oregon ballet theatre

OOPS. HERE IT IS A WEEK into December, and you’ve still got that shopping stuff to do. You sort of thought this would be the year you bought local – you know, support the place you live in sort of thing – but it’s all a bit confusing, and you’re really not sure where to start.

Hannah Wells 8 x 8-inch artwork in “The Big 500.”

So let us introduce you to The Big 500, an all-local, all-art, low-cost and accessible event produced by “people’s artists” Chris Haberman and Jason Brown and sprawling across the Ford Gallery in the Ford Building, 2505 Southeast 11th Avenue. Now in its ninth year, The Big 500 is actually more than that – 500+ Portland area artists, each creating 8 x 8 inch pieces on wood panels, each piece for sale for $40. More than 5,000 works will be on hand, and besides putting some cash in local artists’ pockets, the event raises money for the Oregon Food Bank, which can put it to extremely good use.

The sale kicks off at 2 p.m. Saturday and continues through December 23. It’s a pretty wild scene, with all sorts of stuff at all sorts of levels of accomplishment, and it’s more than a bit of a crap shoot: you might walk in and find ten pieces you absolutely must have for the people on your list, or you might strike out. Either way, the sheer volume of objects is pretty amazing. And what you spend here stays here. You’re welcome.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: all that glitters, all that glows

A holiday compendium: in dark times, a triumph of artistic light

I read the news today, oh boy. It’s a compulsion begun in childhood with the sports and comics pages of broadsheet newspapers (Duke Snider! Alley Oop!) and expanded, as I grew older, into the full range of world events and a long career inside the sausage factory of the newsgathering game. Rarely has the news looked more bleak or fragile than it does today: who knows where that latest piece of Internet-amplified information came from, or whether it was invented by fierce partisans out of outsourced whole cloth, without a whiff of objectivity or credibility? Truth becomes the loudest voice; the loudest voice becomes the truth. Oh boy, indeed.

Miya Zolkoske and Andrea Whittle (foreground) with ensemble in "A Civil War Christmas." Photo: Owen Carey

Miya Zolkoske and Andrea Whittle (foreground) with ensemble in “A Civil War Christmas.” Photo: Owen Carey

Hardly a time, it would seem, for visions of sugarplums. And yet, as the holidays roar into their inescapable month of triumph (if there’s a “war on Christmas,” its battlefields seem to be in places like Walmart and Macy’s and Amazon) I find myself, once again, comforted by the beauty and ritual of the season’s quiet core. At our house we have our own holiday rituals, including a strict paternal ban on pulling out the Christmas CDs before Thanksgiving, a ruling that is regularly and gleefully broken by the better natures of the household, who know a sucker when they see one. Lately, having once again acquiesced to the inevitable, I’ve been listening to an old favorite, “Christmas in Eastern Europe,” from the Bucharest Madrigal Choir.

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DanceWatch Weekly: The big companies take over

White Bird's Camille A. Brown concert, OBT's "Giants" and Northwest Dance Project's "Bolero" lead the way this weekend

Last night, two very strong programs opened in Portland: Bolero, by NW Dance Project, which includes world premieres by the company’s resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem, Lucas Crandall and Felix Landerer; and “BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play” by award-winning, New York choreographer Camille A. Brown at White Bird. This weekend is also the second run of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s program Giants which features choreography by George Balanchine, William Forsythe, and Nicolo Fonte. It’s a powerhouse weekend and you still have a chance to see them all before the programs conclude (on Sunday for Giants and Saturday for NWDP and Camille A. Brown & Dancers).

NW Dance Project is joined this season by three new dancers—Tatiana Barber, William Couture and Charbel Rohayem, all three 2016 graduates of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet BFA at Dominican University of California in San Francisco and beautiful dancers to boot.

I caught up very briefly this week with NW Dance Project choreographers Rustem, Crandall and Landerer and spoke with each of them about their dances and what it takes to make them. The program, formerly known as New/Now/Wow, is titled Bolero but contains three pieces; Bolero by Rustem, Salt by Crandall and POST-TRAUMATIC-MONSTER by Landerer. I spoke with Rustem and Crandall in person in between rehearsals, and Landerer and I communicated via email.

