Dance Watch: The return of White Bird and OBT

Conduit news plus the beginning of the season for White Bird and Oregon Ballet Theatre

Big news for the Portland dance community this week: Conduit Dance Inc., Portland’s incubator for independent contemporary dance, has found a new home in the historic Ford Building, at 2505 SE 11th Ave., suite 120. The front of the building opens onto Division street, near the new Max Orange Line, in the quickly growing SE Division community. The new space is practically move-in ready. It is a bright and open, 3,001 sq room, with laminated wood floors, mirrors and ballet barres already installed. The space also has a small kitchen and two dressing rooms.

Last March after 20 years in the Pythian Building in downtown Portland, Conduit was  evicted by its landlord, Nia Technique. Since that time, Conduit’s programs went mobile, and the center continued presenting classes and workshop as well as its annual Dance+ series throughout the city. The artistic team at Conduit—Tere Mathern, Vanessa Vogel, Emily Running and Sara Himmelman—have been working tirelessly to find a new space that met all of Conduits needs, and it has finally payed off. Stay tuned for more news on Conduit as they move forward in their new home.

Momix in Alchemia. Photo by Max Pucciariello.

Momix in Alchemia. Photo by Max Pucciariello.

Presented by White Bird
Oct 8-10
Newmark Theater, 1111 SW Broadway
Inspired by the ancient practice of Alchemy, Moses Pendleton, the director of contemporary dance company Momix, has created a phantasmagorical multimedia spectacle manipulating the four elements of the earth and exposing the sexuality of nature. “Alchemia is about invention and beauty, transformation and renewal, performed with astonishing skill by 10 performers who are as much acrobats as dancers.”-Moses Pendleton. This show kicks of White Bird’s new season.

Amore Italiano
Napoli Act III & Sub Rosa
Presented by Oregon Ballet Theater
October 10-17
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St
Opening its 26th season, Oregon Ballet Theater takes us on a cultural and historic tour of Italy with the world premier of Sub Rosa by James Kudelka and the OBT premier of Napoli, Act III, by August Bournonville.

Sub Rosa comes with a warning label, “Not suitable for children” and is inspired by the infamous life of Italian prince and Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo. He may or may not have been a murder, an adulterer, a vampire,and/or a necrophiliac. haunted by ghosts and plagued by witches.

Napoli, inspired by everyday life in Naples from the streets to the harbour to the Blue Grotto, was choreographed in 1842 by Danish dancer and choreographer August Bournonville. Bournonville technique is characterized by quick footwork, small jumps, understated elegance in the arms and dramatic impact through pantomime.

Portland violinist Aaron Meyer and his six-piece band will open the evening with selections of Italian classics.

The sights and sounds of Cuba Libre: Tiempo Libre's Xavier Mili and choreographer Maija Garcia. Photo: Owen Carey

The sights and sounds of Cuba Libre: Tiempo Libre’s Xavier Mili and choreographer Maija Garcia. Photo: Owen Carey

Cuba Libre
Presented by Artist Repertory Theater
October 3-November 8
Winningstad Theater, 1111 SW Broadway
Broadway in Portland! Cuba Libre is a contemporary musical inspired by the collective histories of the members of the three-time Grammy-nominated African-Caribbean band, Tiempo Libre.

With the majority of the dialogue in English and the music in Spanish, the tale is told from present day Miami, flashing back to 1990’s Cuba. The story centers on a Cuban musician who is tormented by the sacrifices that were made for him to pursue his artistic dreams in the United States.

The creative team, primarily Latino, includes Tony-nominated producer Susan Dietz (Fela!, Topdog/Underdog, It’s Only a Play), playwright Carlos Lacámara,  choreographer Maija Garcia, and Artists Rep artistic director Damaso Rodriguez. The company consists of twenty-two actors, dancers and musicians and is a theatrical event on a grand scale.

d. Sabela Grimes, Visiting Artist Lecture
Reed College, PAB Performance Lab, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
6:30 pm October 8
A lecture/demonstration by d. Sabela Grimes on his artistic process. Grimes is a 2014 United States Artist Rockefeller Fellow and Assistant Professor at University of Southern California. He is a choreographer, writer, composer and educator whose interdisciplinary performance work and pedagogical approach are rooted in the “meta-physical efficacies of Afro-diasporic cultural practices.”

