DanceWatch Weekly: a world, a world

An interview with Linda Austin on the culminating chapter in her series on memory and movement, plus "Nutcrackers" and more

Happy Holidays, Happy Solstice, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and a Merry Christmas.

Jamuna Chiarini

Hold onto your hats, dance lovers, because you have a dizzying 11 dance concerts to choose from this week! And, because we are especially strapped for time in this accelerated period of the year, I’m going to attempt to make this week’s performance listings briefer-ish, except for an extended preview of Linda Austin’s a world, a world, which I caught a glimpse of last week. In this version of DanceWatch you’ll need to click on the links for performance information.

Continuing for a second week at the Keller Auditorium is George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre accompanied live by the Oregon Ballet Theatre Orchestra.

Candace Bouchard dances in The Nutcracker one last time before retiring from Oregon Ballet Theatre. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert.

The students of The Classical Ballet Academy, directed by Sarah Rigles, Candalee Wrede, and Sissy Dawson, will perform an assortment of holiday-themed dances for different tastes and attention spans, from a full-length version of The Nutcracker to a contemporary version of A Christmas Carol, as well as a condensed Nutcracker and an even more condensed version called The Nutcracker Sweet Suites to be performed by the youngest dancers. You can catch all of it at Lincoln Performance Hall at Portland State University.

Onscreen, the Bolshoi Ballet will perform its Nutcracker live from Moscow in a movie theatre near you at 12:55 p.m. this Sunday, Dec. 17. Check theater websites for theater locations. And on PBS online, you can catch Making a New American Nutcracker, a behind-the-scenes documentary of the making of the Joffrey Ballet’s new Nutcracker based on the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.

In Eugene, Ballet Fantastique presents a reimagined Christmas Carol choreographed by mother-daughter duo Donna and Hannah Bontrager, set in post-WWII America and performed to the live singing of internationally acclaimed jazz singer Halie Loren. This “Retro-glam,” full-length, contemporary ballet show weaves Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformative journey with the jazz standards of Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nat King Cole in a jointly dramatic and comic holiday tale.

New Expressive Works resident choreographers Crystal Jiko, Tere Mathern, Madison Page, and Wolfbird Dance. Photo courtesy of New Expressive Works.

New Expressive Works, directed by Subashini Ganesan, presents its ninth residency showcase, featuring choreographers Crystal Jiko, Tere Mathern, Madison Page, and Wolfbird Dance. The residency program offers choreographers a chance to make new work in a supported environment with feedback from peers, with no strings attached.

Imago Theatre presents two pieces this week: FROGZ, a tale of frogs, penguins, cats, and inanimate objects combined with physical comedy and fantastical costumes that upends the viewers sense of reality; and HOTEL GONE, in which five dancing travelers push, pull, and shove in a hotel lobby “where identities shift, love is uncertain, and souls search for substance. Checking-in and checking-out take on new meaning as live music drifts through HOTEL GONE as the dancers are propelled through coat racks, exiting and entering a world of timeless seduction and trapped mysteries.”

DO JUMP! and 3 Leg Torso present a seasonal mashup of theatricality, acrobatics, aerial dance, comedy, beauty, virtuosity and wit that includes comic and singer Pepe Raphael, juggler Charlie Brown, and original music composed by Courtney Von Drehle, Béla R. Balogh, Ralph Huntley and Joan Szymko.

Espacio Flamenco Portland presents Fiesta Navideña, a celebration honoring the holidays Flamenco style. The evening will include performances by Espacio Flamenco Coro Navideño, Flamenco Kids, the Flamenco Guitar class, and the Espacio Flamenco Company.

BodyVox’s Lexicon. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert

BodyVox continues its 20th anniversary celebrations with Lexicon, a new work by company directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland in collaboration with Italian avant-garde composer Ludovico Einaudi. Lexicon creates a new performance experience by marrying dance and technology and by having the dancers interact onstage with infrared sensors, live video graphic generation, motion capture, virtual reality.

