DanceWatch Weekly: Time for that coffee break

How is good dance like a good cup of coffee? Let us count the ways.

I LOVE coffee, and I equally love coffee descriptions. They are full of wonderfully descriptive adjectives like dark, rich, smooth, and robust (to name a few), and describe hints of additional/other flavors that you might taste or smell in the coffee like citrus, chocolate, toffee, or vanilla (also to name a few), and whisk you away to far off locals like Ethiopia or Costa Rica where the beans were grown. These descriptions, for me, create a sense of romance, nostalgia, adventure, and the promise of an extraordinary experience; all in a cup of coffee. You can only imagine how many cups of coffee I drink in a day. This is how I feel about this week’s dance performance offerings.

Photo courtesy of Narcissa Productions LLC.

Beginning Thursday, Zoe Jakes & Special Guests: A Dance & Variety Revue (for one night only) will showcase some of the region’s most talented belly dancers from classic to contemporary styles. Featured artists include: musician and singer/songwriter Eric Stern; burlesque beauty Sandria Doré; the “raucous, nerdy, rollicking musical comedy” of The PDX Broadsides; the exquisite mistress of theatrical fusion belly dance Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique; The Allegro Dance Company; The Eshta Divas; and the divine lady Claudia, Ashley López, and Heather Powers.

The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works and its dance-centric arm, Groovin’ Greenhouse hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre, kick off on in various venues around town this week beginning on Thursday. Both Bob Hicks and A.L. Adams break down the festival performances in Fertile Ground: get set, go and DramaWatch Weekly: Fertile Ground, Playing Favorites. This 11-day festival, runs through January 28, and features new performance works in various stages of development, from the fully staged to workshops, in theater, comedy, dance and film, and everything in between.

Portland dance artist Alexander Dones. Photo courtesy of Alexander Dones.

Groovin’ Greenhouse will play host to new dance works by six Polaris Dance Theatre company members, Polaris Jr. Company, Neo Youth Company, Vitality Dance Collective, A-Wol Dance Collective, Galexi, NW Fusion, and Alex Done’s r:ad.

Also performing as a part of the Fertile Ground Festival of New Works will be Stranger than Fiction, a collaborative work between Tempos Contemporary Circus and Echo Theater Company that explores the overlap of circus arts, dance, narrative and physical theatre as a medium to explore themes of social justice, consider our commonalities, and question the essence of truth.

The Black Lives Masquerade. Photo by Jay Adams

Global Street Dance Masquerade #GSDMQ8 presents an interactive presentation about the performance work of Rashad Pridgen and The Black Lives Masquerade project on Friday, January 19, at the Portland Art Museum. The program will include a community movement exercise, a screening of the short film The Black Lives Masquerade, and a post-screening conversation between Rashad Pridgen and Libby Werbel, artistic director of We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments.

The We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments. is an ongoing exhibition series at the Portland Art Museum that encourages audiences to think critically about how museums have traditionally granted access to art and knowledge. The exhibits create a platform for artists to ask questions about institutional representation, exhibition models, and what it takes to see themselves and their concerns reflected regularly in their city’s art museum.

Marissa Rae Niederhauser and Michele Meloni in Two Love Stories. Photo courtesy of Marissa Rae Niederhauser.

Closing out the weekend on Sunday evening (also for one night only) at Performance Works NW, will be Two Love Stories, an evening of two works from Marissa Rae Niederhauser, an American-born artist based in Berlin. Niederhauser focuses on body based work in dance, film, performance and installation. Niederhauser will perform alongside Aaron Swartzman from Seattle in a duet called M/f duet, a romantic work that focuses on the power dynamics embedded in male/female relationships, and a solo called Teething that addresses the painful process of ‘cutting teeth’ and swings from soft, bleeding, pink (gums) to the hard, strong, and capable of inflicting harm (teeth).

In case you missed it, last week I recapped my Dear Santa letter from December, discussed Oregon dance in terms of ecosystems, and Oregon ArtsWatch’s newest dance writer Elizabeth Whelan reviewed Lil Buck and Jon Boogz’s performance of Love Heals All Wounds at the Newmark last Friday.

Enjoy!

Performances this week

Zoe Jakes & Special Guests: A Dance & Variety Revue
Presented by Narcissa Productions LLC
7 pm January 18
Funhouse Lounge, 2432 SE 11th Ave.
See above.

Groovin’ Greenhouse/Fertile Ground Festival of New Work
Participating artists are; Polaris Dance Theatre, Polaris Jr. Company, Neo Youth Company, Vitality Dance Collective, A-Wol Dance Collective, Galexi, NW Fusion, r:ad
January 19-27
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave.
See above.

Tempos: Stranger than Fiction – Fertile Ground Festival
Tempos Contemporary Circus and Echo Theater Company
January 19-28
Echo Theater, 1515 SE 37th Ave.
See above.

The Global Street Dance Masquerade Presentation and Film
Global Street Dance Masquerade #GSDMQ8 and We.Construct.Marvels.Between.Monuments
5 pm January 19
Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave. (Contemporary wing, 4th floor)
$5 museum entry fee
See above.