Evidence of a dance, Marginal Evidence by Katherine Longstreth.

Evidence of a dance, Marginal Evidence by Katherine Longstreth.

Marginal Evidence (an interactive experience of dance-making)
Katherine Longstreth
October 1 – November 14
White Box, 24 NW 1st Ave.
6 pm October 1, Opening Reception
Marginal Evidence is a visual art installation about the intimate act of choreography. Dance is ephemeral and when it is gone, what is left? How do we know it existed? What is the evidence left behind? Using the approach of a forensic investigator, Longstreth reveals the private process of dance making and exposes the inner life of archival materials. You can read the full preview here

TBA dance: new forms and new connections

Reviews of three TBA Festival dance concerts: Alessandro Sciarroni, Michelle Ellsworth, Amy O'Neal

This year, I chose to see just three of the performance pieces offered by Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s (PICA) Time-Based Art Festival (TBA): Folk-S by Alessandro Sciarroni, Preparation for the Obsolesce of the Y Chromosome by Michelle Ellsworth, and Opposing Forces by Amy O’Neal.  For me, TBA is similar to standing in the cereal aisle at the grocery story; overwhelmed by the possibilities, I tend to chose none. Real life is also happening simultaneously, which makes seeing everything that I want to see, impossible.

So I did some choosing and I’m glad I chose what I did, I walked away from these performances with three vastly different experiences and many lingering questions, which is a good thing.  If a dance leaves a lasting impression, good or bad, the choreographer their job.

Some similarities between the pieces: each choreographer intentionally created ways to connect with the audience outside of the traditional audience performer relationship; all subject matter involved research around identity shared through social commentary context; all three choreographers successfully transcend established choreographic forms and created new ones.


What is involved in the making of a dance? What does the duality of Shiva and Krishna look like in Bharatanatyam? What happens behind the scenes at a circus? What does the space between two people look like? How do you play a skeleton piano? How can you express yourself in performance beyond the conventional? What happens when you bring a writer, dancer and a filmmaker together in a small space? These are all questions that this weekend’s performances will address. If you don’t go, you will never know.

Evidence of a dance, Marginal Evidence by Katherine Longstreth.

Evidence of a dance, Marginal Evidence by Katherine Longstreth.

Marginal Evidence (an interactive experience of dance-making),
Katherine Longstreth
October 1 – November 14
White Box, 24 NW 1st Ave
6 pm October 1, Opening Reception
3 pm November 7, Panel discussion with paleontologist Theodore Fremd, artist Sara Huston, and Mark Johnson, a criminologist with the Portland Police Bureau.

Twenty years ago Katherine Longstreth, a Portland dance artist, received a camera for Christmas from her father, she took the camera to rehearsal, turned it on and forgot about it. Twenty years later after moving to Portland Oregon from New York she unpacked and found these beta tapes, had them converted and realized that they were the only record she had of the full rehearsal process of any of the dances she ever made. Little did she know that the footage she took of herself in those rehearsals, would become the spark for Marginal Evidence, a visual art exhibit that she developed, which opens tonight, at University of Oregon’s White Box gallery.

Marginal Evidence is a visual art installation about the intimate act of choreography. Dance is ephemeral and when it is gone, what is left? How do we know it existed? What is the evidence left behind? Using the approach of a forensic investigator, Longstreth reveals the private process of dance making and exposes the inner life of archival materials.

“My goal was to try to lift the lid metaphorically on the creative process and my creative process is dance: that’s what I am using because that’s my material and my expertise. I am hoping it will reverberate for any artist in any kind of creative process.”

She was also interested in broadening the definition of choreographer. What would be created if you took an artist from one field and had them create art in a field outside of their discipline? What would they make?

