DANCE

DanceWatch Weekly: Time travel with dance

11:Dance Co founders Brittany DeLano and Huy Pham talk about the company plus dance films at Yale Union

This weekend is all about the evolution of dance and time travel. It begins back in 1963 with three Trisha Brown dances on film that will screen on a loop as part of TREES IN THE FOREST, a curated exhibit opening at Yale Union on Sunday. Brown is one of the founding members of the legendary Judson Dance Theatre in New York.

Then we will jump forward 50 or so years into the present day, revisiting Shakespeare through the eyes of BodyVox in Death and Delight, and see the newest generation’s take on dance with 11: Dance Co and their new evening-length show Cool Moves, Bro.

11:Dance Co founders Brittany DeLano (also known as Bb) and Huy Pham consider their creation a Neo-Fusion dance company—a new choreographic style that blends the street and classical worlds of dance. DeLano is the artistic director and Pham is the executive director. The performance will showcase new works by Northwest Dance Project dancer Ching-Ching Wong, William Jay (Chanti Darling) and Emma Portner, principle dancer and choreographer for Justin Bieber’s Purpose project.

In the midst of dress rehearsals and travel, I was able to catch up with Delano and Pham to ask them a few questions via email. Our conversation follows the week’s listings.

Performances this week

Juliet, rising: Katie Scherman in "Romeo and Juliet." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Juliet, rising: Katie Scherman in “Romeo and Juliet.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Death and Delight
BodyVox Dance Company
July 14-23
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave
BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest will team up for their eighth season to
present a double bill reimagining two of Shakespeare’s most popular stories: “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” set to music by Sergei Prokofiev and Felix Mendelssohn, respectively. There will be lovers and fairies and mischief and madness BodyVox style, performed to the piano playing of Melvin Chen and Hilda Huang.

ArtsWatcher Bob Hicks in reference to A Midsummer Night’s Dream wrote, “The dance has an endearingly goofy lightness of being that showcases BodyVox’s great gift of presenting serious emotional and cultural matters in buoyant comic tones.” For his full review click here.

Cool Moves, Bro
11: Dance Co
July 21-31
CoHo Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh St

See below.

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Photo of “Spiral” (1974)-choreography by Trisha Brown. Photo by © Gene Pittman 2008.

TREES IN THE FOREST
A group show curated by Kari Rittenbach
July 23-September 2, 2016
Opening July 23, 4-6pm
Gallery hours Thursday-Sunday 3-6pm
Yale Union, 800 SE 10th Ave

Three videos of works by Trisha Brown—La Chanteuse (1963), Falling Duet (1968), and Spiral (1974)—will be shown on a loop at Yale Union as part of a curated festival by Kari Rittenbach. Rittenbach is a graduate of Yale University, the Courtauld Institute of Art, and the Whitney Independent Study Program and is a writer and independent curator based in New York.

The concept behind TREES IN THE FOREST: “Considering nature as a concept, structure, or formal subject, the exhibited works examine its cultural and social mediation, as well as “naturalized” systems of knowledge and power in the world at large. TREES IN THE FOREST takes an ecological approach to a disparate selection of recent art practices; it is an experimental survey of understudied territories in an era of routine environmental catastrophe.”

Upcoming Performances

July 28-30, In My Own Space, POV Dance
July 29, Dog Day Dance: A Futuristic Variety Show, Produced by Ben Martens
July 29-31, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre NW at JAW Playwright Festival
July 4-6, Annual Fundraiser and No Stopping Performances, Heidi Duckler DTNW
August 4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 5-12, Interview with a Zombie, Top Shake Dance directed by Jim McGinn
September 8-18, TBA:16, PICA

Interview with 11: Dance Co

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“Cool Moves, Bro” by 11: Dance Co. Photo by Quaz Amir.

How are you reimagining the dance company model and why?

