ArtsWatch News & Notes: Dance week, music research, more!

Oregon Ballet Theatre, BodyVox and Maguy Marin, exciting symphony data, football players gone bad, etc.

Oregon Ballet Theatre's "Midsummer Night's Dream"/Blaine Truitt Covert

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”/Blaine Truitt Covert

If you were a stranger to Portland landing in town this weekend, you could be forgiven for thinking the city was completely dance-obsessed. Oregon Ballet Theatre, BodyVox, and White Bird all open big shows, and it’s going to be hard to put off the ones with longer runs to another weekend—another batch of concerts hits the following weekend. Maybe we ARE dance-obsessed. At least in October.

A quick rundown:

Maguy Marin's "Salves"/Jean-Pierre Maurin

Maguy Marin’s “Salves”/Jean-Pierre Maurin

White Bird is bringing Compagnie Maguy Marin to the Newmark Theatre for three performances starting Thursday night. I’m not even going to bring up the company’s last visit in 2002, which sent a steady stream of patrons out the door. We’ve grown up a lot as a dance community since then, I think, just because White Bird has brought lots of other challenging work to town since then. (Well, I guess I DID mention it.) The company will perform Marin’s “Salves,” a theater-movement piece that will be no less disturbing. It’s going to be loud, chaotic, full of images and movements that start to make sense and then are replaced by others, then repeated again.

The same night, BodyVox opens “Body Opera Files” in the NW Industrial Warehouse, 2448 NW 28th Ave., not their home base on Northwest 17th. The concert is adapted from 2009’s “Foot Opera Files,” which took a batch of Tom Waits songs of the downtrodden, asked opera singers to give them a sonic ride and then choreographed the stories they told. The company has broadened the music to include Elvis Costello, gospel and Americana, but the basic idea is the same. And the more tenderloin district-like warehouse should be an excellent setting for the stories. It runs through Oc. 26.

Body Opera Files Rehearsal Video 1 from BodyVox on Vimeo.

And then on Saturday, Oregon Ballet Theatre introduces the Kevin Irving Era to the city’s ballet fans. Irving is the new company artistic director, and his first program, “Dream,” includes his predecessor Christopher Stowell’s version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as well as Nacho Duato’s “Por Vos Muero.” ArtsWatch’s Martha Ullman West previewed this one nicely already, so for more information click the link.

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Of all the classical art forms, classical music seems the most at risk these days, which is why ArtsWatch keeps talking about it here, and on Twitter and Facebook. The problems are varied, almost as varied as the number of orchestras in the country, in fact, but fortunately, so are the ongoing experiments in keeping the orchestras and the music vital to the culture.

One of the most innovative orchestras in the country is the New World Symphony in Miami, overseen by Michael Tilson-Thomas of San Francisco Symphony fame. He has used the NWS as a lab to test various programming ideas, and like any good scientist, he has measured the results. Well, probably not him personally.

The NWS measured audience response over time to several of its innovative series—micro-concerts (30 minutes each, three a night, $2.50 admission), Encounters (60 minute concerts with a specific educational focus), Journeys (three-hour concerts that examine individual composers in depth), and Pulse performances (combining dance music and edgier contemporary classical fare). The report itself is fascinating reading for anyone interested in the fate of classical music, primarily because it shows how effective non-traditional formats can be in building interest and creating great experiences for audiences, especially new audiences.

The New World Symphony is not a traditional American orchestra It was started to give young musicians right out of music conservatories the opportunity to play and develop. It’s facility was designed by Frank Gehry, and the educational component was built right in, small studios and a large public rehearsal hall. And Miami’s audiences are likely less “traditional” than those in more northerly classical hotbeds, more willing to accept new things. Nonetheless, the data is fascinating.

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The Detroit Symphony endured a strike and major financial problems, but all along it has tried various ways to reach its community. And the payoff finally arrived: The orchestra balanced its budget and raised a whopping $18.9 million in contributions during the past year. Detroit has actually decided it wants to fund a major symphony orchestra! (I followed the 2010-11 strike closely on my old Arts Dispatch blog. Those posts and a somewhat shorter set around the troubles at Philadelphia shaped my thinking on what a successful approach to the modern symphony might look like.)

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Around 20 members of the Ole Miss football  taking a beginning theater class thought that heckling a performance of “The Laramie Project,” close to the 15th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder at the hands of bigots, was a good idea.

Artist Jennifer Dewalt decided she wanted to learn to code, so she created 180 web pages in 180 days, some of which are pretty amazing.

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EVENT OF THE DAY:

Hard to go wrong with the Kronos Quartet at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium tonight. The program couldn’t be more deliciously wide-ranging.

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