DanceWatch: Full February tantalizes with dance for all tastes

What's happening in Oregon dance now

Happy Lunar New Year and welcome to DanceWatch Monthly! We’ve decided to switch from a weekly to a monthly format for awhile to see if we like it better. (If you have an opinion on weekly vs. monthly, let us know; we’re here to serve you.) We’re still writing about Oregon dance performances and related events, but we’re organizing them by genre now, to help you more quickly find what interests you. February’s plentiful dance performances, 17 in total, offer celebration, cultural exploration, romance, joy, comedy, and deep dives into a variety of concepts. We hope you enjoy our new monthly edition: remember to check back with us on February 27 for the March DanceWatch.

February Performances

International cultures and dance styles

Feeling lucky? White Lotus Dragon & Lion Dance Team perform at the Lan Su Chinese Garden Lunar New Year celebration. Photo courtesy of White Lotus Dragon & Lion Dance.

New Year Lion Dance/Chinese New Year at Lan Su Chinese Garden
February 5-19
11am, 1pm, 3pm February 9, White Lotus Dragon & Lion Dance Organization
11am, 1pm, 4pm, February 10, Viet Hung Lion & Dragon Dance Team
11am, 1pm, 4pm, February 16, Portland Lee’s Association Dragon & Lion Dance Team
11am, 1pm, 4pm, February 17, International Lion Dance Team
Lan Su Chinese Garden, 239 NW Everett St.
Ring in the 2019 Lunar New Year with a lion dance, traditionally performed in China as well as in other Asian countries at cultural and religious festivals. The dance, an important part of new year celebrations, is meant to ward off bad spirits and bring prosperity and good luck in the upcoming year. The lion dance is performed by two people (not to be confused with the dragon dance, which is performed by 12). It imitates a lion’s movements or displays martial arts agility, depending on the style. The performance is accompanied by drums, symbols, and gongs, and is one of the many ways to celebrate the new year at Lan Su Chinese Garden. There are 12 chances to see a lion dance performed by four different Portland lion dance teams.

Bharatanatyam dancer Mayurika Bhaskar shows how it’s done in a one-night-only concert. Photo courtesy of Sweta Ravisankar.

Bharatanatyam dancer Mugdha Vichare, with Mayurika Bhaskar, performs in a Hillsboro-area concert. Photo by Sarathy Jayakumar.

Bharatanatyam Margam by Mugdha Vichare and Mayurika Bhaskar
Students of Sweta Ravisankar (Sarada Kala Nilayam)
5:30 pm February 24
Hindu Education and Cultural Society of America, Portland Balaji Temple, 2092 NW Aloclek Dr., Suite 522, Hillsboro
Free
Bharatanatyam is an ancient style of South Indian dance that interprets Hindu mythology and spirituality and traces its roots back to Natya Shastra, the ancient Sanskrit text on the performing arts written sometime between 200 BCE and 500 CE. The dance is characterized by a fixed torso, angular arms, bent knees, complex rhythmic footwork, and a sophisticated vocabulary of gestures for the hands, eyes, and face.

Portland Bharatanatyam dancers Mugdha Vichare and Mayurika Bhaskar, students of Bharatanatyam and Nattuvangam performer, teacher, and choreographer Sweta Ravisankar, will perform four dances (Alaripu, Varnam, Padam, Abhang) from the Bharatanatyam repertoire, accompanied by a live orchestra composed of Portland-area musicians.

Ballet

The panel discussion Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power explores issues in the ballet world. Photo by Erin Zysett.

Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power
A panel discussion hosted by Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter
Noon February 6
University of Oregon, Berwick Hall, Tykeson Rehearsal Hall, 975 E 18th Ave., Eugene
Free
Inspired by the #MeToo movement, challenges to age-old ballet narratives, and questions surrounding race, gender roles, sexism, equality, eating disorders, and abuse in ballet, Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter hosts a panel discussion exploring the state of ballet prior to the Eugene Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet. (The event is part of the ongoing Ballet Outsider series). Guest speakers include Lara Bovilsky, an associate professor of English at the University of Oregon whose work focuses on early modern British understandings of group and individual identity; Jamie Friedman, an assistant professor of English at Linfield College, who specializes in identity politics in 14th-century English literature; and Shannon Mockli, a University of Oregon associate professor of dance and choreographer known for provocative, individualistic work.

The next Ballet Outsider panel takes place at noon April 10. It will feature Eugene Ballet resident choreographer Suzanne Haag, who is choreographing an updated version of The Firebird that puts the story in a contemporary context.

Eugene Ballet celebrates the season with doomed romance and family drama in Toni Pimble’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Photo by Aran Denison.

Romeo and Juliet
Eugene Ballet/Orchestra Next
February 9-10
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Eugene Ballet’s 40th anniversary season continues with Shakespeare’s tale of youthful romance and family feuding in a ballet choreographed by artistic director Toni Pimble. Orchestra Next, conducted by Brian McWhorter, plays Prokofiev’s rich score for the drama. “Prokofiev’s score to Romeo and Juliet is so ridiculously full of color and drama” McWhorter said in a statement, “it often sounds to me like the score itself is bursting apart at the seams.”

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (here in “Stars and Stripes Forever”) do ballet their way. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm February 13
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
For one night only, the 14-member all-male ballet company known as The Trocks graces Portland for a fifth time, thanks to White Bird. Founded in 1974, The Trocks skillfully perform classical ballet on pointe, dancing both male and female roles, all with a hilarious comic flair that parodies balletic conventions while also paying homage to the famed Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. (For background, see Rebels on Pointe, the 2017 Trocks documentary)

Xuan Cheng, dancing the title role, keeps it clean in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s production of Ben Stevenson’s “Cinderella.”  Photo by Yi Yin.

Cinderella
Oregon Ballet Theatre/OBT Orchestra
Choreography by Ben Stevenson
February 16-23
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St.
Cinderella suffers at the hands of her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, as we all know, but British choreographer Ben Stevenson’s choreography emphasizes the courage, hope, love, and magic in this tale. A sizable cast of dancers wearing fanciful costumes performs to Sergei Prokofiev’s lush score, played live at all shows by the OBT Orchestra.

Modern and contemporary: local

Film genres inspire BodyVox’s collection of contemporary dance pieces in “The Cutting Room.” Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

The Cutting Room
BodyVox
February 8-9
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
Multiple movie genres (action, comedy, drama, sci-fi) and memories of favorite films inspire BodyVox’s cinematic, virtuosic dance performance The Cutting Room. Former BodyVox dancer Jonathan Krebs returns to perform with the company; look for new company member Jessica McCarthy and apprentice Coltrane Liu as well.

Heidi Duckler Dance will brave the chill during a performance at the Portland Winter Light Festival. Photo courtesy of Heidi Duckler.

Sleepless Like Light
Portland Winter Light Festival/Heidi Duckler Dance
February 7-9
West Riverfront Art Experience, 1000 SW Naito Pkwy.
Free
In venues all over town, the Portland Winter Light Festival celebrates art, technology, and the season with events designed to draw Portlanders out of their homes and into the wintry night. This year’s festival features work by choreographer Heidi Duckler, founder of Heidi Duckler Dance. Duckler is interested in art that reshapes our vision of ourselves and our world; to that end, she has worked on redefining audience-performer relationships by staging dance in unusual locales. She presents the duet Sleepless Like Light, created in collaboration with fabric artist Mimi Haddon, in which two dancers perform in wearable cages illuminated by disco balls.

PDX Dance Collective dancer/choreographer Zahra Garret performs in the group’s swan song. Photo courtesy of PDX Dance Collective.

