tere mathern

New Expressive Works: Boundary pushing

Subashini Ganesan's resident choreographer program featured work by Tere Mathern, Madison Page, Crystal Jiko Sasaki, and Wolfbird Dance

New Expressive Works’ second set of resident artists for 2017 showcased their boundary-pushing new pieces this weekend. Founded in 2012 with the mission to support dancers of diverse backgrounds in developing original work, N.E.W. also provides accessible practice space and a variety of movement classes in a centrally-located, well-equipped studio.

Annually, the space serves 4500 audience members and students, and more than 200 independent performing artists have used the facilities for some aspect of their practice.The program has incubated many new projects and collaborations for its 37 resident artists choreographers working with at total of 100 collaborators.

Highlights have included:

  • Oluyinka Akinjiola forming her performance troupe, “Rejoice Diaspora Dance Theater” during her residency
  • The residency has attracted transplants such as Luke Gutgsell, James Healey, Dar Vejon Jones, Stephanie Lanckton and current residents Crystal Jiko and Madison Page who have gone on to be involved in local programs such as TBA, BodyVox, Headwater Theatre, and Skinner/Kirk.
  • Veterans Linda K. Johnson, Dawn Stoppiello, Catherine Egan, Stephanie Schaaf, and current resident Tere Mathern have produced new work and held critical feedback sessions.

Tere Mathern and Alison Heryer performed in N.E.W.’s 9th residency concert/Courtesy of New Expressive Works

Every six months, four choreographers (or in this case, three individuals and a team of two) are chosen for the residency program. They receive 144 hours of free rehearsal space, a modest stipend, and moderated, critical feedback in the form of Katherine Longstreth’s Fieldwork program. The works, whether they are finished or in progress, debut as 20-minute pieces at the end of the residency, as they did this weekend for the 9th session.

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DanceWatch Weekly: Dance that travels

This week's performances move back in time, into our minds, to alternate states of reality, and to different countries around the world

This weekend’s performances offer us a chance to travel—back in time, into our minds, to alternate states of reality, and to different countries around the world. It’s a chance to experience the world through others’ lived experiences.

Beginning this weekend’s journey will be the The Bacchae, performed by the Portland State University School of Theater and Film with choreography by Tere Mathern. Next up on the itinerary will be White Bird’s performance of Cuisine & Confessions, during which the 7 Fingers Creation Collective from Quebec will cook and dance for us in real time. Then we will meet Iris Erez from Israel, who will dance about identity and place. Portland choreographer and scholar Eliza Larson’s caste of seven dancers will take us to dreamland in her new work In Circadia. We will dance battle with Bang Bang Boogie Vol. 5 at Center Space. Next, travel on to India/Portland with the Nritya Shubha Dance Festival, which will debut five styles of classical Indian dance at the Alberta Rose Theatre.

All of this traveling right here at your fingertips, and you didn’t even have to leave your own city, pack a bag, or renew your passport. You’re welcome. Enjoy!

Performances this week

Cuisine & Confessions. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Cuisine & Confessions
The 7 Fingers Creation Collective, Montreal, Quebec
Presented by White Bird
March 2-4
The Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
This nine-member ensemble will cook live on stage while dancing, performing acrobatic feats, and telling tales of family and food. Cuisine & Confessions draws on the idea that food, like DNA, contains our memories of family and place. Those memories are evoked through the tastes, smells, and textures of the food we eat, and that life, like cooking, is inherently messy.

Three interesting things to know about the show: all of the stories told during the performance are true, the set is inspired by the cast’s own home kitchens, and the cast members take turns washing the dishes after each show.

The Bacchae
Written by Euripides, translated by William Arrowsmith
Portland State University School of Theater and Film
Choreography by Tere Mathern
Music composed by Matthew Andrews
March 2-11
Low cost preview March 2
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave
The Bacchae, an ancient Greek tragedy written almost 2500 year ago, is still strangely relevant today, as it grapples with the opposing sides of human nature—the rational, civilized side and the instinctive, animalistic side. With choreography by Portland choreographer Tere Mathern and original music composed by Matthew Andrews, this play promises to shed new light on ancient topics through a modern-day lens.

Local (not easy) by Iris Erez. Photo courtesy of Reed College Dance Department.

