Tapping into memory

Portland Tap Company debuts with "The Man Who Forgot"

“Your stories go on, but who are you?” Kelsey Leonard mused as we discussed the history and future of tap dance in a coffee shop last week.

Leonard, who founded the Portland Tap Alliance in 2015 with Pamela Allen and Erin Lee, has herself played a role in the story of tap. The Alliance was designed to promote, preserve, and celebrate tap dance in the Pacific Northwest and globally; since its founding, it has produced an annual three-day festival bringing tappers from around the world to Portland. And now Leonard is serving as artistic director and co-choreographer of the Portland Tap Company, a group of seven tappers from Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C. The brand-new company will make its debut this weekend at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts with a premiere of The Man Who Forgot.

The Portland Tap Company debuts this weekend with “The Man Who Forgot.” Photo by Nicholas Teeuwen

It seemed fitting that Leonard and I were having our conversation in person. Most of tap history lives on through verbal communication in tap classes and festivals across the nation, Leonard explained, adding that it’s normal for tap instructors to emphasize the importance of tap’s influencers by calling on students to speak their names: Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Jimmy Slyde, Chuck Green, Charles “Honi” Coles. The Man Who Forgot explores the power of memory by evoking those who laid the groundwork for tappers and artists alike today.

The title refers to a recording of short-fiction writer Neil Gaiman’s The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury, a 15-minute musing on memory, friendship, and the power of a name that Gaiman gave the Farenheit 451 author for his 91st birthday. The Portland Tap Company program includes excerpts from the recording, integrated into a score created by the Josh Rawlings Trio, in collaboration with Leonard and co-choreographer Jesse Sawyers. The Seattle-based trio, led by Grammy-nominated pianist Josh Rawlings. plays everything from jazz to blues to feel-good pop. Having a score created around the tappers is a luxury, Leonard noted, as is having the group play live at this weekend’s performance.

The Josh Rawlings Trio (left to right: Nate Omdal, Josh Rawlings, Adam Kessler) plays live for the Portland Tap Company’s debut show.

Leonard and I talked about how tap, much like jazz music, has historically been a form of communication in and of itself. Tap, she noted, has black roots dating back to the 1700s, when West African and Irish indentured servants’ cultures mixed in an uprising against plantation owners. The rhythms of Irish dance footwork and West African drumbeats cross-pollinated, and tap took root. Slaves working on plantations began communicating with one another using rhythmic foot patterns.  Nowadays, in jazz jams and tap classes, the back-and-forth musical and rhythmic exchange still hews to that same alternative form of communication. And as with jazz music, tap’s continuity depends on well-versed artists whose improvisation draws from the masters who created the art form. The Portland Tap Company created The Man Who Forgot with tap’s forebears in mind.

The company’s performers include Leonard and Sawyers themselves, along with Portland’s own Bethany Reisberg, MaKaeyla Pool, and Sarah Brahim, whose work you may have seen in New Expressive Work’s latest residency cycle. Pamela Allen, Funmi Soflola, and Sawyers are based in Seattle, Washington, and Julianna Oke is from Vancouver, B.C.

The Portland Tap Company will trip down memory lane this weekend, using two of America’s strongest cultural staples–tap dance and jazz music–to explore our capacity to remember the past and carry information forward. And, too, the company will capture the fleeting yet magnificent nature of being human.  

 

 

 

 

Composing in the Wilderness 1: tundra tapestry

Three Oregon composers journeyed to the Alaskan wilderness, and returned with new music and new perspectives

by CHRISTINA RUSNAK

Editor’s note: Now in its sixth year, the Composing in the Wilderness program led by adventurer-composer Stephen Lias, is a joint venture between Alaska Geographic, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, Denali National Park, and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Nine composers — three from Oregon this year — spend four days in Denali National Park, accompanied by scientists and naturalists as they draw inspiration from the wildlife, geology, scenery, and adventure of their surroundings. They are then flown by bush plane to the remote Coal Creek Mining Camp in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve where they spend four more days in intense composition. Finally, they are flown to Fairbanks where they join the other participants at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, where their pieces undergo a few days of intense rehearsals, and then are premiered in Denali National Park and in Fairbanks.

The final concert included Brent Lawrence’s On Distant Hills, Christina Rusnak’s Tundra Tapestry, and Jennifer Wright’s From the Darkness, We Sing the Mighty Land into Being. The three pieces, composed in less than a week, focused on the vastness of the mountains, the tiny detail of the tundra plant life, and the magical nature of the wilderness. ArtsWatch asked the three Oregon composers to share their response to this unique experience. Stay tuned for Brent Lawrence and Jennifer Wright’s reports next week.

When I decided to attend Composing in the Wilderness for a third time this year, many people asked me why. Mostly, I was going again because I needed to.

Portland composer Christina Rusnak at Composing in the Wilderness 2017.

At age 12, I wrote a song titled “A piece of Wilderness.” Who knew how prophetic that song would become for me? In college, a field botany class in Big Bend National Park literally changed my life. I gained a greater appreciation for nature and became a passionate hiker. So, when I met composer Stephen Lias in 2009 and heard his presentation of his first National Parks piece, River Runner – about the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park, I realized that a significant part of my compositional path would be to compose for, and about, nature, wilderness and place.