The Gift
PDX Dance Collective
February 8-10
The Headwaters Theater, 55 NE Farragut St., Suite #9
This is the last performance from PDX Dance Collective, which, ironically, was founded after a group of friends lamented the lack of performance opportunities for dancers who also have day jobs. The company will present an evening of original choreography by April MacKay, Zahra Garrett, and Rachael Singer. The work is loosely based on Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver, which explores contrasts between conformity and individuality, safety and sterility, passion and pain, asking how we, as fallible humans, can manage our differences.

Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde share new work on the double billing “Two of a Kind.” Photo courtesy of Beth Whelan.

Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance
Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde
February 15-16
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Choreographers and recent Portland transplants Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde present the double bill Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance. Whelan’s Georgia is inspired by the life, art, and writings of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe; it’s set to minimal, classically styled piano music. Wilde’s three-part piece Anotherwom(e)n delves into trauma and transformation. Whelan is a movement-based artist, choreographer, teacher, and dance writer for Oregon ArtsWatch. Wilde is a dance artist, performer, and choreographer who co-founded Dillon & Wilde + Artists and dances with Shaun Keylock Company. (For more on recent Portland dance transplants, see Whelan’s story “Is Portland the Newest Dance Destination?” here.)

See why Anya Pearson’s “Made to Dance in Burning Buildings” earned her a $10,000 grant. Photo courtesy of Shaking The Tree Theatre.

Made to Dance in Burning Buildings
Written by Portland playwright Anya Pearson
Directed by Jamie Rea with choreography by Jeff George
February 15-March 16
Shaking The Tree Theatre, 823 SE Grant Street
Made to Dance in Burning Buildings is a fusion of poetry, theater, and violent-visceral contemporary dance that poses this question: How do we heal from trauma? The story, performed by a multi-ethnic cast of 10, follows a young black woman who is raped, develops PTSD, and metaphorically fractures into five different women as a result. It’s from these five points of view that the story is told. Based on a true story, and inspired Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, the work earned Pearson the inaugural $10,000 Voice is a Muscle Grant from the Corporeal Voices Foundation.

Minh Tran & Company samples Vietnamese Buddhist rituals in “Anicca/Impermanence.” Photo courtesy of Minh Tran.

Anicca/Impermanence
Minh Tran & Company
February 21-24
Reed College Performing Arts Building, Massee Performance Lab, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Longtime Portland choreographer Minh Tran explores Vietnamese Buddhist rituals surrounding death and mourning in this new 49-minute work, which was inspired by the recent loss of his parents. A native of Vietnam, Tran immigrated to the United States in 1980 as a political refugee; he choreographs pieces that fuse traditional Asian performance techniques with contemporary Western dance. His work reflects an unwavering commitment to breaking down cultural and racial barriers.

Alembic artists in residence present their perspectives in the Alembic Artists Showcase. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NorthWest.

Alembic Artists Showcase
Presented by Performance Works NorthWest
February 22-24
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Friday night reception and a talk-back after the Sunday matinee.
After working in the Performance Works NorthWest studio for the past year, Alembic resident artists Olivia Camfield, KT Kusmaul of Body Home Fat Dance, and Fernanda D’Agostino, Sophia Emigh, and Jaleesa Johnston of IN/BODY and are ready to share their work.

Camfield, a member of the Texas Hill Country Muscogee Creek Tribe, performs a contemporary piece about indigenous people reclaiming their narratives; she’s joined by dancers Kayla Banks (African-American, Choctow), Celeste Camfield (Muscogee/Creek), and Victoria Perez (Mexica/Indigena). IN/BODY uses a marriage of technology and movement to explore trauma and healing. KT Kusmal/Body Home Fat Dance, which describes itself as “a fat-celebrating dance collaboration,” examines the emotional terrain and cultural meanings of fatness in its work.

A-WOL Dance Collective, just hanging out in “Left of Center.” Photo courtesy of A-WOL Dance Collective.