Local (not easy)
Iris Erez
Presented by Reed College Dance Department
March 3-4
Reed College, Massee Performance Lab, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd
Israeli dance artist Iris Erez, a former dancer with Inbal Pinto and Yasmeen Godder, will perform Local (not easy), a solo study on how space constructs the activity of body within it. Erez says, “As one who moved from the city to the village, from the beach to the mountain, from the bubble to the borderline, from singlehood to motherhood—I wish to discover how does space influence me and how does it make me who I am.”

In Circadia
Eliza Larson/Fault Line Dance
March 3-5
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave
Originally inspired by her own insomnia and her out-of-step circadian rhythm, Portland choreographer and scholar Eliza Larson (recently seen in Tahni Holt’s Sensation/Disorientation), explores the dream state—where reality and fiction are intertwined, and the impossibilities become possible—in a new work for seven dancers (Katie Burks, Taylor Eggan, Sara Himmelman, Erin Kraemer, Eliza Larson, Ella Matweyou, and Ruth Nelson). The work shifts between improvisation and choreographic design tapping into the body’s innate, fluid ability to move between different states of being.

 

Bang Bang Boogie Vol. 5
Dance Battle Produced by Donna Mation
March 4
Doors open 5pm, prelims start at 6pm
Center Space Studio, 420 SE 6th Ave
Donna Mation, owner of Center Space Studio, artistic director of Axé Didé Music and Dance Company, and dancer extraordinaire in a multitude of styles, is uniting the NW street-dance community through regular, themed, dance battles. This month’s battle theme is Bonnie and Clyde—dancers partner up and battle against other dynamic duos for cash prizes. The magic is in the moment in this evening of improvised performances.

Dancers Maya Dhananjay and Mudra Dhananjay. Photo courtesy of Nritya Shubha Dance Festival.

Nritya Shubha Dance Festival
A Unique Confluence Of Indian Classical Dance
Presented by Yashaswini Yaghuram and Alberta Rose Theatre
5 pm March 5
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St
India’s history goes back thousands of years and its keepers of cultural history were the Brahmins (a station in the Hindu caste system whose job it is to perform religious rituals and to act as an intermediary between God and the people) and the artists. Before there was written language, the Brahmins spoke the religious stories and the dancers danced them.

Like its variety of languages, India also has many dance styles, but the most popular and widely known are Bharatnatyam, Odissi, Kathak, Mohiniyattam, and Kuchipudi. Each are from a different region of Indian and each tells the scriptural stories in slightly different ways, utilizing every moving part of the body, from the eyebrows, to the tips of the fingers, to the bend in the waist and the knees.

Luckily for us, each of these dance styles will be represented in this evening of dance performed by Portland dancers, alongside visiting professionals dancers from India.

Performances next week

March 9-11, Companhia Urbana De Danca, Presented by White Bird
March 10, Spectacle Garden 10: Dance Party, Hosted by Ben Martens
March 10-12, TPB Studio Company Performance-Featuring dances by Anne Mueller, Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, John Clifford and guest artists from Kukátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, The Portland Ballet
March 10-16, Mr. Gaga, Living Room Theatres
March 10-19, In The Heights, Portland Community College

Upcoming performance

March
March 16-18, Carmen, NW Dance Project
March 17, The Baroque Dance Project, Alice Sheu and Julie Iwasa
March 19, Duality: Dance Ballet of India, Presented by Rasika
March 19, BodyVox and Oregon Symphony collaboration performance
March 23-April1, Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble, Presented by BodyVox
March 24, Shaping Sound, Travis Wall, Presented by Portland’5
March 24-25, Alembic Double Bill: Claire Barrera and Noelle Stiles, Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
March 31, Junk in da Trunk, Tempos
April
April 2, Sahomi Tachibana Dancers, Portland Japanese Garden
April 4-5, Shen Yun, Presented by Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 6-8, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, Presented by White Bird
April 8-9, The Snow Queen, Eugene Ballet Company
April 10, Noontime Showcase OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
April 15, Synesthesia, BodyVox, TEDx Portland
April 15, Bridge the Gap, Presented by Sepiatonic
April 13-22, Terra, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 14-16, New work by Jin Camou, Performance Works NW Alembic Co-Production
April 25-26, Che Malambo, Presented by White Bird
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
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, Inclusive Arts Vibe Annual Performance, Disability Arts and Culture Project
May 10, Martha Graham Dance Company, Presented by White Bird
May 26-28, N.E.W. Residency performance, Dora Gaskill, Jessica Kelley, Stephanie Schaaf, and Kumari Suraj
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
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

