Jamuna Chiarini

 

DanceWatch Weekly: Amy Leona Havin’s ‘Crane’ and other migrations

In a busy mid-May dance week, Amy Leona Havin talks about her choreography, cranes and other matters

“Why did you decide to choreograph Crane in the round?” I asked choreographer Amy Leona Havin on Monday morning over coffee, after watching a run-through of her work.

“I was tired of feeling like I had to work back and forth and frontally,” Havin answered. “I wanted to do something that had more depth, and when I found that theater [Shaking the Tree Theatre], I was like ‘this is perfect, I can set up the space however I want’…If someone comes and sees the show four times, it will be a completely different experience each time.” It was also the perfect space to create the intimacy she wanted the audience to feel, she said, and was also supportive of the circular motifs that are a central theme in the dance.

If you haven’t met Havin yet, she’s a 27-year old, Portland-based, Israeli-born choreographer, filmmaker, and artistic director of The Holding Project. I first interviewed Havin in 2016 when she made HAVA | חוה, a work that combined film and live movement, and wrote about her again when she and her company performed Lines of Pull as part of a four-month residency at Disjecta. This is Havin’s third major work since moving to Portland in 2013.

The Work

Crane, performed by eight beautifully skilled contemporary dancers in the middle of a large circle of 50 chairs, runs for an hour and fifteen minutes and is a “kaleidoscope of natural imagery, forming an intimate and ambient stage atmosphere from which the dancers do not exit.”

The Research

“A lot of things came into play. I put them all together, and I said this is what we’ll try. Play is the key word…”

First came the cranes, actually geese and cranes, but cranes won out in the end.

In her research, Havin discovered that Common Cranes stops over in the Hula Valley in Israel on their migratory flight from Europe to Africa. This connected with Havin, whose work is deeply rooted in her Israeli culture and heritage. She also discovered that the largest number of migratory birds come to rest in the Hula Valley, that cranes mate for life, that female cranes care for their babies during flight, and that if a crane gets lost, the rest of the flock will wait for it and then look for it until it’s found. Cranes work as a pack. There is a lot of camaraderie and community, and some research says that female cranes dictate the speed at which their flock goes because of the young cranes that are flying along.

Dancers of The Holding Project in Crane. Photo by Jess Garten.

Imagery

“The imagery came to me first. We were playing with velvet, furs, the ‘90’s classic pointed toe shoes. I had these angry, slicked down, vogue, supermodel images in mind. This pissed off, ultra femininity…almost unapologetic without yelling at you. In your face…they are clearly upset…”

“I looked back at all these photographs of supermodels from the ‘90’s, and I started drawing the imagery and attitude from there. During that same time I started researching the migration patterns of cranes. So it’s both of those things that came together. I tried to give it a lot of room and it’s grown into this.”

Havin also collected information from conversations she had with her dancers on what their experiences have been like so far as women, how they relate to other women, and what they identify as feminine.

The Circular Motif

“I think flying is circular, nesting is very circular, grouping is circular…all imagery that came to me was very rounded.”

Words that came to mind when I watched the dance, not in order of importance

Ritual
Myth
Matriarchy
Women
Femininity
Feminism
Empowerment
Collection
Communal
Sensual
Sisterly solidarity
Egalitarian

The Music

“All of the music I used is Jewish Yemenite music or Hebrew or Israeli music. I have used one of the oldest Hebrew love poems. It’s all coming from the music that is familiar to me that I grew up with. I find that music is very sensual: I can’t help but want to dance. I want to undulate to that sound, and I also find it’s very strong, its drums, its vocalization. And it’s very loud and drastic, and it’s sexy and that’s why I wanted to use it. It feels like home to me. When I hear Hebrew it’s comforting.

“I also know that most of my audience won’t understand Hebrew. So, if I have lyrics in my work they won’t be distracting to people, and if there are people who understand Hebrew who come to my show, then it will inform the work. Yeah, it felt right. I wanted to mix it with more electronic metronome and downbeat so it wasn’t a completely Middle Eastern soundscape and did have some of that current American electronic beat. It just felt right.”

The Plant Life

Havin uses a variety of dried and fresh cut plants and flowers as a way to add a texture and fill the performance space.

“It came from nest building. I wanted to have this idea that we are building this nest. We’re surrounded by the greenery and the plant life. We’re using this, and gathering this as building material. But we are also women; we also have this idea of women with flowers in their hair, and little girls in floral dresses, and weddings with bouquets, and processions. I felt like it had a dual identity and I was interested in playing with that.”

“I feel a sense of home and comfort and care and happiness in nature. It’s this youthful feeling. It reminds me of my childhood. It reminds me of my mother. I love flowers, plants and foliage. I wanted something soft that I had a desire to cradle, and I find that baby’s breath is something like that for me. It’s a plant life that I want to hold and cover myself in. But it’s also so tiny, and the flowers are so detailed that there is so much to focus in on for me to explore.”

Dancers of The Holding Project in Crane. Photo by Jess Garten.

Why do you need a dramaturg?

Havin’s dramaturg is Rachel Levens, whom she met in college at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. Levens now lives and works in New York.

What does a dramaturg do? According to Clare Croft in an article on dramaturgs for Dance Magazine, “The primary job is to support the choreographer and creative team by helping them do research, like tracking down historic or visual material, documenting the rehearsal process and weighing in on creative choices.”

“She[Levens] looks at it from the outside and pulls a narrative that is already emerging and then meshes it with the research so that it’s one, so that it’s not just two separate sections.”

“I created the skeleton of the work and gave her my basic research on the birds, and she would give me back different verbs, different actions, different relationship possibilities. She would take what we were doing and connect it to the research to create a narrative. She would ask me a lot of questions about why my dancers were interacting with each other, why does so and so meet up…She was pretty much my outside eye. She helped me with my research and connecting my research to us as women in 2018.”

The Philosophy

“I feel like if it’s too choreographed, if it’s too concrete, if it’s too clean, some of the chance gets lost. I want there to be a lot of chance involved.”

“I want to give credit to my audience, in that I want people to sit there and think about it and decide for themselves. I want there to be room. I think that’s why I never work with a concrete narrative because I want there to be room for someone else to put their own experiences onto it. Because that’s what I find enjoyable in seeing art. And if I see something that holds my hand or tells me what it’s about, sometimes I lose the opportunity to involve myself in what’s happening.”

Since working on this piece, Havin noted that it has changed her life. “At this point it’s been 14 months so I don’t really know who I am without this work right now. I find myself looking up at the sky more often. I think I have a deeper appreciation for birds… for trees and bushes…”

“The more I make work the more I accept in a positive way that I don’t know anything. I don’t know anything, I don’t need to know anything, I just need to be able to absorb, and to feel, and to explore, right? Because If we think we know everything and the choreography is this known entity and we’re just placing it on top of people, then you might as well make a vase. Why are you making dance? So for me, not knowing isn’t a hindrance, and because of that, I’m willing to try different approaches that aren’t necessarily natural to me.”

