Jamuna Chiarini

 

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

DanceWatch Weekly: The moment the bough breaks

"Suspended Moment" remembers Hiroshima and Nagasaki with sculpture, music, poetry and dance

Seventy-two years ago this week, the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan killing more than 220,000 people, some dying instantly, their bodies evaporating on the spot, and others dying later from burns, radiation sickness, and cancer. It was a horrific and hellish scene that merged the lands of the living and the dead.

The first bomb, called Little Boy, was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:16 am on August 6, early enough in the morning to catch people just waking up and going about their morning routines. The second bomb, Fat Man, was dropped at 11:02 am on August 9. The bombs obliterated the cities and everyone’s lives within them, then and for future generations.

In announcing the bombing of Hiroshima to the U.S. people on August 6, President Harry S. Truman warned Japan to “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.” A statement that sounds eerily similar to President Trump’s response to North Korea’s threats on Tuesday that “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen…”

Bringing the past into the present, updating the narrative around the atomic bombings, and creating a conversation around the legacy, responsibility, and dangers of nuclear power is as important and relevant today as it was 72 years ago.

Tonight visual artist Yukiyo Kawano, who is a third-generation hibakusha, or nuclear bomb survivor, who grew up in Hiroshima decades after the bombing, and Butoh dancer Meshi Chavez will be asking these questions in their performance Suspended Moment, along with collaborators Allison Cobb, Lisa DeGrace, and Stephen Miller. (Butoh is a contemporary dance form born from Japan as a reaction to the bombings.) The performance will follow an event to commemorate Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Japanese American Historical Plaza from 6 to 7 pm. Their performance will take place at University of Oregon’s Light Court Commons at 70 NW Couch Street at 7pm.

The work revolves around Kawano’s sculpture—two hanging replicas of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—which she fabricated from her grandmother’s kimonos and stitched together with strands of her own hair.

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DanceWatch Weekly: Catch a breeze

Suddenly, the Portland dance calendar heats up

The pendulum swings from one extreme to another in Portland’s dance scene this weekend (hopefully causing a breeze)—from a lively community dance festival to a somber Butoh remembrance of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with musical theatre and actual swinging in the trees in between.

The Polaris Dance Company performing at Galaxy Dance Festival— with Jessica Zoller, Gerard Regot, Blair D’Amico, Jana Tripp, Melanie Ann, Brynn Hofer and Preeya Kannan. Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre.

Beginning today, Galaxy Dance Festival, hosted and curated by Polaris Dance Theatre, will take place indoors instead of at its usual outdoor location at Director Park, due to this week’s extreme heat. The three-day festival, now in its seventh year, includes FREE classes and performances by renowned Portland teachers and performers in all genres of dance, from ballet to Mexican folks dance and more. It’s a great opportunity for all ages of dancers and dance audiences alike to get a taste of what Portland has to offer in a casual way. Plus they have icy beverages, and you get an opportunity to see Polaris Dance Theatre’s beautiful new studios up close as well. Check out the Galaxy Dance festival schedule online for the full lineup of classes and performances.

Also opening tonight is Broadway Rose Theatre Company’s production of Gypsy, 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.

Originally debuting in 1959 and starring Ethel Merman as Mama Rose, Gypsy was directed and choreographed by the late great American choreographer Jerome Robbins. Robbins, a former dancer with American Ballet Theatre, was known for his fantastic choreography in such musicals as On The Town, The King and I, West Side Story, and Fiddler on the Roof, to name just a few.

Robbins was a five-time Tony Award winner, a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, and received two Academy Awards. A documentary about his life and work, Something to Dance About premiered in 2009. Excerpts from it can be seen on PBS and Youtube.

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 like You Gotta Get a Gimmick, when three strippers tell Louise (Gypsy Rose Lee) that she doesn’t actually need talent, just an idea.

Coincidentally, the Oregon Burlesque Festival is opening at Dante’s this week, where you can catch a whole array of burlesque styles from classical to contemporary, comedy, boy/man-lesque, circus, and much much more.

