BloodyVox: Family friendly laughs and scares for Halloween

BodyVox's annual Halloween bash is back for another set of humorous takes on the rituals and characters of the holiday

Don’t let the title fool you: “BloodyVox,” the semi-annual Halloween-themed show by Portland dance favorite BodyVox, really isn’t bloody at all. Unless your idea of macabre entertainment features orthopedic surgery, dance and slippery fluids aren’t a great match.

But if we had to determine the production’s blood type, we’d have to assume it’s O positive: O, for the deep Oregon roots of this company. And positive, because—for all the nods toward the darkness and danger that typify Halloween fare—the artistic disposition on display here remains unmistakably sunny.

Bodyvox has opened a new version of its Halloween special, "BloodyVox"/Blaine Covert

Bodyvox has opened a new version of its Halloween special, “BloodyVox”/Blaine Covert

“BloodyVox” first stalked the autumn night in 2010 and has been re-animated every couple of years since, each time re-stitched with a somewhat different collection of spare parts. The latest 75-minute lark-in-the-dark is subtitled “Blood Red Is the New Black,” but don’t come expecting anything remotely grim. These folks just aren’t the guts-and gore type. (Once asked by Willamette Week’s Heather Wisner what scares dancers specifically, company co-founder Ashley Roland replied, “Maybe poundcake.”) BodyVox has never been strongly associated with children’s audiences, as, for instance, Imago Theatre is. But this show feels like a lure for that market.


The Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company is visiting Portland for the third time this weekend at Lincoln Hall, bringing the new-ish production “Wallflower” (2014) to show us. Although it lacks the riotous circus surrealism of the company’s earlier shows, “Wallflower” is still an engaging dance work, once you get inside it a little.

The dance was made for the Tel Aviv Museum of Modern Art, and it’s an abstract outlier in Pinto and Pollak’s work, which typically has narrative elements. “Wallflower” doesn’t really have little stories in it. It’s more about what happens when the museum closes, the lights go down, and the paintings come to life.

White Bird is showing Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak's "Wallflower" at PSU's Lincoln Hall this weekend./Courtesy of White Bird

White Bird is showing Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak’s “Wallflower” at PSU’s Lincoln Hall this weekend./Courtesy of White Bird

We know the dancers are “paintings” because of their colorfully abstract costumes, and we know they are in a museum because of the two stark white walls that dominate the stage. When you think about it, paintings are a form of “wallflower,” I suppose, in a positive way, and when they start to move around they continue to maintain their affinity for the wall. In “Wallflower” the wall is a prop that the dancers constantly lean against, touch with their hands, even crawl along with the help of their colleagues. They can escape the magnetism of the wall, but usually only with the help of a bridge of their friends. And when they find themselves without a helping hand, movement is very difficult, slow, made in laborious bursts.

Accompanying them is a soundtrack provided by three Japanese musicians. The music doesn’t provide a narrative hook, either, though at “Wallflower”’s climax it moves away from its odd peculiarities and occasional darkness toward something that sounds triumphant. Yes, “Wallflower” DOES have a climax, and though I’m tempted to give it a way—it would be fun to talk about its implications—I won’t. (A hint: Think about what might be lurking beneath the “painting”?)

Along the way, the dancers have some delicious moments, first in a series of duets (no, the possibilities of the duet have not yet been exhausted) and then a set of trios. And one dancer, Zvi Fishzon, spends most of the concert wrapped in a costume that allows him to play “sculpture.” Sometimes to humorous effect, though not always.

I had the museum in mind the whole time, and I wonder how viewers who didn’t make sense of “Wallflowers” that way dealt with the piece. It could be tough sledding.


The dance is upon us. This weekend’s dance offering are rich and thick, juicy with meaning, content, promise and variety.

It all begins tonight with BodyVox’s annual spooktacular, BloodyVox: Blood Red is the New Black,  and Wallflower, a newish work by Israeli choreographers Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak that turns moving bodies into visual art.

