Five years ago when I moved to Portland from New Jersey (for the record I am originally from Berkeley, California), it was hard to discern what was happening in Portland’s dance scene from the outside. From what I could see online and from what I can remember, there was an outdated community web page and dead lists of dance companies that no longer existed on various websites. The large companies like BodyVox, Oregon Ballet Theatre, NW Dance Project and Polaris were still standing, but the majority of Portland’s dance community seemed to have been flattened by the recession and various other things, and I arrived in the aftermath.
I won’t lie: This was devastating for me. I was 36 and still raring to perform and needing desperately to keep the momentum going. I had moved my family across the United States with blind faith that a thriving dance community was waiting for me on the other side. It wasn’t, and I was heartbroken. I thought my career was over. Admittedly I can be a bit melodramatic at times and occasionally lack patience, but this was huge for me. In my lifetime I had never directly experienced the results of war or a shattered economy, so I didn’t recognize the signs, and the wounds to the community were real. Slowly over time I began to meet people who supported me, and a totally new kind of dance life emerged, one that I am now extremely satisfied with.
Today in Portland, it is a completely different story. Our community is thriving and bursting at the seams with dancers moving here from all over the world. The energy and activity are amazing, and this growth seems to be re-charging the existing dance community as well.
The reason I started writing Dance Weekly was to create a sense of community for myself by gathering everyone together on one page. I also wanted to help create visibility for all of the hardworking artists making dances out there. I want people to know that we are here and that we are dancing. And we are dancing this week!
Performances happening this week
The Pepper Power Hour
5 pm May 11
Bad Habit Room 5433 N. Michigan Ave
Pepper Pepper wants to drink with you and talk D.I.V.A Practice. Pepper is hosting a new monthly drag/bartending/artist talk series in collaboration with Bad Habit to celebrate the closing of D.I.V.A Practice and give folks a chance to meet the cast and crew, and ask questions about the show—after you have tasted Pepper’s Potions, of course The questions and answers get a lot better after a few of those. To learn more about D.I.V.A Practice and Pepper Pepper you can read my interview with her here at ArtsWatch.
Choreography by Robert Guitron, Gerard Regot, Kiera Brinkley, Briley Neugebauer, Jocelyn Edelstein and Vincent Michael Lopez.
Polaris Dance Theatre
Polaris Dance Theatre, 826 NW 18th Ave
Polaris presents an evening of new work by artistic director Robert Guitron and guest choreographers Gerard Regot, Kiera Brinkley, Briley Neugebauer, Jocelyn Edelstein, and Vincent Michael Lopez. In its sixth season, X-POSED! Creates a platform for raw experimentation, introducing Polaris dancers to new choreographers, and the public to the artistic process.
Briley Neugebauer, the artistic director of the new PDX Contemporary Ballet, will present a piece based on her personal experience with grand mal seizures. The dance explores how these experience have led her to mistrust her own brain.
WE’RE FROM HERE
Film by Conrad Kaczor
Presented by KBOO Community Radio
7:00 pm May 12
Clinton Street Theatre, 2522 SE Clinton St
“We’re From Here” is a dance film by Conrad Kaczor (also a dancer for Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest), about three dancers born and raised in Portland. Each dancer is from a different background, dances a different style, and offers a different perspective of what it was like to grow up here and live here now. In addition to the film, the dancers will perform live and discuss their dances after the film.
Choreographer Danielle Elizabeth
Evening Star Presents
7:30 pm May 13
International Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 N. Interstate Ave
Inspired by the tides of the ocean and life, dancer/musician Danielle Elizabeth in collaboration with her dancers Ashley Lopez, Bevin Victoria, Leon Cotter, Makeda Gershenson and Morgan Fay, will perform an evening of contemporary dance theatre to an original score by Paul Evans. “Wander into a watery world, dip your toes in, cast your net, dive deep, feel the surge, submerge with Tidal!”
Evening Star Presents is a small production company/artistic collective directed by Paul Evans and Danielle Elizabeth that enjoys producing art without labels. “Genre-blending, border-bending, multimedia human expression. Out of the box, knock your socks, off the wall, community reflective, introspective, outreaching art.”
Touchstone: An Open Rehearsal
12:30 – 1:30 pm daily May 11 – 14
Pacific Northwest College of Art , 511 NW Broadway, Portland, Oregon
Back from an artist residency at Leland Iron Works, visual artist Linda Hutchins, who sometimes collaborates with dancer/choreographer Linda Austin, will share her research by creating a new drawing on site at PNCA that incorporates the textures of one of the original marble columns in the grand hall outside the 511 Gallery. This time will also be used as an open rehearsal for Hutchins’ ongoing project to bring the rhythms of Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music” (1972) into her body, and through it to her drawings.
