To provide quality, ballet-based, American contemporary and classical dance performance and ballet-based dance education, and to offer communities in the Pacific Northwest the opportunity to experience dance as an important art form.

Oceana ThunderIncorporated in 1987, DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST includes an award-winning Regional Performing Dance Company, a Junior Dance Ensemble, guest performers, guest vocalists, and an extensive support network of professional artists, guests and volunteers serving in various capacities.

The group provides performances and training in classical ballet, tap, jazz, musical theater, Yoga and dance fitness at the DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST studio in University Place and participates in several educational collaborations in the region.

Along with formal winter and spring productions, DTNW provides ARTS ARE EDUCATION  and ART INSPIRES ART  presentations in numerous community facilities, to assisted-living and senior residential facilities, and to the schools on a regular basis with a complete cast of company and student dancers, audio equipment and costumes.

DTNW also provides workshops, camps, intensives, and ongoing lectures that accompany performances to help audience members develop a better understanding of the art form. Many of these programs are collaborations that incorporate the work of other artists or art organizations. Many are free and open to the public.

Awards and Honors…

DTNW has received several awards of excellence from the City of University Place. As a part of the city founder’s vision, DTNW has become a City Partner and was recognized in a formal PROCLAMATION by the City Council and Mayor in December 2017 for over 30 years of community service to the community and for its arts excellence.

Certificate for 30 yr City of University Place mini 001

DTNW ‘s solid foundation of professional artistic tradition and continued development as a positive force in the community and the arts draws regional and national attention and support. DTNW was one of the few studios in the nation to be included in Dance Magazine’s special supplement Secrets of Successful Studios in June of 2007.

DTNW‘s Community Outreach projects have grown in popularity and scope each year, generating several positive media reports including, articles in Showcase Magazine, Goodlife Northwest, University Place Life and an article in Dancer Magazine and Dance Magazine Online in June of 2007Click here for more news!

  • Various awards and honors bestowed on the school and company include the 1998 Margaret K. Williams Arts Award from Pierce County Arts Commission, a Cultural Diversity Award in 1999 from Access Broadway of New York, recognition by the BRAVO film and arts network, and a formal PROCLAMATION from the City of University Place in 2012.


Neil Oceana fish 2018DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST is a unique collaboration of groups that work within an award winning Regional Performing Dance company. We are composed of dancers; our regional performing company and Jr. Dance Ensemble, and guest performers, and guest performers, our vocalists; primarily from Garray Music Studios, our artistic/technical supporters; primarily from our Ballet Guild, Advisory Board and Concert Planning and Review Committee and volunteer support.

In addition to presenting formal concerts and acclaimed guest artists, we are committed to making dance as an important art form accessible to individuals and groups who are not easily able to attend concerts including low-income and at-risk youth as well as to schools, retirement/nursing homes and senior centers. Throughout the year DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST makes a commitment to the community by participating in the Nursing Home Program they designed. Company members and volunteers go out into the community to entertain residents of nursing & retirement homes. The programs are free and open to the public. In the annual trips the dancers make to these facilities, they are able to contribute to the community that supports them and connect with an important generation of community members that have limited mobility within the community. DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST takes full audio and costumes to the shows presenting a very professional program.

DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST performs additionally at community events such the University Place Festival, presenting a free ALL DAY CULTURAL ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT STAGE with workshops, educational activities and formal performances.

Our purpose is to provide high quality, ballet-based, American contemporary dance performance and dance education, and to offer economically and culturally diverse communities in the Pacific Northwest the opportunity to experience dance as an important art form.

Melanie Kirk-Stauffer, the artistic director and founder of the company has been teaching dance and organizing performances in the Puget Sound area for years. She moved to University Place, organized the company and incorporated in 1987. In 1990, she began reorganizing in order to offer formal performances. 1991 began a reorganization to seek a facility. In 1993, a Facility was found. In 1994, Capital Fundraising began, and major grants were received.

More classes, workshops, and scholarships were offered. The company name was changed to DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST. 1996 the Company moved to a new facility. In August 2001 DTN moved to new facility at Places, our new home at 2811 Bridgeport Way West, Suites 22-26. 1997 plans included scheduled performances hosting the Saint Petersburg Ballet of Russia. Since 1990, DTNW has continually reorganized and refocused its goals and mission to better match and shape the ongoing developments of the company. In addition, Melanie Kirk-Stauffer has created and implemented DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST‘s own low cost and free-ticket voucher program that has been in use since 1996, for low-income families and at risk youths i.e. YWCA Women’s shelter, Martin Luther King Shelter, Senior Outreach Services, The Family Renewal Shelter and low-income schools. She was asked by the Tacoma Arts Commission to present this program for other organizations for their use due to the success of the program. she has created a pre-performance lecture, given in the theatre before performances that provides dance education while inspiring the audience to the importance of art in our communities. She represents a voice for performing arts while educating the community by being a guest speaker at the Transcending Boundaries Conference celebrating Women in the Arts, and contributing as a member on the Careers In Arts panel presented by the Tacoma Arts Commission. Under her direction DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST was honored by The Pierce County Arts Commission with the Margaret K. Williams Arts Award.

Melanie Kirk-Stauffer, the award-winning choreographer for DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST has produced and directed new ballets to original scores by resident composers Z.F. (Frank) Danes, Jack Gorrecht, and the late Owen Nasr with whom she worked with since 1993. More recently, she staged several new works for ART INSPIRES ART performance to the music of Gary Eskow of New York. All ballets are performed by dancers from DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST along with guest musicians and vocalists. They collaborate with and encourage artists in the country to develop their talents- i.e. Lighting designers, music arrangers, costume and set production, photographers and audio-video artists. DANCE THEATRE NORTHWEST works to increase public support and appreciation of dance as an art form. She has a history of having produced and directed numerous successful shows for family audiences such as THE NUTCRACKER, SWAN LAKE, LES SYLPHIDES, BEAUTIFUL BALLETS, AMERICA, LET FREEDOM RING, The Jewel Heart, The Snow Queen, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and The Red Shoes.

Dance Theatre Northwest does not discriminate against any person or group of people in any of our practices, codes of conduct, programs or services or in any other aspect of its operations or activities on the basis of that person or group of people’s personal characteristics or attributes including their sexual or gender identity.