Using set design, text, illustrations, diagrams, photographs and video projections, Longstreth has created an interactive experience in collaboration with filmmaker, Dicky Dahl, and composer, Loren Chasse. As visitors move through the three rooms at the White Box, they will be encouraged to engage with the materials by reading, touching, watching and listening to it.

Inspired to look at this research process through different lenses, Longstreth has organized a panel discussion on November 7  at 3 pm, with paleontologist Theodore Fremd, artist Sara Huston, and Mark Johnson, a criminalist with the Portland Police Bureau. A Q & A with the artists involved with the exhibition will follow.

Choreographed by Jayanthi Raman and Guru Adyar Lakshman, presented by RASIKA
7 pm October 2
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park
Choreographed by Jayanthi Raman, this troupe of seven professional Bharatanatyam dancers from India and the US, will perform Anubhava. The word has many meanings but generally refers to the ecstatic experience of the divine. The first half of the dance will be about Lord Shiva, the Hindu god known as the destroyer, and the second half will be about Lord Krishna, the most popular Hindu god identified by his dark blue skin (the color of a dark monsoon cloud) and his love of cows.

Raymond Silos of Ballet Fantastique

Guest artist Raymond Silos of Ballet Fantastique

Cirque de la Lune
Ballet Fantastique, directed by Donna and Hannah Bontrager
7:30 pm October 3
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park
Set in the 1930’s depression era, Ballet Fantastique will take us behind the the scenes of a traveling circus company just an hour before curtain. Mother and daughter choreographic duo from Eugene, Donna and Hannah Bontrager, have created a contemporary ballet piece that sets the scene on faded grandeur and romance, combining texture and illusion, set to original music by Troupe Carnivàle, Mood Area 52, and Betty and the Boy. Expect the unexpected. Guest starring three folk orchestras and international guest circus artist Raymond Silos.

Michelle Fujii and Toru Watanabe in 88: Hachi Hachi

88: Hachi Hachi
Unit Souzou, directed by Michelle Fujii and Toru Watanabe
October 2-4
Zoomtopia, Studio 2, 810 SE Belmont Street
Portlands newest professional Taiko company, Unit Souzou, will perform 88:Hachi Hachi directed by dance artist Susan Banyas. A new work that weaves taiko, dance and theater, the piece will investigate the space that exists between two people in a percussion journey.

Skeleton Piano Dances
Agnieszka Laska Dancers
October 3-4
Bodyvox Theater, 1201 NW 17th Ave
Now in its twelfth year, Agnieszka Laska’s modern dance company will be searching for the truths that have occupied human minds for centuries: what is true, what is worth fighting for, and what is worth being lost.

The evening will fuse modern dance choreography, video work by Takafumi Uehara and live music by three living composers—Jack Gabel, Dan Senn and Jennifer Wright—on the Skeleton Piano. Wright has written Obscure Terrain for Laska and will be playing a shot glasses, wire brushes, timpani mallets, picture wire, scrap wood, a homemade bottle cap mandolin rail, cannibalized hammers and keys, a tambourine stick, magnet strips and a junkyard cymbal. You can get a sneak peek to her marvelous music on Vimeo.

Performance artists Kelly McGovern

Performance artists Kelly McGovern.

Lucy Lee Yim, Kelly McGovern, Future Death Agency and Antibody Corporation
Presented by Lacuna Club & Performance Works NW
9 pm October 2, Lacuna Club, 5040 SE Milwaukie
8 pm October 3, Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th
One performance, two locations, two different days, brought to you by Lacuna Club and Performance Works NW, this show features Portland performance artists Lucy Lee Yim, Kelly McGovern, Future Death Agency, and Chicago-based Antibody Corporation, who will be performing new works.