Conduit is closing with a party

The Portland dance incubator celebrates two decades of dance classes, rehearsals and performance

On Wednesday night the Portland dance community will say a sad goodbye to Conduit Dance. Conduit has been an incubator for contemporary dance in Portland for 20 years, and on June 15 it announced that it had given notice at the Ford Building studio, its most recent home, and would be suspending all operations and programming as of July 23, 2016. Friends, artists, supporters, students and audiences of Conduit are invited to Wednesday’s evening of dancing and remembering with snacks and refreshments. Conduit has also asked its friends to come prepared with their Conduit stories and any archival material they may have to include in Conduit’s archival project.

In 1995 Conduit was founded by dance artists Linda K. Johnson and Mary Oslund as a home for contemporary dance artists to work out new ideas in the form, through teaching, rehearsing and performing. The studio, housed on the fourth floor of the Pythian Building on Southwest Yamhill Street, was collectively run by Keith V. Goodman, Michael Menger, Gregg Bielemeier, Tere Mathern, Johnson and Oslund. Each person contributed to the rent and in turn was given a certain number of hours to rehearse, teach and perform. The amount of activity in the space was immeasurable, and classes were packed with students.

Gather- a dance about convergence

Gather, choreographed by Conduit’s Artistic Director Tere Mathern, performed in Conduit’s original home at the Pythian Building in 2012. Photo by Gordon Wilson.

In 2001, Mathern and Oslund became co-directors and began to mold Conduit into a nonprofit organization expanding its role in the community. In 2009 Mathern took over and became Conduit’s first paid part-time artistic director.

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Dance Weekly: Time to improvise!

The Improvisation Summit of Portland 2016 will go where no dancers have gone before

Summer is upon us and that brings festivals, festivals of all kinds, but most importantly dance festivals. I am biased, I know.

Summer festivals to me feel different from the regular programming of the traditional performance season. To me they encapsulate the qualities of summer—bright, festive, free and open—and they run the gamut of experimentation and expression. It is a time to sample many ideas in one place.

Opening on Thursday night, the Improvisation Summit of Portland 2016, curated by Portland dance artist Danielle Ross, features a large swath of the Portland dance community. Since its inception in 2012, the Improvisation Summit, a subset of the Creative Music Guild, has brought together dancers, musicians, filmmakers and other experimental artists to create improvised, one-of-a-kind performances. For me there is a feeling of electricity and risk watching dance artists create movement in the moment while they are performing. There is an aliveness and a deep listening that happens in their bodies that is not always present in set choreographed movement. This year’s summit is stocked to the brim with veteran improvisers and performers who are willing to take those risks.

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Dance Weekly: ‘Edge Effects’ to ‘Romeo and Juliet’

The return of James Canfield and his 'Romeo and Juliet,' a new Tere Mathern dance, and much more

This week’s schedule covers the full spectrum of dance from Bay Area dancer and performance artist Keith Hennessy to ballet choreographer James Canfield’s Romeo and Juliet for Oregon Ballet Theatre and everything in between, and I mean everything—which is a good thing.

On Saturday I sat in on a rehearsal for “Edge Effects,” a new dance choreographed by long-time Portland choreographer and artistic director of Conduit Dance, Tere Mathern.

The piece was made over a two-year period with several previous iterations, in collaboration with electronic sound composer Roland Ventura Toledo, filmmaker Sophia Wright Emigh, lighting designer Robin Greenwood, along with five dancers—Lyra Butler-Denman, Vanessa Vogel, Dar VeJon Jones, Lena Traenkenschuh, and Sara Parker. It takes time to make a dance.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 17.16

Edge Effects by Tere Mathern. Photo by Sophia Wright Emigh.

The dance references the idea of an “ecotone—a zone where one ecosystem meets another as when the meadow meets the forest, the water meets the land, or where one body meets another,” said Mathern via our email conversation.

Taking the concepts of edges, transitions and transformations and relating them to human nature, culture and society, Mathern rendered them into movement, through the choreographic process.

The movement, mixed with seven short films that capture the magical aspects of nature up close, added to the atmospheric sounds created by Toledo, creates a three dimensional, experiential, enterable atmosphere, illuminating aspects of nature and relationships you did not know existed.

