Longtime dancer and instructor Brianna Jones takes on title of artistic director for the Southwest Washington Dance Center


Dance is one of the few professions in which a 33-year-old can have 30 years of experience in their field.

Such is the case for the Southwest Washington Dance Center’s (SWDC) new artistic director, Brianna Jones, who began her dance career at the age of 3.

Her mom, Stacy Jones, became a dance instructor at SWDC in 2000, at which point Brianna became more serious about taking dance classes, she said.

Jones continued to build her resume as a performer until she became a ballet instructor at SWDC several years ago. She began directing shows at SWDC in 2021.

“(As) the artistic director, you have to be about 25 things in one day, and being a ballet teacher, you’re a ballet teacher that day,” Jones said of the difference between her old job and her new one. “It’s like changing hats. It’s hard.”

As artistic director, Jones oversees a teaching staff of 21 instructors and works with the performing company, Southwest Washington Dance Ensemble. She will also direct SWDC’s annual Nutcracker and Dance Festival Northwest productions.

When asked what she prioritizes keeping in mind when directing a show, Jones said, “Making sure that everyone is comfortable but then also being able to put (on) a good show, a professional show. I think that’s the biggest thing, is trying to have a professional show, but not wanting to overwork people.”

Jones typically starts a show by checking in with the “community within the studio,” which includes parents, teachers, staff and the students themselves, with the goal of honoring their requests when possible.

“Briana has been so kind but also challenging … and really dealing with the whole person instead of just (being) about the dance, fully nurturing the dancer inside of us instead of it being all about the performance,” said dance student Ashley Baird.

Many of Baird’s classmates agreed with Baird’s sentiments, taking time during a Southwest Washington Dance Ensemble rehearsal on Tuesday to share with a Chronicle reporter how much they appreciate Jones’ teaching and directing styles.

Jones is currently tackling the Southwest Washington Dance Ensemble’s performance for the upcoming Dance Festival Northwest, where dancers from companies across the Pacific Northwest attend master dance classes together as a group before each individual company performs prepared dance pieces at the Corbet Theatre in Centralia.

“It’s always been so cool because it’s the companies from outside of town that come in, so we have quite a few this year,” Jones said. “It’s really neat because you get to see the different teaching styles, the different techniques, the different artistic ideas all around Washington. When we’re here, we miss out on a lot of stuff that’s happening around us if we don’t go out and see it, so to bring the stuff around us here is really nice.”

The dance ensemble has performed for audiences at the Lewis County Community Concerts, Miss Lewis County Pageant, The Nutcracker Ballet, Northwest Wind Symphony and the Merce Cunningham Tribute. They have also danced at Dancepalooza in Seattle, Dance to Make a Difference Charity Gala, and Olympia Dance Festival. The ensemble also tours, every spring, with a production for elementary schools in greater Lewis County and South Thurston County.

The performance section of Dance Festival Northwest begins at 7 p.m. on March 23 at the Corbet Theatre in Centralia and is open to the public. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors ages 62 and up, students, military and children.

Tickets are available online at www.swwdance.org, in person at the Southwest Washington Dance Center at 437 N. Market Blvd. in Chehalis, and at the door if available.

For more information, call the dance center at 360-748-4789.