DANCE

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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Choreography XX: Gioconda Barbuto and Kevin Irving bring individuality to ballet

Oregon Ballet Theatre's Kevin Irving seeks to bring contemporary dance's individuality to the ballet form and so does choreographer Gioconda Barbuto

Since seeing Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake in February, I have been mulling over what exactly classical ballet is and how it fits into our thinking about both the arts and the society in which they are situated.

In ballet, in general, I am struck by the lack of diversity (specifically the lack of African-American dancers in US ballet companies), the obvious racism and stereotyping within ballet storylines (think Chinese and Arabian dances in the Nutcracker—cultural appropriation at its max), and the general patriarchal point of view of almost every classical ballet. These days we do not think that women need to saved by princes, and we don’t think they should be commodities to be traded for money and power. Moreover, within the ballet world there is a serious lack of female choreographers.

I am not alone in my line of inquiry. Last Friday I sat down and spoke with Oregon Ballet Theatre artistic director Kevin Irving who is also bothered by ballet’s incongruence with modern day culture. In fact, he altered the storyline of his Swan Lake in February to draw the audience’s attention to some of those aspects. Even more directly, he created Choreography XX, a choreography competition to discover new women ballet choreographers. The two-night concert runs at 7:30 pm Thursday and Friday at the Washington Park Amphitheatre, and admission is free.

“It’s been important to me in a lot of aspects of our programming, to represent ideas and people that are in our community, and so it [Choreography XX] was a mechanism for me to fund more diversity and more female representation,” Irving said. The competition, funded by a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation’s Creative Heights Initiative, was launched last January and received over 90 applicants from across North America. The winning choreographers were Gioconda Barbuto, Helen Simoneau, and Nicole Haskins.

Interestingly Irving’s dance background is mostly in contemporary dance, which seems to afford him a broader vision to work through these discrepancies and create a new normal for classical ballet within Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Irving also pointed out that “classical ballet is a product of a very strictly organized social hierarchy in which the czar is at the top, and everybody filters down until you have the serfs.” When he looks at classical ballets, he see’s “rows and rows of women who have no individuality, no purpose other than to be background to more important people. And that reflects the society that supported the creation of this art form, and was unquestioned for over 100 years.” Although he loves the beauty in uniformity, Irving is also interested in drawing out individuality in his ballet company.

OBT dancers Jacqueline Straughan and Martina Chavez in rehearsals for Gioconda Barbuto¹s new work for OBT¹s Choreography XX. Photo by Yi Yin.

Choreographer Gioconda Barbuto, one of the three Choreography XX choreographers, is also interested in bringing the individuality and personality of each artist into the center of her work. “Because my work is so collaborative, it cannot be made without them. So this work represents who they are individually, as individuals, but also as a group.” Barbuto said in our conversation last week under the trees outside Oregon Ballet Theatre’s dance studios overlooking the Willamette River.

Barbuto has had an impressive career. Originally from Canada, she danced with the Minnesota Dance Theatre before becoming a soloist with Les Grand Ballets Canadiens de Montréal where she danced for 16 years. After she thought she was finished performing and was starting to build momentum on a choreography career, she was invited by Jiri Kylian to join Nederlands Dans Theater III in The Hague, Holland, a group of high-caliber dancers, all over the age of 40. She toured internationally with the company for eight years until the company folded, and worked two more years after that with Kylian Productions. Gioconda is featured in two of Jiri Kylian’s award winning films, Birth-Day and Car-Men.

In 1996 she was nominated for a Kennedy Center Fellowship and was the recipient of the Clifford E. Lee choreography award. She is a recipient of several grants from the Canada Council and in 2015 received the McKnight International Choreographer Fellowship.

Gioconda’s choreography has been presented at Ballet BC, Ballet Jorgen, Banff Festival Ballet, Danse Cite, Tangente, L’Agora de la danse, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, BJM Danse Montreal, Alberta Ballet, Minnesota Dance Theater, McKnight Fellowship SOLO Commission (for Abdo Sayegh Rodriguez), Bravo FACT, CBC Canada/Films Piche Ferrari, Ballet Kelowna, The Juilliard School, Arts Umbrella Dance Company, You Dance/National Ballet of Canada, Dutch National Ballet Academy, Nederlands Dans Theater Choreographic Workshop, the National Circus School, and Portland’s Northwest Dance Project, and she has created many solos and group projects for many renowned dance artists.