Crane, created by Amy Leona Havin in collaboration with company members Lyndsey Gray Parsons, Heather Hindes, Jillian Hobbs, Briley Jozwiak, Lena Traenkenschuh, Carly Nicole Ostergaard, and Catherine ‘Caty’ Raupp, opens Thursday May 17 and runs through May 20 at Shaking the Tree Theatre in South East Portland. The projection mapping is by Joseph Wells and video by Tomás Alfredo Valladares.

Performances this week

BodyVox dancer Jillian St. Germain in Rain & Roses. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

Rain & Roses
BodyVox
May 17-19
The North Warehouse, 723 North Tillamook Street, Portland OR 97227
Set in an expansive and atmospheric North Portland Warehouse, BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, along with choreographers and company members Alicia Cutaia, Jeff George, and Daniel Kirk celebrate the end of their 20th season with Rain & Roses; a collage of dance and live music that explores the evolution of human character.

Dance writer Elizabeth Whelan previewed Rain & Roses for Oregon ArtsWatch and gives five reasons here why you might want to see the show.

Portland dancer Marko Bome aka Skoolie B will be speaking as part of Cypher Culture Conference 2018. Photo courtesy of Decimus Yarbrough.

Cypher Culture Conference 2018
Hosted by Decimus Yarbrough and Michael Galen
May 17-20
Held in various locations throughout Portland, check website for details

Over four days and four nights, Oregon’s inaugural Cypher Culture Conference will collaboratively create space to unify and strengthen the Pacific Northwest urban dance community through discussion panels, parties, battles, and workshops. Check the Facebook schedule for full conference details and event locations.

Crane dancers Amy Leona Havin, Heather Hindes, Catherine ‘Caty’ Raupp, and Lena Traenkenschuh. Photo by Jess Garten.

CRANE
The Holding Project, directed by Amy Leona Havin
May 17-20
Shaking The Tree Theatre, 823 SE Grant Street
There will be a post-performance Q&A on May 18 with choreographer Amy Leona Havin
See above.

Dancer/choreographer/artistic director of Ate9, Danielle Agami. Photo courtesy of Danielle Agami.

Framed
A solo show created and performed by Danielle Agami/Ate9 Dance Company
May 18-19
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Avenue
The performances will be followed by a brief Q & A with Agami
Framed is an intimate solo look into womanhood as experienced and understood by Israeli choreographer and former Batsheva Dance Company dancer, and artistic director of Ate9 Dance Company, Danielle Agami. The experience of growing up in Israel, strong women role models, her mother, fragility, and a ceaseless drive for perfection, set the tone for this solo.

“In this solo performance,” Agami says in her press release that she “unravels her experience as a woman as she hosts groups of curious, expecting audience members. She wonders about the mission of hosting an audience, asking herself, what is expected for me to provide? Will dance be enough? Am I enough?”

After dancing for Batsheva Dance Company in Israel for eight years, Agami moved to New York and served as senior manager of Gaga U.S.A. (Gaga is the movement practiced developed by Batsheva artistic director Ohad Naharin.) In 2012, she relocated to Seattle where she founded her dance company Ate9, relocating the following year to Los Angeles. Agami was one of Dance Magazine’s Top 25 to watch in 2015, and was recognized with the Princess Grace Award for Choreography in 2016.

Durante Lambert and LYFE Dance Company. Photo courtesy of Durante Lambert.

The “B” Project
Durante Lambert and LYFE Dance Company
9 pm May 18
Paris Theatre, 6 SW 3rd Avenue
LYFE Dance Company, directed by Portland hip-hop choreographer Durante Lambert, will present The “B” Project, a full-length dance experience inspired by musical artist Beyonce. Lambert was a principal dancer for the Northwest Afrikan American Ballet and danced for the WNBA Portland Fire Jam Squad and the Portland Trail Blazers Hip Hop Squad.

OBT dancer Xuan Cheng in Helen Simoneau’s Departures. Photo by Yi Yin.

Closer
Oregon Ballet Theatre
Choreography by Peter Franc, Makino Hayashi, Katherine Monogue, and Helen Simoneau
May 23-June 3
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Avenue
Oregon Ballet Theatre closes out its 2017-2018 season with an intimate showing at BodyVox Dance Center of new works created by company dancers Katherine Monogue, Makino Hayashi, and Peter Franc, alongside Helen Simoneau’s Departures—a work commissioned by OBT in 2017 as part of OBT’s Choreography XX project. Additionally, OBT artistic Director Kevin Irving will rehearse the dancers for a new project, live, as a means to open up the creative process experience for audiences to see.

Upcoming Performances

May
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by Peter Franc, Makino Hayashi, Katherine Monogue, and Helen Simoneau
May 25-28, Portland Tap Festival, produced by the Portland Tap Alliance

June
June 1, #INSTABALLET NO.25, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
June 1-2, J (()) Y by Leralee Whittle and a work-in-progresss by Mizu Desierto
June 2, Passages-The Journey of Our Ancestors, presented by the Tamburitzans
June 3, Shobana’s Trance, presented by Rasika
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, This Time Tomorrow-Danielle Agami, NW Dance Project
June 15-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 16, Dance Film Double Feature: Standing on Gold and Moving History, hosted by Eric Nordstrom
June 22-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest at the Faired-Haired Dumbbell Building
June 22-23, Recipe: A Reading Test (1983) and Raw Material (1985), Linda Austin
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem
June 29-July 1, Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance

July
July 6, #INSTABALLET NO.26, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
July 19-21, RELATIVES // apples & pomegranates, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August
August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September
September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag

DanceWatch Weekly: The sun is out, let’s dance

The week in dance includes BodyVox, Ballet Hispanico, Imago, OBT2, PDX Contemporary Ballet and Rainbow Dance Theatre

The sun, the sun, I’m in love with the sun. Its warmth, its brightness and the immediate joy it brings me and hopefully you, too. Don’t you think everything looks different when the sun comes out?

I’ve forgotten about my body under the layers and layers of thick dark fabrics these winter months and especially my skin. I forgot that my skin senses too, and when it’s covered up for so long, I feel like I am suffocating. I want to focus on this tending to the body and its senses this week. Awakening our senses to more fully take in the experience of watching dance is where we’re at.

So, in addition to seeing all of the wonderful dance on my itinerary below, I’m going to move my body, too. Go for a walk, run, cycle, swim, or take one of Heather Wisner’s recommended dance classes from her National Dance Week diary. Get moving. But rest too and feed myself—I’m thinking delicious food, wine, and sweet sweets—and then go see dance. It will be that much better.

Performances this week

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Rainbow Dance Theatre. Photo courtesy of Rainbow Dance Theatre.

Western Oregon University Spring Dance Concert
Featuring work by Rainbow Dance Theatre, faculty members Amy McDonnell, Cynthia Garner and Darryl Thomas and students Alaina Meyers, Andrew De La Paz, Caitlin Rose, Tunya Dhevahpalin and alumnus Kristie Martinez
May 10-12
Western Oregon University, Rice Auditorium 101, 345 Monmouth Ave., Monmouth

The Garden of Earthly Delights, a new work by Rainbow Dance Theatre’s artistic directors Valerie Bergman and Darryl Thomas, explores the 16th century triptych painting of the same name by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. The work, reveals the unexpected through a close examination of the three-panel painting that depicts the Bosch’s version of the Garden of Eden, hedonistic abandon, and Judgment Day.

