In ‘The Word Hand’ dance leaves its mark

Linda Austin, Pat Boas and Linda Hutchins infuse words with movement and drawing

Dancer Linda Austin and visual artists Pat Boas and Linda Hutchins have created a 45-minute collaborative work, titled The Word Hand and performed at Austin’s space Performance Works NW, a dance that lives in the intersection of movement, sound and visual art. Exploring the walls, the floor and the ceiling, together they create a sacred space where there is no hierarchy of form.

They co-play, interplay and solo play with each other and their art forms. Playing with light, corridors of space, shades of white, grey and black and with an accent of red, we are invited into that particular creative state where you lose your sense of time and follow a creative thread to the end. The production concludes at 8 pm Saturday night, Oct. 25, at Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.

Linda Austin dances while Pat Boas and Linda Hutchins attack the wall./Photo by Chelsea Petrakis

Linda Austin dances while Pat Boas and Linda Hutchins attack the wall./Photo by Chelsea Petrakis

As we enter the performance space at Performance Works Northwest, we are invited to pick up a piece of black charcoal chalk and draw a line across a large piece of paper attached to the wall. The chalk is oily and dry between my fingers, and when it meets the paper and I move across the space, I become aware that this evening will be sensorial. I’m excited to draw on the “wall,” and I can feel the texture of the paper and of the wall behind it as the bumpiness reverberates through my arm.


New Now Wow! – a shaft of light

In a trio of premieres, Minh Tran's light-hearted "Unexpected Turbulence" leavens a program's serious tones

Northwest Dance Project’s annual New Now Wow! season openers have in recent years been predictable in tone, showcases for dark new works about dark subjects, invariably well-performed by this company’s versatile dancers. This year’s opener–again, an evening of world premieres–contains plenty of darkness, but ends quite unexpectedly on a light-hearted, humorous note.

New Now Wow! inaugurated NWDP’s eleventh season on Thursday night at PSU’s Lincoln Performance Hall (it repeats Friday and Saturday evenings) with Yin Yue’s opaque Between Rise and Fall and concluded with Minh Tran’s Unexpected Turbulence. In between was Czech choreographer Jiri Pokorny’s very dark indeed At Some Hour You Return.


Dance preview: Allie Hankins channels her inner Nijinsky

"Like a Sun That Pours Forth Light But Never Warmth" premieres this weekend

In the mid 1920s, Ida Rubinstein commissioned Maurice Ravel to make an orchestral transcription of Albéniz’s Iberia. Copyright issues, of all things, sent that plan sideways, and the world got Bolero instead. Rubinstein performed in the premiere of Bolero in 1928, when the future-choreographer Maurice Béjart was one year old. More than a decade earlier, she danced with the legendary Vaslav Nijinksy in the then-scandalous Scheherazade for Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, for audiences that included Sarah Bernhard and Pablo Picasso. This is the same company that, with Nijinski’s help, altered the path of 20th century music and dance with their performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, and the apocryphal “riot” caused by one of its first shows.

Béjart would reinterpret this work some 30 years later, cementing its influence as a modern work rather than a “new classic” to be lifelessly propped up by school drama departments. Then, in 1961, he reinterpreted Bolero, with the incredible Jorge Donn performing the male-solo variation. Ever aware of their influences, Béjart and Donn later paid homage to Nijinski in Nijinksi, Clown of God, in which Donn directly inhabited the role of the dancer who had influenced his career and the careers of countless other dancers in the 20th century. Donn reprised this role in 1990, just two years before his death from AIDS, by which time the innovative and genre-crossing techniques for which Béjart had often been criticized had become standard fare for contemporary dance.

Allie Hankins' "Like a Sun..." premieres Friday at Conduit.

Allie Hankins’ “Like a Sun…” premieres Friday at Conduit.

This is a thread that winds through 80 years of explosive innovation and exploration in not just dance, but every branch of modern art and the roots of postmodernity. If you tug on it, more connections and lines of influence become clear. If you need a map to follow it all, ask Allie Hankins. For the past three years, she’s wound herself up in these threads and the legacy of movements, choreography, and performance that they have created. On Friday, October 24, she and 80 pounds of crimson lycra will weave them all together for the first time in full at Conduit dance studio.


Dance review: Michael Clark knits together ballet and glam rock

It took a while, but the Brit choreographer finally gave us a glimpse of a parallel universe

In the parallel (and fictional) universe in which classical ballet emerged in the era of Studio 54 rather than Renaissance Italy, Michael Clark is without a doubt the star choreographer of that world. He’s the natural choice to unite pointe ballet with the music of David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop. Having studied in London in the mid-’70s, Clarke made his name as a bit of a wild child in genre-crossing collaborations with performance artists, fashion designers, directors such as Peter Greenaway and such musicians as Wire, Laibach, and perhaps most unforgettably with the Fall.

Artslandia-ORAWreviewKnown for mixing brash, inventive and downright sassy choreography with classical ballet vocabulary and the dancers with the chops to do it, Clark has seen his career move in this universe from provocative wunderkind to influential, established talent, just like Iggy Pop, Bowie, and Reed have.

In that parallel universe, I imagine that there are entire schools and sub-genres dedicated to opposing philosophies about how to properly interpret the lo-fi menace of classics like Heroin. We’d see as many seasonal productions of Ziggy Stardust as we do Swan Lake. This particular time in the history of popular music would melt into place with the dance, rather than sticking out as a conversation piece.

