STG staff spotlight: Xaviera Vandermay
Meet Xaviera Vandermay — STG's volunteer coordinator! A natural leader at heart, Xaviera oversees STG's vast group of volunteers to ensure audiences and volunteers alike have an incredible experience at the Paramount, Moore, and Neptune theatres. In the interview below, learn more about Xaviera's journey to her position, as well as her plethora of accomplishments as a dance artist.
In addition to your work at STG, you are an accomplished dance artist. Can you tell us more about your dance background and the incredible artistry related to that?
My professional career began at age 18 when I was brought on as an apprentice with Spectrum Dance Theater under the direction of Dale A. Merrill. I continued dancing with Spectrum for three seasons — dancing under Interim Director Wade Madsen as well as current director, Donald Byrd. During this time, I also was dancing with Street Level Dance directed by Herbbie Moore, through whom I had the opportunity to dance backup with Neil Young, and many years later, Vassy. In 2004, I moved to Chicago for four years and found a mentor in living jazz dance legend, Joel Hall. His breathing floor barre rebuilt my core post-baby, and his passion relit my fire for jazz dance. In 2007, I saw the first performance of my company 3rd Shift Dance in Chicago at Old Town School of Folk Music when I took the stage with my sister and co-founder Ahnaleza.
Fast forward to my move back to Seattle — I relaunched 3rd Shift Dance in 2010 with a debut performance for On The Boards 12 Minutes Max. Through 3rd Shift, I have been blessed to have a decade-long relationship with Fly Moon Royalty and to have collaborated on live performances with Naomi Wachira, Whitney Monge, The Bad Tenants, Caela Bailey, Mike Illvester, Adra Boo, Rain City Jazz Orchestra, drummer Josh Orion, Future Shock, Liv T, Dark Hip Falls, and more. Through my series Battle for the Dance Belt and Shifts Sessions, I have presented hundreds of choreographers and had thousands of dancers take the stage in our productions. Other notable items would include my tenure as Artist-in-Residence for the city of Redmond, being a Cornish Playhouse Arts Incubator Resident, and my partnership with Pacific Science Center and musician Justen Weber to create my work, "Conversations", which concerns the global impact of humans on nature. As for awards, I am a James Ray Residency Established Artist Awardee and DanceCrush Decade Readers Choice Awardee. I also partook in creative choreography and direction of the "Bloom" music video for metal band Vespera, as well as performed in music videos for Caela Bailey, Thunderpussy, and Shabazz Palaces.
What led to your position as STG's volunteer coordinator?
I have been leading and organizing folks for as long as I can remember, starting with dance lessons in my front yard for the neighborhood kids. I first professionally began leading volunteers at Velocity Dance Center, where I served as the Office & Operations Manager, and then on a larger scale for Northwest Folklife Festival and Seattle PrideFest. In the Summer of 2019, Lila Hughes (our amazing house manager) reached out to a friend of mine seeking help organizing volunteers for a brand-new festival called THING. I met with Mason and the rest, as the kids say, is history.
What is the most rewarding part of working with volunteers?
I LOVE our volunteers at Seattle Theatre Group. They are the face of our organization, and they choose every day to generously donate their time and love for the arts to help our patrons have the best possible experience. During the time when our theaters were dark, I missed the daily conversations with our volunteers dearly, and am so glad that it is in the rear view. They bring a wealth of ideas and experiences to our shared community that helps make us do what we do better.
What do you think people get out of volunteering with STG? And what about volunteering at STG is unique or special?
I think the biggest perk and a huge strength generally of Seattle Theatre Group is the wide range of shows and artists that take stages. Any day, people may discover their new favorite artist through volunteering. Volunteers have found such joy assisting backstage and behind the scenes with our Education and Community Engagement programs, sharing the history of our theatres on our public tours, and helping at our Sensory Friendly events. The return of THING was also a blast for our volunteer community to jump into at the gorgeous Fort Worden.
Tell us about a highlight or favorite memory from working at STG.
There are so many — what a blessing right?! Going into the memory bank for what gave me the most feels is a tie between seeing my son dance on the flat floor during the laser show inside the Paramount in 2021 and watching the youth mosh during the Nirvana 30th Anniversary Screening last December. These were special moments I will treasure forever. The access to these types of special events is a HUGE perk of working for STG.
Why in your opinion, is STG an organization that PNW people should support or get involved with?
We are a non-profit that is deeply rooted in investing in our community and the arts. We build community through programs such as More Music at the Moore, Dance This, Dance for Parkinsons, AileyCamp, our partnership with Sensory Access, our Community Advisory Groups, the RE:DEFINITION gallery, our advocacy with the city, county, and state, and presenting artists at all stages of their careers. I feel blessed to be a small part of Seattle Theatre Group.
Can you tell me about what it is like to work alongside other artists in the STG community?
As an artist myself, I enjoy discovering my co-worker's art outside of the office. We have so many amazing dancers, actors, musicians, artists, and more on our staff. Some I have known since I was a teenager and others are new to me in my early 40s. I am always happy to have them pop into my office with ideas on how we can collaborate to improve the volunteer experience and for me to make their workloads a little lighter.
What are some of your personal favorite shows to see at STG?
My favorite show will forever be the first one I went to. EMF and Pop Will Eat Itself when I was nine at the Moore is burned into my mind still to this day. The energy on stage, the crowd standing in their seats jamming out, the walls appearing to sweat from the heat of our bodies. Even the walk to the car from the theatre with my mom as I experienced my ears ringing for the first time. It is what lit my fire for live music. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is an annual favorite for me, and I feel it is must-see dance. Jack does an excellent job curating the Performing Arts Series, so I highly advise checking out anything he books.