Jamuna Chiarini

 

DanceWatch Weekly: Dance Camp at Breitenbush

DanceWatch rejuvenates itself in the wilderness

I have a lot of questions these days about dance. What is it really? What does it mean? What is its purpose? What is its value? Is one expression of dance more valuable than another? As a dancer myself, how do I feel about leaving behind the traditional, mainstream, American value systems in dance? How do I feel about never taking ballet again and finding other ways of moving, expressing, and staying in shape that feed me and make me feel good about myself instead of depleted and defeated? Can I be happy in other dance worlds? Will I feel a loss? Will I be OK with that loss? Is it really a loss or just a perceived loss?

From this place of curiosity (if not perplexity), I decided to go to Dance Camp at Breitenbush Hot Springs with Portland dance artists Meshi Chavez and Winky Wheeler. Chavez and Wheeler facilitate weekly Portland dances that could be called ecstatic dance but really incorporate many more ideas from other movement modalities and philosophies. Chavez is also a Butoh dancer and I have participated in his Being Moved workshop and weekly Butoh classes, so I knew that Dance Camp would be a safe space for me to be vulnerable and to ask the questions troubling me.

Dance Camp was at Breitenbush. If you don’t know, Breitenbush is a hot springs on 154 acres in the Willamette National Forest, about 100 miles from Portland. Its main lodge, built in the 1930s, is the center of activity and houses a large dance studio (with a disco ball), a dining room that serves vegetarian food only, two libraries, and a lobby with a piano that someone is almost always playing. Breitenbush also has a steam sauna and numerous soaking pools that are full of naturally hot water from the earth that sit around 107 degrees. Clothing is optional when bathing. Breitenbush is also completely off the grid, utilizing its own hydroelectric power system and natural springs for power and heat. Campers can sleep in the main lodge, cabins or tents.

On my drive to Breitenbush, somewhere between Detroit Lake and Breitenbush, my cell service dropped out. It was a magical moment, an electric moment. A point of no return. It was the beginning of four days with no wifi, no cell service, no communication with the outside world. Bliss.

Dance Camp with Chavez and Wheeler was four days short. It began at dinner time on Thursday and ended with lunch on Sunday. For four days we ate and danced, ate and danced, ate and danced, and danced some more. And, of course, soaked many times over in the hot springs.

Continues…

DanceWatch Weekly: Easy breezy

This week's dance line-up is led by students and the returning alumni of The Portland Ballet and Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe

It’s a feel-good, easy breezy weekend of dance here in Portland. The air is sweet, the sun is out, and the roses are in bloom. A welcome respite considering… everything. This weekend I give you permission to step away from your electronic devices and join the living in celebration of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” with dance.

The weekend’s offerings include: Up Close with students and the returning alumni of The Portland Ballet; Wakily, an end-of -the-year performance by the dancers of Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe; and a rendering of the comedic ballet Coppélia, performed live by the Bolshoi Ballet in movie theaters near you.

Me? I’m headed to the forest. The Willamette National Forest to be exact. It’s where Breitenbush Hot Springs is and where I’ll be for four days this week dancing with Portland dance artists Meshi Chavez and Winky Wheeler in their yearly Dance Camp retreat. It’s a chance to find new connections with my dancer self, in a new place, and mix with new people and new ideas. I’m looking forward to this fresh experience and I’ll let you know how it went, in next week’s DanceWatch.

Performances this week

The Portland Ballet, studio dress rehearsal,15th anniversary alumni show. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Up Close
The Portland Ballet
June 8-10
The Portland Ballet Studio Theatre, 6250 SW Capitol Hwy
In an intimate studio setting, The Portland Ballet’s Career Track Program students will perform alongside nine returning TPB alumni who are now dancing in professional companies and college programs across the country.

The program includes new ballets by TPB faculty member Michelle Davis and alumna Carolina MacDonald (currently dancing with Nevada Ballet), as well as works by retired New York City Ballet Principal Dancer and Répétiteur for The George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins Trust, Philip Neal, and a duet by the renowned ballet artist Christopher D’Amboise.

D’Amboise’s duet, Pandora’s Box, will be performed by Lauren Lane and Michael McGonegal, the daughter and future son-in-law of Portland Ballet’s artistic directors Nancy Davis and Jim Lane. The pair dances for Saint Louis Ballet, where the duet was originally set in 2014, and will be married this summer.

Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe. Photo courtesy of Kúkátónón.

Wakily
Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, with special guest performances by Habiba Addo, Habib Iddrisu, and the Obo Addy Legacy Project
6:30 pm June 9
Jefferson High School Auditorium, 5210 N. Kerby
Wakily (wah-kee-lee ) in the West African language of Sousou, means to never give up, push through, persevere and triumph.

Kúkátónón’s young dancers and drummers will end the year with a performance inspired by the meaning of Wakily, featuring West African dance and drumming, a special ballet presentation, and guest performances by Habiba Addo (Ghanaian storytelling and vocals), Habib Iddrisu (Ghanaian drumming), and Obo Addy Legacy Project (Ghanaian drumming and dancing).

Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe is a Portland children’s dance company founded by Rolia Manyongai-Jones in 1983, and now directed by Dana Shephard. It focuses on inspiring confidence among the troupe’s dancers and broadening awareness of African and African-American cultural traditions throughout Oregon. The company offers tuition-free African dancing, drumming, and classical ballet lessons on a weekly basis, taught by professional music and dance instructors.

Bolshoi Ballet in Coppélia. Photo courtesy of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Coppélia
Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow, Presented by Fathom Events
Choreography by Sergei Vikharev after Marius Petipa and Enrico Cecchetti
Performed by the Bolshoi Principals, Soloists and Corps de Ballet
12:55 pm June 10
Click here for participating theatres and locations

The story goes that Franz, the fianceé of Swanhilda, has eyes for another. The girl that he admires is Coppélia. What he doesn’t realize is that Coppélia is actually a life-size doll created by the inventor, Dr. Coppélius. Swanhilda and her friends go to Dr. Coppélius’s house to tell this Coppélia to get lost and discover that she is actually a doll. Mayhem ensues, things get broken, Dr. Coppélius returns, and they all run off except for Swanhilda who gets left behind and hides. While in hiding, Swanhilda watches as Dr. Coppélius tries to drug Franz in an attempt take his soul and put it into his beloved Coppélia, to bring her to life. Of course, Swanhilda leaps out from her hiding place, saves Franz, they forgive each other, get married, and live happily ever after. The End.

Oh, and Dr. Coppélius’s anger over broken property is placated with a big bag of money.