Left of Center
A-WOL Dance Collective
February 23-24
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NW Alberta St.
A-WOL Dance Collective, a 13-member company combining aerial arts and dance, offers Left of Center, in which dancers wearing Victorian-era costumes perform in the round to a haunting soundscape. A-WOL describes the work as “a fantastical tale suspended between reverie and reality … enveloped in a dream state free of the limitations of the waking world.”

NW Dance Project celebrates 15 years of working with dancers (pictured here: Julia Radick) in “Trip the Light Fantastic.” Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Trip The Light Fantastic
NW Dance Project
February 28-March 1
Gala and performance March 2
Expensify, 401 SW 5TH Ave.
Limited capacity
In this 15th anniversary event, NW Dance Project performs pieces by artistic director Sarah Slipper, resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem, and Oregon Ballet Theatre founding artistic director James Canfield in and around the 40,000-square-foot former First National Bank building, now the headquarters of tech company Expensify. The event celebrates the company’s artistic achievements: work with more than 1200 professional and pre-professional dancers (including four Princess Grace Award winners) and the performance of more than 280 original pieces by nationally and internationally known choreographers. The evening will include a dance-cooking skit between Portland actor Susannah Mars and company dancer Andrea Parson, music by Pink Martini pianist Hunter Noack, and a post-performance dance party in the basement vault, hosted by former NW Dance Project star Viktor Usov.

Modern and contemporary: imported

Beijing Dance Theater makes its West Coast debut with three contemporary works. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Beijing Dance Theater
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm February 20
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
Beijing Dance Theater makes its West Coast debut through White Bird with three works from award-winning contemporary Chinese choreographer Wang Yuanyuan, set against striking visual designs by Tan Shaoyuan and Han Jiang. The company’s 13 highly skilled dancers perform Farewell, Shadows, inspired by a book of poetry by Chinese literary giant Lu Xun; Crossing, an ominous journey in which individual dancers struggle to mark their paths along an empty stage, and Hamlet, a balletic take on Shakespeare’s melancholy prince. Yuanyuan, who founded the company in 2008 after completing an MFA in dance at California Institute of the Arts, prides herself on creating innovative contemporary dance steeped in Chinese cultural traditions.

 

Fierce and fabulous: Compagnie Hervé Koubi returns with “The Barbarian Nights or The First Dawns of the World.” Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Compagnie Hervé Koubi
Presented by White Bird
February 28-March 2
Newmark Theatre, 111 SW Broadway
French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi and his company of 13 male street dancers from Algeria and Morocco present The Barbarian Nights or The First Dawns of the World. Set against the musical backdrop of Wagner, Mozart, French composer Gabriel Fauré, and traditional Algerian melodies, the dancers, dressed in Swarovski crystal masks and long dark skirts, use capoeira, martial arts, and urban and contemporary dance to explore the idea of otherness. The barbarians of the title come from the term that Greeks and Romans used to describe foreigners who did not speak their languages or understand their customs.

Upcoming Performances

March
March 1-3, The Odyssey, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Materialize, PDX Contemporary Ballet
March 7-9, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, presented by White Bird
March 8-10, Interplay, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
March 9, Shakti, Sankalpa Dance Ensemble, Sweta Ravishankar, Sridharini Sridharan, and Yashaswini Raghuram
March 9, Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company, Walters Cultural Arts Center
March 10, The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
March 14-17, Corteo, Cirque du Soleil
March 14-21, Ordinary Devotions, Linda Austin
March 16, A Midsummer Night at the Savoy, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater
March 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April
April 5, Lecture Demonstration with Rosie Herrera and Company, Reed College
April 4-6, Parsons Dance, presented by White Bird
April 4-13, The Pearl Dive Project, BodyVox
April 7, The Golden Age, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
April 9-10, Savion Glover, presented by White Bird
April 11-14, Director’s Choice, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 12-14, Shen Yun, Presented by the Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 24, Philadanco, presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Encores, NW Dance Project

May
May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (world premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene

June
June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Performances, NW Dance Project

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