A-WOL dancers flying in trees. Photo courtesy of A-WOL Dance Collective.

A-WOL Dance Collective will be suspended in trees this weekend in their annual Art in the Dark production called One Shy of Ten: The Intangible Dimension. The dance takes place at night, amongst the stars along the Willamette River in West Linn, at Mary S. Young park. A-WOL, an aerial dance company, will lead audiences on an eerie, mysterious, sci-fi fantasy that will leave everyone guessing about what’s real and what’s not.

Suspended Moment featuring Butoh dancer Meshi Chavez and the hanging sculpture of visual artist Yukiyo Kawano, Photo by Stephen A. Miller.

Next Wednesday in conjunction with the remembrance of the bombing of Nagasaki by the United States on August 9th, 1945 (Hiroshima took place three days earlier on August 6), Butoh dancer Meshi Chavez and visual artist Yukiyo Kawano, will present Suspended Moment. Kawano’s sculpture—two hanging replicas of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which are fabricated from her grandmother’s kimonos and stitched together with strands of her own hair—is at the center of the event. The works collaborators include poet Allison Cobb, composer Lisa DeGrace and photographer Stephen Miller. The group just returned from performing in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where both bombs were developed. The performance will follow an event to commemorate Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the Japanese American Historical Plaza from 6 to 7 pm.

Chavez is also offering a three-day workshop in Butoh dance leading up to the performance. “Butoh asks dancers to meet each moment with curiosity” Chavez says, “thus creating the ‘suspended moment.’” Butoh is accessible to people of all physical abilities.

Performances this week

Galaxy Dance Festival
Hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3-5
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave

Gypsy
Broadway Rose Theatre Company
August 3-20
Deb Fennell Auditorium, 9000 SW Durham Road, Tigard

One Shy of Ten: The Intangible Dimension
A-WOL Dance Collective/Art in the Dark
August 4-13
Mary S. Young State Park, 19900 Willamette Drive, West Linn

Suspended Moment
Meshi Chavez, Yukiyo Kawano, Allison Cobb, Lisa DeGrace, and Stephen Miller
7 pm August 9
University of Oregon Portland’s Light Court Commons, 70 NW Couch Street

August

August 11-13, JamBallah Northwest ’17, Hosted by JamBallah NW
August 13, India Festival 2017, India Cultural Association of Portland
August 19, Laya-Bhavam: An amalgamation and importance of Rhythm in Dance, presented by Sarada Kala Nilayam
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

September
September 7-17, TBA, Portland Institute For Contemporary Art

DanceWatch Weekly: Moving at JAW

This week the dance action is at a theater festival

It’s another warm and sunny weekend here in Portland, which makes going out to see performances really easy compared to the our rainy wintery months—or maybe not if you aren’t a heat person. Personally, I wish summer would last another six months, but I digress. Let’s talk dance.

On Sunday you can catch contemporary Portland dance artists Sara Parker and Rachel Slater activating the Armory lobby in the Pearl with their new site-specific dance work Watchers of the Wild Sky as part of Portland Center Stage’s JAW playwright festival.

Sara Parker and Rachel Slater in “Watchers of the Wild Sky.” Photo courtesy of Rachel Slater and Sara Parker.

The collaborative work is inspired by the energy and the physical materials in the space, and explores themes of softness, subtlety, hysteria, shadowing, and strength, according to the email exchange I had with Parker.

JAW gives time, space, and resources to playwrights with new scripts (a great idea for dance as well: Anyone?), and is interested in creating intersectionality with other arts communities and growing the footprint of the festival by interspersing works of other performance genres within the festival. And it’s enjoyable for the audience, too.

Dance artist Michael “Mantis” Galen. Photo courtesy of JAW.

In addition to Parker and Slater, the festival will include In the Groove, a street dance battle with Michael “Mantis” Galen and an all-star crew, plus a circus performance by artists Amica Hunter and David Cantor from A Little Bit Off. Check the JAW website for the complete performance schedule and performers.