On Friday, a new iteration of Traces will be revealed. Traces, which debuted last spring, is a trio danced by choreographers Mark Koenigsberg and Sara Naegelin accompanied by retired Oregon Symphony violist, Steve Price. The dance investigates the simple/not so simple idea of two people in relationship to one another moving through space.

Also debuting this weekend is a new work by Amy Leona Havin, director of The Holding Project, a dance based multi-disciplinary company here in Portland. I interviewed Havin back in May on her then dance and film project HAVA | חוה. You can read that full interview here. Havin received a four-month residency at Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center and has created Lines of Pull, a new dance that she made in collaboration with filmmakers Tomás Alfredo Valladares and Dora Jane Schaller, sculptor Maggie Heath, sound artist Valerie Perczek and dancers Lena Traenkenschuh (assistant director and co-choreographer), Abigail Flora Nace and Catherine Raupp. Lines of Pull investigates the passing of time, perception of age, the struggle of identity, and relationships to inherited histories through mediums of video, live dance, soundscape, and set design.

Marginal Evidence, a visual installation about the act of choreography created by choreographer Katherine Longstreth, reopens Monday at Reed College in the Performing Arts Building. It was originally installed at the White Box gallery last year around this time. You can read my preview of the exhibit here, and Martha Ullman West’s review of the exhibit, here. There will be a reception and walk through with Longstreth on November 3rd.

Performances this week!


Dancer Anna Marra as Little Miss Tough It in BloodyVox: Blood Red is the New Black. Photo by Jingzi Zhao

BloodyVox: Blood Red Is The New Red
October 20-29
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave

Created in 2010, BloodyVox, BodyVox’s “scary” version of a holiday classic, celebrates directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland’s favorite holiday, Halloween. This dance theatre extravaganza touches on all aspects of Halloween creating an evening that lasts just over an hour that is dark, mysterious, magical, beautiful, ironic, odd, hilarious and absurd. The dance, which is made up of many smaller dances, incorporates the standard Halloween fare of vampires, zombies, ghosts, killer lady spiders, and creepy identical twins alongside elegant technical ballet and modern dance done in the BodyVox style. It’s all about having fun while getting scared.

When I spoke with Hampton and Roland last week about the dance Hampton said, “It’s your standard modern dance fare.” Roland reiterated “Its typical. Anything you might find at the end of a Martha Graham piece or something that’s gone bad.” Hampton finished the conversation off with: “When you think of horror and modern dance, it’s limitless.”

 "Wallflower" by Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak. Courtesy of White Bird

White Bird is showing  Wallflower at PSU’s Lincoln Hall this weekend./Courtesy of White Bird

Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company
Presented by White Bird
October 20-22
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave

Formed in 1992 by former Batsheva dancer Inbal Pinto and actor/theatre director Avshalom Pollak in Tel Aviv, Israel, Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company is made up of 12 dancers and actors from around the world, and combines dance, theatre and design.

Wallflower, set in a stark, white space (originally created in 2014 at the Tel-Aviv museum of Art in the sculpture gallery), uses dancers, dressed in multi-colored unitards, to create shapes, scenes and meaning, to a score by Japanese composers, Umitaro Abe, Mayu Gonto, and Hirofumi Nakamura.

In my research online about the company, I found a beautiful sketchbook created by artist Yuval Haker that documents his impressions from a performance he saw of  Wallflower. You can view that notebook here.

I also found a very great video interview with directors Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak on their history, process and interests, that can be seen here. Being able to see and hear an artist speak, adds so much more to their art.


Traces by Mark Koenigsberg, Sara Naegelin & Steve Price. Photo by Briana Cerezo.

Mark Koenigsberg, Sara Naegelin & Steve Price
October 21-22
The Little Church, 5138 NE 23rd Ave

Sara Naegelin and Mark Koenigsberg (both long time students of Portland choreographer Gregg Bielemeier) along with violist Steve Price (a long-time violist for the Oregon Symphony), will perform their trio at The Little Church, a clean lined, open, but intimate space on the corner of Northeast Summer and 23rd Avenue. The space is a perfect container for the simple but complex form of the dance.