Pure Surface
Dora Gaskill, Tyler Brewington, Justine Highsmith
6 pm October 4
Valentine’s, 232 SW Ankeny St<
Curated by Stacey Tran and Danielle Ross, Pure Surface is a performance series interested in encouraging cross-disciplinary practice and performance by bringing together movement, text and film in the spirit of improvised collaboration. Each month a new group of artists is brought together in the intimate, open air setting of Valentine’s and performance is made. This month’s artists are dance artist Dora Gaskill, writer Tyler Brewington and filmmaker Justine Highsmith.

Over the Hills, to Portland’s multi-cultural present

The energy at Portland's ethnic community events is great, and so are the performances


“You come every year!”

I do not recognize this observant Sri Lankan woman in a peacock blue sari, who’s obviously proud of the show we’re both attending.
“Yes, I‘ve been here since nearly the beginning,” I reply.

Last month, I was at a Sri Lankan event feting the community’s children with dance, drama and song— the fourth annual Pipena Kekulu (Blooming Buds), and I’ve attended all but the first. This time, Oregon state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian presented one of the three welcoming speeches, with touching thanks to the community for allowing him and his wife to participate once more in the sharing of children’s arts/entertainment activities, his own children having left the nest, both happy successful artists/entertainers.

Oregon Buddhist Temple in Portland, USA celebrated the Vesak Festival last May with Sri Lankan Buddhists living in Portland.

Oregon Buddhist Temple celebrated the Vesak Festival last May. Photo:

I attended the first such event in 2013 because I feel part of this community whose many children I have the privilege of teaching piano. I keep going because these events are ebullient. In fact, I’m stepping it up this Saturday, catching Sunil Edirisinghe and Neela Wickramasinghe in concert at PCC Sylvania (see listing at end of this story). Sri Lankan pop stars as popular on the island as Lady Gaga, but they are so underground outside of the culture that you have to call several numbers to secure tickets. Portland is the smallest city they’re playing on a tour which includes London, New York (where they drew 1,200) and Los Angeles (where they drew 1,000). Sri Lankans from Seattle and Vancouver BC will be making the journey to catch this show. In addition, performers from Pipena Kekulu 2015 will be opening. That’s like Bethany elementary school kids opening for the Rolling Stones. And yet, when I search the web for them, no website or Facebook page or Twitter or ANYTHING comes up. Promotions and marketing are as baffling to some of these ethnic communities as they are in the classical music milieu. In fact, Oregon Arts Watch might be the first Oregon arts/entertainment publication starting to cover and preview events like this when we find out about them.

These community and professional shows are part of a world of “ethnic” arts unknown to many Portlanders, especially those east of the West Hills. These events are worth knowing about — not just for their own joy and beauty, but also for what they can teach us about restoring Western classical music’s connection to the larger community.


NW Screendance Exposition: Moving images

New festival celebrates marriage of dance and video.


Dance slithered into film like the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Some of the earliest filmmakers turned their cameras on the early 20th century equivalent of twerking. Created by dancer/choreographer Loie Fuller, the Serpentine dance was frequently chosen as a subject by cinematic pioneers like William K. L. Dickson, the Lumière brothers, George Melies, and others as seen in an 1895-1908 Serpentine compilation reel on YouTube.

Screen dance artists ever since have created expressive works using cinematic and dance styles ranging from surreal visual abstractions to strict narratives, using visual composition, lighting, camera movement and editing to create an experience that can exist only on the screen as opposed to the stage. On October 6, Oregonians can see some of today’s screendance creations at the Northwest Screendance Exposition 2015 at Eugene’s Bijou Arts Cinema.

Screenshot from “Petrichor” by Stacey Katlain.

Screenshot from “Petrichor” by Stacey Katlain.

“The logistics and costs of filmmaking in the 20th century naturally limited the production of screendance films,” says Eugene based filmmaker and festival co-founder John Watson. But pioneering filmmakers nevertheless managed to develop the art form. In her mid-1940s films A Study in Choreography for Camera and Ritual in Transfigured TimeMaya Deren later innovated camera and editing techniques to manipulate time, space, and redefine the concepts of movement for film. A generation later, Hilary Harris’s Nine Variations on a dance theme (1966/67) continued to explore the relationship between the moving image and dance.