By the third act the Michael Clark Company finally opened the door for David Bowie./Photo by Jake Walters

By the third act the Michael Clark Company finally opened the door for David Bowie./Photo by Jake Walters

I would like to see that universe’s version of this show, which Clark’s company danced for White Bird this weekend. I credit Clark for inventing that universe and taking the first, Major-Tom like steps out into its cosmos. But we are in a universe where “the music of David Bowie” and just the idea of “the Velvet Underground” references a known aesthetic, an existing back catalogue, a certain time and place, and a relatively finite set of expectations—at least finite compared to the mythically-inventive days in which the material for the show was recorded. Bowie himself realizes this, and I wonder how much it weighs on Michael Clark regarding his own career.


Orchestra Next and Eugene Ballet: Creating The Total Dance Experience

Orchestra brings live music to dance, training to musicians, a complete experience to audiences.


When the Eugene Ballet Company performs Sergey Prokofiev’s 1944 ballet Cinderella at Eugene’s Hult Center next weekend, it will do so with live music provided by Orchestra Next, a Eugene-based ensemble founded by UO associate professor of music Brian McWhorter.

The Grand Ball with Yoshie Oshima as Cinderella, Brian Ruiz as Prince Charming. A guest (Isaac Jones) and stepsister Clarinda (Beth Maslinoff) look on. Photo: Toni Pimble.

Live music performances with the Eugene Ballet started three years ago when McWhorter learned from EBC Managing Director Riley Grannan that the 2012 production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker would use pre-recorded music as it had in past seasons. McWhorter proposed that he organize an orchestra to perform live with the ballet during its two-day run. Grannan and Artistic Director Toni Pimble agreed and the idea for the orchestra was born.

“We had to put things together very quickly — I think about three months or so,” McWhorter recalls. “There were all sorts of challenges that included getting all the principals on board, auditioning for the student positions, getting the website up and running, generating a buzz, making sure we had all the sheet music, getting insurance, arranging rehearsals, and, of course, raising all the money to pay everyone. The administrative team was just myself and (general manager) Sarah Viens … who continues to be an invaluable asset for the orchestra.”

McWhorter saw an opportunity to both benefit the ballet company by bringing its listeners live music, and to benefit local musicians by creating a long-needed training ensemble that bridges the experiential gap between student and professional musician. “The most iconic examples of training orchestras are the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and New World Symphony — but even these orchestras don’t provide the students the chance to regularly sit next to professionals,” McWhorter explains. “Orchestra Next does. And I think our collaboration with the Eugene Ballet makes us all the more unique.”


OBT25: a gala, a reunion, a celebration of ballet

Oregon Ballet Theatre's 25th anniversary show brings back the company's past and looks toward its future

Oregon Ballet Theatre inaugurated its twenty-fifth anniversary season on Saturday night with OBT25, a program that was part gala performance and part family reunion – and, if you will, a serious celebration of a performing art that historically has had a hard time getting established in Portland.

Wearing his opening-night purple tie for his pre-curtain speech delivered from the floor of the orchestra, artistic director Kevin Irving dedicated the performance to three OBT artists who are no longer on the planet: Dennis Spaight, the company’s first resident choreographer and associate artistic direct; Mark Goldweber, who as ballet master was instrumental in instilling the company’s strong work ethic; and Michael Rios, an impeccable and mischievous classical dancer.  And Irving set the audience thinking by quoting French film theorist André Bazin, who said: “Art emerged from the human desire to counter the passage of time and the inevitable decay it brings.”

Artslandia-ORAWreviewI didn’t see much decay, inevitable or otherwise, in dancers, musicians or choreography, although the Keller’s ever-decaying sound system nearly wrecked the pas de deux from Trey McIntyre’s Robust American Love. The Fleet Foxes music was ear-splittingly loud. Come to think of it, most of the music, whether live or recorded – with the exceptions of the piano and violin accompaniment to Christopher Stowell’s Seguidilla Pas de Deux, played by Carol Rich and Nelly Kovalev, respectively; and  Thomas Lauderdale’s heartfelt playing of the Chopin Berceuse and China Forbes’ singing for Nicolo Fonte’s Never Stop Falling (In Love) – was almost unbearably over-amplified.

There’s been considerable passage of time since George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky made Agon, which opened the show, and yet there’s definitely no sign of wear in this work that expresses the jittery, cocky, competitive atmosphere of post -World War II New York – and when danced well, which it was here, is equally reflective of our own increasingly terrifying times.


Dance review: Diavolo rocks the stage

In White Bird's season opener the dancers risked and were rewarded

An incredibly strong start to White Bird’s 17th season, Diavolo returned to Portland for the first time since 2003 on Thursday. Under artistic director Jaques Heim, Diavolo has produced boundary-pushing, often dangerous performances under the concept of “architecture in motion” since 1992.

Working with a range of sculptors, architects and designers (including Portland’s local puppeteer Michael Curry), Heim develops massive kinetic playgrounds for his gymnastic dancers by creating structures and apparatus for them to explore and manipulate. These become world-building devices, each transforming the stage with their new demands of movement. It’s impossible not to start imagining the possibilities and lives of these structures as soon as you see them, starting with “how on earth did they ship that thing up here?” In some ways, the performances can be seen as a challenge for the dancers to demonstrate wilder expression for these new worlds than the curious audience can imagine.

Diavolo opened White Bird's 17th season with daring acrobatics./Photo by Alexander Slanger

Diavolo opened White Bird’s 17th season with daring acrobatics./Photo by Alexander Slanger

The first piece, Fluid Infinities (2013), centers on a glossy quarter dome pierced by holes like a moonscape designed by Eero Saarinen, countered by a large transparent tube that would be right at home on the set of the original Star Trek series. After a long intermission, the dome is replaced by a 3000-pound rocking stage that looks like the cross section of a boat with a parquet deck. Diavolo has carried this imposing, playful platform around the world since 2002 to perform their seminal Trajectorie. The show is short, intense, and amazingly entertaining.


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