Portland Center Stage presents Hair at the Armory Portland Oregon

April DanceWatch: Dance springs eternal

The month brings a wealth of new and diverse productions, as well as celebrations of the art of dance itself.

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BodyVox’s “The Spin.” Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

April is chock-full of rich dance content to sink your teeth into, with works that reflect on our past and look to our future. The month begins with a performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company, whose performance helped launch White Bird as a dance presenter 25 years ago, and ends with two holidays that celebrate dance: National Dance Week and International Dance Day.

National Dance Week, April 16-23, is celebrated annually in Eugene with a full schedule of events. Oregon’s only city-wide dance celebration, National Dance Week was founded in 1981 by a group of dance-related organizations to increase awareness about dance and its contributions to our national culture and bring greater recognition to it as an art form. 

On April 29, International Dance Day will celebrate and promote dance worldwide. Created in 1982 by the Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute, a branch of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), the day also recognizes the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, a 16th-century dancer and choreographer credited with being the architect of modern ballet. Noverre became dissatisfied with the outdated norms of ballet and called for reforms. Ballet at the time was a spectacle affair that primarily focused on elaborate costumes and scenery, but Noverre preferred a more natural approach to ballet, which he wrote about in his famous manifesto Lettres sur la danse, et sur les ballets (“Letters about the dance, and ballets”). Noverre wanted ballet to embody emotion and passion through free expression, movement, and realistic choreography. What emerged was the hybrid of expression and symbolism we are accustomed to seeing in ballet today. Although Noverre’s manifesto is largely credited as the origin of what we know today as Ballet d’Action, various figures of the era also contributed to the development of the genre, including French choreographer and dancer Marie Sallé and English choreographer and dancer John Weaver, who is widely regarded as the father of English ballet and of English pantomime, among others.

The profile of women in ballet broadens this month, with new and previous work by a number of women choreographers at Oregon Ballet Theater and Eugene Ballet. In addition, Oregon Ballet Theater recently hired its first female artistic director, Australian dancer, and choreographer Dani Rowe, and Eugene Ballet received two Gender Equity Index awards from Dance Data Project, Best Overall and Best of Commissions. 

The Dance Data Project was founded and established by Elizabeth Yntema in 2015 as an independent project researching the lack of new female choreographic works. The project has grown and now promotes equity in all aspects of classical ballet by providing a metrics-based analysis through its database while showcasing women-led companies, festivals, competitions, venues, special programs, and initiatives. 

The Gender Equity Index Awards come from assessing the 50 largest U.S. ballet companies and how they measure up in commissioning female creators, promoting women to leadership positions, and fostering a transparent and accountable culture through completing the Gender Equity Index Survey — a metrics based method to effectively track and highlight gender inequities. 

So with all of this shifting and changing and awareness of this incredible art form growing, get out there, take advantage of it all, and enjoy dancing in any way you can!

April dance performances!

Paul Taylor’s “A Field of Grass.” Photo courtesy of Paul Taylor Dance Company.

A Field of Grass, Company B, and Brandenburgs
Paul Taylor Dance Company
Presented by White Bird
March 30 – April 1
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland

The first dance company presented by White Bird during their inaugural season in October 1997, and the last to close out its 25th season, the Paul Taylor Dance Company will perform three works: “A Field of Grass,” which captures the sights, sounds, and sensations of the 1970s; “Company B,” which expresses the dualities of celebration and war in America between the depression and World War II; and “Brandenburgs,” a dedication to the form and musical structure of baroque music that experiments with ballet turning its hierarchies on its head. 

Jingzi Zhao’s dance photography will be on view in “The Endless Dance” through May. Photo of Colleen Marie Loverde by Jingzi Zhao.

The Endless Dance
Photo exhibit by Jingzi Zhao
Antoinette Hatfield Hall, 1111 SW Broadway Ave., Portland
April to May, with public viewing available Tuesday–Friday, 10 am–6 pm.

With an opening reception at 6 pm on April 7, Portland dance photographer Jingzi Zhao opens her second photography exhibit in two months. The new exhibition, The Endless Dance, showcases the interplay between light and movement with dance artists: Ben Youngstone, Brent Luebbert, Brian Simcoe, Christopher Kaiser, Colleen Marie Loverde, Franco Nieto, Jessica Lind, Ola Onipede, and Xuan Cheng. The Endless Dance will be on display in the lobby of Antoinette Hatfield Hall for two months. 

Zhao’s dance photography work has been featured in gallery exhibitions and acquisitions in Portland and Seattle. She is a first-place category winner and a two-time grand prize finalist of the Pas De Deux Dance Photography Contests. She is also the recipient of receives multiple project grants from the Regional Arts and Cultural Council here in Portland, Oregon.

The dancers of Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater. Photo courtesy of Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater Artistic Director and Reed College Assistant Professor of Dance Oluyinka Akinjiola.

Showing of Works by Reed College Performing Arts Faculty
7:00 pm, April 1 
Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Performance Lab, 3017 SE Woodstock Boulevard, Portland
Free and open to the public. Masks are required. Seating is limited. Reserve your seat here.

