DanceWatch Weekly: Spaces, places and faces

Dancers experimenting with dance everywhere from the theatre to the Armory to a pilates studio.

It is all about variety in the Portland dance scene this week—spaces, places and faces. POV Dance, directed by Mandy Cregan, will perform In My Own Space in Cregan’s Pilates studio in Southeast. Musician Ben Martins curates a third gathering of eclectic Portland performers at The Headwaters. 11: Dance Co performs Cool Moves, Bro for a second week, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre NW can be seen at JAW Playwright Festival and Trisha Brown’s films are still looping at Yale Union.

This week I interviewed Cregan. This dancer, choreographer, director, business owner, healer, teacher, partner and mother has been creating site-specific (or “architectural dance”) in Portland since 2007 in such places as The Leftbank Project and the Ford Building. I reviewed POV’s Leftbank performance in 2014.

Performances this week

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Mandy Cregan in POV Dance’s new production, “In My Own Space.” Photo by Debbie Baxter.

In My Own Space
POV Dance directed by Mandy Cregan
July 28-30
Body Mechanics, 2512 SE 35 Place
This architecturally based dance company, started in 2007 by Noel Plemmons and Mandy Cregan, will explore the inside of Cregan’s Pilates studio in Southeast Portland. Two alternating casts of dancers will cycle through the space three times each evening, for a total of six performances each night. The running time of each dance is just under 30 minutes, with audiences entering the space every 15 minutes.

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Dance artist Sara Parker. Photo by Alyssa Tolman.

Dog Day Dance: A Futuristik Variety Show
Curated by Ben Martins
7 pm July 29
The Headwaters Theatre, NE Farragut St
Performance art meets mega-dance party in this monthly performance series curated by Portland musician Ben Martins. Styles included in this variety show range from Butoh to comedy to clowning, and include contemporary dancer Sara Parker, who recently returned to Portland after finishing her MFA in modern dance at the University of Utah. Parker will perform a solo titled A subtle song and a whip hand. Within her work Parker investigates physical embodiment, audience-performer tensions, and performance spaces. The evening ends with a fire dance party to the musical stylings of Savage Nightingale and Teal // Pheno.

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“Cool Moves, Bro” by 11: Dance Co. Photo by Quaz Amir.

Cool Moves, Bro
11: Dance Co
July 29-31
CoHo Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh St

This Neo-Fusion dance company (a new choreographic style that blends the street and classical worlds of dance), directed by Brittany DeLano (Bb for short), will showcase new works by Northwest Dance Project dancer Ching-Ching Wong, William Jay (Chanti Darling) and Emma Portner, principle dancer and choreographer for Justin Bieber’s Purpose project.

Last week I interviewed DeLano and executive director Huy Pham on reimagining the dance company model, working with Emma Portner and what it looks like to challenge perception through choreography.

Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre NW at JAW Playwright Festival
Choreography by Heidi Duckler
Featuring dancers Kiel Moton and Conrad Kaczor
3:40 pm July 31
Portland Center Stage, 128 NW Eleventh Ave
Choreographer Heidi Duckler loves to explore unusual performance spaces in her choreographic work. As part of the JAW Playwright Festival, company dancers Kiel Moton and Conrad Kaczor will explore the architecture, history, and stories of The Armory, the historic building that houses Portland Center Stage.

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Photo of “Spiral” (1974)-choreography by Trisha Brown. Photo by © Gene Pittman 2008.

TREES IN THE FOREST
A group show curated by Kari Rittenbach
July 23-September 2, 2016
Opening July 23, 4-6pm
Gallery hours Thursday-Sunday 3-6pm
Yale Union, 800 SE 10th Ave
Three videos of works by Trisha Brown—La Chanteuse (1963), Falling Duet (1968), and Spiral (1974)—will be shown on a loop at Yale Union as part of a curated festival by Kari Rittenbach. Rittenbach is a graduate of Yale University, the Courtauld Institute of Art, and the Whitney Independent Study Program and is a writer and independent curator based in New York.