Pham: Speaking as a producer, the stage has shifted from live events to digital content. We’re simply moving it from the digital world back to putting butts in seats. To do that, our digital footprint acts as a driver to our shows versus to the classroom, which is what so many of our contemporaries are doing. A sustainable economy in dance cannot exist without fans.

DeLano: Our intention is to use the show as a vehicle for what happens in the studio. The show is never the end goal, it is only a way to get a bunch of people in a room that share a similar passion to explore what love and community look like as a verb. The work we do in rehearsals goes beyond moving bodies. The connections that are made during a season, even if they don’t last forever, are real and pure. In doing so the stories we present on stage can come from a truly vulnerable place because ego and fear are laid aside. The love that is fostered is palpable.

Aside from that, I also encourage the dancers to have autonomy over their process. I expect that they come into the project with a true passion for dance and with that comes work ethic. With the community-building work, I encourage them to pull for the other people in the room. Instead of showing up for me, they show up out of respect for the other company members. They work hard because they believe in each other’s potential for greatness, not because I demand it. Without this foundation the project would crumble. When dancers are able to take ownership and feel free, that is when true magic happens. I ask them to do some pretty scary stuff emotionally, but they trust myself and the other dancers enough to take that risk.

Why? I’m tired of dancers accepting abuse for stage time. I’m tired of people putting plastic feelings onstage and saying it’s authentic without doing any actual work to dig deep. I’m tired of people saying they want to work but really just wanting someone to validate where they are at that moment. I’m tired of the word “love” being tossed around like a pokeball. I’m tired of seeing dance suffer this slow, excruciating death.

How did your auditions go? How many dancers attended? How many did you take?

DeLano: Auditions were awesome! We do a lot of improv to see if people are down to get weird (because 11 is really just a big group of aliens that found their mother ship) and it got WEIRD. There were about 40 people in attendance, and we ended up taking 12, four company members to add to returning members and 8 apprentices.

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Photo of 11: Dance Co. Photo Credit: Quaz Amir.

Can you tell me about the pieces that will be performed in your upcoming show and the choreographers that made them?

DeLano: Originally the show was supposed to take a much darker tone. It stemmed from this conversation that I kept having about how art is dying and we have killed it. Huy found this concept called “the dark triad,” which are the traits that serial killers possess: ego, manipulation, narcissism. And those are the same traits that art killers have, too. But, as pieces started coming in, people took it much lighter. Most things ended up being really funny. So now it’s shaped into us making fun of ourselves. How seriously we take ourselves, how ferociously we love “art,” how cool we think we look.

There is a good mix of contemporary and hip-hop this year—all are very cut and dried. There is a complete absence of social commentary and emotion, and that is commentary itself. We want the audience to question the art that they are consuming.

How did Emma Portner hear about 11: Dance Co and come to Portland and choreograph for you?

Pham: I can speak on Emma. We talked a while ago—as both Bb and I are fans of her work—about collaborating. She was always down. Then, Parris Goebel, one of our other contemporaries who is MASSIVE in the hip-hop world, booked her for the Justin Bieber project.Twenty-plus million views later and she’s the world famous Emma Portner. Shared values still remain shared values, and having a break in her schedule, she messaged me and asked if she could come out to Portland to decompress. I set her up with a couple of workshops, we talked about the new show and setting a piece, and she was 100% about it. As far as hanging out and working together, Emma is great. She’s got crazy work ethic. I don’t know, most of our extended dance family feel like cousins. We just hung out at Bb and my apartment during off time and talked about life and work and random stuff. Emma, Erica Sobol, Toogie Barcelo, etc., they all look at Portland as a retreat.

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“Cool Moves, Bro” by 11: Dance Co. Photo by Quaz Amir.

How are you challenging perception through your choreography?

DeLano: We make our intentions very clear and very plain when building shows and choreography. There is this idea that if it isn’t abstract it isn’t art, and I simply just don’t agree. We are trying to communicate very particular ideas. In doing so we keep everything in layman’s terms in order to make things as relatable as possible. We want the audience to be able to apply these ideas and think about them in their everyday life. If they have to spend an entire piece trying to figure out what it’s about, that process becomes much more difficult. Don’t get me wrong—I love abstract work and I think that it is wholly necessary and beautiful. We just happen to have a very specific intention and with that comes being very blunt.

