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April DanceWatch: Miracle of movement

From hip-hop to ballet to contemporary to surreal to the African diaspora, Oregon's dance scene springs into action.


The phrase “It’s a Fucking Miracle” popped into my head as I finished writing this month’s DanceWatch listings. It’s the title of a workshop taught by Portland dance artist Tahni Holt, and composer Luke Wyland that I often see in my email and social media feed. I love it; it’s rough but true, and it most definitely describes dance’s existence. Dance and dancers are a fucking miracle. Can you dance upside down while twisted in silk ropes hanging from the rafters? Can you perform any hip-hop style on demand? Can you dance in pointe shoes quietly and gracefully for hours, or collaborate and make art with live musicians and singers? Probably not, but they can. And they’ve spent their lifetimes cultivating their talents. 

I get to know the artists I write about as I read their press releases, biographies, reviews of their work, their writings, and watch their videos, and I get attached.  I think long and hard about describing them in a short, concise way that clearly defines their project and who they are. Dance artists are so accomplished and talented that shortening their lives into a couple of sentences is a bit painful for me. I want to include everything about them, to show you how wonderful they are and how valuable dance is. They are a fucking miracle. Their work is a miracle, and the fact that you get to see them this month is also a miracle. So, enjoy!

April Performances 

Aerialist Brandy Guthery will perform alongside Love Gigantic at the Alberta Rose Theatre. Photo courtesy of Brandy Guthery.

Dark Side: A Piece For Assorted Lunatics
Brandy Guthery and Love Gigantic 
April 1-2
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta Street

Amidst a dazzling light show, Portland’s all-star rock band Love Gigantic will perform Pink Floyd’s cerebral soundscape Dark Side of the Moon, in its entirety. Accompanying them for visual effect will be aerial performer Brandy Guthery. Guthery was the co-director and founder of Portland’s AWOL Dance Collective and now directs her own company, B. Movement Project. The band features Sarah King, Arthur Parker, and David Langenes (Nowhere Band), Chet Lyster and Joe Mengis (Eels), Jenny Conlee-Drizos (The Decemberists), Michael Nelson (Climber), and Kristi Evans and Jon VanCura (Marchfourth).


The dancers of Los Angeles based Versa-Style Dance Company. Photo: George Simian.

Versa-Style Dance Company 
Presented by White Bird 
April 1-3
Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, 12625 SW Crescent St, Beaverton


Washougal Art & Music Festival

Los Angeles based Versa-Style Dance Company, directed by co-founders and artistic directors Jackie Lopez and Leigh Foaad, presents Origins: a work that follows the evolution of hip-hop dance from its roots in African American and Latinx communities, utilizing Streetdance vernacular like Popping, Locking, House, Freestyle, to now. The company reflects the versatility of street dance and honors the roots, origins, beauty, and power of hip-hop dance. 


The girl in red from Australian choreographer Danielle Rowe’s “Dreamland.” Photo: Mike Reid.

Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 8-10
Newmark Theatre, 111 SW Broadway

In this evening of three ballets, Oregon Ballet Theatre dancers investigate the subconscious through the choreography of Australian choreographer Danielle Rowe, Canadian choreographer Matjash Mrozewski, and American choreographer (and former OBT resident choreographer) Trey McIntyre.  

  • Rowe’s Dreamland takes the viewer to the shadow world of the mind. Inspired by a personal nightmare, the work centers on a childhood friend.
  • The Lost Dance, choreographed by Mrozewski for OBT in 2012, is set in a haunted ballroom where chic ghostly couples, costumed by Portland designer Adam Arnold, materialize in the ballroom to engage in a ritual dance.
  • McIntyre’s In Dreams, danced to the music of Roy Orbison, centers on the feeling of heartbreak within the music rather than a literal interpretation of the lyrics. 


NOTHINGBEING”: A new work by Takahiro Yamamoto, David Thomson, Anna Martine Whitehead, and Samita Sinha. Photo courtesy of Takahiro Yamamoto.

NOTHINGBEING-A Virtual Symposium 
Co-organized by Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and the Chocolate Factory Theater
11 am April 16 
Register online
Real-time Typewell translation and closed captioning will be provided


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In this two-hour online presentation, Portland dance and visual artist Takahiro Yamamoto will introduce his new work NOTHINGBEING, its concepts, and his collaborators. Recorded performances by the NOTHINGBEING collaborators David Thomson, Anna Martine Whitehead, and Samita Sinha will be screened, and a live roundtable discussion and a Q&A will follow. NOTHINGBEING will be presented live as part of the Portland Institute For Contemporary Art’s Time Based Arts festival in September 2022.


Three heavenly dancers performing in Suzanne Haag’s “Heaven and Earth.” Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

Heaven and Earth
Eugene Ballet with live music by Orchestra NEXT
April 16-17
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

This triple bill features the world premiere of Eugene Ballet’s Resident Choreographer Suzanne Haag’s Heaven and Earth, with music composed by Eugene percussionist Pius Cheung; Age of Innocence by BalletMet Artistic Director Edwaard Liang; and Haag’s Conduct (/kənˈdəkt/ or /ˈkänˌdəkt/).