“Our dance explores questions such as whether we’ve forever lost the state of grace depicted by the Garden of Eden,” explained Bergman in the press release. “Can we balance an attraction to the bizarre with a grounded life? Will we stand by silently as our world descends into a kind of hell, rather than spend our days actively reaching for peace?”

The Garden of Earthly Delights is one of many works being presented by faculty, students, and alumni as part of Western Oregon University’s annual Spring Dance Concert.

BodyVox dancer Jillian St. Germain in Rain & Roses. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

Rain & Roses (world premiere)
BodyVox
May 10-19
The North Warehouse, 723 North Tillamook Street, Portland OR 97227
Set in an expansive and atmospheric North Portland Warehouse, BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, along with choreographers and company members Alicia Cutaia, Jeff George, and Daniel Kirk celebrate the end of their 20th season with Rain & Roses; a collage of dance and live music that explores the evolution of human character.

Dance writer Elizabeth Whelan previewed Rain & Roses for Oregon ArtsWatch and gives five reasons why you might want to see the show here.

PDX Contemporary dancer Sari Hoke. Photo by Stephen Jennings.

Compose
PDX Contemporary Ballet and Northwest Piano Trio
May 11-13
New Expressive Works (N.E.W.), 810 SE Belmont
PDX Contemporary Ballet (PDXCB) under the director of choreographer Briley Neugebauer will present two ballets in collaboration with Northwest Piano Trio.

The first is Lara, a newly commissioned score by grammy-nominated musician, singer, and composer Clarice Assad with choreography by Neugebauer inspired by the legend of a great Amazonian warrior known known as Mãe das Águas (“Mother of the Waters”). Her brothers, jealous that she was a better warrior than they, tried to kill her, but she kills them instead. Her father, unaware that she acted in self-defense, tries to kill her as well and throws her into the river where she is transformed into a half-human, half-fish, instead of dying. Neugebauer’s choreography for Lara reflects the mood of the music and touches on the duality and symbolism of Lara’s fate.

The second dance, Swing Shift, is an up-beat, Balanchine-inspired work by Neugebauer, to the musical composition Swing Shift by Portland’s Kenji Bunch. The dance and music are inspired by the New York City nightlife and begins as the workers anticipate 5 o’clock.

The program also includes Frolic, a composition by Oregon composer Zach Gulaboff, to be performed solely by Northwest Piano Trio.

Ballet Fantastique’s Alice in Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Ballet Fantastique.

 

Alice in Wonderland (World Premiere)
Ballet Fantastique and High Step Society
May 11-13
Hult Center, Soreng Theater, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
With brand new choreography by Donna and Hannah Bontrager and live electro-swing music by High Step Society, Ballet Fantastique takes us on Alice’s journey through wonderland crossing genres and and expectations with a steampunk twist.

To Fly Again by Imago’s Jerry Mouawad.

To Fly Again
Imago, Jerry Mouawad
May 11-12
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8TH AVE (At East Burnside)
ArtsWatch’s Bob Hicks reviewed  To Fly Again and says that “Mouawad’s own description, from the show’s press release, perhaps explains the simple mystery of the thing as well as it can be explained: “A zany group of clown musicians and a clan of clay-tossed dancers roam a barren land … The clowns’ thoughts arise and pass like clouds, the dating game appears out of nowhere in clashes of absurdity, while joy and pathos skim their nonsensical wordplay as the clowns search for a suitable place to make camp. Psychedelic and existential humor pervades; the clowns are constantly interrupted by a clan of dusty dancers who live in a world beyond speech. Tater, the most vulnerable of the clowns, yearns to fly again. Questions open up to further questioning, and talk of sadness is eclipsed by looking at the stars.”

California Flamenco dance Erika Lopez performing as part of Feria de Portland 2018.

Feria de Portland 2018
Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
5 pm May 12
AudioCinema, 226 SE Madison Street
From 5 pm to midnight, on Saturday, at the AudioCinema under the east side of the Hawthorne Bridge, under the warm glow of string lights and fragrant flowers, you can experience the pulse and heat of flamenco music and dance, and the flavors of Spanish food.

In this transportation of the sense, Feria de Portland will carry you all the way to Seville, Spain, while celebrating Oregon’s own Flamenco community with performances by Espacio Flamenco Portland, Oleaje Flamenco, Flamenco Pacifico, Flamenco Chico, and the following schools, Espacio Flamenco Portland, Portland Flamenco Events, 3shine Flamenco and Escuela Flamenca Elena Villa.

Flamenco, an improvisational form of dance, is a folkloric tradition that combines song, dance, instrumentals (guitar mostly), hand clapping and finger snapping. This art form is an amalgamation of centuries of cross-pollination between the many cultures that have existed in Spain.

OBT2 performing in the Antoinette Hatfield Hall rotunda. Photo courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Noontime Showcase: OBT2
Presented by Portland’5
12 pm May 14
Antoinette Hatfield Hall rotunda, 1111 SW Broadway Ave.
FREE
As part of Portland’5 Centers initiative to make the performing arts accessible to everyone, the centers offer free noontime showcases by different performing arts groups from around Portland. As part of this program the pre-professional dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre 2, Oregon Ballet Theatre’s training program, directed by Lisa Sundstrom, will perform Walpurgisnacht by George Balanchine, Na Floresta by Nacho Duato, Carnival of Venice Pas de Deux by Lisa Sundstrom after Marius Petipa, Clair de Lune (excerpt from Beasts) by Nicolo Fonte, and a new work by Jacob Williams.

Línea Recta by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa performed by Ballet Hispanico. Photo by Paula Lobo

Ballet Hispȧnico
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Michelle Manzanales, and Tania Pérez-Salas
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm May 16
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
Concluding White Bird’s 20th season of presenting dance in Portland, will be a single performance by New York’s Ballet Hispanico founded in 1970 by Tina Ramirez now directed by Eduardo Vilaro. The program includes works by three Latina choreographers Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Michelle Manzanales, and Tania Péres-Salas.

Línea Recta (2016) by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa explores a hybridization of flamenco, communication between the sexes, and the conspicuous absence of physical contact between dancers in flamenco to be performed to an original guitar composition by Eric Vaarzon Morel.

Con Brazos Abiertos (2017) by Michelle Manzanales is a humorous look at a life caught between two cultures that intertwines folkloric details with contemporary voices like Julio Iglesias and Spanish rock.

3. Catorce Dieciséis (2002) by Tania Pérez-Salas is set to Baroque music by various composers and draws inspiration from the number π (Pi) reflecting on the circular nature of life.