This concept has stayed with me since Saturday, and I find myself looking around for those moments and places where different environments meet and feeling secret pleasure in discovering them.

“Edge Effects” promises to be an a impactful, contemplative, sensorial experience.

Edge Effects by Tere Mathern. Photo by Sophia Wright Emigh.

Edge Effects by Tere Mathern. Photo by Sophia Wright Emigh.

Edge Effects
A collaboration of dance, film and sound
Choreographed by Tere Mathern
February 25-28
Studio2, 810 SE Belmont St

Regarding the New Wave of African American Choreographer and Their Gesture of Interweaving (Lecture)
6:30 pm February 25
Reed College, PAB Performance Lab, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd
Visiting dance scholar Dr. Christina Rosa from Tufts University Department of Drama and Dance will present a lecture based on her research on the intersection of embodiment, knowledge production, and processes of identification. Her most recent publication Brazilian Bodies and Their Choreographies of Identification (Palgrave McMillan), examines how aesthetic principles cultivated across the black Atlantic contributed to the construction of Brazil as an imagined community. Rosa, a native of Brazil who migrated to the US in 1996, is able to draw on her duel living experiences in her research.

GHOSTS + Snake Talk
Asaf Aharonson & Ruairí Donovan (Berlin) and Abby Crain (Oakland)
Presented by Performance Works NorthWest, Alembic Co-Production Series
Curated by Allie Hankins
February 26-27
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
“GHOSTS” by Asaf Aharonson & Ruairí Donovan of Berlin, draws on the work of theorist Michael Hardt, veiling and unveiling the complex intimacy between lovers, exploring concepts of confidentiality, indecency, travel, erottica, pornography and friendship asking the question “how can love be the central, constitutive mode and motor of politics.”

“Snake Talk,” created and performed by Abby Crain, Maryanna Lachman and Mara Poliak, with lighting design by Elizabeth Ardent and sound design by Samuel Hertz, explores femininity, calling it “slippery and undefinable within an aesthetic terrain of discomfort, excess and distortion. We are dense, opulent, dazzling, awkward, seductive, repulsive, terrifying. We ooze, leak, wander, tie ourselves in a knot, rip apart at the seams. We have forgotten the difference between kissing and eating.”

Workshop with Abby Crain will be held at Flock on Thursday, February 25, and with Asaf Aharonson & Ruairí Donovan on Saturday, February 27.

James Canfield

Romeo and Juliet
James Canfield/Sergei Prokofiev
Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 27-March 5
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St
Young love, underage sex, teen suicide and Crips vs. Bloods family rivalry are how choreographer and former OBT Artistic Director James Canfield defines his Romeo and Juliet in his interview with Arts Watcher Marty Hughley for Artslandia.

What’s different about Canfield’s version is his investment in the development of the characters and their relationships with each other, giving the work dimension and depth.

And of course there is always beautiful dancing, chiffon and Prokofiev, performed every night by the live OBT orchestra.

Pure Surface
Featuring Renee Sills, Sam Pirnak and Christopher Rose
7 pm, February 28
Valentine’s, 232 SW Ankeny St
Curated by Stacey Tran and Danielle Ross, Pure Surface is a performance series interested in encouraging cross-disciplinary practice and performance by bringing together movement, text and film in the spirit of improvised collaboration. Each month a new group of artists is brought together in the intimate, open-air setting of Valentine’s, and performance is made. This month’s artists are movement artist Renee Sills, video/interdisciplinary artist Sam Pirnak and writer Christopher Rose, who explore the intersection of the Filipino and Black Diasporas.

Nrityotsava 2016
Kalakendra benefit concert
4 pm, February 28
Lake Oswego High School, 2501 Country Club Rd
Kalakendra, the society for the performing arts of India, is a Portland organization with the mission to introduce, promote, and enhance awareness of the various performing arts of the Indian subcontinent through concerts, classical dances, recitals, and lecture-demonstrations.This benefit concert will feature performances by 11 Indian dance groups from Portland and California.

NOTHING TO LOSE; A Dance Party Fundraiser for Physical Education
ft pop-up performances all night long.
8 pm, March 2
Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St
Physical Education is comprised of dance and performance artists Keyon Gaskin, Allie Hankins, Lucy Lee Yim and Takahiro Yamamoto. PE’s mission is to provide immersive methods of engaging with dance and performance through reading groups, lectures, curated performances, aerobic/movement classes and dance parties.

