FILM

Fearless Flyer

Dancer Olivia Ancona’s path from Portland to ‘Suspiria’

Olivia Ancona has collected plenty of passport stamps in her journey from Portland stages to the silver screen. A student and performer with The Portland Ballet, Jefferson Dancers, and Northwest Dance Project in the mid-2000s, Ancona plays the dancer Marketa in Suspiria, Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of the 1977 horror movie, which is set in a dance school and company run by (spoiler alert!) witches. Besides performing in the film, Ancona served as a dance coach for stars Dakota Johnson and Mia Goth.

We caught up with Ancona while she was settling into her new digs in Berlin, and got her take on her early career, her time performing internationally with companies including Batsheva and Tanztheater Wuppertal, the Suspiria experience, and the real horrors that professional dancers can face.

Oregon Arts Watch: Where are you now? What are you doing currently?

Olivia Ancona: I’m in Berlin where I’m based, although just came from Wuppertal, in the north of Germany, having spent the past month guest-dancing for Tanztheater Wuppertal | Pina Bausch.

I’m putting my suitcases down for a couple of months after several years of nomadic living and freelancing. I will teach a workshop in the city alongside my partner, Scott Jennings, a member of the Pina Bausch company, and in January will prepare to set the work of Israeli choreographer/L-E-V artistic director Sharon Eyal at Konzert Theater Bern, a contemporary company in Switzerland.

Describe your trajectory from Portland to present.

I returned to Portland in eighth grade after living abroad with my family in London; my experience with The London Children’s Ballet solidified my desire to be a part of new creations and to perform. Upon our return, I continued my classical training at The Portland Ballet for three years. However, pointe work became too painful and I was told I had pre-arthritis in my feet and should probably stop dancing. I had no plans to listen to doctors’ recommendations and sought out other platforms for movement and training, auditioning for the Jefferson Dancers. This pre-professional program gave me the opportunity to rehearse in a variety of styles and to perform numerous times a year.

I saw the Batsheva Dance Company for the first time in Portland through White Bird and I fell in love with the company. The dancers were like no others I’d seen before—individualistic and unique but with the skills of superheroes. Their agility and passion really spoke to me. I decide to pursue dancing with the company; I applied to the Juilliard School with an essay about Batsheva!  I was able to work with Batsheva’s artistic director, Ohad Naharin [at] Juilliard, and I attended summer courses with him in Tel Aviv.

At the end of my junior year, Ohad invited me to join the Batsheva Ensemble, the junior company which most dancers [join] before entering the main company. After two years, I left as a founding dancer of L-E-V with Israeli/Batsheva choreographer Sharon Eyal … [I did a] half-year tour in Europe for Belgian creator Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and his troupe, Eastman.

Despite feeling artistically fulfilled with these freelance projects, I craved some stability, and after two years with L-E-V, took a soloist position at the Royal Swedish Ballet as one of the contemporary members. But before long, I returned to Batsheva’s main company, where I had the opportunity to create with Ohad Naharin and Roy Assaf.

Olivia Ancona in “Mr. Gaga,” the documentary about former Batsheva Dance Company artistic director Ohad Naharin. Photo by Gadi Dagon.

After almost three years working full time for institutions, I was hungry for freelance opportunities and a creative world beyond Israel. Although I had never worked with [choreographer] Damien Jalet prior to Suspiria, he had spent years collaborating with Sidi Larbi, and had seen me perform, which was my link to participating in the film. Beginning in the fall of ’16, hours after my last show with Batsheva, I caught a flight to Milan and was immersed in preparation, research, coaching Dakota, acting, and dancing in Suspiria for about four months. After this intense experience, I returned briefly to the States. I spent six months teaching Gaga workshops in the U.S. and Europe and returned to Juilliard as one of the choreographers in their summer intensive.

Continues…

Masters of Horror

Guignolfest, Dylan Hillerman and Julia Reodica's 72-hour horror film festival, returns.

When Dylan Hillerman and Julia Reodica were performers at the legendary Portland haunted house FrightTown, they specialized in subjecting people to fantastical terror. Yet in 2013, Reodica discovered a more mundane horror.

“I told her, ‘I had to walk six miles to my new place last night and I’m not getting paid until next week for FrightTown,’” Hillerman remembers. “She was like, ‘Oh shit! You’re gonna die!’ And I’m like, ‘I’m aiming at the Earth and hoping to miss.’”

Sensing his desperation, Reodica offered him a lifeline. “I hadn’t connected with a person in this way in a long time,” she says. “I said, ‘Come hang out with me. I’ve got sanctuary.’”

“She gave me six weeks,” Hillerman adds, “and it turned into a marriage.”

Reodica and Hillerman, partners in horror. AMBERED Photography

That marriage (which Hillerman and Reodica sealed with a promise that they made to each other in Transylvania) has not only transformed their lives, it has been a boon to filmmakers who participate in Guignolfest, the 72-hour horror film festival that Hillerman founded and produces with Reodica. This year’s films screen Sunday, October 28, at the Clinton Street Theater.

