Maybe this description of the week in dance doesn’t exactly match the lyrics or rhythm of “My Favorite Things” but maybe you get the idea.
Snowflakes on rat kings, and magic and whimsy,
tricksters, and clowns, goddesses and monsters,
apples and pomegranates and new dances too,
these are a few of this weekend’s dance concerts,
plus, a whole lot of fake snow.
In celebration of the opening of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker this weekend, and in celebration of hard working, tenacious dancers everywhere and their ability to hold a show together no matter what, I thought it would be fun to share some behind-the-scenes stories I collected from Oregon Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Kevin Irving, rehearsal director Lisa Kipp, ballet master Jeffrey Stanton, and dance writer Martha Ullman West
Personally, I’ve seen a Sugar Plum Fairy dropped by her prince from great heights right onto her face, get up and continue dancing, and I’ve heard endless stories of dancers choking and slipping on fake snow. But what the audience sees is never the full story of what actually happens on stage.
Kevin Irving, artistic director, Oregon Ballet Theatre
“When I was finally cast in the Spanish variation after years of lobbying (this was at Les Grands Ballet Canadiens), I was “all in” and method all the way, which meant I needed to get my shiny blond hair dark. Since I had to switch between lots of roles, I chose a temporary dye but did not test it out until my first show in the role. At that point I discovered that the foam product I put in my hair (and believe me I put in a lot!) was not sweat-proof–and by the time I finished the variation I had black streaks running down my face! Needless to say, all of the other dancers had a good laugh at my expense.”
Lisa Kipp, rehearsal director, Oregon Ballet Theatre
“When I lived in Seattle, I was hired as a guest dancer for PNB’s Nutcracker. I was a relatively quick study, which is a quality that was fully utilized—I had three different spots in “Waltz of the Flowers” and two different spots in “Snow.” PNB has a really long run—I think around 32 shows(?)—and toward the end of the run, I was tired–physically, but also mentally from the switching around. In one show, I was in the middle of flowers and allowed myself to space out for a moment—and realized I couldn’t remember which spot I was doing. I literally stood still for a couple of seconds, trying to right myself and looking around to see where there might be an open spot to run to. Mistakes on stage often feel like a car crash- time stands still, so it’s hard to tell how long I was standing there. (I stood with my feet apart, flat on the floor and in parallel—so it wasn’t as though I was in any semblance of a balletic position.)
Afterward I didn’t get any notes from the artistic staff, so I figured my gaffe was relatively hidden. One of the principal dancers, Ben Houk, approached me the next day to marvel at how cool it looked to have one of the flowers standing stock still, with all the action swirling around—he laughed and laughed.
Different story: I did Nutcracker in Chicago. It was at the Arie Crown theater, a huge theater with a production crew that was rumored to have links to the mob. Everyone was scared of the crew. After the snow scene, as they were sweeping up the snow, we often heard them complaining about the detritus that they found in the snow. Hairpins, headpieces, band-aids, etc. I decided it would be funny to throw a pair of dance trunks (the underwear type panties we wear under the costume) on top of a pile of snow. “Snow” ended, and I grabbed the trunks that I’d stashed behind a boom. I tossed it onto the snow, and we hid to watch the action. They were dumbfounded.
‘Somebody lost their panties!!’ ‘We have truly seen it all now, boys.’ Throughout the rest of the run we could hear them talking about those trunks. I made the mistake of then tossing a coconut donut onto the snow, and then they were onto us. ‘Somebody is messing with us.’”
Jeff Stanton, ballet master, Oregon Ballet Theatre
“Way back when I was still a student at San Francisco Ballet, because I was tall they had me learn things like Mouse King and Mother G. I had my own spot in mice though. One show, as we were on stage for the first part of the battle scene, a few eights before the Mouse King was supposed to enter, someone yells from off stage, “There’s no Mouse King!” I ran off-stage, grabbed the Mouse King sword and shield and returned to the stage to be the Mouse King. That was my first performance in the role. Not sure I was even cast to do it. Helgi Tomasson, the director, expressed his gratitude. I was thrilled to have scored some major points!
One show at PNB as the prince, I finished the finale with Patricia Barker (my Clara) on my shoulder downstage center. I slowly brought her down to point, she stepped away then turned to look back at me. She started laughing because of how crazy my hair looked. Tutus in shoulder sits and prince hair don’t always work well together. Every show we did after that, she’d turn around in the exact same spot with a hopeful look on her face, to see how my hair had managed. I got good at tilting my head away while removing her from my shoulder.”
Martha Ullman West, arts writer, Oregon ArtsWatch
“I witnessed something pretty funny during a Nutcracker performance 36 years ago. The Eugene Ballet was performing “Nut”; Daniel Duell of New York City Ballet fame, wonderful dancer, was a guest artist; and Riley Grannan, who recently retired as managing director of the company he founded with Toni Pimble, was the Mouse King. Duell, as the leader of the toy soldiers who transforms in this version to the Nutcracker prince, accidentally lopped off the Mouse King’s tail with one stroke of the sword, and the audience adored it. So it stayed in the choreography for several years.
