Through dance, we awaken the heart and enhance our humanity.
Our core belief is that everyone should have accessibility to performing arts classes and dance performances regardless of socioeconomic background, age, training, or physical ability. We work in a multicultural setting, and our inclusive mentality is exemplified in our classes, through our beginner to advanced classes, our many scholarships for low-income families, and our classes for the mobility-restricted and seniors.
History of Polaris Dance Theatre
Polaris Dance Theatre is a 50l(c)3 founded in 2002, by Program Director, Sara Anderson and award-winning Artistic Director, Robert Guitron. Guitron has taught, choreographed, and performed throughout the U.S., Italy, and Japan. Over the past ten years Polaris has produced over 340 new works and brought the joy of dance to nearly 11,000 audience members of all ages and backgrounds. Polaris has flourished as one of the most distinctive and multidisciplinary dance companies in Portland. The Polaris Dance Theatre consists of the Polaris Dance Company, a professional dance company, and the Polaris Dance Theatre, which offers classes and programming for recreational and skilled dancers of all abilities. We have touched the lives of over 850 students in 2014 alone, with nearly 8,800 visitors attending our professional dance company and student performances annually.
Polaris Dance Theatre crafts innovative, compelling works of contemporary dance and performs at a wide range of venues. From free public performances to affordable season productions, our goal is to remain accessible to families of all socioeconomic levels.
Our season consists of three fully-staged productions by our professional dance company, which incorporates innovative new work, showcasing local, national and international dancers and choreographers. Our company features the finest dancers from across the United States and the artistic caliber of our work has received local, national and international attention. The pre-professional, Polaris Junior Company performs twice annually, and our diverse group of students show their skills in the annual Winter and Spring Student Performances.
By providing opportunities for performing artists of mixed abilities to participate in Polaris programming, we’re bringing together the community and proving that EVERY BODY can move in a beautiful way. Polaris’ artistic programs focus on the development of each dancer’s artistic voice and talents. This focus creates a deeper self-value and esteem in each dancer and provides audience members with a heightened emotional response to the dance performance.
In recent years, as Polaris’ reputation in the community has grown, the company receives frequent opportunities to collaborate with other arts organizations. Past partnerships include site-specific works at the Mission Theatre, featured performances in the JAW Playwright Festival at Portland Center Stage, a benefit performance for the local non-profit Children’s Healing Art Project (CHAP), a collaboration with Broadway Rose Theatre Company to serve as featured dance company in The King and I, a multidisciplinary performance event as a fundraiser for tsunami relief in Asia, and many more opportunities.
In 2009, Polaris took the next major step in its growth by opening the Polaris Dance Center in downtown Portland. The Center offers a wide range of classes taught by professional instructors including ballet, contemporary, aerial and hip-hop, with instruction for all ages and skill levels, priced at an affordable pay scale to remain accessible to the widest audience possible. In 2012 we awarded over $13,500 in scholarships to our low-income students.
In 2010 Polaris received its first major investment of institutional funding with a three-year, $500,000 grant from an arts foundation in New York (who choose to do all their national charitable giving anonymously) to help create a stable operating budget and sustainable platform of growth for the future. We also joined the citywide Fertile Ground Festival of New Work, an annual performing arts festival, with an event called “Groovin’ Greenhouse,” in which our studio hosted three days of innovative new work from independent choreographers and emerging companies. The event was such a success that we have repeated it each year and have now become the de facto “dance hub” for the Fertile Ground festival. Last year this program featured the work of 26 choreographers from 11 dance companies.
In 2012, Polaris added four new staff members to the roster, including a full-time Development Director. The organization is moving towards a financially stable future with a five-year, $1 million grant from the same New York foundation commencing in 2013 to support the costs of staff salaries and continue growing our organization.
In 2013 we moved our administrative office from the Eastbank warehouse which has housed the Polaris offices for 10 years into a spacious and accessible suite of offices downtown, located in an annex of the Artists Repertory Theatre building on SW 15th and Morrison, where we shared office space with an exciting collective of nonprofit arts organizations including Profile Theatre, the Portland Area Theatre Alliance/Fertile Ground Festival, the Portland Revels, and the August Wilson Red Door Project.
In September 2015, we hosted off-site classes and events while starting an adventure in our new home in Northwest Portland, on NW 18th, between Upshur and Thurman St. This fully-renovated space is allowing us to grow our expanding programming and met the needs of our many students and visitors. We opened our doors in 2016 and are happy to report that within six months, class and performance attendance has significantly increased from the previous year. We’re looking forward to growing with our community in our new long-term location!