We also play a lot with sticky subjects that people don’t like talking about or seeing: gay relationships, gender, race, the dehumanizing of women’s bodies. It’s the way that we present these topics that challenge the audience’s perception. We don’t skew it as good or bad, just fact. The audience can then make up their own minds about the material being presented rather than being forced to choose in the moment. They can look at it from a new or different angle. They might see it in a way they haven’t before. For the first time it could be real and not just something on their timelines. We allow the audience to engage and explore topics in different ways so that they can come to their own conclusions. And hopefully, it will change the way they interact with the world around them.

How is Neo Fusion different from the contemporary dance style that has come out of So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD)?

Pham: SYTYCD is pretty traditional in my opinion. There are distinct categories and you operate within those lanes: here’s a hip-hop piece, now here’s a contemporary piece. What we’re trying to do is introduce a new category, one that puts the story first and pulls the best vocab to tell it. There aren’t really any boundaries. I think in doing that, we ultimately put the viewer first.

ChamberVox shakes things up

Chamber Music Northwest and BodyVox dance to the music of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

At heart, dancing is moving to rhythm, and that means it’s almost inseparable from music. There are exceptions and variations: experimental cases when dances are created without sound; the Merce Cunningham/John Cage partnership, in which movement and music were created deliberately in isolation from each other so one would not influence the other, but were performed together; contemporary pieces with more or less arbitrary music that might better be described as “specimens of sound” (which, of course, can make their own sort of music); dances in which extended periods of silence are part of the score. But on the whole dance and music are pretty much happy bedfellows, cohabiting almost by instinct.

A fairy queen cavorting with a donkey: Anna Mara as Titania and Brent Luebbert as Bottom in "Midsummer." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

A fairy queen cavorting with a donkey: Anna Mara as Titania and Brent Luebbert as Bottom in “Midsummer.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

So the relationship between Chamber Music Northwest, Portland’s premiere summer music festival, and BodyVox, one of the city’s leading contemporary dance troupes, seems like a natural, and it’s beginning to be a tradition. This year’s collaboration, which opened Thursday night at the BodyVox studio in Northwest Portland and continues through July 23, brings a third player into the mix, too: that musically savvy playwright, William Shakespeare. Titled Death and Delight, the program pairs a version of Romeo and Juliet set on Sergei Prokofiev’s R&J Suite with a new version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream danced to Felix Mendelssohn’s ravishing score.

Continues…

Art transports us out of ourselves, allowing space for our imaginations, curiosity and connection with the larger world. With the daily barrage of horrible news, we need that right now. Look at the dance offerings this weekend as a prescription for the soul. Dancing (and witnessing dance) is healing, and offers new perspectives helping us disconnect from the daily grind. This weekend is full of experimentation and live music, trips back in time to visit artists no longer with us, and emerging choreographers and aspiring dancers. It is a full weekend. Full of talent, heart and energy to pull us through.

Continues…

Conduit is closing with a party

The Portland dance incubator celebrates two decades of dance classes, rehearsals and performance

On Wednesday night the Portland dance community will say a sad goodbye to Conduit Dance. Conduit has been an incubator for contemporary dance in Portland for 20 years, and on June 15 it announced that it had given notice at the Ford Building studio, its most recent home, and would be suspending all operations and programming as of July 23, 2016. Friends, artists, supporters, students and audiences of Conduit are invited to Wednesday’s evening of dancing and remembering with snacks and refreshments. Conduit has also asked its friends to come prepared with their Conduit stories and any archival material they may have to include in Conduit’s archival project.

