Fertile Ground goes dancing

Portland's annual fringe festival has an expansive dance component, too

The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works and its dance-centric arm, Groovin’ Greenhouse (hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre), are right around the corner, January 19-29 to be exact. The 11-day festival that features new performance work in various stages of development, from the fully staged to workshops, in theater, comedy, dance and film, and everything else that doesn’t fit neatly inside those bins.

Fringe festivals, like Fertile Ground, can be found all over the world. The first one was the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, established in Scotland in 1947, as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival. The Fringe runs for 25 days and features a whopping 50,266 performances of 3,269 shows in 294 venues. (Portland choreographer Éowyn Emerald is a frequent performer at the Edinburgh Fringe.) Generally, fringe festivals show a range of work from amateurs to professionals. They are a non-curated, open forum for expression, and pose a low financial risk to artists and audience alike. What’s special about our Fertile Ground Festival, though, is that it shows only the work of Portland artists.

This past week, Arts Watchers Christa McIntyre, A.L. Adams and Bob Hicks attended the Fertile Ground’s meet-and-greet speed dating event, to learn as much about what this year’s Fertile Ground festival has to offer. According to Bob Hicks the speed dating event went something like this. “Theater people line up in front of a confusion of journalists from print, online, radio, and television outlets and work their way to the front, where they get five minutes to pitch their show and explain why that journalist really, really ought to see it and write very, very nicely about it. Then a whistle blows, and everyone moves on to the next encounter.” You can read their entire account of the evening here, as well as the terrifically descriptive list of the performances.

Here at DanceWatch I am just going to break down the dance offerings within the festival because, you know, I love dance and you probably do too.

The list below begins with independently produced Fertile Ground dance productions, followed by the Groovin’ Greenhouse schedule of performances with descriptions of each dance group or choreographer following. Groovin’ Greenhouse shows are shared by multiple performers in an evening.

Independent Fertile Grounds dance productions

Echo Theater Company in “Uncommon Sense.” Photo by Arnista Photography.

Uncommon Sense (workshop)
Featuring Echo Theatre Company, sister: grit collective, Tempos Contemporary Circus, and Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus
Presented by Echo Theater Company
January 20-29
Echo Theatre, 1515 SE 37th Ave

Echo Theater Company’s creative director Aaron Wheeler-Kay, has brought together Echo Theatre Company, sister: grit collective, Tempos Contemporary Circus, and Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus, to explore the multitudinous interpretations of the sensed world and find freedom within limitations, in an evening of politically driven, new works, combining circus arts, dance, narrative and physical theatre.

Featured performers with Echo Theater Company will be Portland dancers Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson, co-artistic directors of Wobbly Dance. You can catch a glimpse of them in rehearsal in Echo Theatre’s video trailer for “Uncommon Sense.”

“Last Dance”. Photo by Holly Wilmeth.

Last Dance
Written by Sky Yeager and directed by Jonathan Walters
January 19-29
The Headwater Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #4

Butoh artist Kat Macmillan, and actor Jaime Lee Christina, tell the story of an angel’s transformation into human form in this new play by Sky Yeager directed by Jonathan Walters. Through the modes of theatre, film, music and dance, the play touches on concepts of agency, spiritual purpose, life after life, and ponders the preciousness of life. Out of darkness, hopelessness, and despair, comes new life, hope and transformation. You can see a video preview of the work here.

“Into the night” by Allegro Dance Company. Photo by Casey Campbell Photography and Paul Pour Photography.

Into the Night: An Exploration of Life, Love & Loss
Performed by The Allegro Dance Company
Directed by Ashley López
January 28-29
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave

Connecting aspects of ancient Middle Eastern culture to modern day ones, this collaborative, contemporary belly dance company of 15, directed by Tribal Fusion belly dance star Ashley Lopez, will examine the mystery, pain, and beauty inherent in the human condition through a visually rich, multifaceted, storytelling experience.

Groovin’ Greenhouse performances

Performance Dates and times

Portland Bellydance Guild, Polaris Dance Theatre, Polaris Junior Company, Neo Youth Company
7:30 pm January 20
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave

Les Watanabe, Polaris Dance Theatre, Polaris Junior Company, Neo Youth Company
2:00 pm January 21
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave

Les Watanabe, NW Fusion Dance Company, Polaris Dance Theatre
7:30 pm January 21
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave

Portland Bellydance Guild, Polaris Dance Theatre
2:00 pm January 22
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave

Vitality Dance Collective, Polaris Dance Theatre
7:30 pm January 27
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave

Polaris Dance Theatre, Polaris Junior Company, Neo Youth Company
2:00 pm January 28
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave

A-WOL Dance Collective and Polaris Dance Theatre
7:30 pm January 28
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave

Breakdown of performing groups and premiering work

“Attention Everybody!” by A-WOL Dance Collective. Photo courtesy of A-WOL Dance Collective.

