In the basement of Lawan Morrison’s Marine Drive house in 1964, she founded “Lawan’s Studio of Dance” which brought dance techniques to 30 individuals. Her mission was to create an environment which nurtured and inspired a passion for dance. Over the next couple of years, the number of students became too much for her tiny basement studio to accommodate and it was time for a larger space.
In the late 1960’s, Lawan came across an old local Episcopalian Church on the corner of Sixth and Chester that was for sale. It was a place she knew well as she had studied under Navakoff, one of Robert Joffrey’s teachers in the “small studio” during the 1950’s. It fit everything she was looking for so in 1968 she made it official by purchasing this church and creating what is now known as Bremerton Dance Center.
When the studio first opened, classes were held only in the “small studio” and the larger room was leased to a local architect. That architect made minor changes to the space, most notably the addition of the back door. By 1977, the student enrollment had out grown the single studio, making it evident that both spaces needed to be utilized. Unfortunately, the floor in the large studio was in dire need of replacement. As luck would have it, Dewey Junior High School was being torn down allowing the purchase of half of the gym’s hardwood floor. Lawan’s teenage son, Micheal, and friends, pulled up and re-installed the gym floor to its current location.
In order to strengthen her original mission, Lawan realized she needed to create new opportunities for her students by exposing them to other dancing styles and techniques. In 1973, she formed a performing dance company calling it Kitsap Peninsula Dance Theatre (later shortening to Peninsula Dance Theatre (PDT). With the establishment of this performing company, her doors opened and she applied and became a part of Regional Dance America (RDA). Also, through PDT, her students have traveled the world performing in countless locations.
Lawans’ original mission of creating an environment which nurtures and inspires a passion for dance has long since been fulfilled. She has seen many of her former students go on to have long professional dancing careers, but, in the same token, has seen many of them just enjoy the opportunity to dance and perform with PDT. Her commitment then and her commitment now, to her nearly 250 students, remains the same.
The church was built in 1904, on the corner of Warren Avenue and Fifth Street. In 1915, the church was moved to its current location by horse and logs. When the building was sold to Lawan the church services were moved to Callahan and the building began its transformation from a church to a dance studio. In 2004, on its 100th birthday, BDC’s building was listed as a historical site.