Upcoming Performances

May
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 17-20, Cypher Culture Conference 2018, hosted by Decimus Yarbrough and Michael Galen
May 17-20, CRANE, The Holding Project, directed by Amy Leona Havin
May 18-19, Framed, Danielle Agami
May 18, The “B” Project, Durante Lambert and LYFE Dance Company
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre
May 25-28, Portland Tap Festival, produced by the Portland Tap Alliance

June
June 1, #INSTABALLET NO.25, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
June 1-2, J (()) Y by Leralee Whittle and a work-in-progresss by Mizu Desierto
June 2, Passages-The Journey of Our Ancestors, presented by the Tamburitzans
June 3, Shobana’s Trance, presented by Rasika
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, This Time Tomorrow-Danielle Agami, NW Dance Project
June 15-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 16, Dance Film Double Feature: Standing on Gold and Moving History, hosted by Eric Nordstrom
June 22-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest at the Faired-Haired Dumbbell Building
June 22-23, Recipe: A Reading Test (1983) and Raw Material (1985), Linda Austin
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem
June 29-July 1, Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance

July
July 6, #INSTABALLET NO.26, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
July 19-21, RELATIVES // apples & pomegranates, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August
August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September
September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag

DanceWatch Weekly: Nancy Davis and Portland Ballet

The artistic director of The Portland Ballet talks about the winding road that led to this weekend's concert

I’ve been trying to write DanceWatch for about five days now without much success, until now of course. I seem to function best under great pressure, kind of like how a diamond is made. Take Jamuna, apply an intense amount of heat, and pressure, and voilà DanceWatch is written! A kind of stressful and undesirable scenario to create under but sometimes unavoidable. You see, I am mostly a full-time, stay-at-home mom, but, also a dancer, choreographer, and dance writer, and sometimes everyone’s else’s needs take over and I can’t quite find the time to sit down and write.

This week’s disastrous attempt to write (I’m exaggerating a bit for theatrical effect) was partly due to post-performance fatigue (I performed with Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre this past weekend, which Elizabeth Whelan reviewed for ArtsWatch), a traveling husband situation that turns me into a single parent for a few days, and a myriad of other crazy events that included an emergency trip to the vet, calls from my son’s principal, the cats, the stuff, the whatever. Right now, as I write this, my 55-pound boxer/lab puppy is standing on my chest panting in my face demanding to be scratched and walked. It’s a circus, and I love it. It’s because THIS is my life that I’m always curious as to how other dancer/teacher/choreographer parents “do it” and stay artistically focused.

I recently became friends with Portland Ballet’s artistic director Nancy Davis on Facebook, and suddenly I was seeing gorgeous photos and videos of Davis as a young dancer in my news feed. Then I saw a photo of her beautiful daughter Lauren Lane on a poster for St. Louis Ballet, and I realized that I didn’t know Nancy Davis at all, and I definitely didn’t know she had a daughter who had also grown up to become a professional dancer.

I only know Davis as I see her now, as the artistic director and founder of The Portland Ballet academy. But how did she get here, what influenced her artistically, and how did she manage to raise a child in the midst of it all, I wanted to know. So, in between her rehearsals for Portland Ballet’s upcoming show Current/Classic, which opens May 4-5 at Lincoln Hall, and my performances, we got a chance to speak on the phone.

The Portland Ballet studio dress rehearsal of Us by Josie Moseley. Photo courtesy of The Portland Ballet.

Davis, who is from California, began her ballet training with one of Los Angeles’s most flamboyant characters, Madame Etienne. Madame Etienne was born in Greece but raised in Paris. Kathryn Charisse was her given name, and she ran a studio called the Hollywood Dance Studio that catered to movie stars. She was the one time sister-in-law of dancer-actress Cyd Charisse, toured the vaudeville circuit with her parents and her ten siblings as a child, and always dressed in a flamboyant outfits. She frequently wore a tiara and full makeup, according to accounts on a blog called lastcappuccino.com.

When Davis become more serious about ballet, she began studying with Natalie Clare, who had studied with Bronislava Nijinska, a choreographer and innovator of contemporary ballet and the sister of Vaslav Nijinsky. Clare had been a principal dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and had opened her own studio in Los Angeles and a created a student company called Ballet La Jeunesse. “That group of young dancers attracted the attention of many choreographers, among them George Balanchine, who gave it permission to perform his Concerto Barocco and Serenade, as staged by John Taras, the New York City Ballet’s ballet master,” Jack Anderson wrote in her obituary for the New York Times in 2007. At 14, Davis performed the lead in Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco with Ballet La Jeunesse and even went on a mini-tour to Tijuana. “How incredible is that” Davis said when we spoke. That was an experience she savored and felt extremely lucky to have had.

Portland Ballet artistic director Nancy Davis performing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in John Clifford’s Symphony. Photo courtesy of Nancy Davis.

The same year, Davis received a full Ford Foundation scholarship to study at the School of American Ballet in New York City where she trained with George Balanchine, Antonina Tumkovsky, Alexandra Danilova, Stanley Williams, and others, and performed in Balanchine’s ballet Metastaseis and Pithoprakta which premiered January 18, 1968. Suzanne Farrell and Arthur Mitchell danced the leads. It was “a thrill to dance with the company and be choreographed on” Davis said, about the experience with Balanchine.

While at SAB, Davis also performed in Paquita under the direction of Alexandra Danilova and was the lead in a rock ballet by John Clifford to Iron Butterfly’s In-a-Gadda-da-Vida. Clifford at the time was an emerging protege of Balanchine’s and would later become the artistic director of Los Angeles Ballet where Davis would end up dancing for many years.

After NYC Ballet, Davis danced with The National Ballet of Washington, D.C., directed by Frederick Franklin and Ben Stevenson, where she danced in her first full length classical ballets—Sleeping beauty, Cinderella, and Giselle among others.

Nancy Davis in John Clifford’s Sitar Concerto. Photo courtesy of Nancy Davis.

When The National Ballet folded in 1974 for financial reasons, Davis called John Clifford who, she had heard, had just left NYC Ballet and was starting his own ballet company in Los Angeles. “I was probably 20 maybe just 21, I called John and I said, ‘I’m joining your company, I’ll see you in LA…I thought of myself as kind of a shy person growing up but I wasn’t shy at that moment’,” she said, laughing.

Dancing for The Los Angeles Ballet and for Clifford turned out to be a great fit. Because Davis was a tall dancer at 5’ 9”, she felt that she was better suited for dancing in the neoclassical Balanchine style ballets Clifford favored. “I was in heaven.” she said. “I felt freest in that style.”

During this time Davis met her husband Jim Lane, whom Clifford had recruited from NYC Ballet specifically to partner Davis. After having many roles created for her by Clifford and dancing in many Balanchine ballets for 10 years, Davis watched as the company folded in the mid ‘80’s, to be resurrected four years later as a touring company.

In those four years Davis did a variety of non-ballet related work, but more importantly she became a mother.

When her daughter Lauren was about a year old, Davis came out of retirement to perform in Clifford’s new touring company. “After having a child I just felt so strong…It was just wonderful timing. I was so happy, I thought, ‘My god! I’m dancing again, I have a child, I’m happily married.’ And It was wonderful. It was hard getting back in shape, you know, but I danced pretty much up until I had Lauren. I was doing small jumps up until the day before I had her. I did that for about a year. It was hard on the feet, pointe shoes are so rough on the feet. The hardest part for me was getting my feet back into condition; but I did do a little bit of dancing.”

Nancy Davis and Jim Lane performing with John Clifford’s Los Angeles Ballet. Photo courtesy of Nancy Davis. Photo courtesy of Nancy Davis.

