DanceWatch Weekly: Move it, own it

Dance doesn’t just belong to the young or skinny or white or “trained” or "educated” or able-bodied. Claim it. Shape it. Make it your own.

Because it’s Valentine’s day/week, and love is in the air, I thought I would reflect on loving relationships in regards to dance, more specifically my evolving relationship with dance, with our bodies, why I think we should all dance, and how I think dancing can change the world. I have big ideas, I know.

Remember when you were a kid and you would be talking away and suddenly a word would pop out that sounded really strange like it was from another planet, and then you would repeat it over and over and over again (much to the chagrin of your parents), until it completely lost its meaning, and became an amorphous sound? Well, that’s kind of what’s happened to dance for me since I started writing DanceWatch. But this isn’t a bad thing, I promise. Let me explain.

Because I spend so much time looking at, thinking about, reading about, writing about, dance, and dancing myself, all of the boundaries that I once upon a time created to define dance have been blown apart to form a new, much more inclusive definition. I so narrowly defined dance that I almost defined myself right out of it. I highly recommend immersing yourself in something you don’t understand, to understand it.

First and foremost, dance doesn’t just belong to the young, or the skinny, or the white, or the “trained,” or the “educated” or the able-bodied. It belongs to the person doing it no matter their ability, age, color, or size, and maybe not even to them, depending on what tradition they are from. It comes in as many forms as there are people in the world. Every form belongs in the same conversation and one form does not have more value than another. Also, the idea of what a professional is, is permutable, and a dance career is not linear; you can come and go within it as you please, for as long as you want. Isn’t it bizarre that dancers in wheelchairs can perform but ballet dancers have to retire when the artistic director deems them too old to dance? Times are a changin’. We no longer have to live within a strict, dance culture paradigm governed by the white male artist. It’s time to create the world we want to live in.

The idea that all dance is equal and shouldn’t be critiqued is something I argue for and about frequently with a friend of mine. He thinks that dance needs to be reviewed and I don’t. I worry about hurting someone’s artistic growth by critiquing them; he thinks critique is important for growth. I don’t think it’s about the end game. I think it’s about following the trajectory of a person’s career, and the development of the artist/human more than it is about the work that they create. What do you think?

Dancing is an ecstatic experience that I think should be experienced by everyone. Personally, I love to move. It makes me feel alive, otherworldly, spiritually connected, energized, emotional, and enormous. I always leave my dance classes and rehearsals feeling like I can take on the world. Dancing generates a specific kind of energy in me that feeds me differently than anything else in my life. When I don’t dance, my world closes up. My perspective changes. Possibilities get small, I get small, and life becomes difficult to manage.

Dance illuminates relationships: our relationship with our emotions, our bodies, and the world around us. It connects us as humans because we are all similar moving, dancing bodies. Everything that we experience in life gets processed by our bodies and through our bodies; my dancing body is the lens that I see the world through. How can you deal with life and not move those experiences around in your body to figure them out?

I have always thought it was weird that we live in our bodies but we don’t know anything about them. We give away our agency to doctors, who are strangers, who don’t know us at all, who tell us what to do with OUR bodies.

Have you heard that dancing is the best form of exercise? I can certainly attest to it but you might prefer a scientist’s opinion. According to an article in Time Magazine, dancing burns about 600 calories in an hour, is dynamic (moves in all directions), boosts energy, improves moods, and lowers stress. It also improves the white matter in older adult brains; the part that deals with processing, thinking, and memory. And, it encourages social bonding and touch.

What if more people danced? Would that normalize dance as an art form in American culture? Would we feel more connected to each other, would we love ourselves more, have empathy for each other, stop shooting each other, have world peace? I think so.

So, let’s dance, and do it with love.

This week’s opportunities to connect with dance are innumerable. You can check in with Dance Wire, one of Portland’s dance resources to find a class to take, or check out my list of performances to see. Seeing dance is just as important as doing it, said writer Sarah Kaufman in an article called Through our critics’ eyes for the Washington Post. “Dance is participatory, even when we’re confined to our seats. Our nervous systems are getting a workout from everything we see, hear and perceive.” So? See you at the dance.

Performances this week!


Dancers Matthew Cichon Katherine Evans performing as part of A·mor·phous. Photo courtesy of DownRight Productions.

DownRight Productions, Anna Marra and Emily Schultz
February 15-18
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #4
6:30 pm Films
7:30 pm Dance/Performance
9: 00 pm Music (Each night will feature a different musical act)
With the closing of Conduit Dance Inc., and an awareness of the influx of new artists moving into Portland, BodyVox dancers Anna Marra and Emily Schultz were inspired to create A·mor·phous; a new platform to facilitate the commingling of Portland artists in dance, film, music, and visual arts.