Naegelin has been dancing in Portland since 2007 and has performed in works by Lucy Yim, Taylor Eggan, Leah Wilmoth and Ellen Bartel, during a brief stint in Austin, Texas. Koenigsberg has been dancing since childhood when he first witnessed Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, but more recently with Celine Bouly in I Am Not Going To Jail.


Lines of Pull by The Holding Project. Dancer is Abigail Flora Nace. Photo by Tomás Alfredo Valladares.

Lines of Pull
The Holding Project
Directed by Amy Leona Havin
October 21-22
Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center, 8371 N Interstate Avenue

“When did you first feel young? When did you first feel old? Have you ever felt your age? Is anything pulling you? Tell me about your childhood. Do you relate to your generation? Describe your relationship with time.” These are some of the questions that documentary filmmaker Tomás Alfredo Valladares, collaborator of Amy Leona Havin, asked me and several other community member volunteers, including pioneering Portland modern dance maker, Tere Mathern.

These questions and our answers became the material that Havin and her collaborators used to build Lines of Pull. They were curious about time, age, identity, and familial history and what “things” pull or push us in life to shape who we are in this moment.

Lines of Pull was created in a four-month residency given to Havin at Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center in North Portland. The work has become a living, moving installation that involves a falling wall, ropes and waxed fabric sculptures all created by visual artist Maggie Heath that hint at humanity and history and home. The dance includes video footage of the community members answering questions, and music by sound artist Valerie Perczek (Indira Valey), which fills the spaces and supports the movement. The movement created by Havin and the dancers was created in response to the words and ideas expressed in the videos, as well as to their own answers to the same questions. Lines of Pull is an evening-length meditation/art installation/dance performance that beautifully and thoughtfully investigates our connections to time and to each other.

Rockin’ Road to Dublin
RMS Productions, Eugene
8 pm October 22
Hult Center for Performing Arts, Silva Concert Hall, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Choreographer/dancer Scott Doherty (of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance) has united with veteran Celtic rocker Chris Smith (American Rogues), to create a new production fusing classic Irish dancing with Rock-n-Roll. This production will not disappoint Irish dancing fans as it still contains the leaping, twirling, and rapid-fire footwork that Irish dancing is so famous, it’s just updated for a modern audience.

Marginal Evidence
A visual installation about the act of choreography
By Katherine Longstreth
October 24-November 5
Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Performance Lab 128, 3202 SE Woodstock Blvd

See info above.

Next Week

October 28-30, INCIPIO, PDX Contemporary Ballet
October 28, Spectacle Garden 6: Monsters & Death, Ben Martens
October 28-30, Giselle, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene

Upcoming Performances

November 3-12, Reclaimed, Polaris Dance Theatre
November 4-6, Obstacles and Victory Songs, Stephanie Lavon Trotter and Dora Gaskill
November 5-6, All The Marys, Luciana Proaño
November 6, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live!, Hult Presents, Eugene
November 11-13, Epoch, Jamuna Chiarini and push/FOLD-Samuel Hobbs
November 12-20, the last bell rings for you, Linda Austin Dance
November 17-19, Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, White Bird
November 19-20, 3rd Annual Glow Variety Show, Trauma Healing Project, Eugene
November 25-27, Gift Box (Anne Mueller) & The Enchanted Toyshop (John Clifford), The Portland Ballet Holiday Show
November 26, Nutcracker Remixed, All That! Dance Company, Eugene
December 2-4, N.E.W. Expressive Works Residency Performance, Dana Detweiler, James Healey, Jessica Hightower, and Renee Sills
December 8-10, In Good Company, NW Dance Project
December 8-10, ARCANE COLLECTIVE, Presented by BodyVox
December 9-11, The Book of Esther — A Rock Gospel Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
December 10-26, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 15-17, Complicated Woman, Katie Scherman/2016 Performance Works NW Alembic Resident Artist
December 16-18, The Nutcracker, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
December 18, Gifts, a film by Clare Whistler/2015 Performance Works NW visiting artist
December 19, Dancing with the Stars: Live! – We Came to Dance, AEG Live NW, Eugene
December 22-24, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland

Choreographer Camille A. Brown asks: ‘What is so uncomfortable about a black girl playing?’