When Lias launched Composing in the Wilderness in 2012, I eagerly signed up. Actually, I may have been the first to sign up. My blogs for that trip and for my second foray in 2013, are filled with nearly daily details of the my awe and adventures, of the weather, the scientists, their stories, and of the challenge to compose something meaningful in such a short time span. In 2012, only eight days separated our first step in Denali and the concert! The compositional process, with such a tight time frame, is arduous. Fortunately the Alaska summers are accommodating. (Editor’s note: Listen to Rusnak’s first CitW composition, Flow.)

Since then, I’ve composed for a National Monument, four National Parks and Preserves, a National Forest, a Wild and Scenic River and Oregon State Parks. My personal ethos and actions match my creative output. I’ve written articles and given presentations at the Intertwine Alliance and at the University of Iowa on the importance of Music, Place and Nature. Our public lands are a treasure that requires our care. But going to CitW for a third time? What was I looking for?

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DanceWatch Weekly: Tap, flamenco, modern and Tom Gold on ballet

Choreographer Tom Gold talks about Twyla Tharp, ballet marketing and his work for The Portland Ballet

I recently sat down with choreographer and former New York City Ballet soloist Tom Gold to talk about his work Festival Russe for The Portland Ballet’s upcoming Spring show, which opens Friday.

The evening features four works representing the stylistic changes in classical ballet from 1909 to today. They are Michel Fokine’s Les Sylphides; excerpts from George Balanchine’s Who Cares?, staged by John Clifford; Festival Russe by Gold; and Abandon All Plans, a commissioned world premiere by former BodyVox dancer Lane Hunter.

Gold and I discuss everything from his choreographic process, to working with renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp, to politics in the ballet world. That conversation unfolds below.

But first, in other Portland dance news…

Dancing In The Rain!, a multigenerational performance directed by Harriet Cuttler in collaboration with the Hollywood Senior Center’s Funky Grooves dance class, uses movement to engage in ideas of release, resilience, and resistance in the body over time, opens Friday.

Also opening Friday is the New Expressive Work’s residency performance, a program that takes place twice yearly, showcasing the work of four new choreographers each time, directed by Subashini Ganesan. This round will feature choreographers Dora Gaskill, Jessica Kelley, Stephanie Schaaf and Michael Galen.

The N.E.W. residency is an invaluable component to our community and the support of dance making. I wrote about it extensively in December 2016, and you can read all about it here.

PDX Dance Collective, a revolving collective of dance artists ongoing since 2009, presents an evening of dance works by six of its company members alongside six guest artists from Portland’s larger dance community. The artists showing work will be: April MacKay, Hannah Downs, Ismael Soñanes, Katelyn Kollinzas, Rachael Singer, Zahra Garrett , Alicia Cutaia, Amelia Unsicker, Dar Vejon Jones, Kya Bliss, Olivia Camfield and Vitality Dance Collective.

The Portland Tap Dance Festival, founded in 2015 by Pamela Allen, Erin Lee, and Kelsey Leonard, will feature classes and a performance by faculty members and leading names in tap from Portland and beyond. The faculty—Dianne “Lady Di” Walker, Brenda Bufalino, Ted Louis Levy, Terry Brock, Derick Grant, Joseph Webb, Sarah Reich, Karida Griffith, Jessie Sawyers, Danny Nielsen, and Charles Renato—will be accompanied by the Josh Rawling Trio and Farnell Newton.

And lastly, Espacio Flamenco Portland and La Peña Flamenca de Portland finish out their season with La Peña: ¡Baila, Canta, Toca!, features dancing from Portland flamenco dancer Brenna McDonald with guest guitarist Jed Miley (Seattle), piquant cantaor Pepe Raphael, and Espacio Flamenco Portland’s Christina Lorentz, Lillie Last, and Nick Hutcheson.

It’s going to be a marvelous weekend. Enjoy!

Performances this week

Dancing In The Rain!
Hosted by Portland State University Art and Social Practice
6:30 pm May 26
Hollywood Senior Center, 1820 NE 40th Ave.

6×6: A PDX Choreographers Showcase hosted by PDX Dance Collective, May 26-28. Photo of Vitality Dance Collective, courtesy of PDX Dance Collective.

6×6: A PDX Choreographers Showcase
PDX Dance Collective
May 26-28
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St.
An evening of dance works by April MacKay, Hannah Downs, Ismael Soñanes, Katelyn Kollinzas, Rachael Singer, Zahra Garrett, Alicia Cutaia, Amelia Unsicker, Dar Vejon Jones, Kya Bliss, Olivia Camfield and Vitality Dance Collective.

Who Cares?
Spring Concert – Tribute to the Ballets Russes
The Portland Ballet
Featuring work by Michel Fokine, George Balanchine, Tom Gold, and Lane Hunter
May 26-27
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.

Untitled Work in Progress by Jessica Kelley, performed by Suniti Dernovsek and Noelle Stiles. N.E.W. Residency performance, May 26-28. Photo courtesy of N.E.W.

N.E.W. Residency performance
Dora Gaskill, Jessica Kelley, Stephanie Schaaf, and Michael Galen
Directed by Subashini Ganesan
Fieldwork sessions facilitated by Katherine Longstreth
May 26-28
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St.

Portland Tap Dance Festival
Presented by the Portland Tap Alliance
Faculty Performance
8 pm May 28
Lewis & Clark-Evans Music Hall Auditorium, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Rd.

La Peña: ¡Baila, Canta, Toca!, 8 pm May 27. Photo of Nela McGuire, courtesy of La Peña Flamenca de Portland.

