The Conduit Dance+ festival: Collaborations r Us

Conduit’s “Dance+” starts tonight and runs through July 28.

I’ve been a fan of Conduit, the downtown Portland non-profit dance studio, from the beginning in 1995, when several key choreographers in the local scene started it as a sort of cooperative. It’s changed over the years, but it’s always struggled to keep its head above water, financially speaking, relying on a small and intermittent dribble of grants, fundraising concerts, income from classes and rentals. Mary Oslund and Tere Mathern kept it going for many years, and I consider their efforts in service to the dance community and the culture as a whole nothing short of heroic. Having a centrally located place for dance classes, workshops and performances is incredibly important.

These days, Mathern keeps it going (with help from a small band of stalwart volunteers), and she’s started to make some headway—I’ve noticed more activity, both in the studio and on various social media. (Weirdly, these days a steady stream of Facebook posts is a sign of health!) And tonight Conduit is presenting Dance+, an ambitious two-weekend, two-program dance concert festival, a better sign of a robust constitution even than Twitter.

bobbevy rehearses for “Dance+”/photo by Gordon Wilson

Mathern says that the idea behind Dance+ is an old one: Dance has nearly always been about collaborations, in one way or another, often with music, of course, but also with the visual arts and text. Dance+ explicitly acknowledges this collaborative nature. Even more than that, she says, it demonstrates how central dance has become to the various hybrid performance formats and strategies that contemporary artists are creating and employing, combining such things as video, music, interactive media, theater, words, technology, music and dance. Maybe think of it as post-disciplinary performance?

For Dance+ Conduit issued a Call for Proposals that focused on collaboration as a “core component of the work.” Although an “experienced movement artist” had to be included in the proposal, the Call for Proposals was pretty open-ended about what form the final work could take, because Conduit (and Mathern) wanted to encourage artists of all sorts to get involved with dance.

Once the proposals were received (23 from the 4-county area, also a stipulation), a panel picked eight to perform. Mathern collected them into two weekend programs, four in each program. The pieces are 15 to 30 minutes in length, and the winning proposals ARE pretty eclectic. The first weekend, for examples, features both The DECEPTiCONS, a drag-comedy ensemble led by the irrepressible Kaj-Anne Pepper, and the fine dancer/choreographer Keely McIntyre working with composer Jay Clarke. Any resemblance of one to the other will come as a major surprise.

Mathern has been working on July 19-21 Dance+ for more than a year, applying for and getting small grants from RACC (a $5700 project grant), the Autzen Foundation ($3500) and the Celebration Foundation ($3500), which made it possible for Conduit to pass along small ($600-$800) stipends to each of the winning proposals. This doesn’t begin to “pay” for the amount of effort and money that the artists will put into their performances, of course, even just paying a minimum wage for rehearsal time, but that’s another subject for another time. Mathern understands that SOME money is even important, just symbolically. Congratulations are in order to RACC, Autzen and the Celebration Foundation for seeing that small grants can have big effects.

Of course ticket sales are important, too, which is where dance fans come in, right? Here are the lineups for the two weekends.

July 19-21

“W*RQ,” Kaj-Anne Pepper and The DECEPTiCONS: Maybe you caught The DECEPTiCONS at Hand2Mouths Risk/Reward festival in June? In which case you saw how improvisational, riotous and funny they can be.
“Terrain,”Keely McIntyre & Jay Clarke: McIntyre was central to the success of tEEth’s wildly successful “Home Made,” but then she’s been a key component to the dances of many Portland choreographers, including Oslund and Mathern. She’s also a gifted dance maker, and this is her third collaboration with Clarke, who composes as Ash Black Bufflo.
“Tilth,” Kristine Anderson & Julie Hammond: This one’s intriguing: a collaboration between movement and non-fiction literature, that promises to be “light, sometimes cantankerous”? Anderson has danced pieces by Molissa Fenley, Brenda Way and Yvonne Rainer (all avant-garde dancemakers), and Hammond is a member of Hand2Mouth, the Portland performance ensemble.
“This is how we Disappear,” bobbevy: bobbevy is a Portland dance company that is the ongoing collaboration between choreographer/dancer Suniti Dernovsek and visual artist David Stein. In this piece: “The shape, direction and velocity
of the dancers’ movements will be captured using simple sensors, which in turn create parameters for live video and audio response to reveal the invisible reality that surrounds us.”

July 26-28

“advantAGE,” Gaskin, Bielemeier & Bronchtien: Gregg Bielemeier is a civic dance treasure who almost invariably makes me laugh and Keyon Gaskin is a gifted mover with a knack for the comically impetuous moment himself. They’ll move to music by Philippe Bronchtein, who is also a dancer/choreographer.
“The Loveliest Landscape,” Danielle Ross & Christi Denton: Ross is a Portland dancer/choreographer with a strong body of work, and she’ll be interacting with Denton’s sound installation to explore “notions of risk, reaction, and control.”
“A Moment of Your Time,” Friendly Pheromones Dance Company & Waver Clamor Bellow: The Friendly Pheromones are Chase Hamilton (TopShakeDance, Polaris), Zoe Nelson (Polaris) and Zahra Banzi (a teaching artist at the Oregon Ballet Theatre, Subrosa Dance Collective), a formidable dance unit, and they’ll be working with soundscapers Vernon Shepherd and Ben Magaziner of Waver Clamor Bellow.
“Tsunami,” Luciana Proaño and collaborators: Proaño has been drawing on myth, often from her native Peru, and the subconscious in her dance work since moving here in 1994. She’ll be working with a talented crew to create “Tsunami”: “We want to bring the water, the myth and the poetry into the studio and transform it into a multidimensional experience that will sometimes surround and other times engulf the audience.”

What else do you need to know? Maybe that Mathern wants to make this an annual event at Conduit. All she needs is a little encouragement!

Conduit is at 918 SW Yamhill St., Portand, on the fourth floor (yes, there’s an elevator). Tickets are available at the door or through Brown Paper Tickets. And here’s the event Facebook page.

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