace”. From my very personal perspective, Spectrum is in a profound liminal state. I mean this not just as the transitory nature of liminal, going from one state of mind and being to another, with all the un-comfortability and emotions that go along with that. But also with the attending possibilities, hope, creativity, and new ways of seeing and thinking.

The future now feels like a big question – a big “what’s next?” – an existential questioning of all that I have considered Spectrum to be over the course of my 20 years. And that is not necessarily a bad thing (as the young people currently say, “I don’t hate it”). What I am trying to bring into focus is what a new ‘era’ looks like, since Spectrum is certainly not what it was before. The 40/20 signaled not only a culmination but also a conclusion.

What I do know is that the structure of the Company will be different, at least for this Season. We will now have 6-7 Core Company members (as opposed to 12-14 in previous years) augmented by Associate Artists made up of former Company members, and frequent non-dance performers including Josie Howell (vocalist) and Arlando Smith(actor). Our programing will include not only our social justice centered new and returning works (Grief) but also more collaborations, including ones with Music of Remembrance, Seattle Rep, South Chicago Dance Theater, exploratory and developmental workshops, and opportunities for more informal presentations to be held in our newly named upstairs studio (after longtime patron and Board member Emerita), The Tricia Stromberg Studio Theater.

As I consider the Season, I am beginning to think of Spectrum like a tree, a tree that has been stressed by prolonged and extreme weather, battered and distressed. Its leaves have yellowed, wilted, and falling off, branches are bare. The prognosis is unclear. Restorative methods are applied. We wait and watch. Then one sunny morning we notice tiny, green shoots emerging all over the tree’s branches. They are beautiful. These are signs of life.

– Donald Byrd


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