Dance Weekly: Dance through the sorrow

Risk/Reward opens, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre gives a Ted Talk and more

This has been a horribly sad week. Another mass shooting has occurred, and this one has hit the LGBT community hard—a community that is integral to the dance community worldwide. Without the contributions of LGBT dancers and choreographers throughout history, I really don’t know what dance would look like today. This shooting makes me think about the AIDS epidemic and how it destroyed a whole generation of artists, artists we will never know and whose impact on the world we will never see. There are now 49 more people that we will never know.

Emmaly Wiederholt who has a blog called Stance on Dance wrote in response to the Orlando shooting a piece called On Guns and Dance. In it she says, “The fact that the victims of this horrible shooting were dancing, in essence trusting one another to be uninhibited in what they assumed was a safe space, makes this shooting all the uglier. I consider it one of the most egregious breaches of morality to strike violence when people collectively have their guard down. They were dancing, drinking and flirting, for goodness sake. They were cavorting on a Saturday night during Pride month when the LGBTQ community has much to be proud of and celebrate.”

So in response, I say, let’s dance. Let’s dance in solidarity with the LGBT community and the victims and survivors of the Orlando shooting. Let’s dance as a political act against the oppressive forces of the world. Let’s dance to process our collective grief and to feel joy and ecstasy. Let’s dance for love and because we can. Let’s dance.


Northwest Dance Project: Dances with wolves

Northwest Dance Project's Summer Splendors features a wolf and a Woolf and some fine dancing

This weekend, Northwest Dance Project adds three world premieres to its already impressive list of debut performances. Summer Splendors is a set of three new works that look to tap into some of the wild energy that arrives with the warm weather in the bipolar seasons of the Pacific Northwest. The show opens with We Were Wolves by guest choreographer Carla Mann, who teaches dance at Reed and sports an extensive résumé of Portland-dance collaborations, including Imago Theatre, tEEth, and Minh Tran & Company. Next is the remarkable Woolf Papers, from NDP’s artistic director, Sarah Slipper, about a different kind of “wolf” entirely. After the second intermission, the show ends with international performer and choreographer Yin Yui’s Distant Fold.

We Were Wolves starts in the woods, with a floor-to-ceiling projection of children playing outdoors, late shifting to lush images of trees, with a breathy voiceover talking about summer memories of going wild with freedom in the outdoors. It’s by far the most summery piece of the night: the longing buzz of cicadas appeared on the soundtrack throughout the work, and it was easy to imagine the air thickening and warming again like the troubling early heatwave the city just left. The show did what it says on the tin, with dancers one after another becoming more and more lycanthropic in their movements. When they howl, they really howl. I kept imagining what it was like to practice that, and how it had to have brought at least some of the dancers to a new, wild place for a moment to find such throaty sounds.


Dance Weekly: Women make dances

New dancers, new dances, new season, fresh faces and fresh starts.

This weekend promises to explode with warmth, light, beauty, vitality, and rigorous dancing from a multitude of choreographic perspectives. And maybe a little rain mixed in just to balance it all out.

I am talking about the three world premiers by the women choreographers in NW Dance Project’s annual Summer Splendors program, and the debut of The Portland Ballet’s Studio Company, with the school’s Career Track dancers performing alongside ten TPB alumni currently dancing professionally or attending dance training programs across the country. New dancers, new dances, new season, fresh faces and fresh starts.


Dance Weekly: Time to improvise!

The Improvisation Summit of Portland 2016 will go where no dancers have gone before

Summer is upon us and that brings festivals, festivals of all kinds, but most importantly dance festivals. I am biased, I know.

Summer festivals to me feel different from the regular programming of the traditional performance season. To me they encapsulate the qualities of summer—bright, festive, free and open—and they run the gamut of experimentation and expression. It is a time to sample many ideas in one place.

Opening on Thursday night, the Improvisation Summit of Portland 2016, curated by Portland dance artist Danielle Ross, features a large swath of the Portland dance community. Since its inception in 2012, the Improvisation Summit, a subset of the Creative Music Guild, has brought together dancers, musicians, filmmakers and other experimental artists to create improvised, one-of-a-kind performances. For me there is a feeling of electricity and risk watching dance artists create movement in the moment while they are performing. There is an aliveness and a deep listening that happens in their bodies that is not always present in set choreographed movement. This year’s summit is stocked to the brim with veteran improvisers and performers who are willing to take those risks.


Amy Havin brings The Holding Project to life

The birth of a new company's first project, 'Hava,' that investigates emotional struggles and physical interactions

HAVA | חוה is a new dance piece, opening this week, that combines film and live movement. It was created by The Holding Project, a new collective of dance artists and filmmakers directed by dancer/choreographer Amy Leona Havin. Originally from Rehovot, a small city in Israel just outside of Tel Aviv, Havin moved to San Diego, California, as a teenager and later attended the Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle where she received her BFA in dance and choreography.

Havin’s early dance training in Israel was in ballet and the GaGa Movement Language with Ohad Naharin, the artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company. After following a friend to Portland, Havin fell in love with the city and its environment for nurturing new independent artists, and decided to stay. I interviewed Havin on the who, what and why of HAVA | חוה and The Holding Project via email; below is our conversation.


Allie Hankins: ‘on the verge of overflowing’

The Portland choreographer's solo dance concert is a prologue to "better to be alone than to wish you were"

Debuting this week, Now Then: A Prologue is a new work by dance artist Allie Hankins that “ponders the illogical and sordid practices of love and sex.” Now Then: A Prologue is the first part of a two-part solo called better to be alone than to wish you were, and it runs 8 pm Friday-Sunday at the Siren Theater, 315 NW Davis St. It is important to note that the entire collaborative and production team is female-identified. The costumes are by Rose Mackey, lighting design by Vanessa Janson and sculptures by Morgan Ritter and Maggie Heath.

Hankins is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she also attended college before leaving after graduation for Seattle. After immersing herself in the Seattle dance scene for five years, she moved to Portland in the summer of 2011 to work with Claudia Meza and to spend time with her long-term/long-distance partner. During that summer Hankins fell in love with city and the people and began splitting her time between the two cities until her final move to Portland in 2012.

Hankins is part of the Portland collective Physical Education with Lucy Lee Yim, Keyon Gaskin and Taka Yamamoto, who explore immersive methods of engaging with dance and performance. She has also performed recently in Portland with Tahni Holt and Suniti Dernovsek.

I interviewed Hankins via email about her new work and her life as an artist via email, and below is our conversation.


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