Screenshot from "In Here, Out There" by Ian Coronado

Screenshot from “In Here, Out There” by Ian Coronado.

Today, when the latest iPhone can produce video of quality only available to professionals just a few years ago, screendance is finding its way to screens everywhere. “The proliferation of inexpensive video cameras, simple editing systems, and the increasing number distribution channels such as Vimeo and YouTube led to an explosion of new work in the last 30 years,” explains Watson, who’s starting his eighth year as the marketing specialist and house manager for Lane Community College’s performing arts program.

Last year, Watson was chatting with fellow Eugene filmmaker Dorene Carroll (a graduate of both LCC and the UO’s dance programs who teaches, choreographs and dances in productions around the state) about promoting videos each was making. Both are avid fans and supporters of screendance, and have produced several screendance projects of their own. Noting the strong interest in dance performance and filmmaking in Eugene and the increasing number of screendance festivals around the world like the 20th International Screendance Festival and Screendance Miami 2015, they calculated that such an event would draw a great deal of local interest and participation.

Watson and Carroll invited several well-known artists in the dance and film communities to submit work for an exposition, not competition, event. The program will consist of the 14 selected screendance videos (out of 20 submitted), along with the producer’s videos and videos from at least one of the exposition sponsors. “They are from as close as Eugene, and as far away as Italy,” Watson notes. “Styles range from a poignant comedy piece to ballroom fantasy and on into several interesting pieces built around contemporary dance. Many are narrative, but a couple are very abstract. Set locations range from the Oregon coast to a train station, and the lineup includes a sneak preview of Robert Uehlin’s Near By Far (2014), choreographed by UO Associate Professor of Dance Brad Garner and Mary Fitzgerald with score by George Wiederkehr.

Screenshot from “Snags in Palladio” by Michele Manzini.

Screenshot from “Snags in Palladio” by Michele Manzini.

There will be two showings, a matinee at 4:00pm and in the evening at 7:30pm. The artists who collaborated on the selected videos will be part of an audience/artist dialog after the 7:30 event. A complete list of selected filmmakers and their work is on the Exposition’s web site.

The Exposition will be an annual event, Watson wrote in an email. “We are very encouraged by the support we have received from members of the dance community in Eugene, notably the faculty in the Lane Community College Dance Program, DanceAbility International, the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance, and the Bijou Art Cinemas, Lane Community College, the University of Oregon, which is now a sponsor. We would not be able to do this without their support. We are hoping to expand the event to include presentations and workshops.”

Gary Ferrington is a Senior Instructor Emeritus, Instructional Systems Technology, College of Education, University of Oregon. He is an advocate for new music and serves as project coordinator for Oregon ComposersWatch.

Weekend DanceWatch: Classical Indian dance

Klinton Haliday and Dhruv Singh talk about dancing in the Bharatnatyam style

As TBA winds down, Portland’s local offerings are beginning to pick up. Appropriately bookending TBA’s conversation on Global dance, this weekend brings us two separate Bharatanatyam dance groups from India.

Bharatnatyam is one of the classical dance forms originating from southern India. If you love to travel and are a fan of Indian music and dance then you should go see the Chennai December Season in Chennai India—experts in Indian music and dance come together from all over the world and perform every December.

Here in Portland we have our own active and vibrant Indian dance and music scene. The most active presenting organizations are KalakendraRasika, and the Portland Balaji Temple in conjunction with various dance schools in the area depending on the production. Kalakendra, whose mission is to introduce, promote and enhance awareness of the different Indian performing arts, will be bringing in Shijith Nambiar & Parvathy Menon on Saturday to perform Under the Banyon and Portland Balaji Temple with Alapadma Dance School from Seattle, will present  Viraja Mandhre & Shyamjith Kiran, on Sunday.