Two Love Stories (M/f duet + Teething)
Marissa Rae Niederhauser (Berlin)/Performance Works NW Alembic Artists
7:30 pm January 21
Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
See above.

Upcoming Performances

January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

February
February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 2, The Shore of Endless Worlds, A solo by Nathan Montogomery
February 3, Nrityotsava 2018: An evening of Indian Classical & Folk Dances, Presented by Kalakendra
February 3-25, Chitra The Girl Prince, NW Children’s Theatre, Anita Menon
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 15, Faculty Dance Concert featuring guest artist Vincent Mantsoe, Hosted by University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
February 16-March 4, Left of Center, A-WOL Dance Collective
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 18, Chapel Theatre Open House, Chapel Theatre
February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 26, Rejoice! at AWMC Regional Finals, Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater
February 27-March 1, Kinky Boots, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene

March
March 2-4, Zorro: The Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, HEDDA, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April
April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 9, Noontime Showcase: Jefferson Dancers, Presented by Portland’5
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May
May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 11-13, Alice in Wonderland, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, a dance for film by The Holding Project
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem

 

On the run from dystopia

Milagro's new touring show "Bi–" looks to a totalitarian future and blazes a path to the beauty of in-between

The year is 2089. The people of Tierra Plana live orderly lives along strict lines, both figuratively and literally. Walled off from the rest of the world, the xenophobic nation-state has descended into a totalitarian dystopia. The leaders demand order and cultural purity. This is the world Georgina Escobar has created in her new touring show Bi-, which had its world premiere at Milagro Theatre as part of the Fertile Ground Festival.

As a touring show intended mainly for young adult audiences, Bi- is didactic but never feels heavy-handed. The story is fairly simple: The government has instituted a policy of identity bracelets that will neatly categorize the citizens. Four young friends, uncertain about the idea of trying to conform to the strict identities of the state, set out on a journey to find a mysterious underground organization that might offer them freedom.

“Bi–,” and between. Photo: Russell J Young

The idea of boxes and categorization is strong in the show. How strong? Well, the citizens of Tierra Plana are called “squares.” The city itself is composed of hard right angles, represented by lines and boxes taped onstage. The characters shuffle along these narrow pathways, or jump from one platform to the next when inside the city, making great use of the space. There’s a minimal set here but the staging, combined with a Kraftwerk-inspired soundtrack by Lawrence Siulagi, gives the production a futuristic cartoony feeling.

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DramaWatch Weekly: Fertile Ground, Playing Favorites

As Portland's sprawling festival of new performance works begins, A.L. Adams picks her best bets (and weaves in a nonfestival highlight, too)

For YEARS, at multiple publications, I used to compile an overview of Fertile Ground titled “Fertile Ground Speaks for Itself,” wherein quips from the scripts submitted by their authors comprised the entire story, and I just formatted it.

It is, after all, a lowercase-f fringe festival, an uncurated and welcoming workshop space where indeed the pieces DO “speak for themselves.” But now I’m in grad school. And my time to listen is limited. If I go at all, I’ll have to be pre-selective. Hence, I find myself (for the first time) inclined to speak up for particular festival participants whom I’ve already observed doing good work. If your time is limited like mine, here’s my short list of “good risks.”

Nikki Weaver and friends, piecing things together for “Weaving Women Together.” Portland Playhouse photo

Aubrey Jessen’s appeared in many plays at Action/Adventure, portraying everything from a superhero action star to a breathlessly anxious secretary. I didn’t catch her playwrighting debut, Hawthorne, but a Drammy nod suggests it was deft. A speech therapist by trade, Jessen seems even in her improvs like a master of metacognition, with a keen awareness of thoughts-about-thoughts and an aw-shucks persona that makes such musings accessible. I’d deem it worth seeing what she does in Velvet.  It’s a double-header with Autumn Buck’s Sable in the Forest. Phillip Berns—last seen carrying A Christmas Carol solo—is directing Velvet. I could say a lot about Berns, but my opinionated aunt side would rather just pat your arm and exclaim, “He’s very good!”

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Fertile Ground: get set, go

On your mark: Portland's festival of new work, with more than 100 offerings, is ready to roar. Grab your tickets: It's a jumble out there.

It was 5:30 on a blustery Thursday evening – still rush hour in The City That Sometimes Works – and Nicole Lane was busy herding cats. Some of the media people were stuck in traffic and still on their way but they’d be there soon, she announced loudly to the litter of playwrights, producers, actors, and assorted theater people caroming about the byways and bar of Artists Repertory Theatre’s Morrison Street lobby.

Then Lane, director of the ninth annual Fertile Ground Festival of New Work (this year’s begins Thursday and runs eleven days through January 28, in venues scattered across the city) ticked off the rules for this latest version of the festival’s speed-date-the-media night. Scope out the tables. See who you want to talk to. Get in line. When your turn comes be ready to make your pitch, and be quick about it. When the bell rings, your time’s done: Get up, move on to another table, start all over again. Ding!

