Sound & Vision: Kate Wallich on Taking Dance Church Online

Sound and Vision
Emily Fox

KEXP's Sound & Vision airs every Saturday morning from 7-9 AM PT, featuring interviews, artistry, commentary, insight, and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter. You can also hear more stories in the new Sound & Vision Podcast. New episodes are out every Tuesday. Subscribe now.


Imagine a few professional dancers taking up a screen to the sounds of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Rhianna while giving general instruction on how to move your body and when without it being a fully choreographed class. It’s more interpretive dance than Zumba.

“There's no choreography. There's no front,” says Dance Church’s founder Kate Wallich. “It kind of feels like a dance party, like it has a club mentality to it.”

Wallich founded dance church 10 years ago after graduating from Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts. Rather than take the traditional route of auditioning for dance tours or moving to New York to audition for dance companies, she created Dance Church as part of her personal practice, then opened it up to the public. Now, it helps fund Wallich’s personal dance studio and has expanded to New York, LA, Portland, Indianapolis and Salt Lake City. So, when COVID 19 hit and Wallich realized she couldn’t do Dance Church in person, she set up a livestream. Each Dance Church session she’s done in the past week she’s seen 10,000 people view the stream.

“It blows my mind that that is happening,” Wallich says.

Sound & Vision host Emily Fox caught up with Wallich to talk about why movement is so important during the coronavirus pandemic and why Wallich decided to take Dance Church online.

On the decision to livestream Dance Church:

We were supposed to have Wednesday night Dance Church and everything was getting so bad, so bad. And some of the Dance Church community members reached out to me being like, Kate, you really can't do Dance Church anymore. But Dance Church is the underbelly financially of so much of what we do.  And so, I was like, if we don't have Dance Church, we don't have anything and Dance Church employees 30 different dance artists around the country. I was like, OK, all Dance Churches are stopping because Dance Church is prime Corona spreading like area, you know, like you're sweating, you're like rolling around in each other's sweat. You're like holding hands. You're breathing on each other. And we came up with the idea to livestream Dance Church.

On the reach of Dance Church now:

It's a really beautiful thing. It makes me cry thinking about like my family being able to have access to Dance Church and people who wouldn't otherwise be able to like roll up to Dance Church in L.A. or New York. And so, I think it's been a really beautiful special thing to connect people around the around the world.

On the importance of movement in this moment:

People are so disconnected from their bodies. People are disconnected from touch. And so, I feel like the fact that now everybody is forced to be at home and they're not allowed to leave, they're not allowed to touch, I think more than ever, people are really feeling that viscerally. You know, they're feeling disconnected from people. They're feeling disconnected from their bodies, even me. I am a dancer, I've been sitting every day and my hip flexors are just screaming. But also, my soul feels confined, too. And I think movement is an opportunity to get outside of yourself and to get outside of your edges and the border of your actual skin. And so, I think more than ever, people need that release. They need that way to express and to release. And, you know, from its core, that's why I created Dance Church was because I needed a release from all the technique in my body. I needed a space that I felt like I could belong and where I had the permission to be silly and to laugh and to sing. And so, now that we're all confined inside of our houses, I feel like everyone needs an opportunity to break out the walls.

You can stream Dance Church classes at 5 PM Pacific on Wednesdays and 10 AM Pacific on Sundays.

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