Portland is also home to to four very accomplished Bharatanatyam dance artists. Subashini Ganesan, Anita Menon, Jayanthi Raman and Sivagami Vanka. Ganesan in Southeast Portland is the Director of the Natya Leela Academy and is also the founder and Director of  N.E.W. (New Expressive Works), a residency and showcase for Portland choreographers at Studio 2 @ Zoomtopia. Bob Hicks wrote an article recently on Ganesan’s experience managing the space at Studio@Zoomtopia. Menon, is the Founder and Artistic Director of Anjali School of Dance in Hillsboro and Tigard and is the recent Recipient of the Regional Arts and Culture Council Performing Arts Fellowship and choreographed The Jungle Book for NW Children’s Theater in collaboration with Jane Hardy last season. Raman is the director of  Natya Dance Academy in Portland and Hillsboro and recent author of Bharatha Natyam, The Dance of India: Demystified for Global Audience. Vanka is the director of Kalabharathi School of Dance in Northwest Portland, presenter of Indian dance companies and is my own Bharatanatyam teacher. She will be celebrating her school’s 30th anniversary this coming year.

In June, I had the privilege of seeing Ganesan’s school recital, Conference of the Birds at PSU’s Lincoln Hall. Performing with the school was a beautifully charismatic, adult male dancer, Dhruv Singh. Male Bharatanatyam performers are rare to begin with and even more rare in Portland. Now we have two, that I know of. The second dancer is Klinton Haliday, who performed at Ten Tiny Dances in Beaverton, studies with Vanka, and is a close friend of mine.

Because their choices and experiences are so unusual, I thought it would be interesting to interview Singh and Haliday and for you to get to know them, after this week’s listing information.

TBA:15 FestivalAmy O’Neal, Opposing Forces
September 17, 18, 19

Dana Michel, Yellow Towel

September 18, 19

Radhouane El Meddeb / La compagnie de Soi, Au temps où les Arabes dansaient…

September 18, 19

Under the Banyan
Meghadootam, The Cloud Messenger
Choreography by Shijith Nambiar & Parvathy Menon
7:30pm, September 19
Performing Arts Center, PCC Sylvania 12000 SW 49th Ave.
Choreographed by Shijith Nambiar and Parvathy Menon with live music and vocals through the Bharatnatyam classical form of Indian dance, Under the Banyan tells the tale of an exiled man pining away for his wife who begs a passing cloud to carry his love to his wife.

Bharatanatyam Duo Viraja Mandhre & Shyamjith Kiran.

Bharatanatyam Duo Viraja Mandhre & Shyamjith Kiran.

Viraja Mandhre & Shyamjith Kiran,
A Bharatanatyam Recital
7pm, September 20
Portland Balaji Temple, 2092 NW Aloclek Drive, Suite 522, Hillsboro
A dynamic Bharatanatyam duo from the renowned Kalakshetra school of dance in Chennai India will perform several dances from their repertoire, at Portlands Balaji temple.

Dhruv Singh

Bharanatyam dancer Dhruv Singh performing in the Ramayana.

Bharanatyam dancer Dhruv Singh performing in The Ramayana.

How old are you?
Just turned 30!

Where are you from?
India at large—my extended family and relatives belong to Uttar Pradesh  (maternal folks near western UP and paternal folks around Varanasi). Personally I have grown up in Jabalpur, Trichy and Kolkata followed by college in Kanpur. I then moved to US for a Ph.D. in nanoscale engineering at Purdue University. My current job at Intel brought me to Portland, which would end up being the place where I really dedicated time in learning dance

How were you introduced to Bharatanatyam? When and where did you start dancing?
I was drawn to Bharatanatyam when my sister was learning it as a kid. In our community, that seemed to be the only dance class going on. and I was always interested in the dancing that went on in Bollywood movies—so would peek into the class and coax my (elder) sister to demo what she learnt. Its very hazy about when and where I actually started dancing Bharatanatyam, since there was not really a continuous process of learning or practicing. Perhaps in the living room while fooling around, perhaps through copying the vintage “unity in diversity” campaigns on TV or by assimilation in college cultural festivals. I have danced adulterated classical dances sporadically through college, which is where I was part of dancing club (Bollywood focused).