White Bird brings Camille A. Brown & Dancers to town for some playground games—and some sharing of black culture

In the Q&A after the opening night performance of “Black Girl: Linguistic Play,” Camille A. Brown was asked whether she thought it was easier or harder to engage racial issues in her performances in the “current political climate,” a phrase which sent a distressed chuckle through the audience.

She joked that when the title was just “Black Girl,” she assumed she wouldn’t have a tour. She imagined a genteel couple picking what they wanted to do on a Friday night and shying away from the performance called “Black Girl.” Who wants to think about that on your night out? “We live in a post-racial world, anyway,” Brown quipped, to another uneasy chuckle. To answer the original question, Brown asked another, simple question. What, exactly, is so uncomfortable about a black girl playing?

She’s made my job as a reviewer rather easy, in fact, by naming her show after exactly what it is about: the language behind some of the ways that black girls play. The thesis of this show is that there is legitimate language of movement that has been passed down through a rich cultural history that can be found in traditional schoolyard and side-street games played by girls, frequently black girls. Further: That’s worth watching, and it deserves more space.

Camille A. Brown and Catherine Foster in "Black Girl: Linguistic Play"/Photo by Christopher Duggan courtesy White Bird

Camille A. Brown and Catherine Foster in “Black Girl: Linguistic Play”/Photo by Christopher Duggan courtesy White Bird

If you have a sideways, gut feeling that the show will be “racially charged” or “confrontational,” I can tell you that it will only feel that way if you are uncomfortable with the idea of giving this particular form of dance a stage and engaging with it from the perspective of contemporary dance. PICA’s TBA Festival has brought performers from around the world who have done the same thing with the folk dances that informed their upbringing—Brown’s just doing it with a folk tradition that thrives in our playgrounds and city streets.


Boléro, with a wink

Ihsan Rustem's affectionate reinterpretation of the Ravel classic highlights the three premieres in Northwest Dance Project's season-opening show

Some works of art seem too much with us. A Christmas Carol. The Scream. Pachelbel’s Canon. The Nutcracker. Boléro. But they are too much with us partly because they resonate. The trick is to see and hear them with original eyes and ears, with something of the freshness of a first encounter.

Or, if not a first encounter, then a fresh take, a new way of looking at something overly familiar. That’s what Ihsan Rustem, Northwest Dance Project’s endlessly inventive resident choreographer, has accomplished with his bright and witty new Boléro, which he’s rescued from the graveyard of pop-culture banality and restored affectionately to its pedestal of seductively oddball expressionism.

Boléro was the big crowd-pleaser as NDP opened its 13th season Thursday night, rocking the house and bringing the crowd cheering to its feet at Lincoln Performance Hall. The program, which repeats Friday and Saturday nights and is titled Boléro+, follows essentially the same format as what the company for several seasons called New Now Wow!: three dances by three choreographers, all of them premieres.

We’ll get back to Boléro. First, the +es.


Cody Jaron (in gray) and Franco Nieto, with Ching Ching Wong in background, in "Post-Traumatic-Monster." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Cody Jauron (in gray) and Franco Nieto, with Ching Ching Wong in background, in “Post-Traumatic-Monster.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

German choreographer Felix Landerer kicks off the program with his Post-Traumatic-Monster, a long piece that’s almost two separate dances joined at the hip: in fact, part of the opening-night audience thought it was over when the piece paused for its transition, and began to applaud, tentatively. Set to a crunching score by Christof Littman and cast moodily in long looming shadows by lighting designer Jeff Forbes, PTM is about the relationship between two dancers – the dramatically paired Ching Ching Wong and Franco Nieto, dressed by designer Cassie Ridgway in bright red – who are surrounded by an amorphous sludge of outsiders dressed in gray. The gray gang represents the things that get in the way – “an organism that at some point might develop a dynamic of its own,” as Landerer explains in his program notes, “so what we intend to form and build might eventually turn into something that gets out of control and shapes us instead.” In other words: no fairy-tale ending for this love affair. It’s a struggle of memory, fear, and regret.