NW Dance Project,studio rehearsals,"Carmina Burana"

NW Dance Project, studio rehearsals for Bolero. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Interviews

London-born Ihsan Rustem trained at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance and went on to dance with Matthew Bourne’s Adventures in Motion Pictures, Ballett Theater Munich (Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz) and Introdans in The Netherlands, became a founding member of the State Theater Bern Ballet and the Tanz Luzerner Theater, before joining NW Dance Project as resident choreographer in 2015.

How did this Bolero thing start?

I’ve wanted to do Bolero for 15 years. The first professional thing I ever did, really, (I was a guest, but it was still a big gig I guess) was with Bejart Ballet Lausanne at Sadler’s Wells during Bejart’s Bolero with Sylvie Guillem. I was like 16 or 17; I was a kiddie. I don’t know if you know the piece, but it’s a big table, and Sylvie or whoever is doing it that day, does a 15-minute solo on the table, and there are 40 guys basically as the corps. So wherever they go, they always hire an extra 15. And that I will never forget; the music is phenomenal; I get goose bumps still now. I can’t hear this music anymore, but… I still get goosebumps (laughing). I think that says a lot. I think it is one of the most amazing pieces of music ever written for dance. It was commissioned for a dance at the Paris Opera in 1928.

It still gives me goosebumps today. But…it’s challenging. People think I’m nuts sometimes, because the music repeats itself. It has two phrases and they each repeat nine times. It’s how do you take that and create a through-line which builds up in the way that I feel. I’ve said from the beginning, it feels like a 15 minute orgasm, and it still does. Even after hearing it a million times. Because it is, it starts very subtle, but by the end the climax really is one. And I like that, I think it’s fabulous.

It’s a piece of music I’ve wanted to use for years and now felt like the right time. It’s the fifth creation for the company and I think there is also an element of trying to do something that I haven’t done before here.

What are elements or ideas that you are working with in the choreography and how is this piece different from your previous works?

I think it’s quirkier. There are elements of quirky things. In my earlier works here, people cried, and then we sort of went on to the meatier works, like the third one Yidam; it’s just more powerful, raw, emotion, driven, that music drives it.

I feel like I’ve evolved from very sensitive subtle work like State of Matter at the beginning. Mother Tongue was an evolution of that, and Yidam was a powerhouse, a much tougher meatier work. And then for the fourth creation we wanted to do something completely different, and Sarah had been wanting me to do something that was maybe funny or had elements of comedy. So we decided to do Le Fil Rouge, which used old songs. We had everything from Doris Day to Creep.

This one is already an evolution in terms of musical choices. It’s shorter, it’s a whole company work, and it’s quirkier than other works. And it’s based on love, desire, loss, attachment, hate, passion. So I’m using that but in quite random bursts throughout the piece as opposed to a narrative. It’s certainly not a narrative. But each of the duets have their own narrative and that pops out, and the music is passionate. It feeds me elements of relationships and every angle of that. The rose is a representation—and quite an obvious representation—of what that is, in its own abstract form.

Do you make work differently for American dancers versus European dancers?

I wouldn’t say that my approach is different, but what is different is that American dancers are faster, they have to be. We have half the time, if not less than half the time, here. So naturally there is a hunger which comes with that and the drive with that. The system in Europe is much more comfortable, let’s put it that way, than your system here, just based on the fact that most of it is taxpayer funded. We have 13-month contracts, we have pension plans, that is just standard for dancers over there. With that comes a little bit of comfortable and sometimes that creeps in and certainly doesn’t exist here. The drive here is like no other. The difference comes not so much from my approach, but what do they offer. And here, especially at NWDP, what they offer is relatively phenomenal; what they get done in such a short amount of time, the investment they have, is like no other.

What is your dance-making process like?

I came in day one and taught a bunch of phrases. The dancers have been very involved in the creative process. We know each other, so they know what I want. And I know who is better with who. They sort of broke up into groups based on the phrases and based on the information of what we had given—love, attachment, desire, loss, passion, sex—took that and I said create little quirky things.

I had shown them a video, it’s kind of cool, to see a Chandelier video, you know, the little 12-year-old girl, Maddie Ziegler who is dancing around. The choreographer had made this fabulous two-minute sketch, where he is going through the actual choreography but talking through what each step is for him, but the randomness is amazing. I remember the first time I saw the video I thought she was improvising then I realized, no it was set. He has these small bursts of movement that seems to come from nowhere, and he’s explaining what each of it means to him. And it was so quirky and funny and I liked that, so I wanted to feed elements of that into the creative process, which has resulted in these small bursts of stories, but you don’t know quite where they came from or where they are going.