La Peña: ¡Baila, Canta, Toca!
Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland and La Peña Flamenca de Portland
8 pm May 27
Artichoke Music, 3130 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Interview with Tom Gold

My conversation with Tom Gold began with learning about his connection to Portland, which began in 1999 when then-Oregon Ballet Theatre artistic director James Canfield invited him to guest in “Romeo and Juliet.” When Christopher Stowell took over the company Gold was invited back to create a piece on the second company and stage a Twyla Tharp work. This is when he met Anne Mueller, who now directs The Portland Ballet alongside co-founder Nancy Davis.

I was immediately curious about what his experience had been like working with Twyla Tharp. Gold said that he danced with Tharp when he had free time from New York City Ballet. “Mostly I just liked to go into the studio with her and have her make new material on me cause that was fun.”

What was that like?

Crazy, insane. Really exciting because it’s more cerebral than actual pleasure. I don’t know if that’s the right word. Basically, you’ll go into the studio and she won’t speak and she’ll just start moving and go…( Tom is wildly gesticulating at different body parts) like mime, look at my feet, look at my head, no, you’re not doing it right. And then she’ll be like, “What did you think of that” after three hours of no speaking. And you’re like, “Yeah, I like this, and I like that.” And she’s like, “Come back tomorrow.” And she just starts creating these pieces.

I always had a good relationship with her because I think she’s really funny, she’s really smart. [ ]… She’s a very demanding person and not always the easiest to work for. But I always just enjoyed the work, and pleasure, and never got caught up in the other stuff. And also it wasn’t my primary job, so I wasn’t depending on her for my main salary. So I think that took a little of the pressure off.

Twyla has always loved classical ballet. That’s always been her interest, her love, her passion. Her first company, which was very contemporary, ballet was the basis for what became the Twyla Tharp movement. Where she took all of that movement and started putting it all on pointe and adding more ballet vocabulary within it. She was building ballet pieces on us for other companies or for her to sell or for her group, because we went on tour a couple of times. Whenever she needed bodies to create on, I was always available. It was really fun, we had a great time.

Could you tell me about your new work for Portland Ballet?

This piece, “Festival Russe,” was created originally for Ballet Academy East in New York. They had a program called “To Russia With Love,” and all the pieces had to have a Russian theme.

My process is that I usually start with the music, so I basically Googled Russian composers and all of this glorious classical Russian music came up and that inspired me to make a piece as an homage to the original Ballets Russes with my own contemporary movement in it. So each movement is kind of reminiscent of some old classical warhorse ballet that you’ll see but with more syncopation and some jazzier movements and some kind of modern ballet steps in there.

What is your ballet-making process?

Usually I look at who I have in front of me, and I try and create a piece for them because in the end they are going to be up there on the stage and they have to be comfortable but it also has to be something that the audience is going to connect with and engage them. First and foremost, what we do is entertainment, and if you are not entertaining an audience, whether that’s making them laugh or cry, I think your mission is kind of gone. So, I take all of this into consideration and then my voice is in there, too, the kind of movement I like, the kind of dancing I like, the kind of dancers I like to see do it, so it’s those three components come together. So when I go into the studio, I have an idea of what I want to see, but I never really know until I start working with the dancers to see what they are capable of and what they can do.

What is classical ballet? Why do ballet companies differentiate between contemporary work and classical work?

In the end it’s a gimmick, it’s a selling point really. It’s all classical ballet. Whether you are moving to contemporary music or you’re doing more contemporary movements on point, it’s still classical ballet vocabulary and steps. I think it does make it easier when someone is sorting through a program—“oh, this is going to be classical, Swan Lake, “oh this is going to be contemporary Billy Forsythe”—to help you if you maybe don’t know a lot about dance and what your particular taste is or what you might be geared towards. You could say classical is more narrative and contemporary is more abstract, but that doesn’t really hold up either. It’s just ballet in the end, it really is. We’re all doing the same steps, we are all speaking the same languages. And that’s why ballet dancers can do all of these different styles because there is that basis of language and vocabulary to work from.

Ballet companies are trying to perform a broad range of styles which includes ideas from modern dance, but the dancers don’t train in modern dance, and it makes the pieces look less authentic to me. What do you think about this?

That’s a very good question. At City Ballet I think I worked with every contemporary modern choreographer because modern and contemporary choreographers are drawn to ballet: one, because you can make more money working with these companies because there’s more money in classical ballet, but two, the technique is so strong and different. It’s not that I want to downplay modern or contemporary dance because they have such beautiful movement qualities, but with ballet you get those shapes as well, the pointed toes, the articulation of the legs. Where I do see a difference—and it’s not all modern, because Cunningham wasn’t like this,—but a large part of modern contemporary is more about the movement and feeling, and they’re not so concerned with what your feet look like or what your arms are doing. It’s really about expressing a feeling along with the movement.

I do think a big important thing is the choreographer themselves. When they come into the room, they need to show the dancer the style that they are working in. A lot of times it can be very intimidating going to these ballet companies, if you are a contemporary modern choreographer, and just bring something you would do for your company and put it on a ballet company. And I think that’s kind of wrong, too, because what does it have to do with ballet? Where is your voice in this experience? The process should be about you doing something new, and the dancers doing something new. Instead of going “I’m just going to slap this onto you.”