In 1995 Conduit was founded by dance artists Linda K. Johnson and Mary Oslund as a home for contemporary dance artists to work out new ideas in the form, through teaching, rehearsing and performing. The studio, housed on the fourth floor of the Pythian Building on Southwest Yamhill Street, was collectively run by Keith V. Goodman, Michael Menger, Gregg Bielemeier, Tere Mathern, Johnson and Oslund. Each person contributed to the rent and in turn was given a certain number of hours to rehearse, teach and perform. The amount of activity in the space was immeasurable, and classes were packed with students.

Gather- a dance about convergence

Gather, choreographed by Conduit’s Artistic Director Tere Mathern, performed in Conduit’s original home at the Pythian Building in 2012. Photo by Gordon Wilson.

In 2001, Mathern and Oslund became co-directors and began to mold Conduit into a nonprofit organization expanding its role in the community. In 2009 Mathern took over and became Conduit’s first paid part-time artistic director.

Continues…

Linda K. and ‘Trio A’: a new view

Dancer Linda K. Johnson's long journey with Yvonne Rainer's landmark contemporary dance lands on the Ten Tiny Dances stage at Beaverton Farmers Market

This Saturday, July 9, Portland dance artist Linda K. Johnson will perform an adaptation of New York choreographer Yvonne Rainer’s seminal work Trio A at the Beaverton Farmers Market. She’s calling it Trio A Pressured (after Trio A) because it’s compressed to fit the tiny four-by-four-foot stage used by Ten Tiny Dances. Trio A was choreographed in 1966, and Johnson is a repetiteur of the work. Her job is to make sure that all of the elements of the dance that made it radically different 50 years ago remain intact when someone new learns the dance, maintaining its integrity for the next generation.

Johnson, a native of Portland, has worked up and down the West Coast for the past 25 years as a choreographer, performer, educator, arts administrator, curator, and public artist. She discovered Trio A on a 1997 trip to New York City to see a Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum. In an article she wrote for Dancers Group in San Francisco, Johnson describes her initial, accidental encounter with the work that would eventually change her whole approach to dance.

EVT TTD 2016 PROGRAM linda k. johnson photo

Linda K. Johnson. Photo courtesy of Ten Tiny Dances.

“Drenched from an autumn downpour, I entered the cavernous room that held the exhibition and looked for a place to sit down and dry out. The only seats in the entire space were two small black cloth cubes set in front of a video monitor in the far corner of the room.”

Continues…

DanceWatch Weekly: Ten new tiny dances

Ten Tiny Dance returns to the Beaverton Farmers Market with ten new tiny dances

Ten Tiny Dances is back! The performance concept, created in 2002 by Portland dance artist Mike Barber, has become a staple of Portland’s dance scene. And Saturday at the Beaverton Farmers Market ten new dances will squeeze themselves inside the four-by-four foot Ten Tiny Dance stage.

The dances will be performed on five stages scattered throughout the market. (A map of the stage locations is available online here.) Throughout its lifetime, Ten Tiny dances has been seen in many locations around Portland include PICA’s TBA festival and most recently out of town in Tempe, Arizona, Columbus, Ohio, and Houston, Texas, and has seen far more variations on its theme than performance locations. It has also showcased a large swath of Portland dance talent. This is Ten Tiny’s 8th year at the Beaverton Farmers Market.

Each year the choreographers grapple with new ways to fill the tiniest stage they will probably ever dance on. Most often the dances happen on top of the stage, but I have seen dances on the ground around the stage, under the stage. The most notable for me personally was choreographed by Angelle Hebert: A man with an ax hacked the stage around dancer Carla Mann to smithereens, leaving her with an even smaller stage to writhe around on—the tiniest stage of all the Ten Tiny dances.

Yes, figuring out how to dance on the 4-by-4 foot stage and dealing with its limitations makes dancing on it challenging, but that is exactly what makes it interesting.