Continues…

International film fest wanders to the Coast

The Wandering Reel Traveling Film Festival's short films explore gender and equality, overcoming obstacles, and little moments that make life whole

Oregonian Michael Harrington tells people he grew up with the ocean as his front yard and the forest as his back, which, if you know Oregon, must mean he grew up on the Coast. Depoe Bay and Lincoln City, to be specific.

“They are small town communities, you know everybody,” said Harrington, co-founder of the Wandering Reel Traveling Film Festival. “I think I’ve always had a deep appreciation for nature and for that small-town hospitality. Authenticity. People are themselves. There’s a real peace in that.”

A middle-class woman without a husband encounters problems renting a house in Mumbai in “Counterfeit Kunkoo,” one of the short films in this year’s Wandering Reel Traveling Film Festival.

That small-town upbringing also led to an understanding of what is sometimes lacking in those out-of-the-way places — in this case, film festivals.

With Wandering Reel, now in its fourth year and coming to the Coast this week, Harrington is trying to do something about that. He left Oregon to study film at Marlboro College in Vermont, then worked in the film industry in L.A., at one point running a short-film series in Big Sur, Calif. When he moved to Portland, he wanted to continue showing international films, but Portland already had plenty of those.

Continues…

A chance to revisit “The Shining” on the silver screen

Arts calendar: See Jack Nicholson's maniacal leer in all its grotesque glory, view an artist's take on the atomic bomb, hear an organ concert of hymns

Given the volume of commentary, criticism and amateur blogosphere speculation that has accumulated since 1980 about what happens in The Shining and what it all means, it’d be a mighty achievement to actually produce some new, original insight into Stanley Kubrick’s film, based on the horror novel by Stephen King.

What strikes me is the way it lives on in our imaginations and the fact that so many feel compelled to keep the discussion going. It’s not a fate one would have predicted after those first, lukewarm and even negative reviews in 1980. (“I can’t recall a more elaborately ineffective scare movie,” lamented The Washington Post’s Gary Arnold.) But in 2018, is there anyone who wants to revisit (or even remembers) Terror Train or Motel Hell? No. But if you were to put The Shining in, say, the Elsinore Theatre in Salem, would that pique your interest?

Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” wears pretty much the same expression critics had in 1980 when Stanley Kubrick’s horror film was released. It has since produced an astonishing volume of commentary by viewers bent on unraveling the film’s visual riddles and enigmas. It will be screened Wednesday at the Elsinore Theatre in Salem.

It does mine, and not just because it’s a chance to see Kubrick’s amazing images on the big screen. Consider, too, that when The Shining shows at 7 p.m. Wednesday, it will be on a screen where it very likely first appeared. Multiplexes were a rare thing back then, and the majestic Elsinore was a theater where blockbusters opened.

The Shining is the perfect example of a film that improves with age and repeated viewings, though one is obliged to note one uncomfortable truth about its making: While Kubrick and the crew went out of their way to ensure that child actor Danny Lloyd was shielded from the story’s horrific aspects, he wasn’t so kind to Shelley Duvall. Watching the sequence where Jack Nicholson stalks her up a staircase, it’s impossible for the viewer familiar with Kubrick’s perfectionist drive not to wonder: Was this the 127th take, or had they topped 100 yet? Knowing all this today, it’s unsettling to realize that part of Duvall’s on-screen distress and exhaustion was, thanks to Kubrick, all too real.

Continues…

Hispanic Heritage Month, Russian theater and music, and more

Upcoming Yamhill County events range from Aztec dancers and Day of the Dead celebrations to Gogol and the Hermitage Piano Trio

Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, is designated as a time to celebrate the contributions — not just in arts and culture, but in all human endeavors — of Hispanic and Latino Americans. It started as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 under President Johnson and, thanks to legislation by U.S. Rep. Esteban Edward Torres, a California Democrat, was expanded by President Reagan to a month-long observance in 1988.

Perhaps due to the proximity of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations as October turns into November, public events fill out the calendar during this month. That, at least, is true in Yamhill County, where — no surprise here — the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg has packed October full of Hispanic theater, music, and dance. Linfield College in McMinnville and George Fox University in Newberg are also getting into the act, so let’s take them in chronological order.

Curtis Acosta speaks Oct. 15 in Newberg on defending the rights and education of Chicanx/Latinx youth.

Oct. 15: PROFESSOR CURTIS ACOSTA is a teacher with a story to tell, one that has made the pages of Yes! magazine and was the subject of the documentary Precious Knowledge. He was among those who developed a Mexican Studies program serving 1,500 high school students in Tucson, Arizona, in 1998. Although it was successful by a number of measures, it generated a politically motivated backlash in 2010, culminating in a law that banned the class. Long story short: Teachers, parents, and students got mad, got organized, and filed a legal challenge that was ultimately successful, with the curriculum being reinstated three years later.

