Dance weekend: Between the ‘Forest’ and the city

Carla Mann's "Forest," a sizzling Flamenco show, Clare Whistler and Jen Mitas' "a hole in time"

Summer is winding down, and though it’s not quite time to pack it all up and go indoors, this week/weekend shows that we are starting to make the transition. The last three dance offerings of August come from vastly different regions of the dance world—post-modern contemporary dance, Flamenco and site-specific dancing in the trees.

Save the dates: PICA’s TBA  festival runs September 10-20 and will feature four Portland dance artists—Lucy Yim, Suniti Dernovsek, Keyon Gaskin and Luke Gutgsell—as well as the ever-popular Ten Tiny Dances. We’ll talk more about them next week. White Bird starts up the new season with Momix, October 8-10, and then brings the great Twyla Tharp’s 50th anniversary tour to town on October 14. It looks to be a really exciting year.

Jesse Berdine and Estelle Olivares in "Forest" by Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest. Photo by Nick Shepard

Jesse Berdine and Estelle Olivares in “Forest” by Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest. Photo by Nick Shepard

Clare Whistler and Jen Mitas: a hole in time
7 pm August 26
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
This collaborative work between Whistler and Mitas might be a discussion, an action, a score, a happening, a dig, a seminar, a research presentation, a walk, a sharing, an interaction, or a round table—who knows? Whistler is interested in breaking down barriers between disciplines and artists and finding ways to offer insight, feeling and moments of timeless beauty in performance. Mitas is investigating digging and the creation of unproductive holes, both as a performance practice and a site of resistance/disruption/joy in post-industrial economies. It’s an interesting combination and will be fun to see how it’s presented.

Carla Mann and Heidi Duckler Dance Theater/Northwest
5 pm and 6:15 pm August 30
Hoyt Arboretum, 4000 SW Fairview Blvd.
Carla Mann—a long-time Portland choreographer, Reed College dance professor (on sabbatical 2015-16), and the associate director of Heidi Duckler Dance Theater/Northwest, a site-specific dance company that lives part-time in Los Angeles and part-time in Portland—has choreographed the first part of a two-part site specific dance focusing on Portland’s growth and development and its connection to nature and urban growth. The first piece, “Forest,” (with music by Portland jazz band Blue Cranes) will explore Hoyt Arboretum and the surrounding forest, and the second, “Urban,” will take place 7 and 9 pm September 12 at Sustainable Northwest Wood, 2701 SE 14th Ave.

For more information on Mann, check out an article written by Emmaly Wiederholt for Stance on Danceas part of her interview series The Dancing Over 50 Project. “Look at dance broadly. Look at the forms of dance that you haven’t experienced before. If you’re primarily involved in the concert dance world, go out and social dance. Explore the breadth of dance activities that are happening. Let your palette be really open.”

Tinto de Verano
Presented by La Peña Flaminca de Portland
7:30 pm August 30
The Headwaters Theater, 55 NE Farragut St.
Flamenco artists from the Bay Area, France and Portland will gather together at The Headwaters Theater for one very special night of music, singing and dancing. Featured artists are dancers Andrea La Canela and Brenna McDonald, singer Cristo Cortis, and musician Ricardo Diaz. La Peña Flaminca is a Portland organization dedicated to promoting the flamenco arts by organizing monthly gatherings around the art. It  promises to be a passionate and fiery evening.

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Interview: Linda Austin celebrates 15 years at Performance Works NW

Linda Austin talks about how her experimental dance style developed in New York and moved to Portland

This Saturday marks the 15th anniversary of performer Linda Austin’s community space and home, Performance Works NorthWest. Austin is a dancer, choreographer and performance artist who has been making dances for many years and works tirelessly to provide opportunities for other artists, so the occasion is auspicious. In celebration, there will be a raucous Anniversary Party/Fundraiser (check out the pinball trailer on the website) at her space off Southeast Foster Road, featuring Pinball games, tamales, beer, performative toasts, naming rights auction (for the right price you could give the middle names to her two cats Delaney and Delilah), a raffle, and a reunion of thirteen alumni from the Boris and Natasha dancers (“the greatest, mostly male, untrained, all awkward dance troupe in the universe”). It’s a party not to be missed.