DanceWatch Weekly: The big companies take over

White Bird's Camille A. Brown concert, OBT's "Giants" and Northwest Dance Project's "Bolero" lead the way this weekend

Last night, two very strong programs opened in Portland: Bolero, by NW Dance Project, which includes world premieres by the company’s resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem, Lucas Crandall and Felix Landerer; and “BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play” by award-winning, New York choreographer Camille A. Brown at White Bird. This weekend is also the second run of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s program Giants which features choreography by George Balanchine, William Forsythe, and Nicolo Fonte. It’s a powerhouse weekend and you still have a chance to see them all before the programs conclude (on Sunday for Giants and Saturday for NWDP and Camille A. Brown & Dancers).

NW Dance Project is joined this season by three new dancers—Tatiana Barber, William Couture and Charbel Rohayem, all three 2016 graduates of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet BFA at Dominican University of California in San Francisco and beautiful dancers to boot.

I caught up very briefly this week with NW Dance Project choreographers Rustem, Crandall and Landerer and spoke with each of them about their dances and what it takes to make them. The program, formerly known as New/Now/Wow, is titled Bolero but contains three pieces; Bolero by Rustem, Salt by Crandall and POST-TRAUMATIC-MONSTER by Landerer. I spoke with Rustem and Crandall in person in between rehearsals, and Landerer and I communicated via email.

NW Dance Project,studio rehearsals,"Carmina Burana"

NW Dance Project, studio rehearsals for Bolero. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.


London-born Ihsan Rustem trained at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance and went on to dance with Matthew Bourne’s Adventures in Motion Pictures, Ballett Theater Munich (Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz) and Introdans in The Netherlands, became a founding member of the State Theater Bern Ballet and the Tanz Luzerner Theater, before joining NW Dance Project as resident choreographer in 2015.

How did this Bolero thing start?

I’ve wanted to do Bolero for 15 years. The first professional thing I ever did, really, (I was a guest, but it was still a big gig I guess) was with Bejart Ballet Lausanne at Sadler’s Wells during Bejart’s Bolero with Sylvie Guillem. I was like 16 or 17; I was a kiddie. I don’t know if you know the piece, but it’s a big table, and Sylvie or whoever is doing it that day, does a 15-minute solo on the table, and there are 40 guys basically as the corps. So wherever they go, they always hire an extra 15. And that I will never forget; the music is phenomenal; I get goose bumps still now. I can’t hear this music anymore, but… I still get goosebumps (laughing). I think that says a lot. I think it is one of the most amazing pieces of music ever written for dance. It was commissioned for a dance at the Paris Opera in 1928.

It still gives me goosebumps today. But…it’s challenging. People think I’m nuts sometimes, because the music repeats itself. It has two phrases and they each repeat nine times. It’s how do you take that and create a through-line which builds up in the way that I feel. I’ve said from the beginning, it feels like a 15 minute orgasm, and it still does. Even after hearing it a million times. Because it is, it starts very subtle, but by the end the climax really is one. And I like that, I think it’s fabulous.

It’s a piece of music I’ve wanted to use for years and now felt like the right time. It’s the fifth creation for the company and I think there is also an element of trying to do something that I haven’t done before here.

What are elements or ideas that you are working with in the choreography and how is this piece different from your previous works?

I think it’s quirkier. There are elements of quirky things. In my earlier works here, people cried, and then we sort of went on to the meatier works, like the third one Yidam; it’s just more powerful, raw, emotion, driven, that music drives it.

I feel like I’ve evolved from very sensitive subtle work like State of Matter at the beginning. Mother Tongue was an evolution of that, and Yidam was a powerhouse, a much tougher meatier work. And then for the fourth creation we wanted to do something completely different, and Sarah had been wanting me to do something that was maybe funny or had elements of comedy. So we decided to do Le Fil Rouge, which used old songs. We had everything from Doris Day to Creep.