OBT dancers Jacqueline Straughan and Martina Chavez in rehearsals for Gioconda Barbuto¹s new work for OBT¹s Choreography XX. Photo by Yi Yin.

When I watch her choreograph, she is electric, on fire, always moving, always showing, always describing what she wants, over and over again. She is inexhaustible. I also observed how deeply involved and invested in the process the dancers were. Trying and trying again, not afraid to make mistakes. Just going for it and going all out.

“I like to have fun in the room,” she said when I asked how she set the mood in the studio to enable the dancers to feel comfortable enough to open up and let go. “If I’m having fun, then I think the dancers are having fun. And I want to have fun, especially now, as you get older, and I want to keep learning right? So I’m not going to do that unless I allow the energy to move forward to create an environment where we’re having fun, and were exploring, and we’re allowed to make mistakes, and there’s no right way to do it.”

Watching from the outside, I can see her process unfolding and how she builds layers of movement, images, and action. “I think of it like painting or sculpting” she says. “You’re building a score, … we’re always throwing down a sketch, a layer, the first notes, the first splash of paint, and then you start the first carve. Your intention was that you were carving this way, but the wood cracks, the clay doesn’t come out the way you wanted, it cracked but you’re thinking, ‘No I’m going to stick with this, look where it took me, let me follow that.’ And then you go with that. This is what I’m hoping I give them: Go with the cracks and see where that takes you, because life’s like that.”

Barbuto’s creative process begins with her own movement vocabulary (built from her incredibly varied performing career), different improvisational tools, object drawing (a verbal technique Barbuto uses to describe the space around the dancers and give meaning and texture to their movement), and a long list of different kinds of songs on iTunes. She uses the music as a way “to magnetize, to emphasize, to get them into a beat or a groove, or a feeling.”

 

OBT dancer Emily Parker in rehearsals for Gioconda Barbuto’s new work for OBT’s Choreography XX. Photo by Yi Yin.

Referring to the dancers she says, “I want them to work from the experiences and exploration and the push and pull that happens between them, from the process. Everyone is activated by each other because they’re all connected or affected by what happens.“

Inspired by Kylian’s dance company of older dancers, I asked her how she felt about being an “older” dancer,“ which happens to be my own situation. “All of a sudden you find out there’s another level, that it’s really exciting to be an older dancer,” she says. “It’s like everything comes together and then more, and then more. You just can open up, and you can hear things, and you can feel. You understand that mistakes aren’t mistakes. You understand that the way you move has so much history in it, it’s on a cellular level. You understand that your whole body’s moving like everything’s attached, affected, connected.”

Choreography XX: Nicole Haskins stands on the merits

Nicole Haskins has made a sweeping ballet to music by Benjamin Britten for her part of Choreography XX

Choreographer Nicole Haskins may have the solution to the “where are all the women choreographers in ballet?” problem. The dance world has been discussing this question quietly over the past ten years, but the problem has gained momentum in the more mainstream media as of late.

“I think it’s great that people are asking the question, ‘Where are the women?’” Haskins said when we talked over coffee recently, “but I think that falls short of actually addressing the root problem, not even a problem, but the root reasons why there are fewer women. They’re out there. It’s not like there aren’t women out there who are choreographing, but you have to maybe look a little farther.”

That’s right! They’re out there. And three of them have been in Portland for the last four weeks creating new ballets on the amazing dancers at Oregon Ballet Theatre as part of Choreography XX, a choreography competition created by OBT artistic director Kevin Irving, to discover new women ballet choreographers. The free concert is outdoors in Washington Park, Thursday and Friday, June 29-30.

Haskins is one of the three, chosen with Helen Simoneau and Gioconda Barbuto from a pool of 91 applicants from across North America. (I interviewed Simoneau last week, and Barbuto and Irving this week.) So, yes, we may need more women choreographers, but maybe it would help if our companies employed the ones who are already doing the work.