What I love the most about Austin is how accessible, supportive and easy to talk to she is. In celebration of her celebration, I wanted to learn more about her and share it with you. Here is my conversation via email with Linda Austin.

Linda AustinWhere are you originally from? What is your connection to Portland?
I was born and grew up in Medford, Oregon. My first stint in Portland was as a Lewis & Clark College student 1972-1976.

Did you want to be a performing artists as a child? Is this the life you imagined?
It was only one of my imaginary lives. Others were writer, teacher, astronaut.

Were you a practicing artist here in Portland before moving to New York City?
No. I was in college studying theater at L & C and left for NYC a couple months after graduating.

What took you to NYC?
I had spent a three months in NYC studying and going to theater as part of an L&C program. A friend and I who had both been on the New York trip decided to move there–kind of just a whim, with no definite plans. At that point I was more interested in writing than performing, hadn’t considered dance as a path because I had never studied dance. Dance was something I fell into (in love with?) after moving to NYC.

How did you get started dancing there? What was it like?
I got involved with what was then called the “downtown dance scene” largely through taking workshops at Movement Research, whose programs carry on and extend the legacy of Judson experimentation. My involvement with MR started in early ‘80s, and I ended up throughout the years being presented many times in their free Monday series at Judson Church, being an MR artist-in-residence, having a residency in Mexico City via an MR exchange program in the ‘90s, writing for the Performance Journal two or three times, and also co-editing one of the issues.

I remember my first two composition workshops probably 1982 or 83: one with Wendy Perron, who was writing about dance for Soho Weekly News at the time and making her own work, which I admired; and another with Susan Rethorst, another person whose work has always intrigued. Wendy went on to edit Dance Magazine for many years and continues to write. Susan still makes inspiring work, teaches and has written a fascinating book called A Choreographic Mind informed by examinations of her own process and years of teaching.

Through participating in workshops, I began to be invited to perform in others’ work (Yoshiko Chuma, Pooh Kaye and Sally Silvers) and, in 1983, to create a work of my own. I was inspired by colleagues who were just a little “ahead” of me or just beginning to make work just as I was, all of them freely extending the notions of dance material and structures. In addition to the names already mentioned, Yvonne Meier, Jennifer Monson, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Dancenoise (which just had a Whitney retrospective) were folks whose work and/or friendship inspired. It was a great time, because organizations like PS 122 were still young and more accessible to the artists around them. Also in the early ‘80s there was a very active and new visual art scene in the East Village as well as events at clubs throughout downtown Manhattan like Danceteria, the Palladium, and Club 57 that mixed up music, art and performance.


‘Up the Fall’: Spotlighting artists with disabilities

PHAME Academy's multidisciplinary musical showcases Oregon artists denied mainstream performance opportunities.

After celebrating its 30th anniversary last year with its most extensive performance schedule yet, Portland’s PHAME academy was ready to take on a new challenge. In the last few years, PHAME, which creates opportunities for artists with developmental disabilities, has expanded its public performances and programming and gained widespread visibility for its artists. Now, energetic Executive Director Stephen Marc Beaudoin sensed the academy was ready for more, “an artistic stretch project … out of our broader vision to position the organization and the artists we serve in the artistic mainstream.”

 The cast of PHAME's "Up the Fall." Photo: Sarah Law Photography.

The cast of PHAME’s “Up the Fall.” Photo: Sarah Law Photography.

Departing from the traditional American musicals they’d performed previously, PHAME embraced the most ambitious project its leaders could imagine: an original musical that would involve music, theatre and dance. They had the ideal playwright in Debbie Lamedman, a Portland-based former teaching staff member at PHAME who’s been commissioned by theatre companies across the country. “She knows what it’s like to work with artists and actors with developmental disabilities,” Beaudoin says. She’s even written integrated stage works (that is, involving performers with and without disabilities) before.