This one is already an evolution in terms of musical choices. It’s shorter, it’s a whole company work, and it’s quirkier than other works. And it’s based on love, desire, loss, attachment, hate, passion. So I’m using that but in quite random bursts throughout the piece as opposed to a narrative. It’s certainly not a narrative. But each of the duets have their own narrative and that pops out, and the music is passionate. It feeds me elements of relationships and every angle of that. The rose is a representation—and quite an obvious representation—of what that is, in its own abstract form.

Do you make work differently for American dancers versus European dancers?

I wouldn’t say that my approach is different, but what is different is that American dancers are faster, they have to be. We have half the time, if not less than half the time, here. So naturally there is a hunger which comes with that and the drive with that. The system in Europe is much more comfortable, let’s put it that way, than your system here, just based on the fact that most of it is taxpayer funded. We have 13-month contracts, we have pension plans, that is just standard for dancers over there. With that comes a little bit of comfortable and sometimes that creeps in and certainly doesn’t exist here. The drive here is like no other. The difference comes not so much from my approach, but what do they offer. And here, especially at NWDP, what they offer is relatively phenomenal; what they get done in such a short amount of time, the investment they have, is like no other.

What is your dance-making process like?

I came in day one and taught a bunch of phrases. The dancers have been very involved in the creative process. We know each other, so they know what I want. And I know who is better with who. They sort of broke up into groups based on the phrases and based on the information of what we had given—love, attachment, desire, loss, passion, sex—took that and I said create little quirky things.

I had shown them a video, it’s kind of cool, to see a Chandelier video, you know, the little 12-year-old girl, Maddie Ziegler who is dancing around. The choreographer had made this fabulous two-minute sketch, where he is going through the actual choreography but talking through what each step is for him, but the randomness is amazing. I remember the first time I saw the video I thought she was improvising then I realized, no it was set. He has these small bursts of movement that seems to come from nowhere, and he’s explaining what each of it means to him. And it was so quirky and funny and I liked that, so I wanted to feed elements of that into the creative process, which has resulted in these small bursts of stories, but you don’t know quite where they came from or where they are going.

Because the structure is more abstract in its form, I could mix and match around the order until we found what fit best and I went with that.

NW Dance Project,studio rehearsals,"Carmina Burana"

NW Dance Project,studio rehearsals for Bolero. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Lucas Crandall who has choreographed four pieces for NWDP, including Salt for the Bolero program, danced for Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, and Nederlands Dans Theater, working with Aráiz, Kylián, Christopher Bruce, Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, Rui Horta, Amanda Miller and Ohad Naharin. In 2000, Crandall returned to the U.S. to join Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as Associate Artistic Director and is now Rehearsal Director.

Where did the making of your dance begin?

The quote from Karen Blixen—“The cure for anything is saltwater — sweat, tears, or the salt sea”—is basically where I wanted to start off from with these guys. I decided also to do a trio, because I didn’t know how much time I was really going get, but then I realized also that a trio is more challenging.

I basically worked from the premise of the quote.

We go through a cycle of where they come out of the ocean, there is a fast part where they are the ocean, and I’m hoping that because it’s active enough, that’s where we generate some sweat. Then we come down to a more subdued moment where an abstract story kind of develops. It starts out with two women and one man. As we are going through the process of the second part, I started translating that actually the two women are the same person. One of the woman at the end is just reflecting on this moment that made her happy.

The harder point for me was trying to find tears. So we were talking about tears of joy also, not just sadness. I tried to incorporate a little bit of humor right at the very very top. I don’t think its uproarious humor, but its light.

We don’t really achieve drama tears either, but there’s a more morose moment from the actual person that is kind of left behind. Or the one woman that is the real person who has been thinking through this whole thing has been left behind. She ends up on the beach and the other two have gone; she wakes up from sleeping on the beach and sees rolling waves, and hopefully she feels good.

(Laughing) I can’t really explain this.

It’s really just based on the quote. Better not to talk about it. This is just my version of it.

How do you start making movement?