Upcoming Performances

June
June 13, Dance Forum, showcase and reception, American Dance Abroad at BodyVox
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, This Time Tomorrow-Danielle Agami, NW Dance Project
June 15-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Claire Barrera, Shaun Keylock, Sarah Brahim, and Decimus Yarbrough
June 16, Dance Film Double Feature: Standing on Gold and Moving History, hosted by Eric Nordstrom
June 22-23, Bodies of Existence/Dances of Resistance, Company Movimiento, Artistic Director- Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner, Eugene
June 22-23, Ævium: Intimacy with Disappearance, Jayne Lee, Delisa Myles, Mizu Desierto, Breanna Rogers, Ashley Fine, Sedona Ortega, and Studio M13
June 22-23, Recipe: A Reading Test (1983) and Raw Material (1985), Linda Austin
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem
June 29-July 1, Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance
June 29-30, River Daze, Dillon & Wilde + Artists

July
July 6, #INSTABALLET NO.26, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
July 11-27, [A Swatch of Lavender]: A Self Portrait, keyon gaskin
July 14, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
July 19-21, RELATIVES // apples & pomegranates, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August
August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September
September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag

DanceWatch Weekly: Dance doesn’t go away with the first signs of summer

In the old days, dance took a break from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but we need it too much to let it go

Oregon’s dance season just won’t quit and I’m really glad, of course. Every week when I sit down to write DanceWatch, I get a little verklempt thinking about how much the dance scene has grown in Oregon since I moved here eight years ago. And, has it ever!

This week’s dance offerings are a continued measure of that growth and offer a little bit of everything from experimental contemporary dance, to ballet, to Eastern European folk dances, to Bharatnatyam, to dance films, and so much more. Plus, they take place in every venues possible from the outdoors, to indoors, to intimate spaces, and concert halls. You name it, dance is happening there.

So, in this mood of celebration and summer, of course, let’s get out and soak up some dance, and maybe a little sun, too.

Enjoy!

Performances this week

Hannah Davis, Kimberly Nobriga, and Jessica Lind performing in Helen Simoneau’s ‘Departures,’ part of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Closer, May 24 – June 3, 2018 at the BodyVox Dance Center. Photo by Chris Peddecord

Closer
Oregon Ballet Theatre, artistic director Kevin Irving
Choreography by Peter Franc, Makino Hayashi, Lisa Kipp, Katherine Monogue, and Helen Simoneau
May 31-June 3
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Avenue
Oregon Ballet Theatre closes out its 2017-2018 season with Closer, an intimate showing at BodyVox Dance Center of new works choreographed by OBT rehearsal director Lisa Kipp, OBT company dancers Katherine Monogue, Makino Hayashi, and Peter Franc, alongside Helen Simoneau’s Departures. Simoneau’s ballet was commissioned by OBT in 2017 as part of OBT’s Choreography XX project to discover new women choreographers in ballet. The works by OBT dancers will be accompanied by commissioned musical compositions from Grammy award-winning remix artist, Andre Allen Anjos (aka RAC). Heather Wiser reviewed Closer for ArtsWatch, which you can read here, and I interviewed Simoneau about her work, her process, and her dance company, which you can read here.

Instaballet in Eugene. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Haag.

#INSTABALLET NO.25
Directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of Eugene Ballet Company
5:30 pm June 1
Lane Arts Council’s First Friday ArtWalk, Capitello Wine, 540 Charnelton St, Eugene
This event is FREE
Reimagining who creates ballets, Instaballet, directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of the Eugene Ballet company, gives artistic control to the audience. If you have ever wanted to choreograph a ballet or a musical score but aren’t a dancer, choreographer, or musician, now is your chance. Head on over to Lane Arts Council’s First Friday ArtWalk in Eugene and be a part of the process and make a ballet or musical score on the spot. The creative process begins at 5:30 pm and a performance of the final product will happen at 8 pm. The performance will be accompanied by live music and Eugene Ballet dancers will make themselves available for your creative juices.

If you are interested in learning more about Instaballet and how it came to be, Eugene ArtsWatch correspondent Gary Ferrington wrote about them in 2015 in Crowd-sourced Choreography.

Dance artist Leralee Whittle. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW.

J (()) Y and Death=Change
Choreography by Leralee Whittle and by Mizu Desierto
June 1-2
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
12-3pm June 3 Leralee Whittle Workshop at Performance Works NW

Dance and video artist Leralee Whittle and Portland based dance-theatre artist Mizu Desierto will share an evening featuring Whittle’s J (()) Y and Desierto’s work-in-progress, Death=Change.

Whittle works in collaboration with musician/composer Paul Spraw, and she combines her history in American, European, and African dance to create instant compositions. She is Inspired by her travels, new spaces, visual elements, and the element of play, and likes to bring, according to her press release, “found spaces into the performance space, where the audience can then experience a giant retro yellow gym, or trip into a strange corner for a humorous impromptu dance.”

Desierto is a 20-year practitioner of Butoh and the co-founder of Portland’s Water in the Desert, a major hub of artistic activity that includes The Headwaters Theatre, Prior Day Farm, and the annual Butoh College. She “explores themes of feminism, queerness, playful social deviance and regenerative land/culture” in her work, as well as the idea of “losing control in favor of liquidity.”

A still from Wobbly Dance’s new film ‘Tidal.’ Photo courtesy of Wobbly Dance.

Tidal-A film
Wobbly Dance
Portland ReelAbilities Film Festival
6:30 pm June 2
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont
This event is FREE.
The new dance film Tidal is a collaboration among Wobbly Dance, cinematographer Ian Lucero, costume designer Jenny Ampersand, and musicians Sweetmeat. It’s “a fantastical film, where breathing masks transform into diving masks, ventilator tubing morphs into costumes, and an ancient diver who calls the ocean home, draws us into his world. We fall, we dream, we dive. We transform from human to jellyfish and everything in between. This film is a continuation of the exploration of Wobbly’s dark, dream-like and sometimes absurd aesthetic. Starring Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson as the Dreamers, Nathan H.G. as the Diver, and Grant Miller as the Forager.”

 

The Tamburitzans. Photo courtesy of the Tamburitzans.

Passages-The Journey of Our Ancestors
Presented by the Tamburitzans
7:30 pm June 1
Soreng Theatre-Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
7:30 pm June 2
Dolores Winningstad Theatre, 2913, 1111 SW Broadway
Presenting their 81st season, The Tamburitzans, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, celebrate music and folk dances from Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Greece, Spain, Mexico, Cuba, and more, in a two-hour production boasting more than 400 costumes performed by 31 dancers, musicians, and singers.

Aerial Muse Collective. Photo courtesy of Wilsonville Festival of Arts.

Wilsonville Festival of Arts
June 2-3
Town Center Park, Wilsonville, OR
In its 19th year, the Wilsonville Festival of Arts brings visual art, literary arts, live music, dance, theatre, and performance art, outside to the public for free, at Town Center Park.