Continues…

DanceWatch Weekly: Dancing in Iran

An Independence Day conversation with Iranian dancer Tanin on what it's like to dance in Iran, where dance is prohibited

On the 240th anniversary celebration of our country’s independence from Britain, I am reflecting on our country’s ideals and what living in a “free” country means to me as an artist. Are we really as free as we think we are and are others really as persecuted and as restricted as we think they are? Yes and no. It is a complex question with complex answers that I am in no way trying to answer in it’s fullest here. To be honest I am not sure that one experience is different from the other. I am simply interested in creating a jumping off point for thought and conversation.

I thought an interview with a dance artist and colleague friend of mine who is Iranian and living in Iran, would be a good starting point.

Her name is Tanin (not her actual name for reasons of safety and anonymity). She is 23 and a dancer, choreographer and filmmaker. I first met Tanin 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 to dance are moving and inspiring, and I have long wanted to share her story.

But first…the week in dance.

Performances this week

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Linda Austin in Procedures for Saying No by Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble. Photo by Owen Carey.

Procedures for Saying no
Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble
June 3-July 2
Shaking The Tree, 823 SE Grant St

Loosely based on Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,” the play examines toiling away in the workplace and the procedures that govern our lives and the consequences of saying no. The work features Portland dance artist and co-artistic director of Performance Works NW Linda Austin. Arts Watcher Barry Johnson was there and gives his take on the performance here.

Marissa Rae Niederhauser and Stephanie Lavon Trotter
Studio Showing
7:30 pm June 30
Flock Dance Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave. #4

An informal showing of work by nomadic dance artist Marissa Rae Niederhauser in collaboration with Portland’s performance and sound artists Stephanie Lavon Trotter.

Niederhauser has a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA and makes body based work in dance, film, performance and installation. She has presented work at On the Boards, Seattle Art Museum, Velocity Dance Center, Henry Art Gallery, and Seattle University in Seattle, WA and at Judson Memorial Church to name a few.

Trotter’s work focuses on voice and more specifically Opera. She holds a MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College, and a B. Mus. in Vocal Performance from Cornish College of the Arts. Trotter was an Alembic Artist in 2015 at Performance Works NW.

Below is my conversation via email with Tanin.

What are the restrictions on dance in Iran? How do they affect you or not affect you?

Well, dance has a weird situation in Iran. As you might know, Islamic laws are not friendly toward dance; it is considered a sin and especially women are forbidden to dance. As a result, no dance school is here. On the other hand, although it is restricted officially, there are many dance classes held in Iran! Especially in big cities like Tehran, you can find ballet classes in every neighborhood. The classes mostly are held at gyms.

I as a ballet instructor receive many calls each week from mothers who want their little girls to learn ballet and also young girls who had not the opportunity to learn ballet in their childhood, so they are going to learn it in their adulthood. I want to say that people do have this passion for learning ballet and dance and want to pursue it. And I can confidently say that it even has become a trend here! Why do almost all mothers want their kids participate in ballet classes? There are also some ballet classes held in private kindergartens and many kids attend ballet classes in Iran. But all these events are underground and you can never be sure what will happen to you later.

What was dance in Iran like when your mom was growing up?

After the Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979, the National Ballet of Iran was closed and dancers were banned from working and many fled from Iran. It seemed that everything has disappeared. In this very weird situation, my mother started teaching dance at private homes with small groups of children or adults.

Is there a professional modern or ballet dance scene where you live?

Actually, there are many underground dance performances held in Iran, in some private saloons or small theaters, but they are not officially allowed. I should say it with regret that dance performances here are not very professional as there are a very few well-educated dance teachers and choreographers in Iran—very few. The outcome of performances is not very interesting as a result.

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Still from Tanin’s film Immensity. The photographers name has been withheld to protect his identity. Photo courtesy of Tanin.

What is your artistic practice or how do you do your art? How did it develop, what is your dance background?

My mother had the chance to be educated under an instructor who used to dance and teach before Iran’s revolution. She had a passion for dance and I took after her. She used to teach dance for many years and I actually started dancing from the very early age of four. After that, I took some classes here under some other teachers and then looked everywhere to learn more about the dance world. I went to Armenia and also took some classical ballet and contemporary dance lessons there, which was very helpful for my future career. I have been teaching ballet for more than 7 years, and the last 3 years has been in my own private cozy ballet studio.