Common Language – a Walking Tour and Site Dance Performance
Produced by Renee Sills and Kimberly Sutherland
11 am May 14
Portland Open Space Sequence, Beginning at The Source Fountain, SW 2nd Ave & SW Lincoln St
As part of the Portland State University Spring Assemble, a co-authored social practice conference put on by the Art and Social Practice MFA program, Renee Sills and Kimberly Sutherland in collaboration with the students from the Site Dance class taught by Tere Mathern at Portland State University, have created an experiential walk and dance performance through the Halprin open space sequence in Southwest Portland.
The walk is a participatory score that uses movement and sculpture to deepen the connection between our bodies and the natural and urban spaces in which we live. “Through exercises promoting awareness and integration, performance, and dialogue we will explore how our bodies and minds move through the everyday public spaces we encounter.”
The Open Space Sequence is a series of interconnected fountains and parks designed by architect, designer, and teacher, Lawrence Halprin, who also was the husband of famous dancer Anna Halprin.
“People need to become aware of their environment as it really is — to experience it directly. When they have done this they build up a common language from which they can all operate and communicate.”— Lawrence Halprin
Oh, there you are & Renée vs. The Rectangle
Choreography by Nickels Sunshine and Renée Archibald in collaboration with Melinda Ring
Presented by Tahni Holt and Flock Dance Center
8 pm May 14, reception to follow
1 pm May 14, dance class with guest artist Nickels Sunshine, Embodied Art Practice
Flock Dance Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave. #4
A shared evening of work by LA artist Nickels Sunshine and Whitman College’s assistant professor of dance Renée Archibald. Sunshine will present Oh, there you are, a piece steeped in holistic embodiment and Archibald in collaboration with Melinda Ring will present an excerpt of a work in progress called Renée vs. The Rectangle. The excerpt examines the assumed subject hood of a performer in a performance space.
Props to Bellydance!
Ruby Beh and Co.
8 pm May 14
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave
As a culmination to a three-month workshop, Ruby Beh and her nine students will perform a Middle Eastern showcase. Beh is an internationally acclaimed American classic belly dancer and Turkish Oriental dancer and will be dancing with Ahndine, Marlene, Tiffany, Idena, Kathleen, Jennara, Layali, Souzana and Devi Safir.
Portland Festival Ballet/Portland Dance School
Tualatin High School Auditorium, 22300 SW Boones Ferry Rd
Based on several ETA Hoffman stories, Coppélia is a comic ballet set to the music of Léo Delibes that tells the tale of grumpy Dr. Coppelius who makes a life-size doll that gets switched out with a real person, making Coppelius think his doll has come to life. The story is full of teenage hijinks, budding romances, mistaken identities, jealousy and, of course, “magic” as the doll comes to life.
Featuring new choreography by master choreographer and guest artistic director Victor Ursabia, former ballet master and school director of the Ballet Philippines. Also visiting are Eugene Obile, Earl John Arisola and Patrick John Rebullida who will be dancing the lead male roles and are part of of Portland Dance School’s cultural exchange program with Ballet Philippines.
Contemporary Chinese Dance
Malik Pcr Delgado, Victoria Chen, and Jingzi Zhao
In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
1 pm May 15
Lan Su Chinese Garden, 239 NW Everett St
In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, dancers Malik Pcr Delgado, Victoria Chen, and Jingzi Zhao will perform three contemporary Chinese dance pieces. The first is a modernized Chinese water sleeve dance originating from Chinese opera. The second piece features colonial Shanghai-style dance from the early 1900s, with reference to classical Chinese literature’s “The Legend of the White Snake.” And the last piece is a Chinese/hip hop fusion rendition of “the Peony Pavilion.”
Chen learned classical Chinese dance in Taiwan and works with local artists to present different aspects of Chinese dance and culture to the Portland community. Zhao’s primary focus is Argentine Tango and her passion for dance is also expressed through her photography project Fuse, which aims to create visual experiences that fuse dance and Portland-style living. Delgado’s passion is breaking, popping, and ballroom dance, with a focus on teaching and performing Afro Latin dance. “He believes sharing and expressing life through dance defines our true human spirit.”
Performances happening next week and the week after
May 20-21, TRACES, Sara Naegelin and Mark Koenigsberg
May 20-21, HAVA | חוה, The Holding Project
May 20-22, Now Then: A Prologue, Allie Hankins
May 20-22, Junior Artist Generator (JAG) Spring Performance, BodyVox
May 25, SpringSprung: A Night of Experimental Performance & Film
May 26, Portland Community College Spring Dance Concert
May 27, Critical Engagement Series: Taka Yamamoto
May 28, Wilson Dance, Presented by The Portland Ballet