This year’s festivities includes several dance performance: DanceAbility is a Eugene-based dance company focused on dissolving barriers and connecting people with and without disabilities through dance and movement; Mexica Tiahui Aztec Dance Group is a dance group formed in 1995 by Mexican and Chicano students at Oregon State University to share Mexican culture throughout the Pacific Northwest; and Aerial Muse Collective combines aerial circus, dance, theater, music, and visual art, and will be roaming the festival doing mini-performances throughout. The festival will also provide morning yoga and tai chi for folks who want to move too. For a broader view on the festival offerings outside of dance, check out Bob Hicks’s News & Notes for ArtsWatch.

Padma Shri Shobana’s, ‘Shobana’s Trance.’ Photo courtesy of Shobana.

Shobana’s Trance
Presented by Chinmaya Mission Portland and Rasika
4 pm June 3
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway Ave.
Acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer, and film actress Shobana Chandrakumar, also known as Padma Shri Shobana (Padma Shri is a title awarded by the Indian Government for Shobana’s contribution to classical dance), or just Shobana, from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, presents a collage of Indian art forms to tell the stories of Shiva, Vishnu, and Mary Magdalene. The production includes poetry, live music, and Bharatanatyam, and desires to transport the viewer into a primordial, trance-like, state of being.

Photo courtesy of 11: Dance Co.

Planet Earf — A Video Series
11: Dance Co, artistic director Bb DeLano
3 pm June 3
The Loft, 5321 SE 28th Ave.
11: Dance Co is back with a film. Their new film, Planet Earf, funded through a grant from the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), looks at familiar, everyday places and transforms them into stages as a reaction to the gentrification and privatization of previously public spaces.

A panel discussion will follow the screening, led by 11: Dance Co’s Bb DeLano along with the Planet Earf camera crew, and dancers. “If time allows, there will be a wiggle session after.”

11: Dance Co. is a Neo-Fusion dance company (a choreographic style that blends the street and classical worlds of dance) and is directed by Brittany DeLano (Bb for short).

In 2016 I interviewed DeLano and executive director Huy Pham on reimagining the dance company model, working with Emma Portner and what it looks like to challenge perception through choreography. You can read that interview here.

Upcoming Performances

June
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 9, Wakily Kúkátónón Showcase, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, Special guest performances by Habiba Addo, Habib Iddrisu, and the Obo Addy Legacy Project
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow, Presented by Fathom Events
June 13, Dance Forum, showcase and reception, American Dance Abroad at BodyVox
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, This Time Tomorrow-Danielle Agami, NW Dance Project
June 15-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Claire Barrera, Shaun Keylock, Sarah Brahim, and Decimus Yarbrough
June 16, Dance Film Double Feature: Standing on Gold and Moving History, hosted by Eric Nordstrom
June 22-23, Bodies of Existence/Dances of Resistance, Company Movimiento, Artistic Director- Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner, Eugene
June 22-23, Ævium: Intimacy with Disappearance, Jayne Lee, Delisa Myles, Mizu Desierto, Breanna Rogers, Ashley Fine, Sedona Ortega, and Studio M13
June 22-23, Recipe: A Reading Test (1983) and Raw Material (1985), Linda Austin
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem
June 29-July 1, Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance
June 29-30, River Daze, Dillon & Wilde + Artists

July
July 6, #INSTABALLET NO.26, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
July 11-27, [A Swatch of Lavender]: A Self Portrait, keyon gaskin
July 19-21, RELATIVES // apples & pomegranates, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August
August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September
September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag

DanceWatch Weekly: Helen Simoneau and “Closer”

Oregon Ballet Theatre ends its season at BodyVox with an intimate program, led by Helen Simoneau's "Departures"

This week Oregon Ballet Theatre closes out its 2017-2018 season with “Closer,” an intimate showing at BodyVox Dance Center of new works choreographed by OBT rehearsal director Lisa Kipp, OBT company dancers Katherine Monogue, Makino Hayashi, and Peter Franc, alongside Helen Simoneau’s Departures. Simoneau’s ballet was commissioned by OBT in 2017 as part of OBT’s Choreography XX project to discover new women choreographers in ballet. The works by OBT dancers will be accompanied by commissioned musical compositions from Grammy award-winning remix artist, Andre Allen Anjos.

Additionally, OBT artistic Director Kevin Irving will rehearse the dancers in a Nacho Duato duet, live, as a means to open up the creative process experience for audiences to see. Each night—and there are eight of them—will involve a lottery to choose which of the company dancers gets to dance in the open rehearsal that night.

Last summer I sat down with choreographer Simoneau, to learn about her work, her process, and her dance company. Included in my conversation with Simoneau were questions I had at the time about how Portland State University’s shuttering of its dance program would affect the Portland dance community, how she defines classical ballet, and where ballet is headed.

Simoneau is an independent choreographer, dancer, and teacher, who, at the time of our interview, lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and directed her own 12-member dance company. Helen Simoneau Danse had a yearly season in North Carolina and seasons every other year in New York.

Since I spoke with her last, Simoneau spent the rest of summer 2017 at the Banff Centre in Canada performing in a work by Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Chekaoui, provided choreography for a Joan Baez music video performed by New York City Ballet dancer Claire Kretzschmar, worked with LA-based company BODYTRAFFIC at The National Choreographic Center in Akron, was a Fall Fellow at the New York University Center for Ballet (where she created a new ballet on pointe for six dancers), toured her evening-length work Land Bridge with her company, created and restaged works for the students of University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Goucher College in Baltimore, and for Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. She is currently an artist-in-residence at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY, while maintaining a performing season in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Simoneau is an incredibly inspiring artist, to me, and one of the few people I know actually making a living full-time as a dance artist. Our conversation unfolds below.

Performances this week

Closer
Oregon Ballet Theatre
Choreography by Peter Franc, Makino Hayashi, Lisa Kipp, Katherine Monogue, and Helen Simoneau
May 23-June 3
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Avenue

The Portland Tap Dance Festival Faculty Showcase
8 pm May 27
St. Mary’s Academy 1615 SW 5th Ave.
The Portland Tap Dance Festival, founded in 2015 by Pamela Allen, Erin Lee, and Kelsey Leonard, will feature classes and a performance by faculty members and leading names in tap from Portland and beyond. The faculty—Sarah Reich, Melinda Sullivan, Jason Janas and his company Co.MMiT, Bril Barrett, Elizabeth Burke, Jessie Sawyers, and Jillian Meyers will perform alongside residency student to Portland jazz musicians David Goldblatt on piano, Adam Kessler on drums, and trumpeter Farnell Newton.

Interview with Helen Simoneau

Choreographer Helen Simoneau. Photo by Todd Turner.

Can you describe the first day audition/rehearsal, and how did you pick dancers out of that scenario?

The first day for me started during the audition. I came in like I usually do. These are things I like to do coming into a new process, especially with new dancers. Just go to the different steps of the process that I find have always worked for me. And one is to come in and have a phrase that I have already developed in my own body and to teach it and teach it with as much specificity as possible to see which dancers are able to capture those details. And in this case, I was definitely looking for fluidity in the movement and an ease of going into plie and a dancer who pays attention to the transitions.