The featured performers at the fundraiser are Ruth Nelson, William Jay, Holland Andrews, Jin Camou, Julia Calabrese, Danielle Ross, Stacey Tran and Physical Education; Keyon Gaskin, Allie Hankins, Lucy Yim, and Taka Yamamoto with DJ’s Daniela Karina, Rap Class and Allan Wilson with visuals by Jodie Cavalier.

Keith Hennessy courtesy of PICA.

Keith Hennessy courtesy of PICA.

Keith Hennessy: PSU MFA Studio Lectures Series
7 pm, March 3
Portland State University, Lincoln Hall Room 75
&
Bear/Skin (Performance)
Keith Hennessy
Presented by PICA
March 4-5
Studio 2, 810 SE Belmont St
Bear/Skin is a “dance that is politically motivated by the tension between killer cops and virgin sacrifice, between indigenous culture and modernist appropriation. It has (almost) nothing to do with gay bears and everything to do with The Rite of Spring, teddy bear shamanism, the reconstruction of ritual bear dances, action movies, suicide economics, and the poetry of springtime.”

Hennessy is a San Francisco-based dancer, choreographer, and performance artist regarded as a pioneer of queer and AIDS-themed expressionist dance. Hennessy is known for nonlinear performance collages that combine dance, speaking, singing, and physical and visual imagery, and for improvised performances that often undermine the performer-observer barrier.

If you are interested in furthering your Hennessy experience, he will be teaching a workshop on March 12th from 1-5pm, at University of Washington’s Dance Department’s Meany Hall. Check out the Velocity Dance’s website for more information.

Later in March

March 10-12, Kyle Abraham presented by WhiteBird.
March 13, Dance Film Day, an afternoon of dance films and discussion, co-presented by dance artists and writer Jamuna Chiarini, and Performance Works NW.
March 14, workshop and lecture demonstration with Kyle Abraham at Reed College presented by WhiteBird.

After 20 years, Conduit is on the move

Evicted from the Pythian Building, the dance nonprofit is looking for a new home

After nearly 20 years in the beautiful 4th floor studio in the Pythian Building in downtown Portland, Conduit Dance is leaving its old homestead, evicted by its landlord Nia Technique. Nia had been instrumental in helping Conduit weather economic problems in 2010, but on Tuesday, it informed the nonprofit that it had a week to leave the premises, according to Tere Mathern, Conduit’s artistic director. On March 18, Conduit’s run in the Pythian will be history.

Nia had given Conduit a verbal notice to leave in early February, according to Mathern. “We thought they said we could take time to plan an exit strategy,” Mathern said. But after some discussions, the hammer dropped Tuesday. “The email came, and I literally cried,” Mathern said. “The timing of it, the quickness, seemed overwhelming.”

A class at Conduit Dance studio/Conduit dance

A class at Conduit Dance studio/Conduit dance

Conduit had been planning to move anyway, because the space wasn’t large enough for the nonprofit Conduit to succeed financially. But finding space—Mathern figures Conduit needs room for two dance studios, storage space and an office—takes time. Now, Mathern figures that Conduit will have to find temporary quarters to keep things going while it tries to find a more permanent space. It’s holding a community meeting at 7:30 Monday night (March 16) to rally support for its next move, including help in locating the 4,000 square feet or more it will need.

Early members of Conduit: Linda K. Johnson, left, and Mary Oslund/Photo by Julie Keefe

Early members of Conduit: Linda K. Johnson, left, and Mary Oslund/Photo by Julie Keefe

Conduit is a Portland modern dance institution. When it was founded by Mary Oslund and Linda K. Johnson in August 1995, the city’s dance community had been cast adrift after the closing of the dance department at Portland State University. The new studio started as a cooperative, with Michael Menger, the late Keith Goodman, and Gregg Bielemeier joining Oslund and Johnson in using the studio for classes, rehearsals and performances. Gradually, it moved toward becoming more of a community resource, used by many independent choreographers in the same ways, and Conduit is now a nonprofit.