Was Bharatanatyam the first form of dance you learned?
Yes as a kid for a year. The first dances I formally learnt were Ballroom Standard and Latin dances and later Argentine Tango (to a greater depth).

What attracted you to Bharatanatyam?
I cannot put my finger on what attracted me to it as a child—it could be something as simple as the desire to dance. Today what attracts me to Bharatanatyam is the combination of rhythmic madness and complete freedom of expression portrayed through technique and body language—expressions ranging from simple happiness, bliss, sadness, anger, violence to complex ones such as turmoil, peace, surrender and confusion! The possibility that it can be playing tennis with music one moment and a meditative experience the other makes this a very attractive dance form to me!

What form of Bharatanatyam do you do? Who are your teachers?
I do not know about which form of Bharatanatyam I dance! My teacher was my sister (and her teacher, Somnath) and this year I learnt with Subashini Ganesan for her show. She once remarked I have “Kalakshetra” hands.

Is this the only dance style that you study or have studied?
No—actually this is the dance form I have not very formally/actively “studied.” I dance Bollywood, Indian folk dances, dance a bit of ballroom and I have been actively studying and dance Argentine Tango for the past five years.

Are your families supportive of you dancing?
Yes very much—and they are often very curious about my dancing adventures. They actively share videos of my performances with relatives and friends, and often ask me for living room demos

Do you think your dance experience has differed because you are male?
Tough question to answer—depends very much on which situation and at what time. With respect to Bharatanatyam, it has gone both ways. Sometimes I have a lot of attention and easy access to individual roles because of extreme scarcity of males (and people in general) who know Bharatanatyam. Often, we receive generous comments and lauding from spectators on the ability to perform the dance as well as women. At other times, I have found even choreographers smirk at the fact that a male is attempting to dance Bharatanatyam. And then there is everything in between.

What is it like training in Bharatanatyam in India compared to the US?
Most of my experience in the US is based on training with Subashini Ganesan in Portland earlier this year. I really admire her patience and ability to not only preserve but propagate the rigor that is associated with Indian classical dance (Bharatanatyam in particular)—while maintaining the nurturing classroom atmosphere expected by students today in the US (and all over the world). Back home in India, the atmosphere is much more hierarchical, strict and expects the student to be hungry—making dance students either competitive skilled dancers or losing interest. This is however, also culturally inspired—majority of Bharatanatyam students in India are children and young teens often put into classes by parents or professional dancers. In U.S., in addition there is a bigger fraction (not the absolute number) of adult dancers who get introduced to it for various reasons including cross cultural interactions.

Klinton Haliday

Klinton Haliday performing with Kalabharathi School of Dance at Walters Cultural Arts Center.

Klinton Haliday performing with Kalabharathi School of Dance at Walters Cultural Arts Center.

How old are you?
I turned 35 this last May

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in California

What is your ethnic background?
My family has a multicultural background, because of mixed parentage, I identify as Black American but before that I’m an American.

What is your connection to Japan?
My family, but it’s also the place where I became an adult, and the only other language aside from English that I speak, though recently I’ve begun French.

How were you introduced to Bharatnatyam? When and where did you start dancing?
I’ve danced since I was a child, but I was introduced to Bharatanatyam about 10 years ago, back in 2005, when my family moved back to U.S. (from Fukuoka Japan). It was our first day back in the States, and out of boredom we went to the Rose Garden to see the flowers and came upon a performance at Washington Park of the Kalabharathi School of Dance. I was so impressed with the performance I wanted to meet the performers. They were very kind and answered all of my questions and introduce me to my Guru Shivagami Vanka, who since has been my guide on this beautiful path.

When you first saw Indian dance at the International Rose Test Garden, what about the dance was impressive?
it was the music, the precision of movements, and the depth of story. Aesthetically it was absolutely beautiful, but most of all the rich and colorful history it had.