Because the structure is more abstract in its form, I could mix and match around the order until we found what fit best and I went with that.

NW Dance Project,studio rehearsals,"Carmina Burana"

NW Dance Project,studio rehearsals for Bolero. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Lucas Crandall who has choreographed four pieces for NWDP, including Salt for the Bolero program, danced for Milwaukee Ballet, Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, and Nederlands Dans Theater, working with Aráiz, Kylián, Christopher Bruce, Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, Rui Horta, Amanda Miller and Ohad Naharin. In 2000, Crandall returned to the U.S. to join Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as Associate Artistic Director and is now Rehearsal Director.

Where did the making of your dance begin?

The quote from Karen Blixen—“The cure for anything is saltwater — sweat, tears, or the salt sea”—is basically where I wanted to start off from with these guys. I decided also to do a trio, because I didn’t know how much time I was really going get, but then I realized also that a trio is more challenging.

I basically worked from the premise of the quote.

We go through a cycle of where they come out of the ocean, there is a fast part where they are the ocean, and I’m hoping that because it’s active enough, that’s where we generate some sweat. Then we come down to a more subdued moment where an abstract story kind of develops. It starts out with two women and one man. As we are going through the process of the second part, I started translating that actually the two women are the same person. One of the woman at the end is just reflecting on this moment that made her happy.

The harder point for me was trying to find tears. So we were talking about tears of joy also, not just sadness. I tried to incorporate a little bit of humor right at the very very top. I don’t think its uproarious humor, but its light.

We don’t really achieve drama tears either, but there’s a more morose moment from the actual person that is kind of left behind. Or the one woman that is the real person who has been thinking through this whole thing has been left behind. She ends up on the beach and the other two have gone; she wakes up from sleeping on the beach and sees rolling waves, and hopefully she feels good.

(Laughing) I can’t really explain this.

It’s really just based on the quote. Better not to talk about it. This is just my version of it.

How do you start making movement?

I basically went on my phone and went onto Instagram, we looked at a picture, and I said make a movement out of that. It can be a door frame. You make a straight line; next person make a movement but then connect it to the first one that the person made; and we go down the line making phrases like that.

Some of them will get altered, obviously.

I don’t have my own specific style; I have my own way that I like to have things interpreted as they are moving them. That I actually find more tedious. Because even now, I don’t have enough time to gel all the things the way that things should be done.

Everything’s been done before, it’s just the way you are doing it. For me personally. I like to look at dance as poetry and try to actually make something just from point A to point B of that movement. There is a starting point and how it starts is even as important to the finish even more so than the actual technical part of that movement.

As a choreographer I try to feel more as a poet or sculptor; some choreographers are more architects, and some are more other things.

I’m discovering it still, too; it’s funny.

NW Dance Project,studio rehearsals,"Carmina Burana"

NW Dance Project,studio rehearsals for Bolero. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Felix Landerer is a freelance choreographer based in Hannover Germany and has been the resident choreographer at Scapino Ballet Rotterdam since 2013. Most recently he has been guest choreographing for Luzerner Theater in Switzerland and for Norrdans in Sweden. This is Landerer’s second piece for NWDP.

What is it about or not about?

It’s about a relationship and the monster that it can turn into.

Is there a story?

I like to have a narrative component to my work, without getting too literal.

Is it abstract?

I hope just enough to be inspiring to search how the piece relates to the audience and not too much, to lose them on the way.

What thread of curiosity are you working out in this dance?

There is a structure to the piece that connects the idea of memories of situations, movement or an emotion and the present action, in a non-linear timeline. So I tried to enhance certain movements or situations by putting more focus on them than on others, and I hope that all the elements of the structure will work in the right directions.

What is your process for making dances? Where do you start?

For me it depends on the circumstances. This time I tried to stay as close to the original idea and structure of the piece as I could; because of the timeframe given, my approach was quite a venture. I will know on Thursday if I tried too much or if everything came together. I think that’s the risk you should take in order to grow in what you’re doing, but it doesn’t guarantee a lot of restful nights. In general my main focus always lies on the integrity of the piece and the dancers performing it. If I believe that they fully embrace my language and they grow in it, I’m satisfied.