Those of us who follow modern dance locally have a multitude of memories from performances at Conduit. The studio is intimate, but its high ceilings and large windows can make it seem light and airy, too, and performances seemed almost in your lap, especially if you arrived late and had to sit on the floor in front of the first row of seats. I saw terrific dances and terrific dancing at Conduit over the years, much of it coming from the very loose companies of dancers that assembled around Oslund and Mathern. And yes, occasionally I worried that a dancer wouldn’t be able to stop in time and come careening into me. They never did.

But this isn’t a eulogy for Conduit. Mathern, the Conduit board and staff, and the Conduit community are determined to keep the nonprofit going, Mathern said. It’s just a matter of finding a space. And Conduit isn’t alone: at this point, Oregon Ballet Theatre is also looking for a new home, and three other companies have just found and/or moved into new digs—AWOL, Northwest Dance Project, and Polaris.

Still, I’ll miss the long climb to the 4th floor studio in the Pythian Building, a rite of passage made by dancers, choreographers and modern dance fans for two decades.

‘Gather’ harvests jazz and modern dance improvisation

Tere Mathern, Tim DuRoche and company converge on Conduit with a collaborative winner

Gathering on the dance floor at Conduit. Photo: Joe Cunningham

By MARTHA ULLMAN WEST

Six dancers, three on each side of Conduit’s splendid studio, stand quietly, poised for action, as the music begins on a dissonant, high-pitched note. Suddenly the dancers travel fast to the rear of the space, converging into a cluster of interdependent action: limbs stretching, reaching into space, seemingly as far as they can go.

This is how “Gather,” Tere Mathern and Tim DuRoche’s latest collaboration, starts. The directors say it is about “convergence,” and “community” and the “meaning of connection,” and choreographically it’s easy to view it on those terms. Throughout, the dancers break apart into solos and duets and trios, regroup, line up and play a kind of movement tag, with one dancer providing the impetus for the next dancer’s shift of an arm or extension of a leg; and the incredible musicians, especially DuRoche on drums, go into their own riffs and come together again as jazz musicians do.

Since I’m more interested in aesthetics than polemics, I prefer to view “Gather,” happily, as the result of a collaboration by two gifted, sophisticated, knowledgeable and experienced artists to create 55 minutes of urban-oriented music and dance, gorgeously performed, that deserves a much bigger audience than it had on Thursday’s opening night.

Mathern has gathered, if you will, a company of dancers who have the chops and commitment to perform movement derived from many sources. There are balletic elements in turned-out legs; moments of contact improv; spins that end in a modern pelvic contraction.  Kristine Anderson can move with the lush flow of thick cream poured from a pitcher, and also the speed and thrust of a jet engine. Lyra Butler-Denman, tall, blonde, and extremely chic in the “little black dress” that constitutes her costume, has studied dance in Seattle, New York, and Paris, and looks it.  Her duet toward the end of the piece with Mathern, costumed in an equally stylish red dress, is laced with a kind of tentative tenderness. Arms are almost linked, the interaction of their bodies is cautious, as they embrace – what? Sisterhood? Friendship?

Add Eowyn Emerald Barrett and Joshua Thrower, high-energy movers both of them, and the self-contained Rachel Slater to the mix, and Mathern finally has the dancers she needs as she develops in a rather different direction.  I haven’t in the past looked for humor in her work, or DuRoche’s either. So when the two sax players, Joe Cunningham and Reed Wallsmith, join in the dance, blowing great blasts that propel the dancers to the sidelines, leaving them to connect in their own idiosyncratic way, it was a delightful surprise.

Both the score, created by the collective ensemble that is Battle Hymns & Gardens (and where, please, are they playing next?) and the choreography are beautifully structured, as the pace picks up and then gently, almost imperceptibly cools down, ending almost ritualistically, but totally without sentimentality.  Costume designer Jenna Chen has given the production considerable color and style, and lighting designer Robin Greenwood enhances mood and movement without distracting from it. It goes without saying that the live music energizes dancers and the audience, and I would add that DuRoche never once took his eyes off the dancers, something I wish were true of all musicians playing for dance.

Mathern’s use of Conduit’s beautiful space, leaving the windows uncovered, to reveal a cityscape I’d love to see Henk Pander paint,  made this piece an expression of our urban environment in the same way earlier  Mathern works have been influenced by the natural world. Dance at its best, art at its best, tells us who we are.  Go see “Gather” and rejoice.

****

“Gather” repeats at 8 p.m. this Friday-Saturday, Oct. 26-27, and on November 1,2, and 3. Ticket information is here.