PHAME gave Lamedman only one instruction: be inclusive by creating characters with a range of ability and disability. “We haven’t taken a tokenistic approach,” Beaudoin explains. “We didn’t give her a checklist and say ‘include these disabilities.’ Her interest as a playwright is writing great theater.”

In Lamedman’s musical Up the Fall, which opens August 22 at Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre, a young Portland woman, Diana, lives with an overbearing mother, finding refuge by spending much of her time feeding the birds and making friends with a squirrel, who turns out to be a messenger from a night world threatened by a trio of angry, jealous sisters. He summons her to try to save that alternate world, whose natural workings have been paralyzed by the sisters’ efforts to control it.

For Up the Fall’s music, PHAME turned to another frequent collaborator, Portland songwriter Laura Gibson, who’s earned national attention for her delicate story songs. But this was her first time writing music for the theatre, and her process was interrupted by a disastrous fire at the apartment she was living in while attending graduate school in New York. The creative team also includes PHAME Music Director Matthew Gailey, who’s composing incidental music, along with well-known Portland playwright and drama teacher Matthew B. Zrebski as stage director, and PHAME Artistic Director Jessica Dart as assistant director and dramaturge.


Weekend Dance: They’re even dancing in trees

While AWOL Dance heads to the forest, lots of other dance action stays in town

This week in Portland dance news, Ching Ching Wong of Northwest Dance Project received the Princess Grace Award. She is the fourth dancer in the company to receive it. The Princess Grace Award was created by Prince Rainier III of Monaco to honor his wife, Princess Grace Kelly. The Foundation’s mission is to identify and assist emerging talent in theater, dance, and film by awarding grants in the form of scholarships, apprenticeships, and fellowships.

We congratulate our new honoree, and we think this is a good week to look for other worthy and amazing local dancers all over our beautiful city.

Galaxy Dance Festival
Polaris Dance Theatre
August 6-8
Simon & Helen Director Park, 815 SW Park Ave
Polaris Dance Theatre, founded in 2002 under the artistic direction of Robert Guitron, is newly installed in its brand new home at 1826 NW 18th Ave. Polaris is a contemporary dance company that focuses on accessibility through community performances, classes and outreach.

In its 3rd year, the Galaxy Dance Festival is one of those programs, bringing together a large swathe of Portland’s dance community with classes and performances at Director Park. The featured dance companies that will perform during the three day festival: Polaris Dance Theatre, Polaris Junior Company, Pacific University, Northwest Conservatory of Dance, Automal, Pendulum Aerial Arts, The Skylark Tappers & PDX Dance Collective, The Circus Project, 3rd Shift Dance, WHYTEBERG and NW Fusion Dance Company.

AWOL Dance Collective will hit the trees this weekend.

AWOL Dance Collective will hit the trees this weekend.

Art in the Dark
AWOL: Dance Collective
August 7-16
Under the Trees at Mary S Young Park, West Linn
Awol’s Art in the Dark, is an annual happening in the forest, suspended from trees. This year’s event will recreate a fantastical, Old World circus performance that includes lions, poodles, mimes, clowns, strongmen, a ringmaster and, of course, beautiful dancing aerialists.

This will also be Emily Running’s last performance with Awol. Running has performed with Awol for seven years and is the mastermind behind Dance Wire, a webpage dedicated to uniting the Portland dance community online, and she is a co-director of Conduit Dance.

Summer Works
Moxie Contemporary Ballet
11:30 am August 7 at Bite of Oregon; 7 pm  August 7 at Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.
Moxie ballet is the newest dance company on the Portland block. Directed by Gina Canland, this contemporary ballet company and school rages against the “ballet body,” opening it’s door to dancers of all body types, mixing rigorous ballet classes with cross training.

