DanceWatch Weekly: Dance film, dance text and actual dance

We open the post-eclipse, pre-school window and find dance film, dance discussion and real dance: Tango, Flamenco, modern.

We have now entered the post-eclipse and pre-school window, and I am feeling the impulse to go out there and grab the last little bit of freedom and sunshine that’s left. I have run away to the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas—and the sweltering desert heat—to celebrate my summer’s end. What will you do?

If you’re in Portland right now, might I suggest a dance film festival? Raucous dancing by WolfBird Dance? Or a romantic evening of Tango by moonlight, or a trip to Spain with Espacio Flamenco Portland at Bar Vivant? Or maybe you’re in the mood for something really really big such as Cirque Du Soleil’s performance of Kurios: Cabinet Of Curiosities. Or maybe you would prefer to wind down with something a little quieter and more intellectually focused—a reading group discussion with the dance artist of Physical Education, say. Well, it’s all there waiting for you. What will you choose?

Performances this week!

Portland Dance Film Fest August 24-September 6. Photo courtesy of Portland Dance Film Fest.

Portland Dance Film Fest (PDFF)
Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans
Presented by NW Dance Project, Dance Wire, Bad Hands Studio, and Design By Goats
August 24-September 2
SubRosa Dance Collective members Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans, have curated a massive, five-day dance film festival, spanning two weekends (and several locations), that will screen dance films from around the globe.

The festival begins Thursday with an opening night celebration that includes a mini-screening, an interactive dance for film creation in real time, food, drinks and “danceable jams.” It continues with three separate, curated evenings of dance films (each evening lasting approximately one hour), and concludes with a panel discussion featuring several Portland filmmakers. Check out Portland Dance Film Fest’s website for screening times, film descriptions, interviews with select filmmakers, and more.

The deep-sea creatures of Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities. Photo by Martin Girard shootstudio.ca.

Kurios: Cabinet Of Curiosities
Cirque Du Soleil
August 24-October 8
This fantastical big top performance draws the viewer into the mysterious curio cabinet of an ambitious inventor who defies the laws of science, reinventing the world around him. Out of his cabinet comes a wacky cast of characters: quirky robots, underwater creatures, a human accordion and contortionist sea creatures. What is “visible becomes invisible, perspectives are transformed, and the world is literally turned upside down.”

Where To Wear What Hat by WolfBird Dance. Photo courtesy of WoldBird Dance.

Where To Wear What Hat
WolfBird Dance
Choreography by Selina DiPronio and Raven Jones
August 25-September 3
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont
Commenting on society’s constraints on women from the 1950s until now, choreographers Selina DiPronio and Raven Jones juxtapose iconographic ‘50s imagery with displays of force in both humorous and disconcerting ways to demonstrate the power and strength of women.

DiPronio and Jones have been working together since their student days at the University of South Florida and are interested in creating in collaborative environments and abandoning all conventions.

Flamenco Friday #4
Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland and Bar Vivant
7 pm August 25
Bar Vivant, 2225 E Burnside St
FREE. All ages.
Espacio Flamenco Portland and Bar Vivant close out the summer’s Flamenco Friday nights with performances by Flamenco dancer Lillie Last, accompanied by singers Randa BenAziz, Montserrat Andreys, and Kelley Dodd, guitarist Brenna McDonald and percussionist Nick Hutcheson. Let the sights, sounds, and tastes of Spain transport you.

Photo from Director Park Tango 2011. Photo by Claude Lavaiano.

Director Park Tango 2017
Produced by the Portland Tango Community
6 pm August 25
Director Park, 815 SW Park Ave
Free and open to the public, Tango dancers and musicians from California and Oregon will converge on Director Park in downtown Portland for one magical evening of dance classes, Tango dancing, and live music. Check out the Facebook event page for updated performer info and class times.