Milagro’s “Bi–” has its world premiere at Fertile Ground. Photo: Russell J Young

I don’t know what it was like for the theater people as they hustled through their paces, but for me – one of those media types, with a little oblong table to call my own – it was a little like sitting in front of a wind machine taking wave after wave full force. I looked neither left nor right but straight ahead, only glancing down now and again at the succession of press releases and show cards to get my bearings. Who was this, now? What show? Where? When? Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh they went, a succession of mini-conversations, a jumble of scribbled notes, a scramble of unsorted information.

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A lifeline in troubled times

An energetic "Three Sisters" at Northwest Classical and a "Lifeboat" from disaster at Corrib ride the rough waters of a world out of tune

It’s a clumsy thing, this Three Sisters, chafing and halting and bumping into itself, tripping over its own feet, taking pratfalls, landing on all the discordant notes. And that’s a good thing.

Anton Chekhov’s great play, as it’s being performed in the tight little corners of the Shoe Box Theater by Northwest Classical Theater Collaborative, is all about the clumsiness of the human soul, the way things don’t connect, the abruptness and disconsolation of yearning and desire, the matter of enduring even when life seems unendurable, the way that people seem compelled to snatch unhappiness from happiness’s jaw. Like life itself it’s sometimes funny and sometimes foolish and sometimes heartbreaking, and to get inside such essential truths it takes on a bumptious, jangling rhythm, like a Bartok or Stravinsky or Ornette Coleman score. Things don’t fit – or they do, but not the way you expect – and that’s the glory of it all.

Dainichia Noreault as Irina, Elizabeth Jackson as Masha, Christy Bigelow as Olga in “Three Sisters.” Photo: Gary Norman

This production is Patrick Walsh’s baby — he directs and co-produces and adapted Chekhov’s script — and it’s something of a triumph. Chekhov and his great director Stanislavski used to argue about the nature of his plays. They’re comedies, Chekhov insisted. They’re tragedies, Stanislavski replied. Walsh’s production reveals Three Sisters as something beyond both: funny and tragic and existential to its core; a play beyond summation, an immersion in the chaos of life, a place where love is everything and everything isn’t enough.

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Lil Buck and Jon Boogz: ‘Love Heals All Wounds’

Yes, jookin is as elemental as earth, air, water and fire

By ELIZABETH WHELAN

I remember scrolling mindlessly through Facebook about a year ago when I first came across Lil Buck. Flying past a fair share of one-minute recipe videos, the latest pictures of those people I used to know, and my daily dose of Facebook politics, Lil Buck popped up, swirling around my screen to a piano ballad. The short video finished. Wait. What? Rewind. Retwatch.

Lil Buck has that effect…he makes you stop in your tracks and look closer, questioning if what you’re seeing is possible. There’s just something about the way he floats through space with his limbs unfolding like calligraphy on a crisp white page that leaves you entranced. After maybe 30 seconds of watching him dance, I was heading down the cyber-world rabbit hole sifting through videos and reading interviews. That same virtual trail led me to find his partner in dance, Jon Boogz, and I proceeded to follow the pair for the past year, completely mesmerized by their capability to capture the essence of life, hardship and unwavering hope through their artistry in movement.

In a stunning performance this past Friday at the Newmark Theatre, Buck and Boogz presented their work Love Heals All Wounds. Following suit to their theme of social justice works, the show began with a cold, hard look at where we are at today in America. Last year, the duo created a dance film entitled The Color of Reality, in which they paired with body paint artist Alexa Meade to address gun violence and police brutality in our country (if you haven’t seen it yet, watch it HERE). The chilling subject reappears in Love Heals All Wounds, in which Boogz and Buck demonstrated a hauntingly beautiful dedication to the victims of racial injustice. They’ve got a knack for entwining life and art, making it clear that there lies no distinction from one to the next.

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Angelo Xiang Yu & Andrew Hsu review: Brahms’s indiscretions

Hit Chamber Music Northwest duo deliver soul-warming performance of the German master’s heartfelt works for violin and piano

by JEFF WINSLOW

Johannes Brahms and his music both have forbidding reputations. Yet on his rambles around 19th century Vienna, the great Romantic composer would give away candy to children – who would keep on the lookout for “Papa Brahms.” And he wrote two of the sweetest, most amiable violin and piano sonatas you could ever hope to hear, plus a third bursting with passion. Brahms may have realized how much he let his guard down writing them; in a letter to a close friend he called the first sonata “my latest indiscretion.”

Andrew Hsu and Angelo Xiang Yu performed at Portland’s Old Church concert Hall. Photo: Kimmie Fadem.

The last Sunday in October, that most amiable of duos, international prize-winning violinist Angelo Xiang Yu and rising star pianist Andrew Hsu, offered up all three plus a youthful scherzo as part of Chamber Music Northwest’s 2017-2018 season. CMNW artistic director David Shifrin tried to let on that the pair were, unbeknownst to him, only joking when they suggested the all-Brahms program as an encore for their standout performance at CMNW’s 2016 summer festival. Maybe so, but the full house at the Old Church in Portland was obviously glad he took them seriously. Yu and Hsu gave us an afternoon of serious beauty, holding at bay all thoughts of upcoming Halloween spooks. It might have been transcendent, but for one consistent problem.

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