The company’s first summer intensive concludes with two shows in one day, an abbreviated version at The Bite of Oregon, and a full-length performance at Lincoln Hall. Students will perform dances choreographed by guest faculty—Drew Jacoby, Doug Baum, Marie Zvosec, Katie Scherman, Michele Oliva, Jourdan Epstein—and expect an appearance by Moxie Contemporary Ballet.

Moxie Contemporary Ballet's Emily Schultz/Photo by Lindsay Hille

Moxie Contemporary Ballet’s Emily Schultz/Photo by Lindsay Hille

(Un)Made Solo Relay, Grand Finale
Linda Austin, Claire Barrera, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles and Taka Yamamoto
August 7-8
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
It’s Grand Finale time! After a six-month adventure that began in March with a solo created and performed by Linda Austin who then passed it down to six other performers like a game of telephone in relay fashion, is now ready for its final stages where it will be witnessed and performed by a group of movers and then performed again by Linda Austin herself.

Pure Surface
Julia Calabrese, Patricia No, Eileen Isagon Skyers
6 pm August 9
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 movement artist Julia Calabrese, writer by Patricia No and filmmaker Eileen Isagon Skyers.

Crowd-sourced Choreography

Ever wanted to be a choreographer? #instaballet lets the audience determine the dance.

Story, video and photos by GARY FERRINGTON

As the 2013 Eugene Ballet Company season was ending, Suzanne Haag, Antonio Anacan and other EBC dancers gathered at Brails’ Espresso! (a favorite hang out for dancers near their Midtown Arts Center rehearsal studio) and began brainstorming how to stay artistically active during the off-season. We could share an open ballet rehearsal with an audience during a Lane Arts Council First Friday ArtWalk, one suggested. Been done, another replied. They wanted to do something new and different, something that would grab the interest of younger people accustomed to instant information and sharing art and ideas over the Internet.

An audience member suggests a dance sequence to #instaballet dancers Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag. Photo: #instaballet.

An audience member suggests a dance sequence to #instaballet dancers Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag. Photo: #instaballet.

A few weeks later, the product of that brainstorming session, #instaballet, appeared at the June edition of Eugene’s monthly First Friday ArtWalk. Created by Haag and Anacan, #instaballet hosts audience-choreographed dance workshops throughout late spring and summer during the ArtWalks. This Friday, August 7, marks its twelfth session of audience-choreographed ballet from 5-8 pm at Eugene’s Oregon Contemporary Theatre in Eugene.  Think of it as crowdsourced choreography, but at these sessions, #instaballet wants the public to contribute moves, not money.

As a seasonal pick-up company, #instaballet strives to provide off-season jobs for professional ballet dancers in the spring and summer — and to keep the community interested in the Eugene Ballet Company (EBC). Most professional US ballet companies don’t perform off season and #instaballet hopes to keep its regional audiences invested in ballet year round. The ensemble’s goal is to enrich audience knowledge and appreciation of classical ballet by engaging participants in the creative process of choreography. Executive Director Haag hopes that this audience/dancer interaction results in “a more educated, artistically literate community,” she told ArtsWatch in an email interview. “Our events are free and the final performance is a gift from the public to the public.” A video introduction to #instaballet is available on YouTube.


Dance Weekend: Doing it with improv

Two improv duets form Fun/Fuck at Performance Works NW, and Pure Surface turns 1

This weekend brings us more hot weather (I’m not complaining, really I’m not) and a lull in the Portland performance scene, giving us a chance to hone in on the two dance performances that are happening this week. Pure Surface, a vehicle for the intersection of improvisation, dance, writing and film curated by Stacey Tran and Danielle Ross, celebrates its one year anniversary on Wednesday, and Fun/Fuck, a new dance performance piece created by Lucy Yim, Takahiro Yamamoto, Linda Austin and Karen Nelson, premieres Friday.

Lucy Yim, Takahiro Yamamoto, Linda Austin, Karen Nelson
8 pm, July 24
Performance Works Northwest, 4625 SE 67th Ave

Fun/Fuck will be performed as two duets of the same score, exploring the shape and power of those two words, fun and fuck.