I talk a lot about not showing the seams, and that is the dancer’s job, to smooth out that seam. So I look for that. And then I gave them a task of pairing up with someone and making a complementary phrase.

So the first phrase we called the “root phrase.” And that is the root phrase because all the material for the piece will come from that phrase, that’s our starting point. That allows there to be a sense of continuity and a sense of one source. So they paired up and one person was doing the root phrase and the other person is creating new movement that complements, somehow decorates, or accentuates that phrase. But it’s not unison. We worked on that for a while and that developed a whole set of material. And then we did the post-it notes you saw. [There were six pink post-it notes that had different body parts written on each one].

We had the post-it notes on the wall, and they each wrote different body parts on them and then they connected those body parts, and then we created material in between those connection points. How specific those connection points are is no longer important at a certain point; it just becomes about the movement. It just gives us a more specific task so that we are not regurgitating things that are familiar in our bodies. […] A task like that also allows both partners to be more equally engaged in the task.There’s not one person who’s going to dictate how it goes.

Helen Simoneau’s notebook that she is using to chronicle the making of her new work, as part of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Choreography XX commission. Simoneau creates a new notebook for every project. This helps her keep a record of the choreography and her ideas, translate the ephemeral nature of dance to the stage, and remind her of the behind-the-scenes work involved. Photo by Yi Yin.

What is the name of this piece?

I’m thinking of calling it “Departures.”

What is the music?

The music is by David Schulman. He’s based in D.C., and the second track you heard is a piece he already created. It’s funny—the title of the piece is called “Acts of Arrival” (Helen is laughing), but I’m thinking of calling the piece “Departures.”

Part B was already created. I heard it through one of my friends who had used a section of it for a work she was making. I loved the structure of it and also that there are spaces in it that have a lot of leeway. There are moments that are very counted and have a very clear flavor, and then also a lot of openness. I spoke with him about creating another section that would match, that would complement. I was thinking the piece would be about 15 minutes. So he created the first track you heard, especially for this process.

How long is the piece?

I think it’s going to be 14 minutes, exactly? [Laughter]

Is it all going the way you envisioned it? Is it OK if it doesn’t get finished in the way you imagined?

I think I didn’t have such a strict idea of how it would go. I find it really difficult to decide ahead of time when I don’t know the dancers, because they are such a big part of inspiring the piece. And so even though I knew what the root phrase would be, generally what the material would look like, had the music already, and a sense of the energetic flow of the piece, I really didn’t decide much more than that because I wanted to leave it open for them.

OBT dancer Xuan Cheng in Helen Simoneau’s Departures. Photo by Yi Yin.

How does the dancer dictate what you do?

I think it’s more that they inspire what I do. The way that a dancer might choose to interpret the phrase work first of all, can inspire. So, I can see a lot of different people do the same material and just be like, “No, no, see how this person’s doing this? That’s interesting to me.” And I didn’t know that was interesting ahead of time. […]

I find that the dancers who are less precious are the ones I am drawn to, and then I start making for them, or in conversation with them. […]

I enjoy a process where the dancers feel comfortable enough to try something that they’re not 100% sure is going to work out. Then we’re all in the same space of not knowing, not having an answer all the time.

I’ve been in some processes where people at this stage of the process doubt that I know what I’m doing, because I’m not 100 percent [sure] on what I want. I don’t know what I want sometimes until I see it. In this process, that has not been the case. I feel like they are comfortable with that. […]

I like to leave a certain ambiguity sometimes, because that’s when the happy accidents happen, and that’s where dancers will make a choice where they thought I meant something else, but maybe what they do is more interesting than if I had decided ahead of time. The confusion can lead to some really great discoveries.

How did you develop as a choreographer and how did you develop your choreographic skills?

By doing it over and over.

I think early on, I realized in my training, that choreography was a stronger suit for me than maybe even dancing for other people, and also where I found myself to be most fulfilled. And so I focused on that really early on. It was prominent in my training at NCSA (North Carolina School of the Arts) when I was doing my BFA there in dance. But then when I graduated, I started right away to choreograph. I was living in Montreal at the time and dancing for another choreographer, but also making my work in my down time.

That practice of making never stopped. I always continued. I always would finish a piece and then as that piece was being performed here and there I would already start something else. There were certainly moments in my life where there was less happening, but I always had that practice consistently of making. And within that developed some of my own methods that I can rely on. I’m always trying to find new ways of building new material so that I’m not making the same dance over and over.

Are you a modern dancer, or are you a ballet dancer. How do you fit into his whole scheme?

That’s a tough question. I think I’m just a dancer. I definitely have more experience in the contemporary.

If I had to pick one or the other, I would say I am more of a modern dancer, especially my experience as a performer is as a modern dancer. I did not perform for a ballet company, but I trained in ballet almost as much as I trained in modern in terms of the conservatory where I was.

That’s all in my body and in my experience. I don’t feel the need to pick one or the other, I enjoy both. Where I did my training at NCSA there were two majors, like a lot of places, and I had friends in both and we would choreograph on each other and it didn’t really matter what your major was. So for me as a maker, both are exciting. Both offer something different and some overlap, and both have a specificity that is unique. Like in this case working with these dancers, who are really capable working on pointe, I don’t get to do that all the time, and it’s an additional skill set that I’m enjoying having access to.

Helen Simoneau’s Departures. Photo by Yi Yin.

I’m trying to figure out what ballet is. It seems like ballet can only go so far and then they have to look and see what the contemporary dance world is doing.

I think that there is a sense of tradition in ballet that is really wonderful and joyful, and I can also see how it could limit choreographically what you think you are allowed to do, or can go into. And I have to say that being here, Kevin [Irving] has not restricted us in any way. It was really up to us whether I wanted to do pointe work or not, how many dancers, if it was an even number of men and women. None of that was prescribed. He made it very clear from the beginning that he trusts us, based on our experience already and what he’s seen, to make the right choice.

And that’s wonderful to have that trust. The dancers are the same way. They are very open and willing to try anything. I definitely can tell what my movement choices are: there certainly is a modern dance influence, and I don’t really care, I don’t worry about that. I haven’t yet watched the piece and said, “Is this ballet or is this modern?” It hasn’t occurred to me to contain it.

I think that line is getting more and more blurred. I think dancers that are training now have to be well versed in all of it, I think more so than ever. If you’re dancing in a ballet company you are going to be doing a lot of contemporary work, and you may be dancing in bare feet, at some point. And you have to be comfortable with that.

OBT dancers Hannah Davis and Kimberly Nobriga performing in Helen Simoneau’s Departures. Photo by Yi Yin.