Acosta, who is on the University of Arizona faculty, will speak Oct. 15 in the Canyon Commons of George Fox University in a presentation titled Victory in Arizona: Defending the Rights and Education of Chicanx/Latinx Youth in an Era of Hate and Anti-Intellectualism. Seems like a timely topic. The talk is scheduled for 7 to 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Continues…

Will Vinton, 1947-2018: An Appreciation

A look back at the career of the Oscar-winning Oregonian filmmaker and master of stop-motion animation, who has died at 70.

The innovative Portland filmmaker Will Vinton, best known for his iconic work with stop-motion animation, died on Thursday, October 5, at the age of 70, following a 12-year battle with multiple myeloma. Vinton was the first Oregonian to win an Oscar, and his company, Will Vinton Studios, served as a laboratory, training ground, and creativity magnet for a generation of Portland artists. His legacy survives today in the form of Laika Studios, which has taken stop-motion work to new technological and commercial heights, though not without some controversy along the way. I never had a chance to meet Vinton more than in passing, but if the testimonials and condolences that have emerged over the last few days are anything to go by, his was a genuinely generous soul. His bald head, bushy handlebar mustache, and twinkling eyes denoted a spirit that was independent, mischievous, and bold, even while working in the potentially stifling world of corporate advertising.

Will Vinton in 2017. Photo: K.B. Dixon.

The individual personalities of each of the California Raisins, the in-your-face anarchy of The Noid, and the wistful moments of confused awe experienced by the drunk museum-goer in “Closed Mondays” all seem to stem from an aspect of Vinton himself. Even after his creations became nationwide obsessions, and when his company’s landmark headquarters in Northwest Portland buzzed with activity, there was always the feeling that the work that emerged sprang, at its core, from one especially fertile brain. Needless to say, that’s not the impression one gets, for better or for worse, from the vast majority of the animation on movie screens today. (Television may be another matter.)

Continues…

Zombies rising at Linfield Theatre

Night of the Living Dead opens a "monstrous" season tying into a campus-wide focus on political and social revolution

George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead turns 50 on Oct. 1. This Thursday, the Linfield College drama team raises the curtain on Lori Allen Ohm’s stage version of the 98-minute black-and-white horror flick shot on a shoestring outside Pittsburgh in 1968. While it’s easy to make too much of it, Night of the Living Dead was, as one writer observed in Cineaste a few years ago, “Patient Zero” in a virtual epidemic of zombies in popular culture in the ensuing decades. As much as the genre obviously panders to audiences that, to paraphrase torture-porn king Eli Roth, “want to see people gettin’ messed up — bad,” it’s undeniable that the films occasionally offer flashes of insight into American life.

Therein lies the appeal of Night of the Living Dead to Linfield’s play selection committee. Plays at the McMinnville college traditionally grapple with a campus-wide PLACE theme. PLACE stands for Program for Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement. Piloted in the fall of 2012, PLACE highlights a theme or issue selected by a curriculum committee and voted on by faculty that is intended to serve as a sort of academic muse. Faculty are encouraged to incorporate it into studies and class discussions. This year, it’s political and social revolution.

Barbara (McMinnville’s Elise Martin) and her brother Johnny (Samuel Hannigan of Hood River) are the first victims of the living dead in Linfield Theatre’s production of “Night of the Living Dead.” Photo by: Hanna Trailer

Since the inception of PLACE, the theater department has tried to have at least one show that ties into the theme, said Brenda DeVore Marshall, a professor who chairs the Department of Theatre and Communications Arts. “It’s a way for us to contribute to that ongoing college dialogue through the arts,” she said.

The most striking recent example I recall was a 2015 production of The Tempest. The PLACE theme was Air, Water, Earth and Fire: The ancient elements on a changing planet. In the production directed by Professor Janet Gupton and designed by Professor Ty Marshall (who retired last year after 31 years), Prospero used his magic to harness the elements for himself and daughter Miranda, leaving Caliban and Ariel to fend for themselves on an island strewn with garbage.

In November 2015, Janet Gupton incorporated Linfield College’s PLACE theme of “Air, Water, Earth and Fire: The ancient elements on a changing planet” by setting “The Tempest” on a man-made island of trash. The scenic design was by then-Professor Ty Marshall. Photo by: Ty Marshall

The theater’s 2018-19 season (the 99th at Linfield College) is headlined Monsters and the Monstrous. After a single-weekend run of Night of the Living Dead, Marshall Theatre will dish up two weekends of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel. In the spring, we’ll see Qui Nguyen’s She Kills Monsters, and the season closes with the alarmingly appropriate choice of Cabaret, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.

Night of the Living Dead is directed by Melory Mirashrafi, a Hillsboro theater arts major in her senior year at Linfield. I was treated to a peek at the set last week, a monochrome ramshackle of an isolated farmhouse (to capture the look of Romero’s use of black-and-white) where seven people find themselves besieged by zombies. Visiting Professor Derek Lane handled the scenic and lighting design, and Gupton is mentoring Mirashrafi. Part of the production includes video, which was shot and edited by sophomores Alexandria Hunter and Hannah Curry.

Continues…