I basically went on my phone and went onto Instagram, we looked at a picture, and I said make a movement out of that. It can be a door frame. You make a straight line; next person make a movement but then connect it to the first one that the person made; and we go down the line making phrases like that.

Some of them will get altered, obviously.

I don’t have my own specific style; I have my own way that I like to have things interpreted as they are moving them. That I actually find more tedious. Because even now, I don’t have enough time to gel all the things the way that things should be done.

Everything’s been done before, it’s just the way you are doing it. For me personally. I like to look at dance as poetry and try to actually make something just from point A to point B of that movement. There is a starting point and how it starts is even as important to the finish even more so than the actual technical part of that movement.

As a choreographer I try to feel more as a poet or sculptor; some choreographers are more architects, and some are more other things.

I’m discovering it still, too; it’s funny.

NW Dance Project,studio rehearsals,"Carmina Burana"

NW Dance Project,studio rehearsals for Bolero. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Felix Landerer is a freelance choreographer based in Hannover Germany and has been the resident choreographer at Scapino Ballet Rotterdam since 2013. Most recently he has been guest choreographing for Luzerner Theater in Switzerland and for Norrdans in Sweden. This is Landerer’s second piece for NWDP.

What is it about or not about?

It’s about a relationship and the monster that it can turn into.

Is there a story?

I like to have a narrative component to my work, without getting too literal.

Is it abstract?

I hope just enough to be inspiring to search how the piece relates to the audience and not too much, to lose them on the way.

What thread of curiosity are you working out in this dance?

There is a structure to the piece that connects the idea of memories of situations, movement or an emotion and the present action, in a non-linear timeline. So I tried to enhance certain movements or situations by putting more focus on them than on others, and I hope that all the elements of the structure will work in the right directions.

What is your process for making dances? Where do you start?

For me it depends on the circumstances. This time I tried to stay as close to the original idea and structure of the piece as I could; because of the timeframe given, my approach was quite a venture. I will know on Thursday if I tried too much or if everything came together. I think that’s the risk you should take in order to grow in what you’re doing, but it doesn’t guarantee a lot of restful nights. In general my main focus always lies on the integrity of the piece and the dancers performing it. If I believe that they fully embrace my language and they grow in it, I’m satisfied.

Performances this week


Camille A. Brown & Dancers. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play
Camille A. Brown & Dancers
White Bird
October 13-15
Thursday and Friday performances will be followed by an audience conversation with Camille A. Brown focusing on the important themes of BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play.
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway

Camille A. Brown, a New York based choreographer and four time Princess Grace Award winner (one of many awards), presents “Black Girl: Linguistic Play” which “celebrates the unspoken rhythm and language that Black girls have through Double Dutch, social dances, and hand-clapping games that are contemporary and ancestral.”

Brown, with a music background in clarinet, creates choreography that combines music and storytelling, that speaks historically and personally.

In the choreographer notes section on her website Brown says, “As I began to create the work, I realized that I was exhausted by stereotypes and tropes because, as a Black female director, I battle with them daily.

Kyra Gaunt’s book, The Games Black Girls Play, inspired the concept for the work. The word “play” immediately shot out. I started thinking about my childhood and the many games I used to play—Double Dutch, Red light, Green light, Marco Polo—and how it was hard for me to find narratives within the media that showcased Black girls being just that: girls. This instantly resonated and became personal. Who was I before the world defined me? What are the unspoken languages within Black girl culture that are multidimensional and have been appropriated and compartmentalized by others? What are the dimensions of Black girl joy that cannot be boxed into a smile or a grimace, but demonstrated in a head tilt, lip smack, hand gesture, and more? “

Brown’s website is packed with recorded interviews with the artists as well as articles about her and a video of her TEDx talk about the history of social dance. It’s worth your time to peruse her site and get to know her work and point of view.

Works by Ihsan Rustem, Lucas Crandall and Felix Landerer
NW Dance Project
October 13-15
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave

See above.

