oregon ballet theatre

Swan Lake? Yes and no.

With its new version told through the experiences of the Prince, Oregon Ballet Theatre's production feels like something else

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s new Swan Lake, with a reconceived libretto by artistic director Kevin Irving, opened at the Keller Auditorium last Saturday night. The house was filled with the usual suspects, as well as a gratifying number of young people, including a few little girls in party dresses.

With choreography by Irving, resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte, rehearsal director Lisa Kipp, and OBT School director Anthony Jones (after Petipa/Ivanov); and Filippo Sanjust’s set (to which a smithy has been added by designer Bill Anderson); this production certainly looks like Swan Lake. But it doesn’t quite feel like it.

I would attribute that partly to the incoherent libretto and partly to the crazy quilt of bits and pieces of choreography and characters from other ballets OBT has performed, specifically Act III of Bournonville’s Napoli, Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella, and Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.

OBT’s Peter Franc as Prince Siegfried, lakeside with the swans. Photo: Emily Nash

Since its premiere in Moscow in 1877 – and as have many of the ballets in the classical canon – Swan Lake has been adjusted, recast, torqued, tweaked, and completely transformed to reflect the points of view of those who restage it and the cultural environments in which it is performed. There is no set in stone text for Swan Lake, and I am not a Swan Lake fundamentalist — I quite love Matthew Bourne’s version, set in 20th century London, with an all-male swan corps and keyed, sort of, to the British royal family. And in fact, Petipa himself was the first to make major changes in the libretto, in 1895, and that remains the one with which audiences are most familiar.

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DanceWatch Weekly: We’ve got dance news

A busy week in performance plus a new dance space, a new dance film festival, and a new platform for choreographers

Before we dive into this week’s dance performances, we have some Portland dance news to report. Specifically, the city has added a dance-centric film festival to its movie festival mix, a new performance space has popped up in Milwaukie, and Dance Out Loud is looking for choreographers who havenew work to showcase.

SubRosa dancers/choreographers, Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans, have created Portland Dance Film Fest, and they are inviting filmmakers from around the world to submit minis, shorts, and long dance films, to be screened here in Portland August 24-September 6. Details and the screening location will follow.

SubRosa is a Portland modern dance collective established in 2011: The collective’s Living The Room has screened in dance film festivals around the world, for example. For anyone who has a film to screen in the festival, the submission deadline for is April 2.

The new performance space comes courtesy of Corinn DeWaard (the artistic director of Tripthedark dance company and a Dance Wire board member) along with her two business partners. They have have bought a Milwaukie church built in 1940 and plan on turning it into multi-use space called Chapel Theatre.

The two-story building—a total of 4,554 sq feet at 4107 SE Harrison St in Milwaukie—will serve the arts communities of both Milwaukie and Portland. Right now DeWaard and her partners are in the planning and demo stages, and DanceWatch will keep you posted on the theater’s progress and events as it moves forward. If you would like to see the space, click here for a video tour.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: NEA battle, dancing with Rodin

Arts groups push back, a week of dance, a road dog warrior, concert tips, what's on stage

It’s been a busy week in the arts world. Nationally, as the New York Times reports, the new administration seems intent on moving forward with its plan to kill off the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, although it’s by no means certain that Congress would go along with it, and, as the Times reports, opposition is being mounted across the country. The endowments reach into virtually every congressional district, and that reflects a lot of votes. As the Times put it, “(E)ven if the arts get only crumbs, administrators said, they are crumbs worth fighting for: much-needed money that supports community projects, new works and making the arts accessible to people in different parts of the country and to those who are not wealthy. And after years of culture-war debates in which conservatives took aim at the programs, questioning their value, arts groups are pressing the case that the federal money they receive supports organizations — and jobs — in all 50 states, both red and blue.”

 


 

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s new “Swan Lake.” Photo: Randall Milstein

IN PORTLAND, MEANWHILE, it’s a dancey sort of week. Oregon Ballet Theatre has just opened Kevin Irving’s reimagined version of Swan Lake, with the focus shifted from Odette/Odile to Prince Siegfried; it continues with four performances Thursday-Saturday at Keller Auditorium. Look for Martha Ullman West’s review in ArtsWatch on Wednesday.