That happened a lot at City Ballet. These modern choreographers would makes pieces and just set them on us. And then there’s this whole part that’s missing where you don’t even get to really experience what it’s like working with that choreographer or them making something in their style and taking your style into consideration, too. I am always aware of that when I’m working with people because that’s why I want it to be about them and express who they are as well as expressing my voice.

Yeah, I do think that’s what missing a lot of times. It’s exciting to get a Forsythe, or a Martha Graham or a Cunningham or some of these great things, but if there’s not someone there to work with the dancers to make it look the way it should, then it’s kind of a wasted experience. And I think the audience goes, “Well, I think this kind of looks fraudulent, it doesn’t feel authentic to me.” I mean, they get that.

The dancers are so hungry they want to work with these legends and these people, and then when they miss out, it’s kind of like they go, “Then why am I doing this?” And then their energy is bad and then you see that on the stage because their not really committing the way they should. It’s like a circle.

How do you feel about the ideas in the classical ballets that are no longer accepted in society?

That’s why people like Matthew Bourne are making an all-male “Swan Lake” or they’re taking contemporary themes and incorporating them into these old standard warhorse ballets—because we do live in a different time. And you know women are empowered, they’re not swans, they’re not sylphs anymore; they have a voice and we need to express what’s happening in the world, on the stage as well.

What are your thoughts on the lack of women choreographers in Ballet?

It’s true; there really are no female ballet choreographers. I think they do need to encourage more. But, also, if you look at a woman who is going to become a ballerina, she focuses on that 100 perfect. She’s not thinking, Oh I’ve got 5 minutes; I’m going to go choreograph something. Until that kind of mentality changes…

I would say 90 percent of the women that work in ballet world are coming from the modern contemporary field. Like Twyla, Pam Tanowitz, Molissa Fenley, Aszure Barton, Crystal Pite, she’s the big one, they are all coming from the contemporary field because they don’t have that “I’m a ballerina and this is what I do.” You know?

I don’t know why that is, I don’t know why these companies aren’t pushing them more or trying to find those voices because it is a strong voice and it is nice to see that side. Because women have different perspectives and different views, it should be out there. I think about this a lot because people ask it all the time about the whole sexism (in dance) thing. […] It’s all about marketing, and money and business. Nobody’s thinking, I want to encourage and nurture this. That’s kind of the last thing. How are we going to make the most money. What can we exploit and market. You know, it’s frustrating. It’s about the art, but without the money you can’t have the art.

How did you become a choreographer?

I was fortunate enough to go to a high school for the performing arts [in Chicago]. There were classes in dance composition. I was very fortunate to have that kind of experience— dance history, dance theory, dance composition—where I was able to explore at a very early age, improvisation, different styles of movement. Having that freedom without having a mass critical audience coming at you. And then I came to New York, I put that on the back burner because I wanted to focus on my dancing. And then I started picking it up again because it was a strong voice in my head. I would see things, I would hear music and I would have a response, and I thought, “I want to express this through music.”

So in 1998-99, I would start to make small pieces, and that grew into more experiences and people started to hear about it and I got little opportunities here and there. And then when I left NYCB[..] I thought, just make your own company then you can make the work you want and you can work with the kind of dancers you want and have the environment you want. It’s very nurturing and loving and wonderful and serious.

I’ve been really lucky. People have given me great opportunities. I’ve choreographed some operas, some theater, some television. I do love having all of these vehicles to do choreography in. I think it makes me a more well-rounded choreographer. Especially working with people who are not trained dancers, because you have to think in a different way about how they move, and that’s really interesting to me.

Performances next week

June 1, Jefferson Dancers Spring Recital, Jefferson Dancers
June 2-4, Interum Echos, PDX Contemporary Ballet
June 2-17, The Goblin King, A David Bowie and Labyrinth Tribute, Trip the Dark Dance Company

Upcoming Performances

June
June 8-10, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
June 9, Kúkátónón 2017 Showcase!, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe
June 9-11, Jazz Around the World, Presented by Wild Rumpus Jazz Co
June 10-11, Dance Out Loud Choreographers Showcase, Directed by Oluyinka Akinjiola and Donna Mation
June 14-15, SHUT DOWN: The Final Performance from PSU Dance Students
June 23-24, Risk/Reward Festival Of New Performance, Produced by Jerry Tischleder
June 27-July 2, Cabaret, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
June 29-30, Choreography XX, Oregon Ballet Theatre
July
July 8, Ten Tiny Dances, Beaverton Farmers Market, Directed by Mike Barber
July 14-16, Apparatus, by Danielle Ross
July 15, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
July 29, Hafla, Portland Bellydance Guild
August
August 3-5, Galaxy Dance Festival, Hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre
August 11-13, JamBallah Northwest ’17, Hosted by JamBallah NW
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans
August 24-October 8, Kurios: Cabinet Of Curiosities, Cirque Du Soleil

The Show Must Go On(line)!

Portland’s dance community responds to the COVID-19 health crisis as dance spaces close, classes shift online, shows are postponed, and many companies face major financial setbacks.

“Dance like no one’s watching.” 

This dance world cliche danced almost mockingly into my thoughts this morning when I sat down to reflect on the state of Portland’s dance community amid COVID-19. In today’s socially distanced, quarantined world, the phrase (originally meant to encourage self-expression and confidence) takes on a whole new meaning. Dance like there’s no one watching, because … well, unless your bedroom window lines up with your neighbor’s like mine does, it’s likely that no one is. 