Because Portland State University just axed its dance program, I am curious to know how having universities that have dance programs in your area influences what you do. How do they feed into what you do?

For us the relationship with NCSA is crucial. I could probably find another dance department, but I don’t know if I could find that quality of studio space. But It’s more than studio space, the relationship with that school is one that is mutually beneficial. […]

Since 2004 I’ve been teaching as an adjunct faculty member and more recently I do a lot more guest choreographer spots. I’ve been doing something with them almost every single year. I really care about that program, I care about those students. We’ve offered a lot of apprenticeships to graduating students from that program, because I get to know them when I set works on them.

There is a gap there because the program is not in New York or a major city. Those students don’t have access to professional dancers regularly. We have an open door policy so when we rehearse, any student can come and watch, and see the process. And it is a different process. If you’re working with a seasoned 32-year-old performer it’s a different process than a 20-year-old. And I think that’s been helpful.

For us, the (company) dancers get to take class, any class they want from these amazing faculty members. But they dance alongside the students, and what that does, especially for the graduating students, is it just pulls them up a little bit more when they are having senioritis—if they can go across the floor with one of our company members, it just really pulls them up. It also introduces them to people who are currently in the field and who are just a little bit older than them. There’s been a lot of networking or asking questions.

Often we will have an informal pow-wow and talk about life after graduation, and realizing how much pressure those seniors have and how stressed out and anxious they are about entering the professional market. Sometimes having a conversation with someone who is three years further in, is really helpful.

Upcoming Performances

June
June 1, #INSTABALLET NO.25, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
June 1-2, J (()) Y by Leralee Whittle and a work-in-progresss by Mizu Desierto
June 2, Passages-The Journey of Our Ancestors, presented by the Tamburitzans
June 2-3, DanceAbility, Mexica Tiahui, and Aerial Muse Collective, Hosted by Wilsonville Festival of Arts
June 3, Shobana’s Trance, presented by Rasika
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 9, Wakily Kúkátónón Showcase, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, Special guest performances by Habiba Addo, Habib Iddrisu, and the Obo Addy Legacy Project
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, This Time Tomorrow-Danielle Agami, NW Dance Project
June 15-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 16, Dance Film Double Feature: Standing on Gold and Moving History, hosted by Eric Nordstrom
June 22-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest at the Faired-Haired Dumbbell Building
June 22-23, Recipe: A Reading Test (1983) and Raw Material (1985), Linda Austin
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem
June 29-July 1, Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance

July
July 6, #INSTABALLET NO.26, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
July 19-21, RELATIVES // apples & pomegranates, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August
August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September
September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag

DanceWatch Weekly: Amy Leona Havin’s ‘Crane’ and other migrations

In a busy mid-May dance week, Amy Leona Havin talks about her choreography, cranes and other matters

“Why did you decide to choreograph Crane in the round?” I asked choreographer Amy Leona Havin on Monday morning over coffee, after watching a run-through of her work.

“I was tired of feeling like I had to work back and forth and frontally,” Havin answered. “I wanted to do something that had more depth, and when I found that theater [Shaking the Tree Theatre], I was like ‘this is perfect, I can set up the space however I want’…If someone comes and sees the show four times, it will be a completely different experience each time.” It was also the perfect space to create the intimacy she wanted the audience to feel, she said, and was also supportive of the circular motifs that are a central theme in the dance.

If you haven’t met Havin yet, she’s a 27-year old, Portland-based, Israeli-born choreographer, filmmaker, and artistic director of The Holding Project. I first interviewed Havin in 2016 when she made HAVA | חוה, a work that combined film and live movement, and wrote about her again when she and her company performed Lines of Pull as part of a four-month residency at Disjecta. This is Havin’s third major work since moving to Portland in 2013.

The Work

Crane, performed by eight beautifully skilled contemporary dancers in the middle of a large circle of 50 chairs, runs for an hour and fifteen minutes and is a “kaleidoscope of natural imagery, forming an intimate and ambient stage atmosphere from which the dancers do not exit.”

The Research

“A lot of things came into play. I put them all together, and I said this is what we’ll try. Play is the key word…”

First came the cranes, actually geese and cranes, but cranes won out in the end.

In her research, Havin discovered that Common Cranes stops over in the Hula Valley in Israel on their migratory flight from Europe to Africa. This connected with Havin, whose work is deeply rooted in her Israeli culture and heritage. She also discovered that the largest number of migratory birds come to rest in the Hula Valley, that cranes mate for life, that female cranes care for their babies during flight, and that if a crane gets lost, the rest of the flock will wait for it and then look for it until it’s found. Cranes work as a pack. There is a lot of camaraderie and community, and some research says that female cranes dictate the speed at which their flock goes because of the young cranes that are flying along.

Dancers of The Holding Project in Crane. Photo by Jess Garten.

Imagery

“The imagery came to me first. We were playing with velvet, furs, the ‘90’s classic pointed toe shoes. I had these angry, slicked down, vogue, supermodel images in mind. This pissed off, ultra femininity…almost unapologetic without yelling at you. In your face…they are clearly upset…”

“I looked back at all these photographs of supermodels from the ‘90’s, and I started drawing the imagery and attitude from there. During that same time I started researching the migration patterns of cranes. So it’s both of those things that came together. I tried to give it a lot of room and it’s grown into this.”

Havin also collected information from conversations she had with her dancers on what their experiences have been like so far as women, how they relate to other women, and what they identify as feminine.

The Circular Motif

“I think flying is circular, nesting is very circular, grouping is circular…all imagery that came to me was very rounded.”

Words that came to mind when I watched the dance, not in order of importance

Ritual
Myth
Matriarchy
Women
Femininity
Feminism
Empowerment
Collection
Communal
Sensual
Sisterly solidarity
Egalitarian

The Music

“All of the music I used is Jewish Yemenite music or Hebrew or Israeli music. I have used one of the oldest Hebrew love poems. It’s all coming from the music that is familiar to me that I grew up with. I find that music is very sensual: I can’t help but want to dance. I want to undulate to that sound, and I also find it’s very strong, its drums, its vocalization. And it’s very loud and drastic, and it’s sexy and that’s why I wanted to use it. It feels like home to me. When I hear Hebrew it’s comforting.

“I also know that most of my audience won’t understand Hebrew. So, if I have lyrics in my work they won’t be distracting to people, and if there are people who understand Hebrew who come to my show, then it will inform the work. Yeah, it felt right. I wanted to mix it with more electronic metronome and downbeat so it wasn’t a completely Middle Eastern soundscape and did have some of that current American electronic beat. It just felt right.”

The Plant Life

Havin uses a variety of dried and fresh cut plants and flowers as a way to add a texture and fill the performance space.

“It came from nest building. I wanted to have this idea that we are building this nest. We’re surrounded by the greenery and the plant life. We’re using this, and gathering this as building material. But we are also women; we also have this idea of women with flowers in their hair, and little girls in floral dresses, and weddings with bouquets, and processions. I felt like it had a dual identity and I was interested in playing with that.”