I can say that I found my own artistic approach to dance in 2014, when I attended a Coursera class online in Creating Site-specific Dance and Performance by Stephan Koplowits from CalArts University. It was a very good opportunity for me to know many dance artists and learn more about dance issues internationally. As a result, I directed a couple of dance films. One called Immensity, which was filmed in a lakeside, and Beyond the Frames, shot in an abandoned building in north of Iran. These two have been screened in more than 15 dance film and film festivals in the USA, Canada and Europe. The latter one also won an award of Best Experimental Short Film from Mallorca International Film Festival in Spain.

Both my films are considered conceptual films. I always wanted to express feelings and concepts using dance, and now I actually use two very powerful things to share my ideas and perceptions about life: dance and film. Although I live in Iran, I can now share my ideas internationally.

I want to take the opportunity here and thank someone who may not know it, but I owe a lot to her. She is Mrs Donia Salem Harhoor, one of the directors of The Outlet Dance Project festival in New Jersey. I met her in the Coursera class, and after some time she messaged me on Facebook and said they have a dance film festival and would be happy if they receive a film from Iran, too. Just because she contacted me, I decided to give it a try. I had never thought of filmmaking before, so I can say that she somehow changed my life! Thank you dear Donia!

Are you in contact with dance outside of Iran and how are you connecting with that? Live or Internet?

Well, I never wanted to live in an isolated planet for myself. I have tried to learn more about dance and issues debated on it and have connection with international artists. In 2016 I attended the Cinedans dance film festival held in Amsterdam personally, where my film was also screened. It was a very good opportunity to meet great artists and exchange ideas with them. I should thank the internet too! It has always been my best friend in my career providing me many information, books, videos, dance friends!

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Still from Tanin’s film Beyond the Frames. The photographers name has been withheld to protect his identity. Photo courtesy of Tanin.

What is it like being a dancer in Iran?

It is like dancing while you are constrained! I am not complaining as I have also been very fortunate and successful in my career anyway and I could find my own way, but every time I wanted to do something, I had to fight for things that were very unusual. I had to accept a very high risk for me and my crew when choosing a location for my dance films since it was not acceptable at all if we were caught by the police! You always carry this fear with yourself here. Also there is usually no professional performance held, so you cannot actually be a dancer. Who is a dancer? Someone who dances for herself, or someone who performs on stage?

Anyways, I have been very fortunate so far. I have many students here and we have built up a very friendly and lovely dance community for ourselves. My students are my best friends now. They enjoy the spirit of our class, and it is always so much fun for all of us. I enjoy being so useful here as there is not many educated instructors here. When people call me, they express as if they have discovered someone! I could never feel as proud and happy as I am now, in any other places. I now feel that I am serving the women of my country and bring smile and happiness to them. What else would I like to have in this world more than this? I am now working on my third film which is a dedication to the dance situation in Iran, my students and those who are working in this field in Iran.

Are you thinking of studying dance abroad in a college setting?

Well I actually have received admission to several MA programs in Contemporary Dance Performance from a few Universities in Europe, and I am doing the preparatory work right now to attend one of them.

Upcoming Performances

July 9, Ten Tiny Dances, Beaverton
July 9, Todrick Hall Presents: Straight Outta Oz
July 13, A Wake for Conduit: Celebration & Farewell Party, Conduit Dance
July 14-23, Death and Delight, BodyVox Dance Company
July 16, Un Jour Pina M’A Demande (One Day Pina Asked), Directed by Chantal Akerman
July 16, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
July 17, Noelle Stiles, Veronica Martin, Chris Lael Larson, Pure Surface
July 29, Dog Day Dance: A Futuristic Variety Show, Produced by Ben Martens
July 29-31, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre NW, JAW Playwright Festival
August 4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre

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