In the past two weeks, the landscape of just about everything has changed. For Portland’s dance community, there’s been a communal quieting: cancellation of in-person classes, temporary pauses on rehearsals, and the postponement  or cancellations of shows and fundraisers. While a few studios have posted projected re-open dates, Gov. Kate Brown’s recent “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” order shakes the fragile structure that the dance community steps upon now. 

I’ve been chatting (from the comfort of my home via my computer and phone…. practice your social distancing, folks!) with a few studio owners, freelance dancers, teachers, and company directors to see what the COVID-19 shutdown looks like for their artmaking. In a nutshell, this virus is testing the dance community’s strength and flexibility . Studios are experiencing huge loss of income due to class and rental cancellations, companies are cancelling tours, performances, and rehearsals, teachers are shifting to online classes without guaranteed pay or retention of students, and the overall energy of our community is down. There’s some light at the end of the tunnel though, which includes a local artist relief fund, the nation-wide stimulus package, and of course, the profound resilience of art-makers, movers and shakers. 


Just weeks ago, Steps PDX was bustling with students ranging from toddlers to professional and recreational adult dancers. This week, the studio is empty, having reverted to live-streamed, online classes only.

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DanceWatch: Dear March, come in!

Oregon's dance month marches in like a lion, and a tango, and some ballet, and some butoh, and some funk, and bootleggers, and more

Dear March – Come in –
How glad I am –
I hoped for you before –
Put down your Hat –
You must have walked –
How out of Breath you are –
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest –
Did you leave Nature well –
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me –
I have so much to tell –


This is the first stanza of Emily Dickinson’s Dear March – Come in –, a poem that describes the month of March like an old friend who has finally arrived, long awaited, but will soon leave because April is knocking at the door. Spring has arrived! The poem seems to express that time is fleeting, patience is a virtue, and we should enjoy things and life while they last. Our Portland winter hasn’t been as challenging as some, but it’s definitely been dark, and I am so glad to see the light again and feel the warmth of the sun on my face.

To me there is such an obvious connection between nature and dance. The body is nature. We are born of the earth, sustained by it, and return to it when we die.  Like nature, dance is also fleeting and lives in the moment. Dance and dancers, like seasons, grow and change, bloom, age, are affected by their environments, and flourishes when they are loved. 

March’s dance offerings are an interesting combination of the political and personal, the historical and imagined, and nature and connectivity, with a bit of comedy and religion sprinkled in. Enjoy!


DANCES AND DANCE EVENTS IN MARCH


Week 1: March 1-8

Marta Savigliano, Tango and the Political Economy of Passion
Presented by the Reed College Comparative Race and Ethnicity Studies Colloquium Series and moderated by Reed College Dance Professor Victoria Fortuna
Noon March 4 
Reed College, Vollum College Center, Room: 120, 3203 S.E. Woodstock Blvd., Portland

Offering both an insider and outsider point of view, Marta Savigliano – an Argentine political theorist and dance professor at the University of California at Riverside –, discusses her book Tango and the Political Economy of Passion (1995); a text on tango’s national and global politics that received the Congress of Research on Dance Award for Outstanding Book 1993-1996.
The event is free, and all are welcome. Lunch will be served, so please RSVP to cwilcox@reed.edu so that the right amount of food can be provided. 

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DanceWatch Monthly: February is all about the love

February in Portland dance is all about love and its many forms (not just Valentine's Day)


It’s February and love is in the air. Dance performances this month, appropriately enough, express love in a wonderful variety of ways. From the familiar romantic love to platonic love. From the love of connecting with community too connecting with oneself. From the love of music to the love of pure movement. From the love of sharing, to the love of technology, to the love of the wild. From the love of experimentation and research to the love of a good book and a good story, to the love of intimacy, and to the love of things big and small. For the love of god. For dance itself and for the gift of emotional expression. 


“To dance is to be out of yourself,” American choreographer Agnes de Mille famously proclaimed. “Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.” 

So, let’s dance, and do it with love.

Dances in February

Week 1: February 1-2

Holy Goats!
Performance Works N
2 pm February 2
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave

Holy Goats! Sunday afternoon improvisations and bagels are back!  This new iteration will be devoted to dance and music by Portland-area and visiting artists. The dancers include Allie Hankins and Caspar Sonnet, Pepper Pepper, Tracy Broyles + Adrian Hutapea + jaime lee christiana, Luke Gutgsell + Kennedy Verrett. The musicians: Catherine Lee, Caspar Sonnet, Dan Sasaki, Annie Gilbert, and Stephanie Lavon Trotter.

Founded in 1999 by Artistic Director Linda Austin and Technical Director Jeff Forbes, Performance Works NorthWest || Linda Austin Dance engages artists and audiences of the Pacific Northwest in the process of experimentation, creation and dialogue around the presentation of contemporary performance. 

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DanceWatch Monthly: Marquee TV leaps into the void

A new streaming channel for the performing arts joins local live stage performances this month

Have you heard of Marquee TV? It’s the new Netflix for the dance, opera, and theatre that you can stream in HD onto just about any electronic device. It is now possible to see an abundance of beautifully filmed, full-length productions by some of the biggest choreographic names in contemporary dance, ballet, and dance film-productions. You wouldn’t normally have access to unless you were a frequent traveler to Europe and Russia, and they are not available anywhere else on the web. Subscriptions are reasonably priced, too: You can either pay either pay $8.99 monthly or $89.99 a year to have access to all of the channel’s content. 