Haskins is a ballet dancer and choreographer originally from Venice Beach, California. Her professional performing career began with Sacramento Ballet, where she danced for seven years, before going on to dance with Washington Ballet and then returning to California to dance with Smuin Ballet in San Francisco. She has been dancing with Smuin for the past four seasons.

OBT dancers Thomas Baker, Kelsie Nobriga, and Colby Parsons in rehearsals for Nicole Haskins’s new work for OBT’s Choreography XX. Photo by Yi Yin.

Haskins credits her success in choreography to the low-pressure workshops in making new work that both Sacramento Ballet and Smuin Ballet provided to the company dancers. They were free of cost and allowed her time to experiment with her craft. “It’s this idea that to be a choreographer you have to practice choreographing, and you need dancers, time and space. This is especially difficult for dancers who want to become choreographers, because, generally speaking, they cannot afford dancers, time and space .”

After choreographing 20 or so ballets through Sacramento Ballet, Haskins was accepted at the New York Choreographic Institute in 2010, where she created a new work on the advanced students at The School of American Ballet. The following year she received the institute’s Fellowship Grant to create a new work for Sacramento Ballet, and she received another fellowship grant this year to make a new ballet for Richmond Ballet. This past year Haskins was also a chosen as a choreographer at the National Choreographers Initiative in Irvine, California, a program that promotes experimentation in choreography. Choreographer Tom Gold, whom I interviewed a couple of weeks ago while he was in Portland setting a work on Portland Ballet, was there at the same time as Haskins, and Suzanne Haag, who dances with Eugene Ballet, is there this summer.

“These institutes and workshops and things where you are surrounded by other people going through the same thing as you and doing the same thing as you, are really empowering,” Haskins says. “I always try to seek them out—you can never know too many people or have to many connections.”

I asked her about how she felt about the lack of women choreographers in ballet. “A lot of women in ballet don’t work with women choreographers, so they don’t really necessarily think that they could do that, or know that there would be opportunities for them,” she said. An obvious solution to the problem right there.

“I want to believe that the lack of women choreographers in ballet especially, has a lot to do with the fact that ballet is a sexist sport.” Haskins said. “There are fewer men available, they get away with more, they’re usually the only boy in their school, they usually get scholarships to summer intensives. They are treated differently because we need them.” It’s a culture that women in ballet have accepted, even though they don’t like it.

For women in ballet she says it’s not a lack of confidence. “They have to work really hard to get that promotion. There’s a 100 other dancers waiting in the wings. They’re also in rehearsal more. If you look at classical ballets—Giselle, Act Two, say—there’s two men on stage. The rest of the men are off the whole time, and they have more free time to start choreographing.”

OBT dancers Thomas Baker, Kelsie Nobriga, and Colby Parsons in rehearsals for Nicole Haskins’s new work for OBT’s Choreography XX. Photo by Yi Yin.

For Haskins she hopes that she “can just be a choreographer, and not have to be a female choreographer. Cause I’m happy to stand there, but at some point it’s like, ‘well is it just because I was a woman and there were ten other men you liked better than me? But because you needed a women, you…’ I would like to be on my own merits as a choreographer.”

As a choreographer Haskins has created ballets to a variety of music, but she is mostly drawn to orchestral music. For her, the choreographic process begins there. “I feel like I’m drawn to music that has it’s own life and personality,” she says. “I feel like it makes my job easier, because it already has its own story, it’s its own emotional arc. I can choose to contrast that, I can chose to go with it. But in my mind, it does so much of my work for me, because it already has its own soul, and I just enhance that with movement.”

Her new ballet is set to the music of Benjamin Britten’s The Illuminations, a song cycle based on prose poems by French poet Arthur Rimbaud. “The orchestration that Benjamin Britten creates is so complex and intense, and goes through so many levels, Haskins explains. “I liked the challenge of this being nine really different tracks of music, and some of them aren’t the smoothest from one to the next, because it’s a song cycle I liked all of those elements combined.” And she pointed out that the variety within the music would be a nice adventure for the audience.