Physical Education Reading Group: De-Canon UNA Closing Event
Hosted by UNA Gallery and De-Canon: A Visibility Project
3 pm August 26
328 NW Broadway Ave. #117
In contemplation of the question “What lies {beyond/under/within} language for you?” De-Canon: A Visibility Project and Physical Education, a Portland collective made up of dance artist keyon gaskin, Taka Yamamoto, Allie Hankins, and Lu Yim, have chosen reading materials to help ponder this question. This open forum discussion will be the closing event for De-Canon’s pop-up library installation at UNA. All are welcome.

De-Canon is a “pop-up library” and web resource project that will showcase literary art by writers/artists of color. “Our goal is to put forth an alternative literary “canon” — or multiple canons — that are inclusive, diverse, and multi-storied in their approach to representation. De-Canon wishes to challenge existing ideas of what constitutes the North American literary canon, especially in our current culture.”

Reading materials are available on De-Canon’s website.

Composing in the Wilderness 1: tundra tapestry

Three Oregon composers journeyed to the Alaskan wilderness, and returned with new music and new perspectives

by CHRISTINA RUSNAK

Editor’s note: Now in its sixth year, the Composing in the Wilderness program led by adventurer-composer Stephen Lias, is a joint venture between Alaska Geographic, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, Denali National Park, and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Nine composers — three from Oregon this year — spend four days in Denali National Park, accompanied by scientists and naturalists as they draw inspiration from the wildlife, geology, scenery, and adventure of their surroundings. They are then flown by bush plane to the remote Coal Creek Mining Camp in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve where they spend four more days in intense composition. Finally, they are flown to Fairbanks where they join the other participants at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, where their pieces undergo a few days of intense rehearsals, and then are premiered in Denali National Park and in Fairbanks.

The final concert included Brent Lawrence’s On Distant Hills, Christina Rusnak’s Tundra Tapestry, and Jennifer Wright’s From the Darkness, We Sing the Mighty Land into Being. The three pieces, composed in less than a week, focused on the vastness of the mountains, the tiny detail of the tundra plant life, and the magical nature of the wilderness. ArtsWatch asked the three Oregon composers to share their response to this unique experience. Stay tuned for Brent Lawrence and Jennifer Wright’s reports next week.

When I decided to attend Composing in the Wilderness for a third time this year, many people asked me why. Mostly, I was going again because I needed to.

Portland composer Christina Rusnak at Composing in the Wilderness 2017.

At age 12, I wrote a song titled “A piece of Wilderness.” Who knew how prophetic that song would become for me? In college, a field botany class in Big Bend National Park literally changed my life. I gained a greater appreciation for nature and became a passionate hiker. So, when I met composer Stephen Lias in 2009 and heard his presentation of his first National Parks piece, River Runner – about the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park, I realized that a significant part of my compositional path would be to compose for, and about, nature, wilderness and place.

When Lias launched Composing in the Wilderness in 2012, I eagerly signed up. Actually, I may have been the first to sign up. My blogs for that trip and for my second foray in 2013, are filled with nearly daily details of the my awe and adventures, of the weather, the scientists, their stories, and of the challenge to compose something meaningful in such a short time span. In 2012, only eight days separated our first step in Denali and the concert! The compositional process, with such a tight time frame, is arduous. Fortunately the Alaska summers are accommodating. (Editor’s note: Listen to Rusnak’s first CitW composition, Flow.)

Since then, I’ve composed for a National Monument, four National Parks and Preserves, a National Forest, a Wild and Scenic River and Oregon State Parks. My personal ethos and actions match my creative output. I’ve written articles and given presentations at the Intertwine Alliance and at the University of Iowa on the importance of Music, Place and Nature. Our public lands are a treasure that requires our care. But going to CitW for a third time? What was I looking for?

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ArtsWatch Weekly: barking mad

Biting into September's shows, Brett Campbell's music picks, Miss Ethnic Non-Specific, West African drumming & dance, more

Here we are in the Dog Days of Summer, and we pretty much know what the phrase means: that hot and often muggy stretch of August that seems to last forever, when the sun saps energy and the whole world seems to lag. But where did the saying come from?

