Wade Madsen's Local Legacy

The Seattle choreographer brings a rich dance history to the local Men in Dance Festival.

All the city’s a stage for local choreographer Wade Madsen, who sees dance in commonplace movement everywhere—from the near collision of pedestrians in a crosswalk to the careful waltz of coffee-bearing baristas. His conversational style evokes choreography, too, as his hands swoop, glide and occasionally smack into objects in their quest to express. Such ordinary body language is crucial to Madsen’s work, in which he emphasizes the “finesse of simple gestures.”

An Albuquerque native, Madsen has been a fixture in Seattle’s modern and contemporary dance scene since 1977, performing, choreographing and teaching at Cornish College of the Arts. The 57-year-old Capitol Hill resident has created more than 170 works of choreography and done everything from silly (playing a dancing fisherman in an Ivar’s commercial) to cerebral (“Don’s Party,” his piece linking Don Quixote to 9/11). Madsen has danced with local stars, including Bill Evans, Dayna Hanson, Amii LeGendre and Amy O’Neal, and this month, he directs five male dancers in a new piece exploring gender and sexuality at the Men in Dance Festival.

Regarding his own dance journey, Madsen says age brings an intimate connection with oneself that’s reflected on stage: “There’s just something deeper, heartfelt, elegant and exquisite that can happen with a more mature dancer.”

Need to know:
1/ Madsen has been a professor at Cornish for 27 years and was recently honored by Seattle’s Velocity Dance Center for his lifelong commitment to dance.

2/ In 1993, along with two Cornish students and a colleague, Madsen competed on Star Search. He maintains a good sense of humor about the fact that the performance received two and a half stars out of five.

3/ Madsen appears in local performer Dayna Hanson’s new film, Improvement Club, a rock/dance musical about the Revolutionary War, currently on the film festival circuit.

4/ The Men in Dance Festival runs October 12–14 and October 19–21 (Broadway Performance Hall, 1625 Broadway Ave.; menindance.org).