Sponsor
Portland Center Stage presents Hair at the Armory Portland Oregon

Presenting work will be Barbie Wu, Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre; Bora Yoon, Assistant Professor of Music; Marisa Plasencia, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance; Oluyinka Akinjiola, Assistant Professor of Dance; Shohei Kobayashi, Assistant Professor of Music; and Carla Mann, Professor of Dance, and her collaborators, Peter Rock, Professor of Creative Writing and Minh Tran, Professor of Dance Emeritus.

“Black Lives Masquerade”. Image courtesy of Reed College.

Black Lives Masquerade
5:00 pm, April 2
Reed College, Performing Arts Building, First Floor Atrium, 3017 SE Woodstock Boulevard, Portland

Multimedia performing artist and choreographer Rashad Pridgen and local African drum and dance ensemble Sebé Kan will lead the audience in a site-specific ritual, performance processional that seeks to invoke healing, remembrance, elevation, awareness, and the eradication of police terror and racial injustice against Black people and those of the African Diaspora Worldwide. 

Natural Homeland: Honoring Ukraine.” Photo courtesy of Amelia Lukas.

Natural Homeland: Honoring Ukraine
Presented by Alberta Rose Theatre in partnership with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), Slavic and Eastern European Center, and Ukrainian Care
7:30 pm, April 6 
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St, Portland
A talk between the artists and partners follows the performance

Designed and performed by flutist Amelia Lukas, “Natural Homeland” delves into the universal meaning of home. The performance weaves solo flute, piccolo, alto flute, bass flute, electronics, dance, and visual art with stories of natural and human disasters, political unrest, displacement, hope, and sanctuary. The performance features Orcas Island-based dancer Tiffany Loney, bass clarinetist Lisa Lipton, and painter Tatyana Ostapenko, who will create paintings live in response to the performance.

BodyVox’s “The Spin.” Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

The Spin
BodyVox 
April 6-15
BodyVox, 1201 NW 17th Ave., Portland

An exercise in controlled chaos, The SPIN puts the order of the show into the hands of the audience with the spin of a game show wheel. The company has rehearsed and prepped twenty dances and costumes, ready to perform them in any order in this zany, quirky BodyVox creation that combines and experiments with well-known movement languages and other unusual sources like film, circus, mime, and vaudeville. The result is colorful, comedic, and unconventional concoctions of pure entertainment. 

Dancer Yuka Iino as the Firebird. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Firebird
Oregon Ballet Theater
April 7 – 15
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland

This three-part program includes “Firebird” by Yuri Possokhov, former principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet and now San Francisco Ballet’s choreographer in residence; “Indigo” by Australian choreographer and Artistic Director of the Houston Ballet Stanton Welch; and a world premiere by former New York City Ballet principal dancer and now Paul Taylor Dance Company resident choreographer Lauren Lovette.

“Firebird” is a timeless tale of adventure, love, and triumph over evil. Inspired by the classic Russian folk tale of the same name to music by composer Igor Stravinsky with choreography that blends ballet and modern dance styles, “Firebird” tells the story of Prince Ivan, who ventures into a forbidden forest, encounters an enchanted Firebird, fights off an evil sorcerer, frees a trapped princess marries her and lives happily ever after. 

Set to a stimulating cello score by Vivaldi, Welch’s “Indigo” is a ballet for four couples who fall in love, break up, and reunite. It’s abstract, vast, and complex, and includes a vast movement vocabulary. “Staccato port de bras and mechanized upper body motions. Sweeping romantic spins and lifts. Courtly pas de basques. Whimsical flutters of the wrists, toes and torso. It all fit together beautifully – not a step felt out of place,” wrote Heather Desaulniers in July 2020 for DanceTabs. 

In 2021, Lovette retired at age 29 from the New York City Ballet to embark on a career devoted equally to dance and choreography. She may be a former ballerina, but her work isn’t tied to that form. In November 2022, The New York Times dance critic Gia Kourlas wrote “[Lovette’s] work, like [Paul] Taylor’s, has flow, sweep, and sculptural plasticity; it can be raw and weird.”

Rehearsal photo of Suzanne Haag’s “Penumbra” for Eugene Ballet. Photo by Antonio Anacan.

BOLD: Beyond Our Love of Dance
Eugene Ballet
April 8-9
Silva Concert Hall | Hult Center, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

BOLD comprises four ballets. Choreographer Val Caniparoli, a Washington native who has called San Francisco Ballet his artistic home for over 50 years, created “Triptych” based on three photos by photojournalist Lalage Snow which showed the psychological transformation of soldiers before, during, and after going to war.

“F O I L” by Eva Stone explores who we are and how we connect by exploring rooms in a house, with each room revealing something new. Stone’s approach to choreography evolved by learning choreography before technique and is founded on humor and authentic human connection and experiences like love, imposter syndrome, the periodic table, a reimagining of Eve, contronyms, and the art of making bad decisions, and other fun stuff.

Nicolo Fonte’s “Choros” which premiered in 2021 with Oregon Ballet Theatre, means dance in Greek. It’s an action-packed, kaleidoscopic, full of explosive and reflective movement, danced to the music of Tarik O’Regan and Ludovico Einaudi.