In 1992 Davis and Lane made the move to Portland. In 1993 on August 1, while driving on the Willamette Highway, a 75-foot fir tree broke 10 feet up and fell onto their car, paralyzing Lane and injuring Davis’s neck. “Not a day goes by that I am not reminded of the loss. But Jim and I are proud that we were able to turn this around in a meaningful way, a productive way, and make the best of it. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do.”

In 2001, Davis and Lane founded The Portland Ballet. “We wanted to recreate what we had experienced,” Davis said, “rigorous training with compassion, not just for the student but for the whole person.”

Beginning on May 4-5, the advanced company dancers of the Portland Ballet will travel through time performing in a variety of work from the past to the present. The program includes the Sleeping Beauty Vision Scene staged by Anne Mueller after Marius Petipa, Excerpts of the Donizetti Variations by George Balanchine, Excerpts from Schubert Songs by Dennis Spaight, Gloria Duet by Dennis Spaight, Us by Josie Moseley, Everything Slightly Rosy by Anne Mueller, and Secede, a new work by Jason Davis.

Performances this week!

Dancer Michele Ainza in SALT. Photo by Meg Nanna.

SALT
Curated by Shaking the Tree artistic director Samantha Van Der Merwe
May 1-6
Shaking the Tree Warehouse, 823 SE Grant St.

In response to the Trump presidency and its decisive inclusion of hate, exclusion, bigotry, and fear, Shaking the Tree, under the direction of Samantha Van Der Merwe, will present 10 installations by a variety of Portland artists, including dancers, that explore the act of peaceful civil disobedience inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March speech of 1930. On March 12, 1930, Gandhi marched against the British Salt Act of 1882 that prohibited Indians from collecting or selling their own salt while taxing them exorbitantly for the salt they were forced to buy from the British. Gandhi marched to expose injustice and shame the British into ending the Act and its rule over India. Deann Welker for Oregon ArtsWatch previewed the show and interviewed all of the participating artists in Salt on America’s wounds.

SALT includes work by Lava Alapai and Alex Ramirez, Bobby Bermea and Jamie Rea, Namita Gupta-Wiggers, Sabina Haque (featuring Michele Ainza, Subashini Ganesan and Simeon Jacobs) InfinitIndigos, Anya Pearson (featuring Kayla Banks and Tammy Jo Wilson), Christopher Ringkamp, Nelda Reyes and Beth Thompson.

Shaking the Tree has committed to four years of programming (one event per year) that will act as a form of resistance by incorporating voices from threatened communities like women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, and environmentalists.

INSTABALLET. Directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of Eugene Ballet Company. Photo courtesy of INSTABALLET.

#INSTABALLET NO.24
Directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of Eugene Ballet Company
Performed by the dancers of Eugene Ballet, vocalist Lyn Burg, and pianist Barbara Dzuro
5:30 pm May 4
Capitello Wines, 540 Charnelton St., Eugene
Lane Arts Council’s First Friday ArtWalk, Capitello Wine, 540 Charnelton St, Eugene
This event is FREE

Reimagining who creates ballets, Instaballet, directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of the Eugene Ballet company, gives artistic control to the audience. If you have ever wanted to choreograph a ballet or a musical score but aren’t a dancer, choreographer, or musician, now is your chance. Head on over to Lane Arts Council’s First Friday ArtWalk in Eugene and be a part of the process and make a ballet or musical score on the spot. The creative process begins at 5:30 pm and a performance of the final product will happen at 8 pm. The performance will be accompanied by live music and Eugene Ballet dancers will make themselves available for your creative juices.

If you are interested in learning more about Instaballet and how it came to be, Eugene ArtsWatch correspondent Gary Ferrington wrote about them in 2015 in Crowd-sourced Choreography.

Reed College dancers. Photo courtesy of Reed College.

Reed College Spring Dance Concert
May 4-5
Reed College, Greenwood Theater, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd
The Reed College dance program features an evening of choreographic works by students, faculty, Reed community members, and guests.
Choreographers and performers include: Isabel Adesko, Charles Bales, James Caponera, Emily Clark, Rose Cole-Cohen, Saga Darnell, Alli Fatone, Maya Nájera Evans, Raina Garfinkel, Olivia Hasencamp, Hannah Jensvold, Laura Kennedy, Sophia Kongshaug, Erin Lauderdale, Soroa Lear, Miranda Leong-Hussey, Morgan Meister, Sara Parker, Zia Rady, MacKenzie Schuller, Katherine Smrha-Monroe, Amanda Swanson, Vanessa Thiessen, Shelby Williams, and Rika Yotsumoto.

The artists of Tempos Contemporary Circus. Photo courtesy of Tempos Contemporary Circus.

The Space Between
Tempos Contemporary Circus
May 4-6
A-WOL Dance Collective, 513 NE Schuyler St.
Combining circus arts, dance, narrative, physical theatre, and live music, Tempos Contemporary Circus will examine truth as a means to understanding cause and effect. “Each choreographer was given the task of illustrating hidden causes within each dance…”The Space Between” evolved as we realized tracking a cause for every effect was an attempt at narrowing reality to bite-size partial truths” said artistic director Kraig Mead on the Facebook event page. “The space between, as cause and effect, is full of many causes that unite to create one effect. Inevitably, truth is a messy thing,” he said.

Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest (HDDT/NW) in Let Alone. Photo courtesy of HDDT/NW.

Let Alone
Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest (HDDT/NW)
May 4-5
Pioneer Gas Furnace, 2636 NE Sandy
In the old Pioneer Gas Furnace building, dancers in six, one-person tents, will respond to the need for shelter through an exploration of various states of connection or disconnection. Heidi Duckler Dance Theater/Northwest is a site-specific dance company directed by choreographer Heidi Duckler that is interested in redefining audience performer relationships by positioning dance in unusual places. Performers include: Kya Bliss, Conrad Kaczor, Erin DeLaney, Kiel Moton Nicholas Petrich and Jenny Windom.

The Portland Ballet studio dress rehearsal of Everything Slightly Rosy by Anne Mueller. Photo courtesy of The Portland Ballet.

Current/Classic
The Portland Ballet
May 4-5
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park
See above.

JamBallah NW Friday night showcase at the Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland. Photo by Casey Campbell Photography.

Lost in Perceptions
The Allegro Dance Company, directed by Elise Morris
7:30 pm May 5
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St.
Scrutinizing humanity, the roles we are forced to take, and our internal struggles against them, Allegro Dance Company, an experimental fusion dance collective presents their second full-length evening production, Lost in Perceptions.

The brainchild of internationally renowned belly dancer Ashley López, currently directed by Elise Morris, Allegro draws on the artistry of each company member as well as the dance styles of many cultural dances. Lost in Perceptions will examine the mystery, pain, and beauty inherent in the human condition through a visually rich, multifaceted, storytelling experience.

Upcoming Performances

May
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 11-13, Alice in Wonderland, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 12, Feria de Portland, Espacio Flamenco Portland
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, Cypher Culture Conference 2018, hosted by Decimus Yarbrough and Michael Galen
May 17-20, CRANE, The Holding Project, directed by Amy Leona Havin
May 18-19, Framed, Danielle Agami
May 18, The “B” Project, Durante Lambert and LYFE Dance Company
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June
June 1, #INSTABALLET NO.25, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
June 1-2, J (()) Y by Leralee Whittle and a work-in-progresss by Mizu Desierto
June 2, Passages-The Journey of Our Ancestors, presented by the Tamburitzans
June 3, Shobana’s Trance, presented by Rasika
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 22-23, Recipe: A Reading Test (1983) and Raw Material (1985), Linda Austin
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem
June 29-July 1, Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance

July
July 6, #INSTABALLET NO.26, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
July 19-21, RELATIVES // apples & pomegranates, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August
August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September
September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag

DanceWatch Weekly: Erik Kaiel comes home

A Jefferson High grad returns home, BodyVox intersects with the Imani Winds, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre and so much more

Choreographer Erik Kaiel and his dance company Arch8, now based in the Netherlands, will be performing in his hometown of Portland for the first time since Kaiel graduated from Jefferson High School’s dance program in 1990.

After leaving Jeff, he spent a decade in New York City making dances in subway stations, sculpture gardens, empty swimming pools, city streets, and on stages, too. In 2003 he moved to the Netherlands where he is now the artistic director of Arch8 and Crosstown Den Haag, a choreographic fellow at Danslab, and a faculty member at the Artez Dance Academy in Arnhem. In 2010 he won both the Dutch national prize for choreographic talent and the No Ballet competition in Germany.

Presented by Boom Arts, Arch8 will dance an award-winning quartet, choreographed by Kaiel in 2012, called Tetris, a work specifically made for children inspired by the 1980s video game of the same name.

Erik Kaiel’s Tetris performed by his company Arch8. Photo courtesy of Arch8.

Tetris, the dance, uses everyday movement like walking, sitting, standing, traditional dance, complex partnering and acrobatics to mimic the game’s objective—to stack and fit different block configurations into an existing block structure to create a connected line of blocks across the screen. The dance aims to explore our connections with each other, with the larger world, how we build languages of intimacy and our private inner worlds. It’s meant for “the kids who can’t sit still, for the ones who like to climb the walls, and those who can imagine further than they can see,” it says in the dance’s description. If the description is the qualifier for who will enjoy the dance, then it’s a dance for pretty much for everyone, as far as I’m concerned.

Continues…

DanceWatch Weekly: Nine-dance week

The week in dance from Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" to OBT's Man/Woman and far, far beyond

There are nine dance performances this week beginning with the Original Bad Unkl Sistas (a performing duo made up of Anastazia Aranaga and Mizu Desierto, at the Headwaters Theatre) and ending with Degenerate Art Ensemble (from Seattle next Wednesday, also appearing at the Headwaters). Both are part of the Butoh College Performance Series: The Future is Female (and trans and queer and in celebration of all ages, all bodies, all genders, all colors), curated by Water in the Desert artistic director Mizu Desierto. In between, we have a full range of seven dance offerings from smaller, experimental works, to large scale, time-tested, historical dances that have been seen by audiences around the world. There is something for everyone. Check below for details and enjoy!

Performances this week

The Original Bad Unkl Sistas Anastazia Aranaga and Mizu Desierto. Photo courtesy of Mizu Desierto.

Original Bad Unkl Sistas
Anastazia Aranaga and Mizu Desierto
Presented by Water in the Desert
8 pm April 18
Butoh College student performance/offering
7 pm April 22
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #4
This improvised duet by Portland dance-theatre artist, co-founder and artistic director of Water in the Desert, Mizu Desierto, alongside long-time collaborator, founder and artistic director of Bad Unkl Sista, Anastazia Aranaga, will follow a minimal structure, take imaginative pathways, and will be full of surprises. This performance is part of Butoh College 2018. Desierto and Aranaga will also offer a workshop titled Original//Freedom which “will be full of unknowns, delicate presence, deep stillness, rampant chaos, visceral intimacy & care.”

Emily Parker and Christopher Kaiser performing Nicolo Fonte’s “Left Unsaid,” one of five ballets presented in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s MAN/WOMAN, April 12 – 24, 2018 at the Newmark Theatre. Photo by James McGrew

Man/Woman
Oregon Ballet Theatre, Artistic Director Kevin Irving
Choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, and Jiří Kylián
April 19-21
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
Curated by Oregon Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Kevin Irving, this program of five ballets juxtaposes all-female ballets against all-male ballets exploring gender stereotypes.

Last week I interviewed Irving about whether or not classical ballet can catch up with contemporary values and be something that future generations will want to support. “We’re not the entire conversation,” he said. “We can only be a contribution to the conversation, incomplete, but hopefully insightful and maybe even revelatory in some ways.” You can read our entire conversation here and Heather Wisner review of Man/Woman here.

The program includes: The Dying Swan, a solo for a female dancer by Michel Fokine, staged by Lisa Sundstrom; a new commissioned work called Fluidity Of Steel by Brooklyn-based Darrell Grand Moultrie for an all-men ensemble; Left Unsaid by Oregon Ballet Theatre resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte for both men and women; Drifted in a Deeper Land for another all-men ensemble, by former Oregon Ballet Theatre artistic director James Canfield; and Falling Angels, and all-women dance by Jiří Kylián.

push/FOLD artistic director Samuel Hobbs and dancer Briley Jozwiak. Photo by Jingzi Zhao.

Early
push/FOLD
Music and choreography by Samuel Hobbs
April 19-28
A-WOL Warehouse, 513 NE Schuyler St.
Following the performances on April 19 and 28, Dance Wire founder and director Emily Running will facilitate a Q&A with the push/FOLD artists.

Featuring an original score and choreography by push/FOLD artistic director Samuel Hobbs, this evening-length/world premier combines Hobbs’ eclectic background in dance, partnering, martial arts, athletics, and Visceral Movement Theory™, a somatic theory rooted in the anatomy and kinesiology of the organs. The work, developed from a 2014 duet, will be performed in the round by dancers Jessica Evans, Briley Jozwiak, Holly Shaw, and Samuel Hobbs.

Hobbs performanced professionally with Lauren Edson, Lindsey Matheis, Éowyn Emerald & Dancers, Minh Tran & Co., BodyVox, and Rainbow Dance Theatre, and has shown his choreography throughout the Pacific Northwest. He also works as a Licensed Manual Therapist and Software Developer.

Pictured left to right; Patsy Morris, Jana Zahler, Lisa Greco. Photo courtesy of Jana Zahler.

In layers
Choreography by Jana Kristi Zahler
April 20-21
Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Using visceral and sensory motifs, dance, music, and visual art, collaborators Jana Zahler, Charlie Stellar, Patsy Morris, Kia Metzler, and Lisa Greco will explore the theory of Core Energetics—a somatic-spiritual-psychotherapy developed by Dr. John C. Pierrakos in the 1970s. The theory says that we are psychosomatic beings, that we have the ability to heal ourselves, and that the body’s energy can become blocked from its inability to express emotions. In order to break through our “mask” and work through our “defensive layers,” physical exercise is prescribed to bring awareness back to the authentic, emotional self.

My Turn: A Claire Underwood Story. Photo courtesy of TriptheDark Dance Company.

My Turn: A Claire Underwood Story
TriptheDark Dance Company, Ellen Margolis and Diana Schultz
April 20-28
Chapel Theatre, 4107 SE Harrison St., Milwaukie
In collaboration with Portland playwright Ellen Margolis, TriptheDark Dance Company combines dance, theatre, and puppetry to discuss communication breakdowns in politics. Through the fictional character Claire Underwood from the Netflix series House of Cards, My Turn, reveals Congress’s struggle to work together to defeat corruption.

My Turn will be performed in the newly renovated, two-story, 4,554 square foot Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, Oregon.

The students of Oregon Ballet Theatre. Photo by Yi Yin.

Oregon Ballet Theatre School’s Annual Performance
April 21-22
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
The students of Oregon Ballet Theatre will perform two different programs on two separate nights.
The April 21 program includes: Valse Fantaisie by George Balanchine with music by Mikhail Glinka; Don Quixote Vision Scene After Marius Petipa with music by Ludwig Minkus; and A Grand Etude by Oregon Ballet Theatre school faculty to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The April 22nd program includes: Satanella pas de deux , After Marius Petipa/Cesare Pugni, after a theme by Niccolò Paganini, Accidental Signals by Nicolo Fonte to music by Benjamin Britten.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Jacqueline Green and Jamar Roberts. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Presented by White Bird
April 24-25
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1111 SW Broadway
America’s first multicultural modern dance company, formed in 1958 by celebrated choreographer Alvin Ailey, will perform two different programs both culminating in a performance of Revelations; Ailey’s 1960 work that explores joy and grief using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs, and the blues. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater now directed by Robert Battle, was formed to preserve African-American culture and give opportunity to African American dancers.

April 24th program: Stack-up, choreography by Talley Beatty in 1982; rE-volution, Dream, choreographed by Hope Boykin in 2016; and Revelations, choreographed by Alvin Ailey in 1960.

April 25th program: Untitled America, choreographed by Kyle Abraham in 2016; The Golden Section, choreographed by Twyla Tharp in 1983; Ella, choreography by Robert Battle in 2008, premiered by the Ailey Company in 2016; and Revelations, choreographed by Alvin Ailey in 1960.

Imani Winds returns to Chamber Music Northwest this week and will perform with BodyVox Dance Company.

In Motion with BodyVox-The Wind and the Wild
BodyVox and Imani Winds
April 24-25
Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark St.
In town this week for a series of concerts, dance performances and educational and outreach programs, Imani Winds, a classical wind ensemble, and artist-in-residence at Chamber Music Northwest (ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell has the full scoop), will perform in a combined program with BodyVox dance company at Revolution Hall. The program includes BodyVox dances Sideshow, S.O.S., a trio of dances set to Chopin, and two Mitchell Rose/BodyVox films, Unleashed and Treadmill Softly. In 2013, dance critic Martha Ullman West reviewed their first collaboration in Chambered nautilus: BodyVox’s unsinkable classic which you can read here.

Haruko “Crow” Nishimura of Degenerate Art Ensemble. Photo courtesy of Water in the Desert.

Degenerate Art Ensemble/Haruko “Crow” Nishimura + Joshua Kohl
Presented by Water in the Desert
8 pm April 25
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #4
7 pm April 29, Degenerate Art Ensemble: Student Performance/Offering
Degenerate Art Ensemble (DAE), based in Seattle, will perform a duet as part of the Butoh College performance series presented by Water in the Desert. DAE creates performances inspired by punk, comics, cinema, nightmares, and fairy tales driven by their own style of live music and dance/theatre. The ensemble is made up of dancer / vocalist / choreographer Haruko Crow Nishimura and composer / music director/ conductor, Joshua Kohl.

Upcoming Performances

April
April 26-28, Jefferson Dancers Spring Concert
April 26-28, Early, push/FOLD, Music and choreography by Samuel Hobbs
April 27-28, My Turn: A Claire Underwood Story, TriptheDark Dance Company, Ellen Margolis and Diana Schultz
April 27-29, Junior Artist Generator Annual Performance, BodyVox
April 27-29, Tetris, Arch8 (Netherlands), artistic director Erik Kaiel
April 27-29, Uprise, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre, artistic director Oluyinka Akinjiola
April 29, Degenerate Art Ensemble: Student Performance/Offering, Presented by Water in the Desert

May
May 4-5, Reed Spring Dance Concert
May 4-4, The Space Between, Tempos Contemporary Circus
May 4-5, Let Alone, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest (HDDT/NW)
May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 11-13, Alice in Wonderland, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 12, Feria de Portland, Espacio Flamenco Portland
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, The Holding Project, directed by Amy Leona Havin
May 18, The “B” Project, Durante Lambert and LYFE Dance Company
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem

 

DanceWatch Weekly: Kevin Irving on Man/Woman

As the ballet world's treatment of women receives overdue scrutiny, Oregon Ballet Theatre's new program highlights gender stereotypes

Man/Woman, Oregon Ballet Theatre’s program of five ballets that juxtapose all-female ballets and all-male ballets to explore gender stereotypes, opens tonight.

The program includes The Dying Swan, a solo for a female dancer by Michel Fokine; a new commissioned work called Fluidity Of Steel by Brooklyn-based Darrell Grand Moultrie for all men; Left Unsaid by Oregon Ballet Theatre resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte for both men and women; Drifted in a Deeper Land for all men by former Oregon Ballet Theatre artistic director James Canfield; and Falling Angels for all women by Jiří Kylián.

OBT dancer Kelsie Nobriga rehearsing Jiří-Kylián’s Falling Angels for MAN/WOMAN April 12-24. Photo by Yi-Yin.

I have been wondering out loud in previous DanceWatch columns about whether or not classical ballet can catch up with contemporary values and be something that future generations will want to support. Classical ballet is historically a racist, hierarchical, patriarchal system, that has narrowly defined dancers by their skin color, body types, gender, age, perpetuates stereotypical narratives, and, ironically, the majority of ballet choreographers and artistic directors are men, even though women make up the majority of the artists in the industry.

Ballet culture has improved considerably since its early days, but it still has a bit of a ways to go. When Oregon Ballet Theatre announced on Facebook last season that it was presenting a program of five dances choreographed by five men that would explore gender stereotypes, I was stunned and wondered out loud in the comments section how it was possible for men to choreograph dances about a woman’s experience. And, where were the women choreographers in this conversation to boot? Well, it turns out that they are gathered in OBT’s next program in May.

When I spoke with OBT artistic director Kevin Irving this past week at OBT’s studios, he said that it was important to him to address the problematic issues within classical ballet narratives that perpetuate stereotypes, but also to find a way to maintain the heritage of classical ballet.

OBT dancers rehearsing Darrell Grand Moultrie’s world premiere, Fluidity Of Steel, one of five ballets presented in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s MAN/WOMAN, April 12 – 24, 2018 at the Newmark Theatre. Photo by Yi Yin.

“The base of classical ballet includes a lot of beauty, a lot of fine, wonderful, enjoyable work but some are really problematic works that can be seen as perpetuating stereotypes that are not so applicable to the world we live in,” Irving said. “I’m conscious of our responsibility to not ignore it.”

Irving began thinking about putting this program together two years ago in response to the Bathroom Bill legislation being considered in North Carolina that dictated bathroom usage based on a person’s assigned gender at birth.