The project’s choreographic score—sometimes used as a tool in the choreographic process to help shape an idea or used like a musical score that replaces notes with dancers, ideas, sounds or objects—came to life during a residency on Vashon Island, Washington, hosted by renowned dance improvisation artist Karen Nelson. The score will provide the framework for the dance and everything in between will be improvised. It will get all fucked up, in the words of the dance, and should be lots of fun to watch.

I thought it would be interesting to talk to Yim and Yamamoto and hear about the ideas and creative processes that brought us Fun/Fuck. I emailed questions to Yim who was performing in Morelia, Mexico, with Austin,  and then she emailed the questions and her answers to Yamamoto, who sent them back to me. This is that conversation.


Weekend dance calendar: New, now, next

Risk/Reward's second round, a Butoh fundraiser and Pretty Creatives

“New, now and next,” I’ll call this weekend. Risk/Reward is in its second weekend of new experimental works, Butoh performers Meshi Chavez and Stephanie Lanckton have gathered a strong faction of the dance community to perform and help them raise money for a trip to Berlin, and new choreographers are getting their toes wet in the process of making choreography and working with dancers at Northwest Dance Project. It’s the full spectrum.

Save the date for Fun/Fuck!, a new work by choreographers Takahiro Yamamoto & Lucy Yim, Linda Austin and Karen Nelson exploring the shape and power of those two words, fun and fuck, on Friday July 24, at Performance Works NorthWest.

Festival of New Performance
July 17-19
Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St.
Featuring eight artists in two weekends, Risk/Reward is interested in blurring the boundaries between independent theater, music, dance, and performance art, encouraging creative risks, experimentation and bold investigation. Expect the unexpected. We’re now in Week Two.

Dani Tirrell performs at this weekend's edition of the Risk/Reward Festival./John Pai

Dani Tirrell performs at this weekend’s edition of the Risk/Reward Festival./John Pai

Week Two: Dani Tirrell, dance/Vogue, Seattle; Katie Piatt, improv comedy/performance art, Portland; Tim Smith-Stewart, theater, Seattle; Jessica Jobaris & General Magic, performance art/dance, Seattle.

Tracy Broyles performs in Bröllin Voyagé!: An Evening of Performance, Libations and Fundraising on Saturday./Jill Marie

Tracy Broyles performs in Bröllin Voyagé!: An Evening of Performance, Libations and Fundraising
on Saturday./Jill Marie

Bröllin Voyagé!: An Evening of Performance, Libations and Fundraising
7pm, July 18
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #9, Portland
Choreographers Meshi Chavez and Stephanie Lanckton, who are deep lovers and practitioners of the Butoh dance form, will be traveling across the pond to Germany where they will participate with master teachers of their craft at eX…it!, the 6th International Butoh Dance Exchange and Performance Festival.

As a fundraiser to raise money for their travel expenses, they will be throwing a raucous party, bringing together dancers, musicians, designers and creators. Featured performers will be Mizu Desierto, renowned Portland Butoh performer and Artistic Director of The Headwaters Theater and Water in the Desert; dancer/choreographer Tracy Broyles with composer Lisa DeGrace; Tahni Holt, choreographer and director of Flock and founder of Front, a newspaper devoted to the discussion of contemporary dance; and choreographer Jim McGinn with live musical performance by Joaquin Lopez.

LAUNCH from Northwest Dance Project on Vimeo.

Pretty Creatives Showing
Northwest Dance Project
7:30 pm, July 18
Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.
Each year, Northwest Dance Project puts out a call looking for new, emerging choreographers in contemporary dance. Two choreographers are chosen, and they participate in a six-day residency and are given eighteen hours of rehearsal time to work with dancers in the Launch 10 program, a summer program consisting of pre-professional and professional dancers.

This year Yoshito Sakuraba and Banning Bouldin were chosen, and their new works for 38 dancers will debut at Lincoln Performance Hall this weekend.

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