Was Bharatnatyam the first form of dance you learned?
No, I had seen it before but never imagined I would be attached to this art form as I am, but the first dance form I was exposed to is actually square dance when I was in second grade. Since then I’ve explored many genres of dance.

What attracted you to Bharatnatyam?
I would definitely have to say the athleticism and artistry for starters, but what made me fall in love with this Bharatanatyam is the theory, history, and Carnatic (A south Indian system of music) music.

What form of Bharatnatyam do you do? Who are your teachers?
My Guru is smt. Shivagami Vanka of the Kalabharathi School of Dance, but by means of my Guru I’ve have also trained  with Jayanthi Subramaniam, Madurai Muralidharan, and A. Lakshman Swami.  Kalakshetra is the style of Bharatanatyam my guru teaches, however for a complete experience of this art form, my Guru insist on exposure to other styles as well, so one can better appreciate the identity and the intricacy of Bharatanatyam.

Is this the only dance style that you study or have studied?
No, it isn’t. I’ve also studies Ballet, Jazz, Hip-hop, Salsa, Merengue, Tap, Nihon buyo, and some other social dances. But my favorite would have to be the folkloric styles such as classical East Indian dance “Bharatanatyam” or traditional Japanese dance “Nihon buyo”.

Is your family supportive of your dancing?
At times more than others, I think the process is more they know it makes me happy so they support that and itself, but even to this day I get the occasional “why, or what sparked your interest in that?” But yes my entire family’s been very supportive especially my wife, children, and my mom.

Do you think your dance experience has differed because you are male?
I suppose so, I find that people often expect female performers because there are more of them, but there are other aspects of dance that men can bring to the stage and any dance form, but especially in Bharatanatyam. As for myself personally, I find an immense amount of support from the Indian community here in the Northwest. I find at times it is like having a really big extended family.

Have you trained in Bharatnatyam outside of the US?
I’ve yet to have the pleasure to study in India, but I am very blessed to have a dance teacher who steeps my training in tradition and brings many teachers here from India means of camps hosted by the Kalabharathi School of Dance.

TBA:15: The dance of the cook, the cook of the dance

Radhouane El Meddeb takes to the kitchen and a huge plate of couscous arrives

Radhouane El Meddeb took about an hour to prepare couscous with a heavily spiced stew of meat and vegetables in two rotund couscoussiere boiling on a low yellow platform of Ikea tables on the main stage at TBA:15’s The Works Wednesday night. He kept an iPod on another platform at the opposite end of the stage and used the space between to apply some heat and pressure to the the pacing, marching, and sometimes-dancing that one inevitably does while running a big cook up.

As he flitted between tracks on his iPod, stages in the feast, and intensifying passages of dance and engagement with the crowd, the whole piece began to feel like a recipe in itself. With a swagger underpinned by a solid, generous love for what he was doing and the traditions behind it, Meddeb mixed a few, rich ingredients and applied energy to produce a certain concoction that he served to the whole room.

Radhouane El Meddeb’s "Je danse et je vous en donne à bouffer"/Photo by Carollina Lucchesini

Radhouane El Meddeb’s “Je danse et je vous en donne à bouffer”/Photo by Carollina Lucchesini

The mood of Meddeb’s Je danse et je vous en donne à bouffer oscillated between the sort of lighthearted or distracted prancing one does while on the schedule of a recipe and then, during the longer boils, something deeper and reverential as Meddeb clearly channeled his memories of other times and places where he was present for the preparation of this kind of feast. TBA’s notes mention how he “carefully observed his mother and his aunts preparing couscous and the national dishes served at his family’s gatherings from marriages to circumcisions to mourning rituals…” In the same way that the audience was aware of the ingredients for the feast and yet the specific magic of their preparation wasn’t made explicit, we could see that El Meddeb was remembering and reliving and paying homage without knowing exactly what he had in mind when he stared into the middle distance, palms up, between steps in the recipe, or when he suddenly changed tracks from traditional chants to Nina Simone’s “Don’t let me be misunderstood.”


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