The evening will feature dances from Sara Parker, Rachel Slater, Matt Cichon, Horizon3 Dance, Kate Rafter, Ben Martens, Beth Whelan, and Kristalyn Gill. Live music from Wet Dream, Paper Gates, No Aloha, Turner Capehart, and Nick Normal. Films by Nicholas Petrich and Sari Hoke, and visual art by Sara Schultz, Nacia Amundson, Christopher Peddecord, and AliRae Aguirre.

Dancer Vincent Mantsoe performing as part of the University of Oregon Faculty Dance Concert. Photo courtesy of Vincent Mantsoe.

Faculty Dance Concert featuring guest artist Vincent Mantsoe
Hosted by University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
February 15-17
University of Oregon, Dougherty Dance Theatre, 1484 University St., Eugene
In their annual dance concert, The University of Oregon dance departments will feature works by legendary choreographer Bella Lewitzky (1916-2004), Associate Professor of Dance Shannon Mockli, Professor of Dance Steven Chatfield, Associate Professor of Dance Brad Garner, Senior Instructor of Dance Rita Honka, and renowned choreographer Vincent Mantsoe. The works explore different methods of structuring dances, spatial patterning, relived memories, loving relationships, arts advocacy, interlocking themes, physical labor, places of origin, and energy between two points.

A-WOL Dance Collective. Photo courtesy of A-WOL Dance Collective.

Left of Center
A-WOL Dance Collective (Aerial Without Limits)
February 16-March 4
A-WOL Dance Center, 513 NE Schuyler St.
Celebrating their 15-year anniversary season in their spacious 5,000-square-foot warehouse home, A-WOL Dance Collective, a 13 member company that combines aerial arts and dance, will create an immersive experience in the round with a haunting soundscape and victorian-era costumes weaving together “a fantastical tale suspended between reverie and reality…enveloped in a dream state free of the limitations of the waking world. “

Eugene Ballet in Sympathique. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

Pink Martini and Eugene Ballet Company
February 17-18
Hult Center for Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Join Eugene Ballet Company directed by Toni Pimble for a performance of two works in one evening. The first ballet is a collaboration with Pink Martini that features new choreography by Pimble, Sarah Ebert, and Suzanne Haag to world jazz, pop and classical music. The second piece is called Tutto Eccetto il Lavandino or Everything But The Kitchen Sink, a contemporary work by American choreographer Val Caniparoli set to Vivaldi.

Bharanatyam dancer Prathibha Nandagudi. Photo courtesy of Prathibha Nandagudi.

Margazhi Nrithya Sandhya
Performed by Prathibha Nandagudi
Hosted by Portland Shiridi Sai Baba Temple – Hindu Educational & Cultural Society of America
5:30 pm February 18
5:30 pm Violin Concert by Deepti Ravidath
6:00 pm Dance Program by Prathibha Nandagudi
Portland Shiridi Sai Baba Temple, 2110 NW Aloclek Dr, Hillsboro
Portland dancer Prathibha Nandagudi, a student of Guru Sr T.S. Bhatt and Guru Smt. Rangashree of Kinkini Nrithyashala, in Bangalore, India and also a software professional, will perform a selection of dances in the style of Bharatanatyam-a South Indian classical dance form that features elaborate rhythmic footwork and hand gestures.

Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, Oregon.

Chapel Theatre Grand Opening
Corinn DeWaard, Illya Torres-Garner, and Jr Holland
2:00 pm February 18
5:00 pm Ribbon Cutting
Chapel Theatre, 4107 SE Harrison St., Milwaukie
Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, Oregon, owned, run, and managed by Corinn DeWaard (Artistic Director of TriptheDark Dance company), Illya Torres-Garner, and Jr Holland, is finally opening for arts business.This renovated two-story, 4,554 square foot, 1940s church at 4107 SE Harrison Street in Milwaukie, is now available to rent for plays, dance performances, and other community events. Come check it out!

Celebrations include a day of meeting, greeting, and ribbon cutting with Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, as well as a full week of activities showcasing the art, performance and classes that Chapel Theater offers. Check out Chapel Theatre’s website for the full schedule.

Upcoming Performances

February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Performance Works NW Alembic Artist’ Showcase, Catherine Egan, Suzanne Chi, and GRINDGROUP
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 25, Shivarpanam, performance by Sweta Ravisankar
February 26, Rejoice! at AWMC Regional Finals, Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater
February 27-March 1, Kinky Boots, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene

March 2-4, Zorro: The Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 3-4, Voices: A Choreographers’ Showcase, Hosted by PDX Dance Collective
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, HEDDA, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

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 7, Reaching Back to Our Roots: Annual Gala Fundraiser, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 9, Noontime Showcase: Jefferson Dancers, Presented by Portland’5
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 20-21, In layers, choreography by Jana Kristi Zahler
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 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 11-13, Alice in Wonderland, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, The Holding Project, directed by Amy Leona Havin
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

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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