“I feel a sense of home and comfort and care and happiness in nature. It’s this youthful feeling. It reminds me of my childhood. It reminds me of my mother. I love flowers, plants and foliage. I wanted something soft that I had a desire to cradle, and I find that baby’s breath is something like that for me. It’s a plant life that I want to hold and cover myself in. But it’s also so tiny, and the flowers are so detailed that there is so much to focus in on for me to explore.”

Dancers of The Holding Project in Crane. Photo by Jess Garten.

Why do you need a dramaturg?

Havin’s dramaturg is Rachel Levens, whom she met in college at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Levens now lives and works in New York.

What does a dramaturg do? According to Clare Croft in an article on dramaturgs for Dance Magazine, “The primary job is to support the choreographer and creative team by helping them do research, like tracking down historic or visual material, documenting the rehearsal process and weighing in on creative choices.”

“She[Levens] looks at it from the outside and pulls a narrative that is already emerging and then meshes it with the research so that it’s one, so that it’s not just two separate sections.”

“I created the skeleton of the work and gave her my basic research on the birds, and she would give me back different verbs, different actions, different relationship possibilities. She would take what we were doing and connect it to the research to create a narrative. She would ask me a lot of questions about why my dancers were interacting with each other, why does so and so meet up…She was pretty much my outside eye. She helped me with my research and connecting my research to us as women in 2018.”

The Philosophy

“I feel like if it’s too choreographed, if it’s too concrete, if it’s too clean, some of the chance gets lost. I want there to be a lot of chance involved.”

“I want to give credit to my audience, in that I want people to sit there and think about it and decide for themselves. I want there to be room. I think that’s why I never work with a concrete narrative because I want there to be room for someone else to put their own experiences onto it. Because that’s what I find enjoyable in seeing art. And if I see something that holds my hand or tells me what it’s about, sometimes I lose the opportunity to involve myself in what’s happening.”

Since working on this piece, Havin noted that it has changed her life. “At this point it’s been 14 months so I don’t really know who I am without this work right now. I find myself looking up at the sky more often. I think I have a deeper appreciation for birds… for trees and bushes…”

“The more I make work the more I accept in a positive way that I don’t know anything. I don’t know anything, I don’t need to know anything, I just need to be able to absorb, and to feel, and to explore, right? Because If we think we know everything and the choreography is this known entity and we’re just placing it on top of people, then you might as well make a vase. Why are you making dance? So for me, not knowing isn’t a hindrance, and because of that, I’m willing to try different approaches that aren’t necessarily natural to me.”

Crane, created by Amy Leona Havin in collaboration with company members Lyndsey Gray Parsons, Heather Hindes, Jillian Hobbs, Briley Jozwiak, Lena Traenkenschuh, Carly Nicole Ostergaard, and Catherine ‘Caty’ Raupp, opens Thursday May 17 and runs through May 20 at Shaking the Tree Theatre in South East Portland. The projection mapping is by Joseph Wells and video by Tomás Alfredo Valladares.

Performances this week

BodyVox dancer Jillian St. Germain in Rain & Roses. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

Rain & Roses
BodyVox
May 17-19
The North Warehouse, 723 North Tillamook Street, Portland OR 97227
Set in an expansive and atmospheric North Portland Warehouse, BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, along with choreographers and company members Alicia Cutaia, Jeff George, and Daniel Kirk celebrate the end of their 20th season with Rain & Roses; a collage of dance and live music that explores the evolution of human character.

Dance writer Elizabeth Whelan previewed Rain & Roses for Oregon ArtsWatch and gives five reasons here why you might want to see the show.

Portland dancer Marko Bome aka Skoolie B will be speaking as part of Cypher Culture Conference 2018. Photo courtesy of Decimus Yarbrough.

Cypher Culture Conference 2018
Hosted by Decimus Yarbrough and Michael Galen
May 17-20
Held in various locations throughout Portland, check website for details

Over four days and four nights, Oregon’s inaugural Cypher Culture Conference will collaboratively create space to unify and strengthen the Pacific Northwest urban dance community through discussion panels, parties, battles, and workshops. Check the Facebook schedule for full conference details and event locations.

Crane dancers Amy Leona Havin, Heather Hindes, Catherine ‘Caty’ Raupp, and Lena Traenkenschuh. Photo by Jess Garten.

CRANE
The Holding Project, directed by Amy Leona Havin
May 17-20
Shaking The Tree Theatre, 823 SE Grant Street
There will be a post-performance Q&A on May 18 with choreographer Amy Leona Havin
See above.

Dancer/choreographer/artistic director of Ate9, Danielle Agami. Photo courtesy of Danielle Agami.

Framed
A solo show created and performed by Danielle Agami/Ate9 Dance Company
May 18-19
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Avenue
The performances will be followed by a brief Q & A with Agami
Framed is an intimate solo look into womanhood as experienced and understood by Israeli choreographer and former Batsheva Dance Company dancer, and artistic director of Ate9 Dance Company, Danielle Agami. The experience of growing up in Israel, strong women role models, her mother, fragility, and a ceaseless drive for perfection, set the tone for this solo.

“In this solo performance,” Agami says in her press release that she “unravels her experience as a woman as she hosts groups of curious, expecting audience members. She wonders about the mission of hosting an audience, asking herself, what is expected for me to provide? Will dance be enough? Am I enough?”

After dancing for Batsheva Dance Company in Israel for eight years, Agami moved to New York and served as senior manager of Gaga U.S.A. (Gaga is the movement practiced developed by Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin.) In 2012, she relocated to Seattle where she founded her dance company Ate9, relocating the following year to Los Angeles. Agami was one of Dance Magazine’s Top 25 to watch in 2015, and was recognized with the Princess Grace Award for Choreography in 2016.

Durante Lambert and LYFE Dance Company. Photo courtesy of Durante Lambert.

The “B” Project
Durante Lambert and LYFE Dance Company
9 pm May 18
Paris Theatre, 6 SW 3rd Avenue
LYFE Dance Company, directed by Portland hip-hop choreographer Durante Lambert, will present The “B” Project, a full-length dance experience inspired by musical artist Beyonce. Lambert was a principal dancer for the Northwest Afrikan American Ballet and danced for the WNBA Portland Fire Jam Squad and the Portland Trail Blazers Hip Hop Squad.

OBT dancer Xuan Cheng in Helen Simoneau’s Departures. Photo by Yi Yin.