Attention Everybody! (excerpts), A-WOL Dance Collective
Through fierce, edgy, raw athleticism in the air and on the ground, A-Wol Dance Collective, an aerial/dance company, will knit together humanities commonalities, revealing our passion and energy and drive to serve the greater good.

Untitled work in progress by M’Liss Quinnly, Neo Youth Company
In its first season, Polaris Dance Theatre’s youth company for its youngest committed dancers will perform a new work by former Polaris dancer and Director, M’Liss Quinnly.

Untitled work in progress, NW Fusion Dance Company
Directed by Brad Hampton, this pre-professional dance company provides training and performance experience to help advanced dancers transition to professional careers.

Diverse-Divide (an excerpt) by Robert Guitron, Overcoming by Gerard Regot, Gravitation by Kiera Brinkley, performed by Polaris Dance Theatre
Guitron’s Diverse-Divide, speaks to diversity in the natural world and in politics. The movement explores the juxtapositions of the similar and the dissimilar. Guitron is the artistic-director of Polaris Dance Theatre.

Gravitation by past Polaris Dance Theatre company member Kiera Brinkley addresses her choice to change careers and the state of exhaustion. From 2011-2016 Brinkley was a Polaris Dance Company member and is a quadruple amputee. You can learn more about Brinkley’s story in the documentary Soar that came out in 2014 directed by Susan Hess Logeais.

Overcoming by Regot, a Polaris Dance Company member originally from Spain, explores ideas of disruption and loss. It attempts to capture the process of processing a loss and the difficulties in reaching out for help and moving forward.

Untitled work in progress by M’Liss Quinnly, Polaris Junior Company
Polaris Dance Theatre’s pre-professional youth company for its oldest committed student dancers, will perform a new work by former Polaris dancer and Director, M’Liss Quinnly.

Portland Bellydance Guild
Representing belly dancing styles from Folkloric/Traditional, Cabaret/Oriental, Tribal Improv, to Theatrical/Fusion, The Portland Bellydance Guild, a membership organization with a mission to increase public awareness and appreciation for dance and music, rooted in, or inspired by, the Middle-Eastern diaspora, will feature solo performances from Claudia and Jewels, a modern interpretation of women’s folk dance from the Arabian Gulf region using movement vocabulary informed by the seafaring traditions of the area by the newly formed troupe Amwaj, and an improvisational duet by Zephyr Bellydance that is created in the moment in response to the music, the dancers on stage and the energy from the audience.

Vitality Dance Collective. Photo by Will Mahoney Watson

Surrounding, Vitality Dance Collective
Vitality Dance Collective, a vision of Kristina York, was created for adults dancers who dance, but don’t have the time to dedicate themselves full time to the art. The company acts as a collective, supporting the choreographic vision of all its members, and enjoys being undefinable. They are about innovation, authenticity and fun.

Their new work Surroundings, is an exploration of life’s journey: where we’ve been, where we are headed, and what remains out of reach, and is only dreamable.

Love Songs, Les Watanabe
Inspired by the music of Cuban singer, songwriter and pianist Bola de Nieve, Love Songs, choreographed by Les Watanabe for four dancers ( Laura Stilwell, Felice Moskowitz and Terry Brock and Emma Mochnick), endeavors to capture love and its myriad of meanings and forms.

Leslie Watanabe is an Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance at Western Oregon University and performed for Donald McKayle’s Inner City Repertory Company, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Joyce Trisler’s Danscompany, Alvin Ailey II, Burch Mann Folk Ballet, Sachiyo Ito Japanese Dance Company, L.A. Jazz, and Peter Gross Dance Company to name a few.

Other performances in Portland this week and next

January 18-22, Sensation/Disorientation, Tahni Holt Dance, Presented by White Bird
January 19-21, Urban Meadow, BodyVox Dance
January 20-22, Rent, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
January 20-29, Ignite, Oluyinka Akinjiola and Subashini Ganesan
January 24-25, BalletBoyz, Presented by White Bird

 

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