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DanceWatch Weekly: Inside and outside the bubble

The Oregon dance scene extends beyond Portland, we are happy to report, and a ton's happening in town, too

When I lived on the East Coast, New Jersey specifically, it took about an hour-and-a-half of driving to get anywhere—to New York, Philadelphia, even to southern New Jersey. That was the norm, it was accepted, and we did it obediently, with occasional grumbling here and there. But I’m glad I did it because New Jersey did not offer the artistic communities, resources and variety that I craved. Don’t get me wrong, Jersey isn’t ALL bad, it does have the best pizza and bagels in the land, and it’s home to a magical place called Grounds For Sculpture, a 45-acre outdoor sculpture park, inhabited by a pride of peacocks.

Because of this experience, I was relieved when I arrived in Portland five years ago to discover that everything I wanted and needed was just 10-15 minutes away from home. But now, in the process of scouring the internet for dance performances, I am learning a lot about dance communities outside of Portland, and my original concept of Portland’s community has broadened to include them. I see these communities as opportunities for exchange and partnership, and a way to break out of the Portland bubble and connect to other dance communities. It’s time to get back in my car.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: and all that jazz

Portland Jazz Festival joins the parade of arts festivals in town; a new "Swan Lake" flies at Oregon Ballet

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Festival Town. (And Valentine’s Day. Don’t forget Valentine’s Day.) Three film celebrations – the Portland Black Film Festival, the Cascadia Festival of African Films, and the big-kahuna 40th annual Portland International Film Festival – are still spooling out stories on screens around town.

And on Thursday the PDX Jazz Festival 2017 roars into action with a packed program through February 26 arranged loosely around an homage to jazz centurions Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Buddy Rich, each born in 1917. Things kick off Thursday with a blast of Branford Marsalis, a thump of bass virtuoso Thundercat, and more, and the festival continues with the likes of the fabulous Heath Brothers, The Yellowjackets, and more. It’s not all old-style and it’s not all new, but a healthy-looking blend of tradition and exploration.

ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell offers tips for this week’s shows, beginning with Thursday’s Marsalis quartet appearance “with the great jazz singer Kurt Elling, Maria Schneider’s orchestra and Ralph Peterson’s trio in separate shows Friday, the hip jazz-rock fusion band Kneebody and the old-school all-star band The Cookers on Saturday. On Sunday, you have a choice of pop jazzers the Yellowjackets with Mike Stern, avant jazz guitar deity James ‘Blood’ Ulmer, or rising piano star Aminca Claudine Myers (or see all three!).”

2017 PDX Jazz Fest honoree Dizzy Gillespie, at Deauville, France, July 1991. Photo: Roland Godefroy/Wikimedia Commons

In his preview PDX Jazz Festival: Signs of Life, Campbell sets the table more completely, talking about the state of jazz in Portland and internationally. Here’s just a taste of what he has to say:

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In stride: a tight, bright ‘Nutcracker’

Oregon Ballet Theatre's newest version of the Balanchine holiday ballet shines from tip to toe

Little girls in party dresses;  lobby kiosks packed with nutcrackers and pretend tiaras and Christmas tree ornaments; the sound of the orchestra tuning up; parents rushing down the aisle with booster seats for the littlest audience members; the aroma of fresh baked cookies.  All were part of the anticipatory chaos at Keller Auditorium on Saturday afternoon, just before Oregon Ballet Theatre opened its annual run of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker.

Students from the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre performing as Angels in this year’s OBT “Nutcracker.” Photo: James McGrew

My sequin-clad granddaughter (hers were pink; a little girl in front of us was wearing purple) and less dressed-up grandson were with me for the best-rehearsed, best-danced opening performance of  this Nutcracker I’ve seen in the thirteen years OBT has been performing it. Clarity, musicality, technical precision that looked spontaneous (artistry, in other words) were the hallmarks of the opening matinee, making a ballet that is way too familiar to yours truly look fresh and new.

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