Performances this week

crop-right-off-cabd-bglp-fana-fraser-and-beatrice-capote-photo-by-christopherduggan-02

Camille A. Brown & Dancers. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play
Camille A. Brown & Dancers
White Bird
October 13-15
Thursday and Friday performances will be followed by an audience conversation with Camille A. Brown focusing on the important themes of BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play.
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway

Camille A. Brown, a New York based choreographer and four time Princess Grace Award winner (one of many awards), presents “Black Girl: Linguistic Play” which “celebrates the unspoken rhythm and language that Black girls have through Double Dutch, social dances, and hand-clapping games that are contemporary and ancestral.”

Brown, with a music background in clarinet, creates choreography that combines music and storytelling, that speaks historically and personally.

In the choreographer notes section on her website Brown says, “As I began to create the work, I realized that I was exhausted by stereotypes and tropes because, as a Black female director, I battle with them daily.

Kyra Gaunt’s book, The Games Black Girls Play, inspired the concept for the work. The word “play” immediately shot out. I started thinking about my childhood and the many games I used to play—Double Dutch, Red light, Green light, Marco Polo—and how it was hard for me to find narratives within the media that showcased Black girls being just that: girls. This instantly resonated and became personal. Who was I before the world defined me? What are the unspoken languages within Black girl culture that are multidimensional and have been appropriated and compartmentalized by others? What are the dimensions of Black girl joy that cannot be boxed into a smile or a grimace, but demonstrated in a head tilt, lip smack, hand gesture, and more? “

Brown’s website is packed with recorded interviews with the artists as well as articles about her and a video of her TEDx talk about the history of social dance. It’s worth your time to peruse her site and get to know her work and point of view.

Bolero
Works by Ihsan Rustem, Lucas Crandall and Felix Landerer
NW Dance Project
October 13-15
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave

See above.

Martina Chavez, Candace Bouchard, Thomas Baker, Jacquelin Straughan in "Serenade." Photo: Yi Yin

Martina Chavez, Candace Bouchard, Thomas Baker, Jacquelin Straughan in Serenade. Photo: Yi Yin

 

Giants
Works by George Balanchine, William Forsythe, and Nicolo Fonte
October 8-15
Oregon Ballet Theatre, Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St
2nd weekend
Giants is a triple bill featuring Serenade by George Balanchine, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated by William Forsythe and a world premier of Giants Before Us by Oregon Ballet Theatre Resident Choreographer Nicolo Fonte.

Serenade was choreographed in 1934 and was meant to be a staged lesson in technique, incorporating unexpected, real life moments that happened during the the making of the dance like dancers arriving late to rehearsal or accidentally falling.

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was choreographed by William Forsythe in 1987 for the Paris Opera Ballet by the request of then director, Rudolf Nureyev. The original cast featured dancer Sylvie Guillem and became Forsythe’s most well known work and has been performed by companies worldwide.

Giants Before Us by Nicolo Fonte sits between classical and contemporary dance and features the athleticism of OBT’s male dancers to Franz Liszt played live by pianist Hunter Noack.

Next Week

October 20-29, BloodyVox, BodyVox
October 20-22, Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak, White Bird
October 21-22, Traces, Mark Koenigsberg & Sara Naegelin
October 21-22, Lines of Pull, The Holding Project
October 24-November 5, Marginal Evidence, Katherine Longstreth

Upcoming Performances

October 28-30, INCIPIO, PDX Contemporary Ballet
November 3-12, Reclaimed, Polaris Dance Theatre
November 4-6, Obstacles and Victory Songs, Stephanie Lavon Trotter and Dora Gaskill
November 5-6, All The Marys, Luciana Proaño
November 11-13, Epoch, Jamuna Chiarini and push/FOLD-Samuel Hobbs
November 12-20, the last bell rings for you, Linda Austin Dance
November 17-19, Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, White Bird
December 2-4, N.E.W. Expressive Works Residency Performance, Dana Detweiler, James Healey, Jessica Hightower, and Renee Sills
December 8-10, In Good Company, NW Dance Project
December 8-10, ARCANE COLLECTIVE, Presented by BodyVox
December 10-26, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 15-17, Complicated Woman, Katie Scherman/2016 Alembic Resident Artist
December 18, Gifts, a film by Clare Whistler/2015 Performance Works NW visiting artist
December 22-24, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland

Giants 3, masterpieces 1

Oregon Ballet Theatre's "Giants" program promises big things. Only Balanchine's "Serenade" fully delivers.

What makes a ballet a masterpiece?

George Balanchine’s Serenade, the first work on Oregon Ballet Theatre’s  “Giants” program, which I saw at the Keller auditorium on Saturday night, set me thinking about that. Because, in my view, it is the only masterpiece on a program that also included William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and the premiere of OBT resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte’s Giants Before Us.

Serenade, set to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade in C for String Orchestra, premiered in 1935, following a preview on the Warburg estate in 1934, and was the first ballet Balanchine made on American dancers.  It is at once a  tribute  to his own training in pre-revolutionary Russia at the Imperial School in St. Petersburg, and the cornerstone  of the new American classicism that Lincoln Kirstein charged him with developing.

Martina Chavez, Candace Bouchard, Thomas Baker, Jacquelin Straughan in "Serenade." Photo: Yi Yin

Martina Chavez, Candace Bouchard, Thomas Baker, Jacquelin Straughan in “Serenade.” Photo: Yi Yin

Balanchine liked to use cooking as a metaphor when speaking about his work.  The version of Serenade that OBT’s dancers are performing—and damned well—was slow-cooked for three decades, the fourth movement of the score inserted in 1941, the lovely, flowing costumes replacing unbecoming tunics in 1950, the master chef adding ingredients and correcting the seasoning, if you will, until the mid-’60s. Balanchine changed his ballets all the time, of course, adjusting steps to suit the dancers who performed them over the years, or, more often, to challenge them to jump higher, spin faster, travel farther.

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DanceWatch Weekly: Creating community through photography

Jingzi Zhao unites the Portland dance community through photography and the dance season gets going with White Bird's Diavolo and Oregon Ballet's Giants

I am a dancer, and at this stage in my career, I want people to see me as I am, not as they imagine I should be. I am 42, I have a 9 year old son, and I don’t look 22, but I’m amazing. I’m a woman, not a child. That’s life, That’s reality. I dance, and I dance well.

When I saw one of Jingzi Zhao’s beautiful Fuse-Portland Dance Portraits scroll across my FaceBook feed, I decided we had to meet. All of the dancers represented in her photos were talented and beautiful, but young. For the record I consider anyone under 40 to be young. Where were the older, seasoned dancers? There were none. We had to talk.

We met for coffee and hit it off instantly. We are close in age, we both have young children, and we are both artists trying to make it work while in the mix of it all. I wanted her to photograph me as a dancer in the environment that I spend most of my time in, my house.

A week or so later, Zhao came to my house and photographed me lackadaisically washing dishes, throwing suds in the air, and striking a very dancerly pose on my kitchen counter. It was divine ridiculousness to the n-th degree. We did a second shoot in the alley behind my house throwing compost into the recycling bin while wearing pearls, heels, and a flowered, ‘50s, chiffon cocktail dress. Because you know, that’s how I recycle.

That photograph was the winner, and you can see it, along with 24 other Portland dance portraits that are part of Zhao’s collection of 25 Fuse-Portland Dance Portraits that will be on display at the Multnomah Arts Center Gallery starting Friday night. I am proud to say that I am the oldest dancer represented in the 25 dance portraits of Portland dancers.

Zhao who has been photographer since 2005, got her start photographing dancers in Buenos Aires at the Teatro Regio and the Teatro de San Martin and in Portland with Oregon Ballet Theatre and BodyVox.

The Fuse project was initially inspired by the portrait series Dancers Among Us, which are photographed by Jordan Matter in New York City. Those photos are of ballet dancers in extreme poses against the backdrop of the city. Zhao wanted to riff off of that idea and take the Portland photo series further by photographing different kinds of dancers and actors in different locations around Portland, telling the dancer’s story as well as the city’s. Her focus wasn’t on what the dancers could do, but how they connect with the environment they are in.

In the beginning Zhao knew only one dancer, Alicia Cutaia from BodyVox. She was the first Fuse dancer. From there, Cutaia introduced her to other dancers, they introduced her to others, and so on, and so on, and before she knew it she had 25 photos of 45 dancers from 10 different Portland dance companies posing in locations all over Portland in places like Hopworks Brewery, Oblique Coffee, Salt & Straw and my alley, to name a few.

Zhao says the best part of working with dancers is in the creative process working together to create the photos. She is inspired by dancers work ethic and their dedication to perfection. Often times the dancers were the ones who insisted she take one more photo to get it just right.

Zhao’s hope is that Fuse will live on after the gallery showing to become a photo book showcasing even more photos of the Portland dance community. She would also like to create public art installations with the photos around Portland so that we can see and appreciate them in our daily lives.

You can find out more about Jingzi Zhao’s work at www.jingziphotography.com and see her photos beginning on Friday at the Multnomah Arts Center Gallery.

Performances this week

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Diavolo’s L.O.S.T (Losing One’s Self Temporarily). Photo courtesy of White Bird.

L.O.S.T (Losing One’s Self Temporarily)
Diavolo-Architecture in Motion
Presented by White Bird
October 6-8
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
Directed by French choreographer Jacques Heim and based in Los Angeles, this 13 member dance company will perform Passengers and Cubicle, part one and part two of L.O.S.T. (Losing One’s Self Temporarily) to music by Bruno Louchouarn.
Passengers, a world premier, becomes a metaphor, asking “are we passengers in life or are we drivers?” by utilizing a massive train/staircase set design. Cubicle, abstractly examines the insanity of corporate America and the loss of individuality through the use of arranging and rearranging boxes on stage.

obliquecoffee

Dancer Emily Running posing for Fuse-Portland Dance Portrait at Oblique Coffee Roasters.

A Photo Exhibit of Fuse-Portland Dance Portrait
Jingzi Zhao
Opening reception, 7 pm October 7
Full run October 7-25
Multnomah Arts Center Gallery, 7688 SW Capitol Hwy

See above.

Oregon Ballet Theatre,studio rehearsal,"Serenade",choreography by George Balanchine

Oregon Ballet Theatre,studio rehearsal, Serenade ,choreography by George Balanchine. Photo courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre.

 

Giants
Works by George Balanchine, William Forsythe, and Nicolo Fonte
October 8-15
Oregon Ballet Theatre, Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St
Giants is a triple bill featuring Serenade by George Balanchine, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated by William Forsythe and a world premier of Giants Before Us by Oregon Ballet Theatre Resident Choreographer Nicolo Fonte.

Serenade was choreographed in 1934 and was meant to be a staged lesson in technique, incorporating unexpected, real life moments that happened during the the making of the dance like dancers arriving late to rehearsal or accidentally falling.

In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was choreographed by William Forsythe in 1987 for the Paris Opera Ballet by the request of then director, Rudolf Nureyev. The original cast featured dancer Sylvie Guillem and became Forsythe’s most well known work and has been performed by companies worldwide.

Giants Before Us by Nicolo Fonte sits between classical and contemporary dance and features the athleticism of OBT’s male dancers to Franz Liszt played live by pianist Hunter Noack.

Next Week

October 13-15, Camille A. Brown & Dancers, White Bird
October 13-15, Bolero, NW Dance Project

Upcoming Performances

October 20-29, BloodyVox, BodyVox
October 20-22, Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak, White Bird
October 21-22, Traces, Mark Koenigsberg & Sara Naegelin
October 21-22, Lines of Pull, The Holding Project
October 24-November 5, Marginal Evidence, Katherine Longstreth
October 28-30, INCIPIO, PDX Contemporary Ballet
November 3-12, Reclaimed, Polaris Dance Theatre
November 4-6, Obstacles and Victory Songs, Stephanie Lavon Trotter and Dora Gaskill
November 5-6, All The Marys, Luciana Proaño
November 11-13, Epoch, Jamuna Chiarini and push/FOLD-Samuel Hobbs
November 12-20, the last bell rings for you, Linda Austin Dance
November 17-19, Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, White Bird
December 2-4, N.E.W. Expressive Works Residency Performance, Dana Detweiler, James Healey, Jessica Hightower, and Renee Sills
December 8-10, In Good Company, NW Dance Project
December 8-10, ARCANE COLLECTIVE, Presented by BodyVox
December 10-26, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 15-17, Complicated Woman, Katie Scherman/2016 Alembic Resident Artist
December 18, Gifts, a film by Clare Whistler/2015 Performance Works NW visiting artist
December 22-24, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland

And suddenly it’s October. Among other things – pumpkin patches, Yom Kippur, the World Series, Halloween – that means we’re two days from First Thursday, Portland’s monthly gallery hop of new shows. This week’s visual art calendar is a doozy, from open studios to Warhol with lots between.

A few of the highlights:

James Lavadour Ruby II, 2016 oil on panel 32" x 48"

James Lavadour, “Ruby II,” 2016, oil on panel, 32″ x 48.” PDX Contemporary.

James Lavadour at PDX Contemporary. It’s always a good day when new work by Lavadour, the veteran landscape expressionist from Pendleton, comes to town. This show, called Ledger of Days, furthers his exploration of the land and its mysteries. “A painting is a structure for the extraordinary and informative events of nature that are otherwise invisible,” he writes. “A painting is a model for infinity.” Lavadour is also one of the moving forces behind Pendleton’s innovative and essential Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. Watch for what’s coming up.

The new Russo Lee Gallery: 30 years. What you’ve known for years as Laura Russo Gallery is celebrating three decades with a showing of new work by its distinguished stable of artists – and with a new name. The name is a fusion of the gallery’s long tradition and current reality. After founder Laura Russo died in 2010, her longtime employee Martha Lee bought the business and continues to operate it. This show promises to be a statement of sorts, and will have a catalog available.

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The entire ‘Everyday Ballerina’

Your easy one-stop shop for links to and excerpts from Gavin Larsen's twelve-part series about the dancing life, plus a gallery of photos

On Sunday, August 14, ArtsWatch published The Curtain Speech, the first of twelve daily episodes of Everyday Ballerina, former Oregon Ballet Theatre principal dancer Gavin Larsen’s vignettes about living the dancing life, from early childhood through her career at OBT, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Alberta Ballet, and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, and forward to her post-performance life as a writer and teacher. On Friday, August 25, we published the final episode. Now you can read them all at once. The twelve chapters are part of a larger manuscript in progress. For most of those episodes ArtsWatch was fortunate to have images by the master dance photographer Blaine Truitt Covert; you can see a selection of his work in the slide show below. Below that you’ll find links to, and brief excerpts from, each episode of Everyday Ballerina, gathered in one handy place. Happy reading!

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Everyday Ballerina 1: The Curtain Speech. “It seems that most performances begin, these days, with a speech. Before you— the audience— are allowed to slip away from your life outside the theater and into a world of music and dance, you must be spoken to. Welcomed, thanked for coming, briefed on what you’re about to see, and encouraged to thank those people or entities that have given more than you have in order to make this show possible. Sometimes these speeches are funny, mercifully brief, and successful in making you feel more personally connected, if not to the artists onstage, at least to the visionary who’s presenting them. So here, I will try to be all three of those things. Hello, and welcome.”

Everyday Ballerina 2: The 8-Year-Old. “The noise and rushing current of Broadway are muted instantly as the old wooden door thuds shut, its glass window rattling once. Inside, everything is gray-scale, muted, dusty, and chilly. A wide wooden staircase leads straight up, enormously high and steep. At the top, far above real life and through a door to the right: a hallway, long wooden benches, and, on the bare floor, a big fluffy white dog acting as foot rest and greeter. The air is hazy and musty, carrying a cold, sweaty, stale smell, possibly left over from the generations of dancers before. Every room is a cavern. … Young children, talking excitedly, bring life to this museum that is the space itself. Their purple leotards are the only color in this movie.”

Everyday Ballerina 3: The 8-Year-Old, Part 2. “Now that she knew which studio to go into, the 8-year-old did return the following week, and the one after, and even more after that. As these weeks passed, she began to slowly gain, if not real confidence, a familiarity with how things worked. She followed along. She watched, and copied, but just when she started to think she knew everything she and the other students would be told to do during class, the teacher called for a step or movement that was foreign.”

Everyday Ballerina 4: Cracking the Door. “The next year, the girl, now 10, was moved up into the next level of ballet classes. She’d faked it well enough, copied well enough, worked harder than regular 8- or 9-year olds would, and, unsurprisingly, come to seriously love going to class. The ritual was fun now. Her family, a foursome, escorted her downtown quite early on Saturday mornings, where they all encamped at a table inside Burger King, half a block away from the rattly wooden front doors of the ballet school. They’d get cheese danishes wrapped in airtight plastic bags, or Styrofoam plates of scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes and maple syrup, and her parents would drink coffee. When it was time, she was sent off to walk by herself the half-block to the ballet school, open those front doors, and leave Broadway behind to climb the mountainous flight of stairs.”

Everyday Ballerina 5: Summer of 1992. “I thought I had been duped. I was naive, even for a 17-year-old. But as it became clear that I had failed to notice a huge, crucial, completely obvious basic fact about being a dancer, I was rocked absolutely to the core. I’d been oblivious to something everyone else got but didn’t bother to tell me about, because it was so commonly understood. I was terrified. And I feared I just might have made a terrible mistake. It was as if, after desperately wanting and hoping to be granted membership into a special club, one whose members I idolized and that was my ticket to my dreamed-of life of a dancer, I had finally been allowed to join— but once I was inside, the expectations and assumptions and responsibilities were completely unlike anything I had envisioned.”

Everyday Ballerina 6: Into the Night. “By the time I get home tonight after the show, it will be late, my legs will be tired, and I will need protein and sleep as quickly as possible. Waiting for dinner to cook will only make me grumpy, so at 4 in the afternoon, I preheat the oven to 400 and pop in a frozen ricotta-spinach stuffed chicken breast from Trader Joe’s. I’ll cook it now and reheat it later, or just eat it cold. It smells good … savory and cheesy. I’m pre-chopping some vegetables, too, since who wants to come down from a performance high by slicing carrots?”

Everyday Ballerina 7: Orange. “I am clad entirely in orange. From my neck to my ankles and out to my wrists, I am orange. On my feet are little white anklet socks with sticky non-slip pads on the bottoms. I am about to go onstage to perform in a ballet by the great choreographer William Forsythe, and I am mortified.”

Everyday Ballerina 8: The Human Monolith. “Some people sweat a lot more than others, and even those who are not heavy sweaters begin to pour and drip as soon as extreme exertion is finished and they are slowly, stealthily, creeping and crawling and oozing their way across the stage to become part of a huge, undulating, slimy mass of dancers twister-ing themselves into the towering pile of limbs we called the Human Monolith. This is The Rite of Spring, and the moment of the Human Monolith is perhaps the apex of the ballet in more than a literal sense.”

Everyday Ballerina 9: Places. “’Places please, places for the top of Sleeping Beauty! Places, we’re at places!’ Everything around me was a fuzz. I was completely engrossed in my head and my body. I was fine-tuning, re-checking, and re-fine-tuning, every single detail: repeating carefully each step I was about to take. I had to feel each step perfectly in my body before the curtain went up, even though I’d already spent dozens upon dozens of hours rehearsing them in the studio, and had known that sense of perfect execution. I needed to feel it NOW, at the moment of truth, prove to my doubting mind that I could do it right this moment.”

Everyday Ballerina 10: The Drive Home. “The drive home every night is short, for which I am grateful. I’m tired, tired, tired, and hungry. It’s late, and my body, wrung out like a washcloth from exertion, needs good sleep to recover for tomorrow. I have to put ice on my hip, soak my feet in a bucket of cold water, massage the knots out of my legs, and stretch my back so it won’t spasm in the middle of the night. But at the same time, I wish the drive were longer, just a little bit. Arriving home means food, blessed rest, and sagging into my forgiving, fuzzy sweatpants, but it also means a return to real life. The time that I spend en route between the theater and home is all my own.”

Everyday Ballerina 11: Quivering. “From the audience she looks rock-solid, balancing on pointe in arabesque after a series of precariously difficult one-armed promenades with her partner. But from the wings, just a few feet away, we see the edges of her tutu quivering. The effect of vulnerability is both true and misleading, since her strength is real, but the intensity of her effort is too.”

Everyday Ballerina 12: The Time I Taught Someone Something. “I have just spent an hour and a half leading thirteen women and two men in a classical ballet class, working them through a series of dance exercises that have been practiced all over the world for centuries. As “elitist” as the art of ballet may be considered, this particular class (which I teach bright and early every Monday) is what’s called a ‘drop-in’, which means that anyone on earth who has the urge to dance and $15 can walk in off the street and take a place at the barre. It’s billed as ‘Ballet 1,’ but all that means is you’re on your own if you don’t know the five basic positions and some other fundamentals, but also that I won’t be asking anyone to do triple fouettes.”

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