The objective that Haskins is working with is about stretching the dancers abilities, and helping them change the air around them. She is finding that she is interested in atypical aspects of ballet movement. “I tend to find that going into something and coming out of something can be just as interesting if not more interesting. I have not trained in contemporary dance very much, but I think it’s odd that those principles seem to be split in two a lot—that it’s either you’re a contemporary mover and it’s about the movement and where it’s coming from, or you’re a ballet dancer and it’s about the positions. I think that they both can help each other.”

OBT dancers Kelsie Nobriga and Colby Parsons in rehearsals for Nicole Haskins’s new work for OBT’s Choreography XX. Photo by Yi Yin.

Haskins biggest artistic influences are George Balanchine and Helen Pickett. “I really liked working with Helen Pickett because she is someone who, as a [former] dancer, is so committed to getting in the trenches with each dancer, and I feel like that’s helped inspire me, that I could give that much back to the other dancers.” Haskins worked with Pickett once at Sacramento Ballet and twice at Smuin Ballet, performing in Petal which Oregon Ballet Theatre performed this season. “She is vivacious and energetic,” Haskins says.

One of the most important things Haskins has learned over time is to be flexible and try not “to control every moment” in the choreographic process, she says. Her hours in the studio have given her confidence, tools, and experience to be able to walk into a professional ballet company like Oregon Ballet Theatre and make a new ballet in just four weeks—a pretty impressive feat.

Haskins’ ballet, which will be performed this weekend, is sweeping, grand, and architectural. It encompasses the attributes of classical ballet like the pointe shoe and the use of line, but goes beyond positions, allowing the limbs and energy to extend, limitless, into the space, creating a larger-than-life effect. But you can see for yourself this weekend at Washington Park—and see why the problem of getting more women choreographers onto our stages is an important one to resolve.

DanceWatch Weekly: Choreography XX in the park

Oregon Ballet Theatre makes for Washington Park, the last Spectacle Garden, the Improvisation Summit, more!

Over the last couple of weeks I have been a lucky, lucky fly on the wall at Oregon Ballet Theatre, watching the making of three new ballets by three, extremely talented women choreographers—Nicole Haskins, Helen Simoneau, and Gioconda Barbuto, the winners of the company’s Choreography XX competition. An initiative created by OBT artistic director Kevin Irving to discover new female ballet choreographers, Choreography XX attracted 91 applicants from across North America, and three were selected to create new ballets for the company.

Because I am curious about the direction that classical ballet is headed and how it relates to the the changing world at large, and the differences in how women lead/direct/choreograph verses men, I asked if I could sit in on the rehearsals and watch and write about it. It was an awesome experience.

Over the first three weeks I spoke with the choreographers about their artistic processes and what they thought about the dearth of women choreographers in ballet. I also sat down with OBT artistic director Kevin Irving to hear about his future vision for the company. You can read Simoneau’s interview here, Haskins interview here, and Irving and Barbuto’s interview here.

In watching rehearsals I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of limitations in what was being created and the borrowing of movement concepts from the modern dance world. I was also surprised at the amount of experimentation that was being asked of the dancers—and how open and comfortable they were with that process. I think being a part of the making process of a dance creates a different relationship between the dancer and the choreography, one that the dancers are much more invested in.

I felt that each choreographer’s way of speaking and the energy each emitted, created a different environment in the studio. That in turn created the environment within the dance. The choices around language, music, the steps, the attack, the imagery, the energy, the focus, and the costumes, are all aspects of who the choreographer is, and it is all reflected in the dance.

I noticed that each choreographer emphasized relationships within their choreography, and that the partnering models moved away from the typical male-female ballet partnering to include same-sex partnerships for both men and women. Also the expectations of what women could do physically within the partnering was altered because of the introduction of contemporary dance partnering principles, which see men and women as equals in physical ability. Seeing women lifting and supporting other women in ballet is new for me.

I also noticed a shared theme of group connection and how the whole group is affected when one person moves. At some point in each piece, the dancers gather and connect in a circular, amoeba-like group, try and move across the room together, and are affected by each other.