Marquee TV  has categories for Contemporary Dance, Ballet, British Choreographers, American Choreographers, works from the Royal Ballet, works from The Bolshoi Ballet, Dance Films, Unique Fusion works, Hip Hop inspired dances, Ballet documentaries, Behind the Scenes films, Opera and Theatre. There are works by Crystal Pite, Herve Koubi, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Akram Khan, Alexander Ekman, and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, to name just a few, of course. And there are pieces by such American choreographers as Mark Morris, Bill T. Jones, Alonzo King of Lines Ballet, and Seattle choreographer Catherine Cabeen. 

There are also choreographers and works available on the site that we here in Portland are familiar with thanks to White Bird—I’m thinking Crystal Pite’s Betroffenheit, and French-based Compagnie Hervé KOUBI.

Betroffenheit by Crystal Pite. Photo by Michael Slobodian.

It is important to the Marquee TV co-founders Marc Kirschner and Kathleya Afanador that the channel not be an archive, a repository, or library for older works, but a living representation of the best performing arts that are being produced today. “It is a curated, constantly refreshed source for those who love the arts,” Afanador said during a series of emails and phone calls I had with the pair. 

“Marquee TV is actually a combination of two teams,” Kirschner said. “Our New York team, led by Kathleya and myself, came from TenduTV, which was the earliest digital outlet/distributor of dance programming. Our London team is mainly comprised of BBC veterans and is led by our third co-founder, Simon Walker, who was a lead architect of Arts Council England’s digital strategy.”

“We’ve designed the Marquee platform to be something that adds to the live arts ecosystem, not something that exists outside of it or competes with it,” Afanador said. “So part of the curation strategy is really about building ongoing partnerships with the arts organizations and positioning Marquee as a digital extension of the great work they’re already doing.  

For Marc, he consider venues like White Bird to be their spirit animals or guides as to what Marquee TV should screen.

Marquee is piloting a “digital membership” program with some arts organizations. That will give their members and patrons access to their content on Marquee, Afanador said.

“Our acquisition strategy is very much focused on staying current, Afanador said.

ALICE by Christopher Wheeldon for The Royal Ballet. Photo by Johan Persson.

Although the channel will have and will acquire great classics, it is committed to showcasing the new work being created and the diverse artists voices that are out there right now, Afanador said. “We look at what’s being written about and reviewed; what productions are going to be touring; what choreographers are getting commissioned and who’s setting work on various companies around the world.” 

There is an assumption that seeing performances live is the ultimate experience, and that digital experiences will drive people away from the theatre, but I would argue, now that I’ve experienced Marquee TV, that that’s not true. What you get is an intimate experience with choreographers and their work on your own timeline. You can get up for snacks and go to the bathroom as many times as you want without disturbing anyone. 

“It’s about risk management.” Kirschner said, “People don’t want to have a bad experience. Given how much tickets are, people want to know they will enjoy it.”

Kirschner said they surveyed four thousand people in the US and found that younger audiences want familiarity with an artist and their work and will watch what they can see online and go to the theatre as well. 

In Europe, digital is a part of every arts organizations mission, Kirschner explained. The goal is to reach a variety of communities through digital media, to create the biggest impact, and to draw people into the theaters to see the work live. 

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Sutra. Photo courtesy of Marquee TV.

Now I did have one issue with watching Marquee TV on my own TV, which Marc explained is an Apple one. Because I have a first generation Apple TV I can’t get to the Apple TV App Store to get the Marquee TV App. But I can easily watch through AirPlay and get an upgraded Apple TV which I’ve been wanting to get anyways. 

“We are expanding our reach as we speak—we’re about to launch on a major cable app platform, and we have a few more similar deals in the pipeline. From a device perspective, the only problematic ones are LG and Samsung TVs. However, both of those manufacturers have begun supporting AirPlay on their higher-end models, so that barrier is coming down for us. Plus, now that many streaming middleware providers (Roku, Amazon Fire, AndroidTV) are embedding their systems directly into newer generations of Smart TVs, we’re rapidly reaching a point where Marquee will be accessible to any new device that supports streaming.”

So get those snacks, get cozy, and get watching your favorite choreographers or discover new ones, on Marquee TV. You can find all the details on the website.

Dance Performances in January 2020

Week 1: January 1-5

ZooZoo

Imago Theatre, Carol Triffle and Jerry Mouawad
January 1-5
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th

ZooZoo is back! This longtime, audience favorite magnifies the quirkiness in our everyday life with an expert composition of elaborate costumes, masks, dance, music, physical comedy, and anthropomorphic humor. ZooZoo features a zany cast of characters like playful polar bears, firefly eyes, hippos with insomnia, arrogant anteaters, introverted frogs, acrobatic worms, self touting accordions, and tricky penguins, in this carnival of the absurd. 

Founded in 1979 by Carol Triffle and Jerry Mouawad, Imago presents original productions using masks and elaborate costumes making the humans disappear and the imaginative creatures appear.

Week 2: January 6-12

Might I suggest, Marquee TV?

Week 3: January 13-19

Dancer Andrea Parson in She’s Here: A One Woman Show. Photo courtesy of Andrea Parson.

