Arts & Culture

Spectrum Dance’s Saturday night show in restored Armory bids farewell to Monthy

Kate Monthy keeps trying to leave Spectrum Dance, but it’s not working.

The Tacoma dancer who’s spent the last three years in the Seattle contemporary dance ensemble had just retired in May when, two weeks later, director Donald Byrd asked her to come back – for "Love." No, not the emotion, although that’s there too. It’s the three-act dance piece, fresh from shows in Dallas and Seattle, and here for the first time in Tacoma as the premiere act in a newly-renovated Armory building.

"I love ‘Love,’" says Monthy. "It’s very different. … It covers a wide range of the spectrum."

"Love" is partly a quintessential Spectrum piece. Called "a work of stunning beauty" by the Seattle Times when it premiered in 2012, it’s full of pairings and combinations of athletic, abstract bodies in a stark, white-costume setting. But, says Monthy, it’s also a little different from the usual Spectrum theatricality.

"It’s all about movement, and has a ballet quality to it," she says. "It’s not so much a narrative, but highly emotional. Yet it’s not just about the romantic side of love. It does a great job of being abstract while showing the emotional side."

For Monthy — now back in Tacoma full time working in administration and dancing for Tacoma City Ballet, after the recent merging of TCB with Monthy’s ballet school MLKBallet — "Love" was enough to pull her out of retirement.

"It’s one of my favorite shows," she says.

One of her highlights is the music: a solo cellist playing Britten’s Cello Suites. "It’s so simple to just have one musician accompanying us," she says.

The Spectrum performance also is making Tacoma history because it is the very first show in the not-quite-renovated Armory building. The historic building on Yakima Avenue, built in 1909 to house and drill the National Guard, had been empty for years when local developer Fred Roberson bought it last year, intending to convert it to a performing arts space.

The renovation is still going on: The two lower levels are being remodeled into office and rehearsal space, and upstairs, work is still being finished on expanding the entryway, adding restrooms, widening doors and staircases. But the 22,000-square-foot drill hall, with its original blonde maple floors, towering 29-foot ceilings and balcony, is ready for shows. Spectrum will occupy three linked platform stages – two for the nine dancers, a smaller one for the cellist – in the center on Saturday. It’s the perfect venue for a show that in Seattle required an airplane hangar.

While the Broadway Center has taken over the management of the Armory and is hoping to place more shows there this year, none are booked yet. Meanwhile, the smooth floors and wide spaces make a great practice space for Tacoma’s roller derby teams.