Linda Austin’s “a world, a world.” Photo: Chelsea Petrakis

Linda Austin’s a world, a world opened Wednesday night at her home studio-theater, Performance Works NW, which she co-runs with husband and lighting designer Jeff Forbes. Forbes also designed the lighting for a world, a world. Sound design is by Seth Nehil, and visual design and costumes are by Sarah Marguier.

This new work is a visually arresting dance for a rotating group of five dancers – ten altogether – including Austin. It drops the viewer into the same, saturated, arena-like environments that the dancers themselves inhabit. a world, a world continues through Dec. 17. Seating is limited because it is built into the set.

a world, a world is the culmination of a three-year-long choreographic process that began with (Un)Made, a solo created and performed by Austin, who then passed it down in relay fashion, like a game of telephone, to eight other performers: Jin Camou, keyon gaskin, Matthew Shyka, Linda K. Johnson, Nancy Ellis, Robert Tyree, Tahni Holt, and Jen Hackworth. These performers then in turn passed it down to a group called the Dream Team—Claire Barrera, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles, and Takahiro Yamamoto— and it was finally performed again by Austin herself.

Linda Austin’s a world, a world. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

The experience played out what it looks like to remember, misremember, and adapt. Austin was interested in investigating new ways of authorship and finding “a way of dissolving self importance,” she said when we spoke last weekend. “…I had an initial idea about losing your boundaries…in a devotional sense.”

We, the audience, tracked the details from Austin’s original performance through to each one of the performers, observing what was lost, what remained, and what was changed. The entire process was chronicled on the (Un)Made website and includes performance and rehearsal photos as well as writing by Austin and Allie Hankins, the dramaturg for the project.

The second phase was called (Un)Made Part 2: the last bell rings for you, and was a collaborative, large ensemble score (a structured framework for improvisation) that featured movement artists Claire Barrera, Jin Camou, Nancy Ellis, Jen Hackworth, Allie Hankins, keyon gaskin, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles and Takahiro Yamamoto and involved 18 new participants with varying levels of performance experience. In this phase, Austin was interested in having “ …people experience making something together, performing it together, and also being able to watch the result.”

Linda Austin’s a world, a world. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

Philosophically, she wanted to create community but also wanted to challenge herself “as a choreographer to make something satisfactory out of simple elements and people who aren’t dancers.” Austin also sees dance in everyday movement and honors the trained and untrained moving bodies, also honoring her own experiences as an untrained dancer in the beginning of her career by balancing the pieces movement style between both worlds.

Part three, a world, a world, which is where we are now, is a collection of movements taken from the other two phases of the process, reworked and reimagined into a completely new idea that is performed in two disparate worlds—one oversaturated with repeated patterns in darkness, and the other quiet, clean, and peaceful and full of light.

In watching this process unfold over the last three years I have become acutely aware of how imperfect and suspect my own memory is. I definitely don’t remember everything, and I survive day-to-day on a collective memory shared by my family and close friends. If I can’t remember something, someone else definitely will. We are an inseparable unit that acts as one.

Austin seems to be tracking memory in this choreographic process, in turn creating her own collective memory, and community with the performers involved. Legacy comes to mind.

Linda Austin’s a world, a world. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

For myself, the making of a dance becomes inseparable from the experiences I am having outside the studio. The questions I have, my relationships, what I’m interested in, they all consciously and unconsciously inform the choices I am making in my art eventually creating a cyclical relationship where you can’t extract one from the other. Maybe it’s always been that way. We recreate the world we live in, in our art.

So, Austin is curious about how we are influenced by culture, our awareness of those influences, whether we like who we are, is it changeable, can identity be fluid, can we keep our individuality while living harmoniously in a community, and what are different ways that we author/alter the narrative of our lives. All of those questions and possibly some answers can be found in a world, a world.

Upcoming Performances

December
December 9-24, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 22-24, The Nutcracker with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene

January
January 12, Love Heals All Wounds, Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz, Presented by Portland’5 Center for the Arts
January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

February
February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre

March
March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, World Premiere’s by Sarah Slipper and Cayetano Soto, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April
April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May
May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, a dance for film by The Holding Project
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem

 

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