She’s Here: A One Woman Show
Andrea Parson and Susan Banyas
January 16-18
CoHo Productions, 2257 NW Raleigh Street

Choreographed and performed by veteran NW Dance Project dancer and Princess Grace Award winner Andrea Parson, She’s Here: A One Woman Show investigates the spiritual roots of one woman through dance and storytelling. Directed by Portland writer and performance artist Susan Banyas, this evening-length work weaves personal stories, oral history, and myth to trace spirituality, magic and witchery in Parson’s Sicilian lineage. 

a world, a world by Linda Austin. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis

a world, a world
Choreographed by Linda Austin in collaboration with the performers: Austin, claire barrera, Muffie Delgado Connelly, Nancy Ellis, Hannah Krafcik, Danielle Ross, and Noelle Stiles
Presented by Performance Works NorthWest 
January 16-25
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave

Performed for an intimate audience of 30, a world, a world, drops the viewer into the same, saturated, arena-like environment that the dancers themselves inhabit. The work offers an immersive experience that is an amalgamation of movement, sound, image, and language.

An American in Paris
Presented by Broadway in Eugene
January 17-18
The Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Silva Concert Hall, 1 Eugene Way, Eugene

Post-war Paris is full of romance and youthful optimism as World War ll veteran Jerry Mulligan begins to make plans for a new life as a painter. But things get complicated when he meets a young Parisian shop girl with secrets. In this musical, the power of love is rediscovered through gravity-defying choreography and soaring Gershwin melodies that include, but are not limited to, I Got Rhythm, Liza, S Wonderful, But Not for Me, and Stairway to Paradise.

Week 4: January 20-26

a world, a world by Linda Austin continues through the 25th.

Berto Boyd and the artists of Flamenco Pacifico. Photo courtesy of Berto Boyd.

Flamenco Pacifico
Presented by Berto Boyd
7:30 pm January 24 
The Old Church Concert Hall, 1422 SW 11th Ave 

In the spirit of convivencia (“coexistence” in Spanish), Flamenco Pacifico’s acclaimed guitarist and composer Berto Boyd integrates Brazilian samba and American jazz with traditional Spanish flamenco in this one-night-only performance. Boyd, with guitarist/singer Grant Ruiz, percussionist Terry Longshore, and bassist Randy Tico, will accompany dancers Elena Villa and Melissa Cruz.

An artist of Flip Fabrique’s Blizzard enjoying the snow. Photo courtesy of Flip Fabrique.

Blizzard
Flip Fabrique
8:00 pm January 25
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Silva Hall, 1 Eugene Way
&
Presented by Portland’5
7:00 pm January 26
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street, Portland

Canadian circus company, Flip Fabrique, started by a group of friends in 2011, appropriately takes on the extreme experience of winter as a canvas for storytelling, through circus arts, creating arresting visual poetry. Blizzard, captures the magic of winter and invites you to lose yourself in the wonderment and joy of movement. 

Olga Smirnova as Giselle and Artemy Belyakov as Albrecht in Alexei Ratmansky’s reconstructed “Giselle” at the Bolshoi Ballet. Photo by Damir Yusupov/Bolshoi Theater

Giselle
The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events
12:55 pm January 26

This romantic ballet in two acts follows the peasant girl Giselle as she learns that her aristocratic lover (Albrecht) is promised to another. After going mad and dying from a broken heart, she returns from the dead as a vengeful spirit (a Wili) and she and her tribe of Wilis, force Albrecht to dance to his death.

In this brand-new production by Alexei Ratmansky for the Bolshoi Ballet, former director of the Bolshoi Ballet (2004-09) and now the artist in residence with American Ballet Theater, gives Giselle a refresh. 

To create this new version of Giselle, Ratmansky drew from several historic sources that include notations made in the 1860’s by the French ballet master Henri Justamant that were a combination of written notes and miniature drawings of the choreography, and notes scribbled on musical scores that he found in various Russian archives. The ballet, according to a review by Marina Harss for Dance Tabs, “is both familiar and new. Watching it on opening night and on the following evening, with different casts, was like seeing a faded painting regain its colors,” she said. 

Debuting in Moscow on November 21, 2019, this screening was captured live from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.

Week 5: January 27-February 2

Fertile Ground Festival of New Work and Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 31-February 8
Check the Groovin’ Greenhouse and Fertile Ground websites for locations and times

The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works and its dance-centric arm, Groovin’ Greenhouse (hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre), unfold in venues around town for 9-days. The performances feature new work in various stages of development, from the fully staged to workshops, in theater, comedy, dance and film, and everything else in between.

Groovin’ Greenhouse will be performed at Polaris Dance Theatre’s home theatre located at 1826 NW 18th. The choreographers and companies being presented there are: Polaris Dance Company, ELa FaLa Collective, Mark Koenigsberg and Sara Naegelin, Polaris Junior Company and NEO Youth Company, ELXR Dance Company, and Central Catholic Dance. Check the Groovin’ Greenhouse schedule for dates and times.

Independent Fertile Grounds dance productions

Interplay
Echo Theater Company 
January 31- February 9
Echo Theatre Company, 1515 SE 37th Avenue

Featuring dance, video, music, physical theatre, aerial expression, Shibari (Japanese rope bondage), and more, this mixed repetoire highlights the work of traditionally marginalized communities and will be sex and size positive. Each weekend will feature a different group of artists presenting 10-20 minute vignettes. To view these works is to explore what arises when several performance disciplines unite to produce an original piece of work.

Weekend A: Heavy Is The Head that Wears the Crown: Mental Health Memoirs of the Black Woman by Noelle Simone, Bad Grrls of Bellydance by Sasshole, self-titled Rip/Pull Effect, and We Belong Here by Echo Theater Company.