That’s it for dance this weekend in Portland. Short and sweet. Enjoy!

Performances this week

JAW-A Playwright Festival
Featuring dance works by Sara Parker, Rachel Slater, Michael “Mantis” Galen, Amica Hunter, David Cantor and more!
July 28-30
Portland Center Stage at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave.

Upcoming Performances

August
August 3-5, Galaxy Dance Festival, Hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3-20, Gypsy, Broadway Rose Theatre Company
August 9, Suspended Moment, Meshi Chavez, Yukiyo Kawano, Allison Cobb, Lisa DeGrace, and Stephen Miller
August 11-13, JamBallah Northwest ’17, Hosted by JamBallah NW
August 13, India Festival 2017, India Cultural Association of Portland
August 19, Laya-Bhavam: An amalgamation and importance of Rhythm in Dance, presented by Sarada Kala Nilayam
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
September
August 25-September 3, Where To Wear What Hat, WolfBird Dance
September 7-17, TBA, Portland Institute For Contemporary Art

Movement and Flow: Portland Dance Films

Fuchsia Lin talks about her new film in next week's Northwest Film Center dance film evening

Can you believe it? It’s a dance-free weekend (as far as I know)! It’s the first in a really long time (Portland dance makers have been really really busy this year). But don’t worry, you won’t have to wait too long to get your dance fix. Opening Wednesday at NorthWest Film Center is a brand new evening of Portland-made dance films called Movement and Flow: Portland Dance Films.

The evening is curated by filmmaker, and NorthWest Film Center’s Filmmaker Services Manager, Ben Popp, who after curating last year’s Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival realized the need for a dance specific film event after seeing how many dance based/themed films had been submitted to the festival. NorthWest Film Center also partners with BodyVox Dance Company in the Contact Dance Film Festival.

Exploring a range of dance and movement elements that can play in the cinematic realm, Popp has brought together six Portland dance filmmakers: Amy Yang Chiao, Jackie Davis, Conrad Kazcor, Fuchsia Lin, Gabriel Shalom, and Dylan Wilbur Media. The films range in style from documentary format, to site-specific, to collaborative projects, and mixed media.

Fuchsia Lin, the director of the film Crystal’s of Transformation, is one of those mixers. She is a conceptual artist and filmmaker who works in costume design, film, performance, and dance. Originally from Michigan, Lin has resided in Portland since 2008 after living and working in New York, Paris, and Taipei. Her work focuses on questions of cultural identity (she is a second generation Taiwanese American), and explores ancient mythology and religious stories. Lin’s mission is to bring awareness to the importance of our relationship with water, which is what drives her film the Crystals of Transformation. Crystals of Transformation is about how the energetic environment of water affects those near it.

I spoke with Lin via email about the film and the filmmaking process. That conversation unfolds below.

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DanceWatch Weekly: It’s a Rantum Scoot

A busy summer dance weekend issues an invitation to be here now!

It’s all kind of up in the air this weekend. Will it work or won’t it? Who cares where we’re going—it’s beautiful outside. Just relax. Forget about the destination or the drive. Let intuition take over. Be here now.

It’s that kind of dance weekend.

Enjoy the ride!

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DanceWatch Weekly: Farewells and welcomes

So long to Eowyn Emerald, hello to Arcos, welcome back to Ten Tiny Dances and a Tanin reprise.

In this week’s DanceWatch I am recycling an interview I did last year with Tanin, an Iranian dance artist. At the time I was reflecting on what freedom meant, were any of us really “free” at all, and what it was like to work as an artist in a politically restrictive country. Tanin is not the artist’s real name—for security reasons.

Tanin, who is now 24, is a freelance dancer, choreographer, and filmmaker. We met several years ago when she submitted her first film to the dance and film festival that I started in New Jersey called The Outlet Dance Project. Her film and the conditions of her life and her perseverance and dedication to dance moved and inspired me, and I wanted to share her story. That conversation which we had via email, unfolds below after this week’s dance performance listings.

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