  • Conduct (/kənˈdəkt/ or /ˈkänˌdəkt/), which was designed during the pandemic to be viewed by digital audiences, is set to music by Antonio Vivaldi and is a study in behavior, control, and transfer of energy.
  • In Heaven and Earth, improvisation is at the core. In addition to the dancers exploring concepts of otherworldly and worldly, they are also challenged by the improvisational, live music played by Orchestra Next. 
  • Liang’s Age of Innocence looks back at the Regency Period, in an emotional minimalist contemporary work danced to a compilation of music by Philip Glass and Thomas Newman.


The dancers of Trip the Dark Dance Company
pair wine with death in their new work, Mausoleum: A dance and drink pairing event. Photo courtesy of Trip the Dark Dance Company.

Mausoleum: A dance and drink pairing event
Trip the Dark Dance Company
April 22-39
Chapel Theatre, 4107 SE Harrison St, Milwaukie


Washougal Art & Music Festival

TriptheDark Dance Theatre, known for its quirky, witty takes on fairy tales, dark comedy, and ’80s movies, focuses on death in its new collection of contemporary choreography: death of all kinds. Death from Covid-19; death of variety, stability, inhibition, and more. You are encouraged to drink with each “death” in this dance-and-drink pairing event. The Sommelier and Cicerone will present the audience with four drinks selected to pair with each performance. Guests may choose wine, beer, or non-alcoholic beverages. 


Jennifer Gwirtz and Company performing in her new work, “Kol b’Isha/Voice Within Woman.” Photo: Chelsea Petrakis

Kol b’Isha/Voice Within Woman
Jennifer Gwirtz and Company
A PWNW Alembic Co-Production
April 28- May 1
At 9 pm on April 30, The audience is invited to join the cast for Havdalah, a ritual that closes the Jewish Sabbath.
At 3 pm on May 1, following the performance, a panel discussion on the custom of Kol Isha and women’s voices will take place, featuring Rabbi Ariel Stone and other distinguished speakers.
Performance Works NorthWest, Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.

In this choreographic meditation on the mature female voice, from the Judaic perspective, Portland-based choreographer Jennifer Gwirtz investigates the term kol b’isha erva, which means “a woman’s voice equals her nakedness,” a dictate that comes from the Talmud that says women should not sing in the public domain, and that men are forbidden from hearing them. Gwirtz’s dance is a feminist rendering and re-owning of this ancient lore.


Dancers of Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre. Photo courtesy of Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre

Sparking Conversations and Exciting Hope 
Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre 
7:30 pm April 22
Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 E. Main St., Hillsboro

Inspired by the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of the African diaspora, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre, directed by Oluyinka Akinjiola, strives to diversify the contemporary dance landscape with untold stories and perspectives of communities of color. The choreography amalgamates diverse dance forms, weaves threads of adversity and triumph, and calls for social change through its contemporary choreography. The work will be performed by Akinjiola and founding members Michael Galen, Jamie Minkus, Bethany Harvey, Xavier “Decimus” Yarbrough, and an ensemble of guest dance artists from the larger community.


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Linda Austin and Allie Hankins as two sides of the same person. See what this photo is all about in their new work, “ /ə ˈsɪŋgəl pɪŋk klɑʊd/.” Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW

 /ə ˈsɪŋgəl pɪŋk klɑʊd/
Linda Austin and Allie Hankins 
Presented by Performance Works NW
April 8-17
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave
April 9 performance is ASL-Interpreted by JmeJames Antonick
April 14 performance will also be live-streamed

Juxtaposing movement, objects, words, and song to express our current existence’s precariousness, Linda Austin and Allie Hankins create surrealist landscapes with incongruous concepts, structures, and desires that arise and dissolve. Landmarks to look for: a dismembered hyena, rustling onion skins, swirls of darkness and light, and a big pink surprise.


Dancer Vanessa Goodman performing in “Graveyards and Gardens.” A new work presented by Third Angle New Music. Not seen in the photo is the collaborator and singer Caroline Shaw. Photo courtesy of Music on Main

Graveyards and Gardens
Created and Performed by Caroline Shaw and Vanessa Goodman
Presented by Third Angle New Music
April 28-30
Bodecker Foundation/Oregon Contemporary, 2360 NW Quimby Street

Pulitzer Prize-winning musician, Caroline Shaw returns to Portland with Canadian dancer-choreographer Vanessa Goodman to present Graveyards and Gardens. The new work by the duo examines memory as a reconstruction of the past rather than an exact recall of fixed events. The work embraces the exaggerations, distortions, and omissions of that experience. 



All Classical Radio James Depreist

May Dance Performances

May 21, Jayanthi Raman’s Margam: The Divine Path, presented by Rasika 
MAY 3, Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana, Patricia Reser Center for the Arts
May 20-21, Constant State of Otherness in Portland, Unit Souzou
June 10-12, Constant State of Otherness in Sisters, Unit Souzou

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Photo Joe Cantrell

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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