Martina Chavez, Candace Bouchard, Thomas Baker, Jacquelin Straughan in "Serenade." Photo: Yi Yin

Martina Chavez, Candace Bouchard, Thomas Baker, Jacquelin Straughan in Serenade. Photo: Yi Yin


Works by George Balanchine, William Forsythe, and Nicolo Fonte
October 8-15
Oregon Ballet Theatre, Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St
2nd weekend
Giants is a triple bill featuring Serenade by George Balanchine, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated by William Forsythe and a world premier of Giants Before Us by Oregon Ballet Theatre Resident Choreographer Nicolo Fonte.

Serenade was choreographed in 1934 and was meant to be a staged lesson in technique, incorporating unexpected, real life moments that happened during the the making of the dance like dancers arriving late to rehearsal or accidentally falling.

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was choreographed by William Forsythe in 1987 for the Paris Opera Ballet by the request of then director, Rudolf Nureyev. The original cast featured dancer Sylvie Guillem and became Forsythe’s most well known work and has been performed by companies worldwide.

Giants Before Us by Nicolo Fonte sits between classical and contemporary dance and features the athleticism of OBT’s male dancers to Franz Liszt played live by pianist Hunter Noack.

Next Week

October 20-29, BloodyVox, BodyVox
October 20-22, Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak, White Bird
October 21-22, Traces, Mark Koenigsberg & Sara Naegelin
October 21-22, Lines of Pull, The Holding Project
October 24-November 5, Marginal Evidence, Katherine Longstreth

Upcoming Performances

October 28-30, INCIPIO, PDX Contemporary Ballet
November 3-12, Reclaimed, Polaris Dance Theatre
November 4-6, Obstacles and Victory Songs, Stephanie Lavon Trotter and Dora Gaskill
November 5-6, All The Marys, Luciana Proaño
November 11-13, Epoch, Jamuna Chiarini and push/FOLD-Samuel Hobbs
November 12-20, the last bell rings for you, Linda Austin Dance
November 17-19, Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, White Bird
December 2-4, N.E.W. Expressive Works Residency Performance, Dana Detweiler, James Healey, Jessica Hightower, and Renee Sills
December 8-10, In Good Company, NW Dance Project
December 8-10, ARCANE COLLECTIVE, Presented by BodyVox
December 10-26, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 15-17, Complicated Woman, Katie Scherman/2016 Alembic Resident Artist
December 18, Gifts, a film by Clare Whistler/2015 Performance Works NW visiting artist
December 22-24, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland

Giants 3, masterpieces 1

Oregon Ballet Theatre's "Giants" program promises big things. Only Balanchine's "Serenade" fully delivers.

What makes a ballet a masterpiece?

George Balanchine’s Serenade, the first work on Oregon Ballet Theatre’s  “Giants” program, which I saw at the Keller auditorium on Saturday night, set me thinking about that. Because, in my view, it is the only masterpiece on a program that also included William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and the premiere of OBT resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte’s Giants Before Us.

Serenade, set to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade in C for String Orchestra, premiered in 1935, following a preview on the Warburg estate in 1934, and was the first ballet Balanchine made on American dancers.  It is at once a  tribute  to his own training in pre-revolutionary Russia at the Imperial School in St. Petersburg, and the cornerstone  of the new American classicism that Lincoln Kirstein charged him with developing.

Martina Chavez, Candace Bouchard, Thomas Baker, Jacquelin Straughan in "Serenade." Photo: Yi Yin

Martina Chavez, Candace Bouchard, Thomas Baker, Jacquelin Straughan in “Serenade.” Photo: Yi Yin

Balanchine liked to use cooking as a metaphor when speaking about his work.  The version of Serenade that OBT’s dancers are performing—and damned well—was slow-cooked for three decades, the fourth movement of the score inserted in 1941, the lovely, flowing costumes replacing unbecoming tunics in 1950, the master chef adding ingredients and correcting the seasoning, if you will, until the mid-’60s. Balanchine changed his ballets all the time, of course, adjusting steps to suit the dancers who performed them over the years, or, more often, to challenge them to jump higher, spin faster, travel farther.


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