Watching these three pieces unfold over the last four weeks has been a completely enlivening experience and has reiterated that the road to successful choreography is about getting into the studio often, getting out of your own way, and letting “mistakes” happen.

Performances this week

OBT dancers Jacqueline Straughan and Martina Chavez in rehearsals for Gioconda Barbuto’s new work for OBT’s Choreography XX, presented June 29 ­ 30th, 2017 at the Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheater. Photo by Yi Yin.

Choreography XX
World premiers by Gioconda Barbuto, Nicole Haskins, and Helen Simoneau
Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 29-30
FREE
Washington Park Amphitheater, 410 SW Kingston Ave.
See above.
Because parking at the Washington Park Amphitheater is severely limited, TriMet is encouraging folks to take public transportation to OBT’s Choreography XX performance with this fun video featuring OBT2 dancers Erika Crawford and Daniel Salinas. Don’t forget to get there early to get a good seat.

Spectacle Garden 13: The End, hosted by Ben Martens , 7:30 pm June 30 at The Headwater Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. Image by Cullen Siewert.

Spectacle Garden 13: The End
Hosted by Ben Martens
7:30 pm June 30
The Headwater Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St.

Sadly the spectacle is coming to an end. Ben Martens, who has been curating monthly performances at the Headwaters theatre for over a year now, is calling it quits. This monthly showcase has provided a free platform to experimental performers of all kinds to “work-it-out in real time, in front of a real live audience.” As far as I know, there isn’t another regular showcase of its kind in Portland, so Spectacle Garden will be greatly missed.

Spectacle Garden 13: The End, will be your last chance to catch some of Portland’s finest experimental artists under one roof. The program includes Natasha Kotey, Benja Farber, Elzza Doll, Katherine Rose, Simeon Jacobs, Ben Martens, Patrick McCulley, Laura Blake, Draven, Inclusive Arts Vibe Dance Company, and a sci-fi/music video By Port City’s Project Grow.

As always the evening will continue into the wee hours of the morning with the musical stylings of Amenta Abioto, Phil Stevens, Tig Bitty, and Angel 11.

Martens is a poet, electronic music producer, emcee, mover, organizer and performance artist with an interest in revolution, existentialism, comedy, mindfulness and environmentalism. He studied music and performance at Naropa University and has been studying Butoh with Mizu Desierto since his arrival in Portland in January 2015.

We look forward to future manifestations of Martens combined talents. Until then…dance on.

Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks performing for a dress rehearsal at the Joyce Theater in Brian Brooks’ Some of a Thousand Words. Photo courtesy of Getty Images. Photo by Timothy A. Clary.

Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan-a film
A film starring former New York City Ballet principal dancer Wendy Whelan
June 30-July 6 daily 4:30, 8:20
Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Ave.

This film, directed by Linda Saffire and Adam Schlesinger, is an intimate, emotional portrayal of prima ballerina Wendy Whelan as she prepares to leave New York City Ballet after dancing with the company for 30 years. In an interview with Vulture magazine online, Whelan spoke with former Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer Mia Leimkuhler, about retirement, sexism, and ageism in the ballet world, and about making the choice to shoot the film: “{…} I’m at a crossroads in the company, I don’t know where I’m going to end up.” {…} I didn’t feel in control of my emotions at the time, because so many emotions were coming and going. It was scary to say how I really felt. Sadness, anger, fear, shame. Those were the big words at the time, and I was feeling those for a couple of years. To expose these feelings in front of a camera felt so foreign. Ballerinas don’t show those things. Ever. That’s just not what we’re taught to do.”

Improvisation Summit of Portland 2017. Photo of Intisar Abioto, courtesy of Danielle Ross.

Improvisation Summit of Portland 2017
Curated by Danielle Ross
Hosted by The Creative Music Guild and Disjecta
June 30-July 1
Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave.