The concept behind TREES IN THE FOREST: “Considering nature as a concept, structure, or formal subject, the exhibited works examine its cultural and social mediation, as well as “naturalized” systems of knowledge and power in the world at large. TREES IN THE FOREST takes an ecological approach to a disparate selection of recent art practices; it is an experimental survey of understudied territories in an era of routine environmental catastrophe.”

Upcoming Performances

August 4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 5-6, No Stopping Performances, Heidi Duckler DTNW
August 5-12, Interview with a Zombie, Top Shake Dance directed by Jim McGinn
September 8-18, TBA:16, PICA

Interview with POV artistic director Mandy Cregan

What are all the different hats that you wear in your life? How does all of that affect you as an artist?

I am a dancer, choreographer, director, business owner, healer, teacher, partner and mother. Until this process I’ve only ever worn a few of those hats at a time. Generally, my dancing is something that happens completely separate from the rest of my life. It is one of my truest expressions and up until now has felt like an aspect of me that is not fully uncovered or realized by so many people who know me as a business owner, healer or Pilates teacher. This process has made me bring so many of those hats together under one roof—in the beginning it made me feel a bit top heavy. However, what combining all of my me’s into one place ultimately allowed me was a complete ownership of myself. Having my children and partner present and helping with the performances will truly allow me to embrace and allow all of myself to expand into one space—MY space.

How did you become interested in architectural dance?

I began dancing in San Francisco with a woman named Lizz Roman who choreographed site-specific dances in the spaces in which they were being danced. At the same time I was also doing a lot of contact improvisation. I danced for Roman for eight years, the entire time I spent in the Bay Area, and as her pieces progressed we began to utilize the architecture of the spaces more and more as we generated movement in them. I began to see structure as a really big, stable partner that was always there to catch me.

When did you move to Portland?

I moved to Portland in February, 2007. I moved here because San Francisco was beginning to feel stifling financially and too stressful with the addition of my second child. My daughter was seven months old and my son had just turned four (they’re 10 and 13 now). We were beginning to look at the prospect of kindergarten, and it was a daunting process. I felt Portland calling to me. I’ve never felt more at home anywhere. It had public schools that were much better than the ones available to us in SF—and it felt like an amazing place to raise kids (unlike San Francisco—which is challenging without being independently wealthy). Coincidentally, Noel [Plemmons] moved up three weeks earlier. We had danced together in the Bay Area with Lizz Roman. and we became instant family moving up here. (He’s my kids’ uncle Noel). We quickly realized that the kind of dance we loved to do wasn’t happening up here—so we decided to form POV dance and make it happen.

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Cameron Growden in POV Dance’s new production, “In My Own Space.” Photo by Rachael Lembo.

What is interesting about this style of dancing to you?

I think dancing with structure or architecture helps bring out its life. I think there is movement in everything. I love to connect to a space and coax the movement out of it. I love to play with angles and lines and find how I can be supported by architecture or structure. Architecture is just a super stable, often harder and less forgiving partner.

How do you keep your interest fresh?

I keep my interest fresh by exploring new spaces and finding new ways to craft the movement of a piece through a building. Every new building or space I approach has a dance puzzle within it waiting to be unlocked. The coolest part of the puzzle though is that it has infinite possibilities and I get to shape them—but also allow the audience to shape their own experience and find their own perspective as they watch the dance.

How do you chose new performance spaces?

Generally my co-director Noel Plemmons and I go out scouting new buildings. We are looking for interesting architectural elements—and generally just an overall feel of a building. There are so many things that go into the process of securing a new space—but step number one is walking into a space and seeing the dance unfolding from it. I usually have an immediate sense of the dance and can see images of it in my head upon walking into a building that is a yes.

Can you talk about the circumstances that brought you to creating a piece in your Pilates studio?

I decided to make a piece in my studio after we failed to secure Revolution Hall in the Washington High School Building and therefore didn’t get funding. I was pretty down about that—and I really wanted to be in a creative process. I presented the idea to the board of doing a series of smaller pieces that were in spaces that were easily accessible to us—my studio was the easiest and most accessible space—so with their blessing I started there.

Initially I had a hard time with the process—you can read more about that on my blog.

NOTE

Cregan maintains a personal blog chronicling her life and choreographic processes that you can read here.

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