Maybe from the rising of the dog star, Sirius – a period, as Wikipedia describes it, that “Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.” Not to mention this week’s Dog Days interloper, the lunar blotting-out of the sun. The story ambles down from Zeus to Achilles, Hector, Seneca, and Pliny, on into the medical lore of the early modern age and even the Age of Reason: The Clavis Calendria of 1813 declares that in the Dog Days “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, Quinto raged with anger, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”

It’s their time: “Pierrepont Edward Lacy and His Dog, Gun,” attributed to Milton W. Hopkins, 1835-36, oil on canvas, Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, Rochester, New York

All of which, frankly, has us looking forward to September, which in the cultural world (maybe as a carryover from the traditional school calendar) is the true time of fresh beginnings. Theater seasons begin to kick in. The dance calendar gets busy. The Oregon Symphony gets ready to swing into action again. TBA, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s annual Time-Based Art festival, overtakes the city Sept. 7-17.

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Music Notes

Wrapping up recent news in Oregon music

Every so often, when the live music schedule slacks off a bit, we wrap up news in various provinces of Oregon’s vibrant music scene. Many of the items originally appeared on ArtsWatch’s Facebook page, which you should follow to keep up with the happenings in Oregon arts and ArtsWatch.

Laurels

The Portland State University Chamber Choir, which has been featured often in these news wraps and elsewhere on ArtsWatch, continues to bring the state international acclaim. Last month, it became the first American choir ever to compete in Asia’s largest choral festival, the Bali International Choral Festival, which featured over 100 choirs. And it won the Grand Prix. The Chamber Choir won two categories: Music of Religions and Gospels & Spirituals, earning the highest score in the entire festival for the latter.

According to PSU’s press release, during the ten day trip, the Chamber Choir toured cultural sites, visited a program to alleviate poverty and sang at a charity concert to raise money for homeless youth. The choir also joined two Indonesian choirs to sing opera chorus at a gala for Catharina Leimena, Indonesia’s first opera star. The group also apparently spontaneously rehearsed one of its pieces in the Shanghai Airport, drawing international attention.

This is the second international competition that the Chamber Choir has won in recent years. In 2013 they were the first American choir to win the Grand Prix at the Seghizzi International Competition for Choral Singing, held in Italy.

Ethan Sperry and PSU Chamber Choir won the big prize at the Bali International Choral Festival.

Last week, the choir released its new CD, The Doors of Heaven, which immediately landed  at #1 on Amazon Classical, #1 on iTunes Classical, and debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Traditional Classical chart — the first university choir to chart. It’s the first recording made by an American choir exclusively devoted to the music of one of the world’s hottest choral composers, Latvia’s Eriks Esenvalds. We’ll be telling you more about it before the choir’s November CD release concerts in Portland.

Sperry was just named recipient of the first Portland Professorship, a new program that allows donors to name and fund termed PSU faculty positions.The first Portland Professorship position was recently created with a gift from longtime major PSU donor Robert Stoll of the Stoll Berne law firm.

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Chamber Music Northwest review: back to Bach

After an unprecedented exploration of contemporary music, festival finale goes Bach to basics with the Brandenburg concertos

by MATTHEW ANDREWS

After five weeks of coffee talks and panel discussions, old new music, new new music, new old music, and old new music made new again, it was a relief to settle into familiar old Lincoln Hall for an evening of familiar old Johann Sebastian Bach. On July 30th, Chamber Music Northwest closed out its 47th season, gathering its motley cast of virtuosi for a well-balanced and thoroughly satisfying performance of all six of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.

Before the music started, CMNW Artistic Director and clarinetist David Shifrin expressed his thanks to the performers, composers, audiences, donors, and sponsors, with “a very special thanks to J.S. Bach for organizing this program and gift-wrapping it for us.” Shifrin explained that the 20 musicians taking the stage that Sunday afternoon would be playing Bach’s music “just as he wrote it, except I will be playing the trumpet part on Eb clarinet, and the viola da gamba will be cello. We think he would like it this way.”

Chamber Music Northwest artistic director David Shifrin (front right) played clarinet in one of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos. Photo: Tom Emerson.

I think we can make a case that: 1. Shifrin’s caveats notwithstanding, there are still deep aspects of this performance — intonation, instrument construction, venue acoustics, and so on — that are definitely not just as Bach wrote it; 2. That Bach’s music, like the plays of Shakespeare, seems to have some vital quality which allows it to be endlessly adapted and reinterpreted with what so far seems to be an inexhaustible variety of results.

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DanceWatch Weekly: Classical Indian dance on eclipse weekend

Sweta Ravisankar and Subashini Ganesan bring classical Indian dance to the city

This weekend, Portland is graced with two classical Indian dance performances, the closing performances of the musical Gypsy, and a three-day event with dance company I Moving Lab.

Between the barrage of news, the major cultural shifts happening, and the constant political upheaval, I am comforted and inspired by the artists in our midst. Despite any bumps in the road they may encounter, they persist.

This week I am particularly inspired by Sweta Ravisankar, a Bharatanatyam and Nattuvangam performer, teacher, and choreographer, from Mumbai, India. I first saw her perform in Jayanti Raman’s Anubhava at Lincoln Hall in 2015. Ravisankar is a striking performer and a pleasure to watch.

Bharatanatyam and Nattuvangam performer Sweta Ravisankar. Photo courtesy of Sweta Ravisankar.

Not only is Ravisankar a dancer/teacher/choreographer/musician, she is also pursuing her Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology at OHSU, holds a Master’s Degree in Bharatanatyam and Biology, maintains dance schools (Sarada Kala Nilayam) in San Jose, California, and Hillsboro, Oregon, and travels the world performing. If ever you needed inspiration to follow your various passions in life, Ravisankar is it!

For those who don’t know, Bharatanatyam is the name of a style of South Indian classical dance. Nattuvangam is the rhythmic instrument played in the background of Bharatanatyam performances and is made of two metal cymbals—one of iron and the other of brass.

Ravisankar will be presenting Laya Bhavam: An Amalgamation of Rhythm in Dance and Percussion at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Auditorium, this Saturday evening at 6 pm. The performance is in collaboration with her musician father, Sri. S Ravisankar, who will accompany the performance on mridangam (a barrel-shaped, two-headed drum) alongside a full Indian orchestra. Additionally, her father heads a bhajan group, Sukrutha Brahmam Bhajan Mandali, based in Mumbai, India, that toured throughout the U.S. last spring.

In discussing the performance concept, through an email exchange, Ravisankar said, “Layam, as we all know, is the rhythm. Bhavam represents the emotions created. Both of these together, let us experience and appreciate how the rhythm is so seamlessly integrated in all the things around us. Both Layam and Bhavam complement each other as brain and heart.”

Ravisankar attributes her success in both careers to the support of her family and teachers who all work together to make her “dance journey” happen. Her father accompanies her musically, her mother manages all of her programs, and her sister hosts and introduces her at each performance. It was at her mother’s insistence that her father begin playing for her Bharatanatyam concerts, having previously only accompanied singers.

This father-daughter relationship inspires Ravisankar’s work. She likens their creative back-and-forth process together like that of “making a pot in the ancient times. You keep adding water and shaping the pot better and better ‘til it is complete.”

Performances this week

Photo of dancer Deanna Olsen White with Kelly Sina observing, in Broadway Rose Theatre Company’s production of Gypsy. Photo by Sam Ortega.