The sword prop had a sharp enough edge to cut off the Mouse King’s tail. It’s also likely that the tail wasn’t securely sewn onto the costume.”
Performances this week!
In Good Company
NW Dance Project
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave
The dancers of NW Dance Project (Samantha Campbell, Kody Jauron, Elijah Labay, Andrea Parson, Franco Nieto, and Ching Ching Wong) have collectively choreographed a brand new, evening-length, seasonal celebration, that follows the structure of Alice and Wonderland. This allows the dancers to enter different, bizarre worlds drawing upon past choreography, clowning, the Hansel and Gretel story, and to display their talent for making sense out of chaos.
The evening includes tricksters, magicians and monsters, and is full of humor, seasonal whimsy, depth, character and even has live music played by NW Dance Project dancer/choreographer, Lindsey McGill.
Dance in Dialogue-Eugene
Directed by Shannon Mockli
8 pm December 8
HiFi Music Hall, 44 East 7th Ave, Eugene
Aimed at invigorating Eugene’s contemporary dance culture, Dance in Dialogue is a quarterly works in progress showcase (performances in March, June, September and December), directed by University of Oregon dance faculty member Shannon Mockli. It is intended to provide a forum for dance artists to present works-in-progress in a process-oriented setting, with audience feedback.
This year-end show features artists collected from the different Dance in Dialogue series throughout 2016 and includes Button Will and Stephanie Schaaf from Portland, and Jana Meszaros/Vitamin Dance, Patsy Boss, Jana Zahler, Shannon Mockli, Jodi James, Dakota Bouher, Bryn Hlava, Mariah Melson, and BodyParty from Eugene.
If you are interested in showing work in the future, please contact Shannon Mockli at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presented by BodyVox
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave
Ebb explores writer Samuel Beckett’s novel trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, as well as Waiting for Godot, weaving a tale of persistence, nostalgia, melancholy and humor.
ARCANE COLLECTIVE was established in 2011 by Morleigh Steinberg and Oguri. Steinberg is a dance artist, lighting designer and filmmaker, and Oguri is a native of Japan whose work is rooted in Butoh and is a conductor of The Body Weather Laboratory, a technique created by early Butoh dancer Min Tanaka that explores the origins of dance through farming life. In summation of his work Tanaka says, “The body that measures the landscape, the body in intercourse with weather, the body kissing mass of peat, the body in love-death relation to the day. For me the dance has been a symbol of despair and courage.”
Interestingly Steinberg, was one of the founding members of the dance company ISO Dance (I’m So Optimistic), started by BodyVox Artistic Directors Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton in 1987.
The Book of Esther: A Rock Gospel Ballet
Ballet Fantastique, directed by Donna Marisa and Hannah Bontrager
The Hult Center, Soreng Theatre, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Accompanied by Andiel Brown and the University of Oregon Gospel Singers, this mother-daughter contemporary ballet dance company tells the story of Esther, a Jewish girl who was chosen by Xerxes to become Queen of Persia and thwarts a plan to commit genocide against her people. The annual feast of Purim was established in memory of their deliverance.
Critical Engagement Series
Apples & Pomegranates/Tahni Holt and Luke Wyland
5 pm December 10
Flock Dance Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave, Studio 4
The Critical Engagement Series at Flock Dance Center is curated by dance artist Tahni Holt, and “brings together audiences and choreographers in hopes to reveal some of the mystery surrounding the languages around dance and the unique practices of individual choreographers. We start with the question: What does the choreographer need at this particular moment in their process and how might this also serve the wider community.”
Apples & Pomegranates choreographed by Portland dance artists Tahni Holt in collaboration with sound artist Luke Wyland, “ruminates on assumptions and associations, motherhood, sensationalism, emotionality, sexuality and Holt’s image bound, white, 41-year-old, female-identified body.”
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®
Oregon Ballet Theatre, Directed by Kevin Irving
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St
To Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, little Marie parties hard, fights with her brother because he broke her new toy, sees a tree grow to the size of a building, fights off rats and travels to the Land of Sweets where she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy, witnesses dancing delicacies from around the world, and takes off in the end to places unknown with the Nutcracker Prince.
December 15, Holiday RAWK 2016, RAWArtists Portland
December 15-17, Complicated Woman, Katie Scherman/2016 Performance Works NW Alembic Resident Artist
December 15-18, Through The Looking Glass, LYFE Dance Company
December 17, not about a thing, lecture demonstration by Shannon Stewart
December 17, Critical Engagement Series, In Circadia/Eliza Larson
December 16-18, The Nutcracker, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
December 18, History is a hole: Reading Group and Reception, Physical Education
December 18, Gifts, a film by Clare Whistler/2015 Performance Works NW visiting artist
December 19, Dancing with the Stars: Live! – We Came to Dance, AEG Live NW, Eugene
December 20, Dancing with the Stars: Live!, Presented by Showbox
December 21, Spectacle Garden 8: Solstice, Curated by Ben Martens
December 22-24, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland