oregon ballet theatre

DanceWatch Weekly: A ballet that might change your mind about ballet

Oregon Ballet Theatre closes its season with "Terra," White Bird's Che Malambo, Le Chic Le Freak and so much more

I had a realization on Saturday night at the Newmark Theatre while watching Helen Pickett’s ultra-bright, Gerbera daisy-inspired Petal, performed by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre. Ballet, like modern or contemporary dance, is experimental, too. And what I was seeing was Pickett’s experiment with time, space, form, color, sound, etc., within the context of classical ballet. She was making choreographic choices different from ballets norm. Depending on your own dance experience, that may sound strange or obvious, but all I’ve ever known of ballet was the classics like Swan Lake and Giselle, works that are tried, true, and proven to be “good” because they have withstood the test of time. Anything outside of those seemed to be considered “other” or “not-ballet.”

I realized that I expect perfection from ballet because that’s what ballet is, an embodiment of perfection and control over the body and its surroundings. Because of that, there is little room for imperfection and experimentation in the form, at least that’s what I’ve come to think, which isn’t really fair to ballet, is it? And where does that leave today’s classical ballet choreographers?

I also realized that I am attached to the formula of classical ballet, the linear storytelling, the gender stereotypes, the patriarchy, the unrealistic happy ending, etc. Even though I don’t love it, it’s what I’ve come to expect, it’s familiar, and yet I claim to be a liberal, modern woman. Go figure. I drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago. Seeing Pickett’s work on the program, both Petal and Terra, completely disrupted my belief system surrounding classical ballet, and have in turn jump-started a series of internal questions that I would like to share with you here.

What defines classical ballet? Are the dancers still classical dancers even though they are performing contemporary work? Is that idea fluid? Can a dancer be both a classical and contemporary dancer? Is contemporary work changed by being performed by a classical company and vice versa? Will the definition of classical ballet change as we get further away from its inception, and more and more new ballets are created? How much has it already changed? Why is it so important for ballet companies to define what kind of ballet they do, when almost all of the ballet companies do both classical and contemporary work? Why do people have to define themselves against what they are not? Why does anyone try to define themselves at all? When do new classics get created? What will audiences in 100 years consider classical ballets? Will there be ballets created now that will be added to that roster? Was I seeing work this weekend that will stand the test of time and be considered a classic someday?

ArtsWatcher Martha Ullman West was at Terra opening night and gives her review here.

Terra, the final program of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s 2016-2017 Season of Giants concludes this weekend with three more performances, closing on Saturday night.

Other experimental works happening around Portland this weekend, include the touring production of the Jersey Boys, new works by XPOSED choreographers Robert Guitron, M’Liss Quinnly, Gerard Regot, Barbara Lima, and Jess Zoller at Polaris Dance Theatre, Butoh with Mari Osanai from Japan through the Butoh College Performance Series at The Headwaters Theatre, student performance at Oregon Ballet Theatre, Le Chic Le Freak (an ode to the Disco era by Ecdysiast Pole Dance Company), collaborations between dancers and musicians at Reed College and at New Expressive Works, and Che Malambo, the dancing Argentinian cowboys presented by White Bird.

Performances this week

Photo courtesy of Jersey Boys.

Jersey Boys
Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
April 18-23
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St
You can’t have musical theatre without dance, and Jersey Boys, with choreography by Sergio Trujillo, is no exception to that rule. This dancin’ in the aisles, sing-a-long trip down memory lane story follows the quick rise to fame of the 1960’s rock band, The Fours Seasons and includes familiar songs such as Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry,  Oh What a Night and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.

Pacific Dance Ensemble. Photo courtesy of Pacific University Department of Theatre & Dance.

DanceWorks XIV
Pacific Dance Ensemble
Pacific University Department of Theatre & Dance
April 20-22
Tom Miles Theatre at Warner Hall, 2043 College Way, Forest Grove
Celebrating its 14th season, Pacific Dance Ensemble will feature choreography by dance department faculty members James Healey, Mary Hunt, Anita Mitchell, and artistic Director, Jennifer Camp and student choreographer Annalise Nilson.

Martina Chavez and Colby Parsons in Duacho’s “Jardi Tancat.” Photo: Emily Nash

Terra
Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 20-22
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
Celebrating the warmth and earthiness of Mediterranean culture, ritualistic dance, and the return of spring, Oregon Ballet Theatre concludes its 2016-2017 Season of Giants with Terra, a program that features a world premiere by former William Forsythe dancer Helen Pickett, itself called Terra, and two dances by Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato; Jardí Tancat, Duato’s first choreographed work from 1983 and El Naranjo (The Orange Tree), a sensuous pas de deux from a larger work called Gnawa.

Mysticism, Modernity, and Motion
Reed College Performing Arts
7 pm April 21
Reed College Performing Arts, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd
Exploring themes of minimalism and pandiatonicism, the Reed College Chorus and Collegium Musicum, in collaboration with the Reed Dance Department, presents an evening of music and dance conducted by John K. Cox. The program includes music by by Arvo Pärt, Eric Whitacre, Erik Esenvalds, Philip Glass, Olivier Messiaen, David Lang, and Gustav Holst.

Ecdysiast Pole Dance Company in Le Chic Le Freak.

Le Chic Le Freak
Ecdysiast Pole Dance Company
April 21-22
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St
Celebrating the birth and evolution of Disco, Ecdysiast Pole Dance Company presents Le Chic Le Freak, a comedic and thought-provoking work that combines pole dancing, acrobatics, and dance in the vision of artistic director and company dancer Shannon Gee.

Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre.

XPOSED
Robert Guitron, M’Liss Quinnly, Gerard Regot, (Spain), Barbara Lima (Brazil), and Jess Zoller.
Polaris Dance Theatre
April 21-29
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave
Polaris Dance Theatre presents new dance works from choreographers Barbara Lima from Brazil, Spanish dance artists and current company member Gerard Regot, founding company member M’Liss Quinnly and artistic director of Polaris’s Junior and Neo companies, current company member Jessica Zoller, as well as two new works by artistic director Robert Guitron.

The works consider ideas of community, individualism against universalism, and politics, playing with energy, group dynamics and the architecture of the body and bodies.

Butoh dancer Mari Osanai. Photo courtesy of Mari Osanai.

P.S-1
Mari Osanai
Butoh College Performance Series
April 22
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NW Farragut St
Influenced by Tai Chi, Western dance methods, and traditional folk dances of Japan, Butoh dance artist Mari Osanai, from Aomori, Japan, finds connections between the mind, gravity’s influence on the body, and the body’s connection to the earth, in her dance research and performance.

Annual School Performance
The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre
Choreography by George Balanchine, Nicolo Fonte, Alison Roper, and Anthony Jones
April 22-23
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
The annual showcase of The School of Oregon Ballet will feature Oregon Ballet School students and OBT2 dancers in works by George Balanchine, Oregon Ballet Theatre resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte, former OBT dancer Alison Roper, and school director, Anthony Jones.

Jazz Collaborations at New Expressive Works.

Jazz Collaborations
Dayna Stephens, Tom Sandahl, Okropong, and Shape Theory Project
Co-produced by New Expressive Works (N.E.W.) and Loose Wig Jazz
7:30 pm April 23
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St (in the WYSE Building)
A collaborative evening between jazz tenor saxophonists and composer Dayna Stephens, guitarist Tom Sandahl, and musicians from the Obo Addy Legacy Project alongside dancers Amanda Morse, Kelly Koltiska, Ivy Farrell, Jana Zahler and Ruth Nelson from the Shape Theory Project led by Ruth Nelson.

Che Malambo presented by White Bird/Photo by Diane Smithers

Che Malambo
Presented by White Bird
April 25-26
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
Che Malambo is an all-male, Argentinian dance company that has adapted the dance style of the gaucho, or South American cowboy of the pampas, for the contemporary stage. Movements that were originally designed to emphasize agility, strength, and dexterity among the gauchos is now high-energy choreography featuring rhythmic footwork, drums, singing, and musical accompaniment.

Upcoming Performances

April
April 27-29, Jefferson Dancers Spring Concert, Hosted by the Jefferson Dancers
April 27-29, Contact Dance Film Festival, Presented by BodyVox and NW Film Center
April 29, Yuko Kaseki, Butoh College Performance Series
April 28-29, Appalachian Spring Break, Scotty Heron and Brendan Connelly, Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
April 29, Yuko Kaseki (Berlin), Butoh College Performance Series
May
May 4-7, Direct Path To Detour, Taka Yamamoto, Produced by Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
May 5, Spring Dance Concert, The Reed College Dance Department
May 5, Alice Gosti showing and reception, Hosted by Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance
May 6, Place, Vitality Dance Collective
May 5-7, In Close Proximity, The Tempos Contemporary Circus
May 5-7, Chickens and Cheese Pizza, Inclusive Arts Vibe Annual Performance, Disability Arts and Culture Project
May 10, Critical Engagement Series with Lu Yim, hosted by Flock Dance Center/Tahni Holt
May 10, Martha Graham Dance Company, Presented by White Bird
May 13, Feria de Portland, hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland and La Peña Flamenca de Portland
May 13, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Anjali School of Dance
May 16-21, An American in Paris, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
May 20-21, The Future is Female, Mixed Dance Company
May 26-28, N.E.W. Residency performance, Dora Gaskill, Jessica Kelley, Stephanie Schaaf, and Michael Galen
May 26, PDX Choreographers Showcase, PDX Dance Collective
May 26 – 27, Spring Concert – Tribute to the Ballet Russes, Featuring work by Michel Fokine, Tom Gold, George Balanchine, and Lane Hunter, The Portland Ballet
June
June 2-4, Interum Echos, PDX Contemporary Ballet
June 2-17, The Goblin King, A David Bowie and Labyrinth, Trip the Dark Dance Company
June 8-10, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
June 23-24, Risk/Reward Festival Of New Performance
June 27-July 2, Cabaret, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
July
July 15, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
August
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans

ArtsWatch Weekly: full-tilt boogie

Imago tilts the action in a topsy-turvy Greek classic, Brett Campbell's best music bets, "Jersey Boys" croons into town, new theater & dance

The question echoes down the centuries from the Greek myths and Euripides’ play, which was first set on stage in 431 B.C. and just keeps coming back: was Medea balancing the scales of justice when she murdered her husband’s new wife and her own children, or was she falling off her rocker? People have been arguing the point ever since (Medea shocked its original audience, coming in dead last in that year’s City of Dionysia festival), and the question of teetering out of control remains foremost, right down to Ben Powers’ recent adaptation of Medea for the National Theatre in London.

The ups and downs of rehearsal: Imago’s tilting stage for “Medea.” Imago Theatre photo.

Enter Jerry Mouawad of Imago Theatre, whose own theories of balance reach back to his mentor Jacques Lecoq, the French mime and movement master who advocated a “balance of the stage.” In 1998 Mouawad and Imago took the advice literally, creating a large movable stage, suspended three feet above the floor, that tips and leans as the actors shift position on it. They used it for an acclaimed production of Sartre’s No Exit, in which the constantly shifting balances became a metaphor for the play itself. The show was revived several times and traveled to theaters across the country.

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‘Terra’ firma: OBT’s dancers shine

A ballet program of Nacho Duato and Helen Pickett, including the premiere of her "Terra" belongs to the company's performers

Xuan Cheng, Thomas Baker, Peter Franc, Michael Linsmeier, Avery Reiners, and Brian Simcoe, gazing upward, their mouths held open in a butoh-like silent scream, in the world premiere of Helen Pickett’s Terra.

Jacqueline Straughan wrapping her long, beautiful legs around Franc’s bare torso in Nacho Duato’s El Naranjo.

Martina Chavez, bent double, skittering across the stage barefoot in Duato’s Jardi Tancat.

Emily Parker, metaphorically taking down Linsmeier and Franc with a flick of her pointe shoe aimed at the back of their knees in Pickett’s Petal.

The OBT company in the world premiere of Helen Pickett’s “Terra.” Photo: James McGrew

For better or worse, these are some of the images – all of them of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s dancers ( this show belongs to them) – I’ve been mulling over since Thursday night when the company opened its annual mixed repertory program at the Newmark Theater.

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DanceWatch Weekly: Ballet closes with ‘Terra’

A busy weekend of dance also includes BodyVox, butoh, Flamenco and more

Celebrating the warmth and earthiness of Mediterranean culture, ritualistic dance, and the return of spring, as Oregon Ballet Theatre concludes its 2016-2017 Season of Giants with Terra, this weekend. The program features a world premiere by former William Forsythe dancer Helen Pickett, itself called Terra, and two dances by Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato.

Pickett’s Terra is set to an original score by American Composer Jeff Beal, of House of Cards fame, and takes inspiration from indigenous cultures, contemporary ballet, and the writings of American mythologist Joseph Campbell. Another dance by Pickett, Petal, danced to the music of Philip Glass, is also on the program.

OBT’s artistic director, Kevin Irving, was principal rehearsal director of Duato’s Compania Nacional de Danza for eight years, and he will restage Duato’s first choreographic work ever, Jardí Tancat from 1983. The piece tells the story of hardworking Mediterranean farmers enduring the hardships of Mother Nature. The second dance, El Naranjo (The Orange Tree), is a sensuous pas de deux from a larger work called Gnawa.

A collection of one-nighters—Requiem of Flower by Butoh artists Ken Mai, an evening of flamenco with El Cuadro Pepe & Lillie, BodyVox at TEDxPortland, and Bridge the Gap, a cross-genre, community-building performance featuring a range of dance styles from Bollywhacking to Vogueing—also share the spring spotlight this weekend.

Jersey Boys, a touring musical about the ‘60’s vocal group The Fours Seasons and its rise to fame, opens on Tuesday.

Mark your calendars, it’s a full schedule!

Performances this week!

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Martina Chavez. Photo: James McGrew

Terra
Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 13-22
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway

See above info.

Butoh dancer Ken Mai. Photo courtesy of Ken Mai.

Requiem of Flower 鎮魂歌
Ken Mai (Helsinki)
Butoh College Performance Series
8 pm April 15
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NW Farragut St

A student of the butoh styles of Kazuo Ohno and Tatsumi Hijikata as well as German expressionist dance, Helsinki artist Ken Mai will perform Requiem of Flower, an ode to beauty in decay.

In speaking about the piece Ohno says,“The lifetime of a flower is fleeting. In only a brief period of days, the totality of the flower becomes as eternal as the cosmos, blossoming unabashedly into the most delicate, ephemeral and erotic expression. Shortly after, the pollen is diffused, absorbed and regenerated again for future descendants. There is no regret in its decay.”

Dance writer Wendy Perron wrote a great, comprehensive article called The Power of Stripping Down to Nothingness on the history of Butoh and its connection to the Western world for The New York Times in 1999. Perron says, “Butoh (shortened from ”ankoko butoh,” meaning ”dance of utter darkness”) grew out of the American occupation of Japan as an effort to resist the Westernization of Japanese culture. It drew on the ancient forms of Kabuki and Noh, especially in their embrace of the grotesque. Tatsumi Hijikata, the primary originator of butoh, was known for his transgressions into vulgarities and violence, as well as his meticulous, riveting dancing. The challenge of butoh is to reveal the nakedness of the soul as well as the nakedness of the body.” Click here for the full article.

Matt Wong Photography — with Pepe Raphael and Lillie Last.

Las Perlas: an evening of flamenco variety
El Cuadro Pepe & Lillie
Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
8:00 pm April 15
The Echo Theater, 1515 SE 37th Ave

Spanish Flamenco singers Alfonso Cid from Sevilla and Pepe Raphael from Madrid, join forces with guitarist Brenna McDonald, Jed Miley and Mehdi Farjami and four dancers—Lillie Last, Laura Onizuka Christina Lorentz and Brenna McDonald—in this evening celebration of the Flamenco art form.

Flamenco is a folkloric tradition that combines song, dance, instrumentals (guitar mostly), hand clapping and finger snapping and originated in Andalusia in Spain. This art form is an amalgamation of centuries of cross-pollination among the many cultures that existed in Spain. Because it is a folkloric tradition and was passed down aurally until the mid-18th century, its history is imprecise, though it is thought to be greatly influenced by the Roma people, called Gitanos, who migrated from Rajasthan (Western India) to Spain between the 9th and 14th centuries, bringing with them tambourines, bells, castanets and a variety of songs and dances. The arm, hand and foot movements of Flamenco closely resemble those of classical Indian dance styles. These traditions combined with the cultures of the Sephardic Jews and Moors make up the Flamenco we see today.

The Flamenco dance (baile) can be characterized by the light graceful arm movements of the female dancer and the contrasting stomping foot drills of the man. It is intense, passionate, sexual and deeply emotional.

The song, (canto) which is the core of Flamenco, has three forms: grande or hondo (grand or deep) intense, profound, tragic in feeling and steeped with duende, which is the transformation of the musician by the depth of emotion; intermedio (intermediate), moderately serious; and pequeño (small), light, energetic songs of love.

The Spanish playwright and poet Federico García Lorca, who grew up in southern Spain and was greatly inspired and influenced by the Roma culture, spoke in depth about duende in his essay Theory and Play of the Duende, written in 1933.

Synesthesia by BodyVox. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

Synesthesia-BodyVox
Spectrum, TEDx Portland
April 15
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St

Synaesthesia is the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.

Back in January ArtsWatcher Bob Hicks reviewed BodyVox’s concert Urban Meadow which featured Synesthesia. Hicks described the piece as “visual play” “set to a score by Ravel, in which the five performers pile together and move in front of a video camera that fragments their images like a kaleidoscope and projects them above the stage. The dancers are in essence dancing against themselves; viewers dart their eyes between the “real” performers and their larger projected selves, which are similar but transformed into something almost geometric.”

BodyVox Dance Company joins Portland’s large creative community in a performance of Synesthesia for TEDx Portland choreographed by BodyVox founder Ashley Roland.

Bridge the Gap
Kumari Suraj, Isaiah Esquire, Johnny Nuriel, Daniel Giron, DJ Prashant’s Jai Ho Dance Troupe, DonnaMation, Icon, SEPIATONIC
Presented by Sepiatonic
9 pm April 15
Paris Theatre, 6 SW 3rd Ave

This dance party/performance aims to cross-pollinate the different genres of Portland’s dance and electronic music scene by offering performances in voguing, waacking, belly dancing, popping, Bollywood, samba and burlesque. Performers include international Bollywhacking artist Kumari Suraj, boylesque dancers Isaiah Esquire and Johnny Nuriel, voguing artist Daniel Giron, Bollywood dancer DJ Prashant and his Jai Ho Dance Troupe, and street dancers DonnaMation and Icon, experts in popping and locking.

Jersey Boys
Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
April 18-23
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St

You can’t have musical theatre without dance, and Jersey Boys is no exception to that rule. This dancin’ in the aisles, sing-a-long trip down memory lane story follows the quick rise to fame of the 1960’s rock band, The Fours Seasons and includes familiar songs such as Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Rag Doll, Oh What a Night and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.