Closer
Oregon Ballet Theatre
Choreography by Peter Franc, Makino Hayashi, Katherine Monogue, and Helen Simoneau
May 23-June 3
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Avenue
Oregon Ballet Theatre closes out its 2017-2018 season with an intimate showing at BodyVox Dance Center of new works created by company dancers Katherine Monogue, Makino Hayashi, and Peter Franc, alongside Helen Simoneau’s Departures—a work commissioned by OBT in 2017 as part of OBT’s Choreography XX project. Additionally, OBT artistic Director Kevin Irving will rehearse the dancers for a new project, live, as a means to open up the creative process experience for audiences to see.

Upcoming Performances

May
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by Peter Franc, Makino Hayashi, Katherine Monogue, and Helen Simoneau
May 25-28, Portland Tap Festival, produced by the Portland Tap Alliance

June
June 1, #INSTABALLET NO.25, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
June 1-2, J (()) Y by Leralee Whittle and a work-in-progresss by Mizu Desierto
June 2, Passages-The Journey of Our Ancestors, presented by the Tamburitzans
June 3, Shobana’s Trance, presented by Rasika
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, This Time Tomorrow-Danielle Agami, NW Dance Project
June 15-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 16, Dance Film Double Feature: Standing on Gold and Moving History, hosted by Eric Nordstrom
June 22-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest at the Faired-Haired Dumbbell Building
June 22-23, Recipe: A Reading Test (1983) and Raw Material (1985), Linda Austin
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem
June 29-July 1, Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance

July
July 6, #INSTABALLET NO.26, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
July 19-21, RELATIVES // apples & pomegranates, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August
August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September
September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag

DanceWatch Weekly: The sun is out, let’s dance

The week in dance includes BodyVox, Ballet Hispanico, Imago, OBT2, PDX Contemporary Ballet and Rainbow Dance Theatre

The sun, the sun, I’m in love with the sun. Its warmth, its brightness and the immediate joy it brings me and hopefully you, too. Don’t you think everything looks different when the sun comes out?

I’ve forgotten about my body under the layers and layers of thick dark fabrics these winter months and especially my skin. I forgot that my skin senses too, and when it’s covered up for so long, I feel like I am suffocating. I want to focus on this tending to the body and its senses this week. Awakening our senses to more fully take in the experience of watching dance is where we’re at.

So, in addition to seeing all of the wonderful dance on my itinerary below, I’m going to move my body, too. Go for a walk, run, cycle, swim, or take one of Heather Wisner’s recommended dance classes from her National Dance Week diary. Get moving. But rest too and feed myself—I’m thinking delicious food, wine, and sweet sweets—and then go see dance. It will be that much better.

Performances this week

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Rainbow Dance Theatre. Photo courtesy of Rainbow Dance Theatre.

Western Oregon University Spring Dance Concert
Featuring work by Rainbow Dance Theatre, faculty members Amy McDonnell, Cynthia Garner and Darryl Thomas and students Alaina Meyers, Andrew De La Paz, Caitlin Rose, Tunya Dhevahpalin and alumnus Kristie Martinez
May 10-12
Western Oregon University, Rice Auditorium 101, 345 Monmouth Ave., Monmouth

The Garden of Earthly Delights, a new work by Rainbow Dance Theatre’s artistic directors Valerie Bergman and Darryl Thomas, explores the 16th century triptych painting of the same name by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. The work, reveals the unexpected through a close examination of the three-panel painting that depicts the Bosch’s version of the Garden of Eden, hedonistic abandon, and Judgment Day.

“Our dance explores questions such as whether we’ve forever lost the state of grace depicted by the Garden of Eden,” explained Bergman in the press release. “Can we balance an attraction to the bizarre with a grounded life? Will we stand by silently as our world descends into a kind of hell, rather than spend our days actively reaching for peace?”

The Garden of Earthly Delights is one of many works being presented by faculty, students, and alumni as part of Western Oregon University’s annual Spring Dance Concert.

BodyVox dancer Jillian St. Germain in Rain & Roses. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

Rain & Roses (world premiere)
BodyVox
May 10-19
The North Warehouse, 723 North Tillamook Street, Portland OR 97227
Set in an expansive and atmospheric North Portland Warehouse, BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, along with choreographers and company members Alicia Cutaia, Jeff George, and Daniel Kirk celebrate the end of their 20th season with Rain & Roses; a collage of dance and live music that explores the evolution of human character.

Dance writer Elizabeth Whelan previewed Rain & Roses for Oregon ArtsWatch and gives five reasons why you might want to see the show here.

PDX Contemporary dancer Sari Hoke. Photo by Stephen Jennings.

Compose
PDX Contemporary Ballet and Northwest Piano Trio
May 11-13
New Expressive Works (N.E.W.), 810 SE Belmont
PDX Contemporary Ballet (PDXCB) under the director of choreographer Briley Neugebauer will present two ballets in collaboration with Northwest Piano Trio.

The first is Lara, a newly commissioned score by grammy-nominated musician, singer, and composer Clarice Assad with choreography by Neugebauer inspired by the legend of a great Amazonian warrior known known as Mãe das Águas (“Mother of the Waters”). Her brothers, jealous that she was a better warrior than they, tried to kill her, but she kills them instead. Her father, unaware that she acted in self-defense, tries to kill her as well and throws her into the river where she is transformed into a half-human, half-fish, instead of dying. Neugebauer’s choreography for Lara reflects the mood of the music and touches on the duality and symbolism of Lara’s fate.

The second dance, Swing Shift, is an up-beat, Balanchine-inspired work by Neugebauer, to the musical composition Swing Shift by Portland’s Kenji Bunch. The dance and music are inspired by the New York City nightlife and begins as the workers anticipate 5 o’clock.

The program also includes Frolic, a composition by Oregon composer Zach Gulaboff, to be performed solely by Northwest Piano Trio.

Ballet Fantastique’s Alice in Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Ballet Fantastique.

 

Alice in Wonderland (World Premiere)
Ballet Fantastique and High Step Society
May 11-13
Hult Center, Soreng Theater, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
With brand new choreography by Donna and Hannah Bontrager and live electro-swing music by High Step Society, Ballet Fantastique takes us on Alice’s journey through wonderland crossing genres and and expectations with a steampunk twist.

To Fly Again by Imago’s Jerry Mouawad.

To Fly Again
Imago, Jerry Mouawad
May 11-12
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8TH AVE (At East Burnside)
ArtsWatch’s Bob Hicks reviewed  To Fly Again and says that “Mouawad’s own description, from the show’s press release, perhaps explains the simple mystery of the thing as well as it can be explained: “A zany group of clown musicians and a clan of clay-tossed dancers roam a barren land … The clowns’ thoughts arise and pass like clouds, the dating game appears out of nowhere in clashes of absurdity, while joy and pathos skim their nonsensical wordplay as the clowns search for a suitable place to make camp. Psychedelic and existential humor pervades; the clowns are constantly interrupted by a clan of dusty dancers who live in a world beyond speech. Tater, the most vulnerable of the clowns, yearns to fly again. Questions open up to further questioning, and talk of sadness is eclipsed by looking at the stars.”