Dance/Performance Lineup
Friday, June 30th
7 pm Andrea Kleine and Linda Austin
8:15 pm Danielle Ross, Lisa Schonberg and Heather Treadway

Saturday, July 1st
7:15 pm Carla Mann and Brandon Conway
8:15 pm Andrea Kleine’s Ships w/ Linda Austin, Catherine Egan, Taylor Eggan, Kaj Anne Pepper, Danielle Ross and Noelle Stiles
9:30 pm Amenta Abioto and Intisar Abioto

Opening Friday night, the Improvisation Summit of Portland 2017 will features select members of the Portland dance community in improvised pairings, curated by Portland dance artist Danielle Ross. 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. Ross is interested in shaking up the audience’s relationship with the performance space by introducing movement and by showing how different choreographers play with, and relate to sound. Check out Creative Music Guild’s website for the full list of artist bios and clicking on the artist name.

Jon Peterson as the Emcee and the national touring cast of Cabaret, at Keller Auditorium. Photo: Joan Marcus

Cabaret
Roundabout Theatre Company
Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
June 27-July 2
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St.
In pre-war Germany, as the Nazis gain power, drama unfold between a young writer and Sally Bowles, a singer at the seedy Berlin nightclub called the Kit Kat Club. Nightlife is alluring, but dangerous, and times are uncertain. The Emcee, a ghoulish persona, tantalizes the crowd with his raucous, debauched performers, helping them to forget. In the musical’s final scene, as the Emcee is giving his Auf Wiedersehens, Sally Bowles says, “It’ll all work out, it’s only politics, what’s it got to do with us?”

Upcoming Performances

July
July 5, ARCOS studio showing, ARCOS Dance
July 6, Éowyn Emerald & Dancers
July 8, Ten Tiny Dances, Beaverton Farmers Market, Directed by Mike Barber
July 14-15, Rantum Skoot, Linda Austin, Gregg Bielemeier, Bob Eisen (NYC), and Sada Naegelin & Leah Wilmoth
July 14-16, Apparatus, by Danielle Ross
July 15, Rush Hour, Heidi Duckler Dance Theater Northwest
July 15, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
July 26, Movement and Flow: Portland Dance Films, Hosted by NW Film Center featuring films by Conrad Kazcor, Fuchsia Lin, Dylan Wilbur Media, Gabriel Shalom, Jackie Davis, and Amy Yang Chiao
July 29, Hafla, Portland Bellydance Guild
August
August 3-5, Galaxy Dance Festival, Hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre
August 11-13, JamBallah Northwest ’17, Hosted by JamBallah NW
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

Risk/Reward Festival review: value proposition

Annual showcase takes audiences on the journey from artistic concept to realization

Here’s the deal with Portland’s annual Risk/Reward Festival. Artists take a risk by trying something new, often a segment of a work in progress, in a forum where audiences expect various levels of development. Audiences take a risk on new, unvetted work. The reward for the artists: audience feedback, a deadline to get work going, some ideas about how to proceed. For audiences: the thrill of seeing new, sometimes experimental work aborning — and this year, at whatever price they want to pay. More than ever, that deal is a real bargain.

Now in its 10th year, this year’s festival risked one filmed and five staged contributions, and produced as many different outcomes: a concept that seemed promising but the execution shaky, or simply incomplete; another that felt conceptually underdeveloped; another that seemed overextended — and one glorious creation that brought together a powerful concept with an exceptionally moving performance.

Linda Austin Dance’s ‘A world, a world.’ Photo: Chelsea Petrakis.

You could spot the driving concept for Linda Austin’s A world, a world on the floor, in the music, even on the dancers’ bodies: collage. Both costumes and floor design resembled a scattering of fragments, and the dancers “produce a constant low-level, barely or sporadically decipherable humming, mumbling, and singing of a textual collage from news headlines, songs & poetry, periodically going to headphones mounted on a movable step unit, to receive and channel sound bites referencing the worlds of politics, pop culture, ‘high’ culture, science and philosophy, riffing on these sound bites until they need another ‘hit.’” Austin’s program note explains. What showed up on stage was strolling dancers forming then abandoning various groupings and formations, gestures falling in and out of group coordination, while chanting random snippets of songs and other pop culture ephemera that elicited occasional chuckles of recognition.

Continues…