Gypsy
Broadway Rose Theatre Company
August 3-20
Deb Fennell Auditorium, 9000 SW Durham Road, Tigard
Closing this weekend is Broadway Rose Theatre Company’s production of Gypsy, directed and choreographed by late great American choreographer Jerome Robbins, with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The musical is loosely based on the memoirs of the American queen of striptease, Gypsy Rose Lee, and the aspirations of her stage mamma from hell.

Although Gypsy is not a dance-centric show, Robbins carefully re-created accurate depictions of the era’s vaudeville and burlesque dance styles for famous scenes such as “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” when three strippers tell Louise (Gypsy Rose Lee) that she doesn’t actually need talent, just an idea.

Laya-Bhavam: An Amalgamation of Rhythm in Dance and Percussion
Presented by Sarada Kala Nilayam/Sweta Ravisankar
6 pm August 19
Portland Community College Rock Creek Auditorium, 17705 NW Springville Road
See above

Photo courtesy of I Moving Lab.

NA’LÅ’LA (Give Life)
Dåkot-ta and I Moving Lab
6:00 pm August 19
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St., in the WYSE Building. Use the doors located on the South side of the building.

Celebrating the coming eclipse through music and dance, contemporary Māori choreographer and scholar Jack Gray, in collaboration with hip hop dancer, sound artist, and scholar Dåkot-ta Alcantara-Camacho will present I LAND (in) Multnomah, an interdisciplinary performance that weaves their ancestral lineages from Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Guåhan, Guam, with rap, dance, and video.

Interested in decolonizing theater practices and drawing on indigenous relationships with the natural world, I LAND (in) Multnomah is a three-day series that begins Thursday, August 17, with a potluck, dance/movement workshops indoors and outdoors on the 18, and a final performance on the evening of the 19. Check out the I LAND (in) Multnomah website for the full schedule of events and please RSVP.

Classical Indian Dance & Music at the Portland Art Museum. Photo courtesy of Subashini Ganesan.

Classical Indian Dance & Music at the Portland Art Museum
Program curated by Subashini Ganesan, artistic director of New Expressive Works and Natya Leela Academy
2 pm August 20
Portland Art Museum, Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Avenue
FREE as part of the Miller Family Free Day

In celebration of the classical Indian Arts—dance, music, painting, and poetry—and in honor of Northwest architect and conservationist John Yeon’s collection of Indian Paintings at the Portland Art Museum, vocalist Mini Jairaj, mridangam player Hari, and dancers from Natya Leela Academy, Anjali School of Dance, Nartana Kuchipudi, and Kalabharathi School of Dance will contextualize Indian art through performance, as part of the Miller Family Free Day events.

Coming up next week

August
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans
August 24-October 8, Kurios: Cabinet Of Curiosities, Cirque Du Soleil
August 25-September 3, Where To Wear What Hat, WolfBird Dance

Montavilla Jazz Festival: turning crisis into community

This weekend's festival shows how arts can help build community in an unaffordable city

by DOUGLAS DETRICK

With rents and property values continuing to rise astronomically in Portland, the affordability of physical space and the role that space plays in the arts ecosystem is coming into sharp focus. The space is sorely needed, yet many arts organizations with limited budgets can’t afford it.

The affordability crisis is a reflection of Portland’s growing pains, but instead of just complaining about the problem, perhaps our arts community can see this crisis as an opportunity. With some creative problem solving, we can help to make Portland a better place to live and also make it a better place to perform and experience the arts.

Portland drum legend Alan Jones performed at last year’s Montavilla Jazz Festival. Photo: Kathryn Elsesser.

This is indeed a crisis, though it’s not unique. Even a quick study of the city’s history will reveal other crises in the past, especially the challenges that people of color have faced when seeking housing in the days of redlining, after the Vanport flood of 1948, and up to the present. But even as poorer Portlanders struggle in an increasingly expensive housing market, there are encouraging signs that the arts community is waking up to its power as a force for positive change in our neighborhoods. This weekend’s Montavilla Jazz Festival is one of them.

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