Resident Choreographer Suzanne Haag’s pas de deux for two women on point is called “Penumbra”. You can see the duet any way you like. It could be a story about sisters, a mother, and a daughter, or two women in a romantic relationship. 

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s junior company, OBT2, and the aspiring dancers from the OBT School perform “Coppélia. Photo courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Coppélia
Oregon Ballet Theater
April 15 – 16
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland

A springtime comedy of errors to delight the entire family! Oregon Ballet Theatre’s junior company, OBT2, and the aspiring dancers from the OBT School perform the full-length comedic ballet “Coppélia,” based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffmann. This delightful tale set in a small European town presents a budding romance between two villagers, Franz and Swanilda, alongside the curious workings of a mysterious and eccentric inventor, Dr. Coppélius, who has created a beautiful lifelike doll – Coppélia. Franz becomes infatuated with this creation, sneaks into Dr. Coppélius’ workshop, and mayhem ensues!

Jefferson Dancers from the Jefferson High School dance program. Photo courtesy of the Jefferson Dancers.

Jefferson Dancers
Presented by Jefferson High School
April 20 – 22
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland

The Jefferson Dancers, the elite dance company of the nationally known dance department at Portland’s Jefferson High School, return to the Portland’5 Newmark Theatre for their annual spring performances Thursday, April 20 through Saturday, April 22 at 7:30 pm, plus a 2:00 pm performance on Saturday, April 22. For over 40 years the company has comprised the school’s most advanced dance students who come to Jefferson High School for dance training. It is a multi-ethnic company of dancers, ages 14-18.

The dancers of TriptheDark Dance Company in deep contemplation. Photo courtesy of TriptheDark Dance Company.

BYOP(perspective): What Will You Bring?
TriptheDark Dance Company
April 21-29
Chapel Theatre, 4107 SE Harrison Street, Milwaukie, Oregon

The Portland-based dance company TriptheDark, directed by Anna Sass and Taylor McDougall, wants to know how each of us experiences a performance and what biases and baggage we bring with us into the theater. They also want us to understand what they experience. In collaboration with Portland videographer Lee Dunn, TriptheDark Dance Theatre, known for its quirky, witty takes on fairy tales, dark comedy, and ’80s movies, brings us a new out-of-the-box dance experience. 

Artwork for Portland Opera’s “Rusalka”. Image courtesy of Portland Opera.

Rusalka – or ‘the Mermaid Opera’
Portland Opera, with Choreographer Shaun Keylock
April 22-30
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street, Portland

Portland contemporary choreographer Shaun Keylock and The Shaun Keylock Company dancers will help tell the salty tale of “Rusalka” or ‘the Mermaid Opera’ at Portland Opera. It’s a centuries-old lyrical folktale with roots in Slavic mythology that tells the story of a mermaid who falls in love with a prince. With the help of the moon and a witch, she rebels against her father’s guidance, giving up her home and voice to win the prince’s love on dry land. When it doesn’t go as planned, the repentant prince seeks redemption, and heartbreak reigns in the land of true love. 

Renowned flamenco dancer David Romero. Photo courtesy of Espacio Flamenco.

¡BAILAMOS!  
Presented by Espacio Flamenco
April 27-28
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave., Portland

The world-renowned, award-winning flamenco dancer David Romero joins Espacio Flamenco for two nights of flamenco music and dance at the Imago Theatre. Born in Barcelona into a family of flamenco lovers, Romero grew up deeply emersed in Barcelona’s Flamenco culture. He studied with Antonio Canales, Eva Yerbabuena, Rafael de Carmen, Güito, and Rafaela Carrasco and began his solo career in 1994. In 2013 Espacio Flamenco co-director Brenna McDonald interviewed Romero about his life in Flamenco, which you can watch here. 

Jamuna Chiarini is a dance artist, producer, curator, and writer, who produces DanceWatch Weekly for Oregon ArtsWatch. Originally from Berkeley, Calif., she studied dance at The School of The Hartford Ballet and Florida State University. She has also trained in Bharatanatyam and is currently studying Odissi. She has performed professionally throughout the United States as a dancer, singer, and actor for dance companies, operas, and in musical theatre productions. Choreography credits include ballets for operas and Kalamandir Dance Company. She received a Regional Arts & Culture Council project grant to create a 30-minute trio called “The Kitchen Sink,” which was performed in November 2017, and was invited to be part of Shawl-Anderson’s Dance Up Close/East Bay in Berkeley, Calif. Jamuna was a scholarship recipient to the Urban Bush Women’s Summer Leadership Institute, “Undoing Racism,” and was a two-year member of CORPUS, a mentoring program directed by Linda K. Johnson. As a producer, she is the co-founder of Co/Mission in Portland, Ore., with Suzanne Chi, a performance project that shifts the paradigm of who initiates the creation process of new choreography by bringing the artistic vision into the hands of the dance performer. She is also the founder of The Outlet Dance Project in Hamilton, N.J.

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