This is For You, performance by Cierra Johnson

Female in a lunge, her back curled, arms out but relaxed, and long hair dangling down toward her back heel.

Photo by Clinton James


Cierra Johnson, originally from Kodiak, Alaska, has been moving her whole life and is about to graduate with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Her work is centered around the human experience of watching, doing, and creating movement. During her time at Western, she danced in 3 Winter Dances shows, 3 Dance in Concerts (one was canceled due to the pandemic) and 2 BFA shows. She has choreographed for Winter Dances, titled "flow state" and is currently working on an adaptation of what would have been a BFA in-person group piece to a screen dance titled "a little help from my friends". In summer 2019 she collaborated on site specific work with guest artist Jo Blake. She has received the President's scholarship, Dean's Scholarship, the Monica Gutchow scholarship, and the Carole Hoerauf dance fund. During her senior year, Cierra received two undergraduate research grants, one in collaboration with the Psychology department and one in collaboration with the Dance department. She was able to present both at Scholar's Week and Psych Fest 2020. She plans to stay in Bellingham to take a gap year to work and explore the area. After graduation, she has plans to collaborate with musicians, fellow dancers, and psychology enthusiasts to continue exploring how she can combine her two fields of passion and apply to graduate school.

Her BFA project titled: "This is for you." in collaboration with choreographer Ella Mahler, was based on creating a shared experience with the viewer and performer that explored connection and intimacy, both in person and through an online platform. The piece allows each person to embrace new ways of seeing and being together. Despite the challenges of the current times, Cierra has been able to explore and share this project a number of ways and excited to continue expanding on this work. Here are two glimpses into what the viewer experiences through this piece both on stage and on the screen.

Portrait of a woman with short hair, bright eyes and a subtle open smile looking slightly up at the camera.

Photo by Steve Mahler


Ella Mahler is a choreographer working at the intersections of experimental dance and visual performance. Her dance training began in college, after shifting from her background in drawing/design and path to study anthropology. She received a BFA in Performance & Choreography from Western Washington University, and has since performed for regional/national companies, including Bellingham Repertory Dance, Kuntz & Company, and Catherine Cabeen – Hyphen.

Approaching dance as critical inquiry, Ella explores the ways we perceive and experience in the world through examining the capacities of movement and juxtaposition. Living between everyday behavior and hyper physicality, Ella’s process is highly investigative, placing heavy value in research practices that lead to the work.

Ella’s choreography has been presented locally and nationally, with recent commissions from Relay Dance Collective, Bellingham Repertory Dance, and Seattle Art Museum. She is a 2018 Artist Trust Grantee, and has received SeattleDances’ DanceCrush Award and Velocity’s Audience Choice Award. Ella was Velocity’s 2019 Made in Seattle Artist.

Learn more about Ella and her work.