California Flamenco dance Erika Lopez performing as part of Feria de Portland 2018.

Feria de Portland 2018
Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
5 pm May 12
AudioCinema, 226 SE Madison Street
From 5 pm to midnight, on Saturday, at the AudioCinema under the east side of the Hawthorne Bridge, under the warm glow of string lights and fragrant flowers, you can experience the pulse and heat of flamenco music and dance, and the flavors of Spanish food.

In this transportation of the sense, Feria de Portland will carry you all the way to Seville, Spain, while celebrating Oregon’s own Flamenco community with performances by Espacio Flamenco Portland, Oleaje Flamenco, Flamenco Pacifico, Flamenco Chico, and the following schools, Espacio Flamenco Portland, Portland Flamenco Events, 3shine Flamenco and Escuela Flamenca Elena Villa.

Flamenco, an improvisational form of dance, is a folkloric tradition that combines song, dance, instrumentals (guitar mostly), hand clapping and finger snapping. This art form is an amalgamation of centuries of cross-pollination between the many cultures that have existed in Spain.

OBT2 performing in the Antoinette Hatfield Hall rotunda. Photo courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Noontime Showcase: OBT2
Presented by Portland’5
12 pm May 14
Antoinette Hatfield Hall rotunda, 1111 SW Broadway Ave.
FREE
As part of Portland’5 Centers initiative to make the performing arts accessible to everyone, the centers offer free noontime showcases by different performing arts groups from around Portland. As part of this program the pre-professional dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre 2, Oregon Ballet Theatre’s training program, directed by Lisa Sundstrom, will perform Walpurgisnacht by George Balanchine, Na Floresta by Nacho Duato, Carnival of Venice Pas de Deux by Lisa Sundstrom after Marius Petipa, Clair de Lune (excerpt from Beasts) by Nicolo Fonte, and a new work by Jacob Williams.

Línea Recta by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa performed by Ballet Hispanico. Photo by Paula Lobo

Ballet Hispȧnico
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Michelle Manzanales, and Tania Pérez-Salas
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm May 16
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
Concluding White Bird’s 20th season of presenting dance in Portland, will be a single performance by New York’s Ballet Hispanico founded in 1970 by Tina Ramirez now directed by Eduardo Vilaro. The program includes works by three Latina choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Michelle Manzanales, and Tania Péres-Salas.

Línea Recta (2016) by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa explores a hybridization of flamenco, communication between the sexes, and the conspicuous absence of physical contact between dancers in flamenco to be performed to an original guitar composition by Eric Vaarzon Morel.

Con Brazos Abiertos (2017) by Michelle Manzanales is a humorous look at a life caught between two cultures that intertwines folkloric details with contemporary voices like Julio Iglesias and Spanish rock.

3. Catorce Dieciséis (2002) by Tania Pérez-Salas is set to Baroque music by various composers and draws inspiration from the number π (Pi) reflecting on the circular nature of life.

Upcoming Performances

May
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 17-20, Cypher Culture Conference 2018, hosted by Decimus Yarbrough and Michael Galen
May 17-20, CRANE, The Holding Project, directed by Amy Leona Havin
May 18-19, Framed, Danielle Agami
May 18, The “B” Project, Durante Lambert and LYFE Dance Company
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre
May 25-28, Portland Tap Festival, produced by the Portland Tap Alliance

June
June 1, #INSTABALLET NO.25, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
June 1-2, J (()) Y by Leralee Whittle and a work-in-progresss by Mizu Desierto
June 2, Passages-The Journey of Our Ancestors, presented by the Tamburitzans
June 3, Shobana’s Trance, presented by Rasika
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, This Time Tomorrow-Danielle Agami, NW Dance Project
June 15-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 16, Dance Film Double Feature: Standing on Gold and Moving History, hosted by Eric Nordstrom
June 22-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest at the Faired-Haired Dumbbell Building
June 22-23, Recipe: A Reading Test (1983) and Raw Material (1985), Linda Austin
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem
June 29-July 1, Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance

July
July 6, #INSTABALLET NO.26, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
July 19-21, RELATIVES // apples & pomegranates, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August
August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September
September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag

DanceWatch Weekly: Nancy Davis and Portland Ballet

The artistic director of The Portland Ballet talks about the winding road that led to this weekend's concert

I’ve been trying to write DanceWatch for about five days now without much success, until now of course. I seem to function best under great pressure, kind of like how a diamond is made. Take Jamuna, apply an intense amount of heat, and pressure, and voilà DanceWatch is written! A kind of stressful and undesirable scenario to create under but sometimes unavoidable. You see, I am mostly a full-time, stay-at-home mom, but, also a dancer, choreographer, and dance writer, and sometimes everyone’s else’s needs take over and I can’t quite find the time to sit down and write.

This week’s disastrous attempt to write (I’m exaggerating a bit for theatrical effect) was partly due to post-performance fatigue (I performed with Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre this past weekend, which Elizabeth Whelan reviewed for ArtsWatch), a traveling husband situation that turns me into a single parent for a few days, and a myriad of other crazy events that included an emergency trip to the vet, calls from my son’s principal, the cats, the stuff, the whatever. Right now, as I write this, my 55-pound boxer/lab puppy is standing on my chest panting in my face demanding to be scratched and walked. It’s a circus, and I love it. It’s because THIS is my life that I’m always curious as to how other dancer/teacher/choreographer parents “do it” and stay artistically focused.

I recently became friends with Portland Ballet’s artistic director Nancy Davis on Facebook, and suddenly I was seeing gorgeous photos and videos of Davis as a young dancer in my news feed. Then I saw a photo of her beautiful daughter Lauren Lane on a poster for St. Louis Ballet, and I realized that I didn’t know Nancy Davis at all, and I definitely didn’t know she had a daughter who had also grown up to become a professional dancer.

I only know Davis as I see her now, as the artistic director and founder of The Portland Ballet academy. But how did she get here, what influenced her artistically, and how did she manage to raise a child in the midst of it all, I wanted to know. So, in between her rehearsals for Portland Ballet’s upcoming show Current/Classic, which opens May 4-5 at Lincoln Hall, and my performances, we got a chance to speak on the phone.

The Portland Ballet studio dress rehearsal of Us by Josie Moseley. Photo courtesy of The Portland Ballet.

Davis, who is from California, began her ballet training with one of Los Angeles’s most flamboyant characters, Madame Etienne. Madame Etienne was born in Greece but raised in Paris. Kathryn Charisse was her given name, and she ran a studio called the Hollywood Dance Studio that catered to movie stars. She was the one time sister-in-law of dancer-actress Cyd Charisse, toured the vaudeville circuit with her parents and her ten siblings as a child, and always dressed in a flamboyant outfits. She frequently wore a tiara and full makeup, according to accounts on a blog called lastcappuccino.com.

Continues…