Choreographer Sergio Trujillo made his Broadway debut as a performer in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway in 1989, appeared in Guys and Dolls in 1992, Victor/Victoria in 1998 and Fosse in 1999.

That same year Trujillo choreographed Jersey Boys, he also had three other musicals up and running on Broadway: The Addams Family, Memphis and Next to Normal.

In an interview with Trujillo in 2010, director Christopher Ashley describes Trujillo as a perfectionist and a great editor in his choreographic process. “If a dance doesn’t “pay off” Trujillo is more than willing to dispense with it and move on. He’s a real perfectionist,” said Ashley. “He really does his homework. He walks in the door with a very complete idea of what it could be, and he also sees very clearly what’s in front of him. He’s kind of ruthless about throwing away things that don’t work, even if he thought of them.”

Maybe THIS is the secret to his choreographic success.

Performances next week

April 18-23, Jersey Boys, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
April 21-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre
April 22, Mari Osanai (Japan), Butoh College Performance Series
April 22-23, Annual School Performance, The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre, choreography by George Balanchine, Nicolo Fonte, Alison Roper and Anthony Jones
April 25-26, Che Malambo, Presented by White Bird

Upcoming Performances

April
April 27-29, Jefferson Dancers Spring Concert, Hosted by the Jefferson Dancers
April 27-29, Contact Dance Film Festival, Presented by BodyVox and NW Film Center
April 28-29, Appalachian Spring Break, Scotty Heron and Brendan Connelly, Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
April 29, Yuko Kaseki (Berlin), Butoh College Performance Series
May
May 4-7, Taka Yamamoto, Produced by Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
May 5, Spring Dance Concert, The Reed College Dance Department
May 5-7, In Close Proximity, The Tempos Contemporary Circus
May 5-7, Inclusive Arts Vibe Annual Performance, Disability Arts and Culture Project
May 10, Martha Graham Dance Company, Presented by White Bird
May 16-21, An American in Paris, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
May 26-28, N.E.W. Residency performance, Dora Gaskill, Jessica Kelley, Stephanie Schaaf, and Michael Galen
May 26 – 27, Spring Concert – Tribute to the Ballet Russes, Featuring work by Michel Fokine, Tom Gold, George Balanchine, and Lane Hunter, The Portland Ballet
June
June 2-4, Interum Echos, PDX Contemporary Ballet
June 8-10, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
June 27-July 2, Cabaret, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
July
July 15, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
August
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans

ArtsWatch Weekly: Berlin stories

Andrea Stolowitz's "Berlin Diaries," world premiere at the ballet, new on stage, Brett Campbell's music picks, lots of links

The corner of culture, art, and politics is a busy intersection these days, when suddenly each seems to have something significant to say about the others, and so Andrea Stolowitz’s new play Berlin Diary, although it deals with events three-quarters of a century ago, also seems very much of the current moment.

Stolowitz, the Portland playwright and Oregon Book Award winner, spent a year in Berlin on a Fulbright scholarship retracing the steps of her “lost” Jewish family, those stuck in the archives after her German Jewish great grandfather escaped to New York City in the late 1930s. Shortly after, he began to keep a journal to pass along to his descendants, and it’s that family book that prompted Stolowitz’s sojourn in Berlin and the construction of this play.

Playwright Andrea Stolowitz, creator of “Berlin Diary.”

The past comes forward in recurring waves, touching futures as they unfold. “It’s not easy to get a Berlin audience to laugh at jokes about the Holocaust,” Lily Kelting of NPR Berlin wrote when Berlin Diary premiered there last October. “But American playwright Andrea Stolowitz manages to do just that in her latest premiere at the English Theater Berlin.” Kelting continues: “She says that writing the play has helped her realize that the guilt of surviving the Holocaust was a secret that ultimately tore her family in the States apart — even generations later.”

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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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