Weekend B: CITRINE by Joni Renee Whitworth, The Book of J by Sara Fay Goldman and Marc Schreiner, Textured by Flo Buddenbaum, Summer Olsson and Aurora Rupert, and We Belong Here by Echo Theater Company.

Junction
AWOL Dance Collective, push/FOLD, and Tempos Contemporary Circus 
January 31-February 2
A-WOL Performance Warehouse, 513 Northeast Schuyler StreetPortland

Performing together for the first time are aerial dance company A-WOL Dance Collective, contemporary dance company push/FOLD, and contemporary circus company Tempos Contemporary Circus. For this performance, each company was tasked worked with the concept of connectivity as their choreographic theme-the state or extent of being connected or interconnected

AWOL Dance Collective, ​is a non-profit arts organization with their own performance warehouse space in NE Portland that embodies the idea of “aerial without limits,”and believes that the arts build community and enhance the quality of life and in its various forms, fosters creativity, empowers individuals and brings people together.

push/FOLD, is the vision of composer-choreographer Samuel Hobbs, whose work fuses the power of his athletics and dance career with his professional practice in Osteopathic medicine. With a minimalistic visual design and Hobbs’ original sound scores, push/FOLD features momentum-based choreography and sculpturesque partnering that craft immersive moodscapes and virtuosic dance performance.

Tempos Contemporary Circus is an ensemble that combines dance, music, acrobatics, and physical theater to explore the connection between the vulnerability in ourselves and within our community.

Left: Subashini Ganesan (Photo by Intisar Abioto); right: Yashaswini Raghuram.

Listening to Silence
Collaborative choreography and performance by Subashini Ganesan and Yashaswini Raghuram
January 31-February 2
New Expressive Works, 819 SE Belmont Suite 2, located In the WYSE Building. (Use the building doors located on the South side of the building.)

In her new work, “Listening to Silence,” Portland-based Bharatanatyam dancer Subashini Ganesan, alongside Portland-based Bharanatayam/Odissi dancer Yashaswini Raghuram, explores the undefinable nature of silence through the writings of Rainer Maria Rilke, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and the Rig Veda poem, Nasadiya Suktam (10.129), which considers the origin of the universe and creation. The duet also examines contemporariness in relation to tradition, through construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the Bharatanatyam vocabulary and rhythm.

Ganesan is the Creative Laureate of Portland, the executive director of New Expressive Works, and was recently awarded the White Bird 2019 Community Engagement Award.

Raghuram is a professional Bharatanatyam and Odissi dancer and teacher, and performs internationally as the principal dancer and the assistant director of the Odissi Dance Company. 

***

Upcoming Performances

February 
January 31-February 8, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work and Groovin’ Greenhouse
February 2, Holy Goats!, Performance Works NW
February 5-9, Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor, White Bird
February 8-9, Alice in Wonderland, Eugene Ballet
February 10, Fall in Love with Flamenco, Hosted by Espacio Flamenco
February 12, Grupo Corpo, Presented by White Bird
February 14-15, Darvejon Jones Dance Ensemble, BodyVox Artist in Residence
February 14-16, Been Ready, Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater
February 15-23, The Sleeping Beauty, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 21-22, Ten Tiny Dances/Corvallis
February 21-23, ORIGIN: Humble Beginnings, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 22, Interplay, Eugene Ballet and The University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
February 22, Nrityotsava 2020, A Benefit Program for Kalakendra
February 23, Swan Lake, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events
February 27-29, Cirque Alfonse, White Bird
February 28-March 7, Attention Everyone!, Presented by A-WOL Dance Collective
February 29, BodyVox on Tour in Medford, Oregon
February 29, Bal Utsav 2020, Hosted by Nartana Kuchipudi

March
March 5-7, Rennie Harris Funkedified, White Bird
March 7, Bootleggers Ball, BodyVox
March 6-8, Dragon and The Night Queen, Ballet Fantastique
March 13-15, Alembic Resident Artists Performance: Sarah Brahim, Maggie Heath, and Cat Ross, Performance Works NW
March 20-22, Since the First Sunrise/COMING HOME, Tracy Broyles
March 26-April 5, NINETEEN * TWENTY (world premiere), BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest
March 29, Romeo and Juliet, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events

April 
April 2-4, Camille A. Brown and Dancers, White Bird
April 4-5, Heaven and Earth, Eugene Ballet
April 9-12, Beautiful Decay, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 15, ChangMu Dance Company, White Bird
April (dates TBA): Linda Austin & Allie Hankins ║ The Traveler & the Thief
April 19, A Taste of Dance, Chapel Theatre
April 19, Jewels, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events
April 23, Drum Tao 2020
April 23-25, The Rite Of Spring, NW Dance Project
April 25-28, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre
April 30-May 2, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox

May
May 1-2, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox
May 3: Holy Goats!Plus, Performance Works NW
May 8-9, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 8-10, Luna Mistica, Ballet Fantastique
May 12-13, Dance Theatre of Harlem, White Bird
May 15 – 17, Junior Artist Generator, BodyVox
May 22-24, ARISE: What Dance Could Be, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 29-31, Portland Tap Dance Festival, Portland Tap Alliance

 June
June 5-13, The Americans 2.0, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 11-13, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
June 12-14, Up Close, The Portland Ballet