Since then, the conversation about the treatment of women in the society as a whole, in the arts, and in ballet has exploded, embracing many more issues and points of view than Irving could address in one program. “We’re not the entire conversation,” he said. “We can only be a contribution to the conversation, incomplete, but hopefully insightful and maybe even revelatory in some ways.”

“I think an argument can be made that gender roles in classical ballet can be as restrictive for men as they are for women,” he continued. “Even if the experience of being a dancer, in my opinion, is typically harder for a woman than it is for a man…I wanted the audience to have an experience of what was it like to see these representations unchallenged and then challenged.”

OBT dancers rehearsing Nicolo Fonte’s Left Unsaid for MAN/WOMAN April 12-24. Photo by Yi-Yin.

Man/Woman begins with The Dying Swan, a solo made famous by ballerina Anna Pavlova that depicts the last moments of a swan’s life. Instead of seeing the ballerina (performed by OBT dancers Jacqueline Straughan, Ansa Capizzi, Jessica Lind, and Eva Burton) as a weak, frail, dying figure, Irving wants to shine light on the “the amount of strength, determination, triumph against the odds, and sheer force of will that it takes to be that dying swan.” “I think that’s an interesting story, that duality of the dying swan, which on the surface seems pitiable but yet it’s anything but for the people who have to perform it.”

Offering a contrasting view of the female dancer, Falling Angels choreographed in 1989 for Nederlands Dans Theater by Jiří Kylián, explores the human obsession with perfection and closes the program. This contemporary work for eight women is a driving, rhythmic piece to a Steve Reich score that was inspired by the percussion rituals of Ghana.

Next is a world premier by Moultrie for seven male dancers that explores an alternative view of maledom questioning the ways society allows men to express emotions and show physical affection. This work developed from a trio of men in tutus from his previous work for the company, Instinctual Confidence, back in 2015.

Continuing the male perspective, Drifted in a Deeper Land, choreographed by OBT founding artistic director James Canfield in 1990, highlights the feelings of helplessness, loss, and frustration felt during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Irving felt that it was important to embed a connection to the company’s history within the program.

OBT’s Emily Parker and Avery Reiner. Photo by Christopher Peddecord.

Left Unsaid by Nicolo Fonte, one of Fonte’s most popular works was inspired by Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials and is the only piece in the program for both men and women. The ballet focuses on the dualities present in all of us, that pull us in opposing directions. The work originally premiered on Oregon Ballet Theatre in 2009.

Man/Woman looks to be a strong program with fantastic dancing and some poignant messages. But, if you’re still hankering for women choreographers you won’t have to wait long. Closer, OBT’s final program of the season, brings back Helen Simoneau’s Departures from last summer’s Choreography XX program and presents new works by company dancers Katherine Monogue, Makino Hayashi, and Peter Franc from May 23-June 3.

Performances this week

Contact Dance Film Festival
Presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
7:00 pm April 12, NY Export: Opus Jazz and Never Stand Still: Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow, Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave
9:00 pm April 14, NY Export: Opus Jazz & Never Stand Still: Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow, Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave
7:30 pm April 12 and 14, Dancing Over Borders, BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
7:30 pm April 13, Dance@30fps, Bodyvox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
4 pm, April 14, Dance@30fps, Bodyvox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.

Teaming up with the Northwest Film Center, BodyVox artistic director Jamey Hampton and long-time collaborator Mitchell Rose have curated a festival of dance films that cover the gamut in voices, topics, and disciplines from around the world.

The festival includes three programs. The first is a double bill featuring NY Export: Opus Jazz, a remake of a 1958 Jerome Robbins’ ballet to the jazz score of Robert Prince, and Never Stand Still: Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow, a documentary about the history of Jacob’s Pillow narrated by choreographer Bill T. Jones. The program screens at Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium.

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DanceWatch Weekly: My vacation to Japan

You can go to Japan, or you can go to Butoh College here at home and catch Stephen Petronio, too

I have just returned from a week in Japan, and I am in an elated, exhausted, jet lagged, watery, impermanent state of being neither here nor there. My mind is still navigating Japan, but I am physically back in the beautiful, blossoming spring of Portland.

In Japan it’s also spring, and everywhere you look there are cherry trees in full bloom with cascading pink flowers and countless people posing for photos under them. This past weekend in Arashiyama, a district on the outskirts of Kyoto, spring appreciations/celebrations were in full swing. The Hozu River, which runs from the mountains down into Kyoto, is lined with cherry trees. Large families with young girls dressed in colorful kimonos were strolling in the warm air along the banks, taking pictures under the trees, shopping, eating ice cream, and socializing into the wee hours of the evening. It was idyllic.

I don’t think I have ever experienced, appreciated, or even noticed spring in quite this way before. The slowed down pace, the appreciation of the trees, of nature, of seasons, the color of the blossoms, the attention to family and tradition; it was all so beautiful and put me in a gooey, honey-like, euphoric state.

In Tokyo I was extremely lucky to get a last-minute ticket to see a tea ceremony, dance, and music performance by Kyoto’s renowned Geiko/Geisha and Maiko (Geisha in training) called Miyako Odori, a spring dance performance that has been performed annually since 1872. The geisha are consummate performers and hostesses who dedicate their lives to perfecting the performing arts. Becoming a geisha was the first respectable profession for women in Japan and should never be confused with prostitution.

Miyako Odori. Photo courtesy of Goin’ Japanesque!

The hour-long performance was a compilation of six dances celebrating Japan’s seasons while introducing us to famous places and beautiful locations throughout Kyoto—like the mountains, streams, and temples. There were 60 performers in all, live music and singing, lavishly designed sets and lighting, and gorgeous colorful silk kimonos for days. The movements were delicate, graceful, exacting, with not a finger out of place. The experience made me fall in love with ritual all over again and understand its importance in daily life.

In contrast to this elaborate classical experience was a Butoh class I took in Kyoto with choreographer Ima Tenko. Tenko directs her own, three-person company called Butoh Company Kiraza and was a member of Byakkosha, an acclaimed Butoh company that ran for 14 years and broke up in 1994. Tenko’s company performs every Thursday to a small audience of eight or nine; sadly I was not able to see them perform. But, I did take class with her in her studio that she rents in a Korean section of Kyoto that used to be mens’ garment factory before the war. Referring to time periods in relation to the war is common in Japan. Posted on the inside of the door to her studio is a poster of ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, performing The Rite of Spring.

Butoh dancer Ima Tenko performing Hisoku. Photo courtesy of Ima Tenko.

Even though she and I had language barrier issues, I still felt like I fully understood what she was saying. Movement speaks volumes, you know. It was almost like I could hear her speaking in English in my head even though she wasn’t. I found that her warm up exercises were familiar as they were based on modern and postmodern dance, and her themes of humans in nature are universal. We even did a sumo exercise, practiced the Butoh walks, which are based in Noh Theatre, and on the way Japanese people walk, and we scrunched up our faces and shuffled around like bent old ladies at the end of class to fully understand the experience of authentic movement embodiment.

I thought as a Westerner that going to Japan to take Butoh would be a completely unfamiliar experience, but it wasn’t. Even though I live 5,000 miles away, and I am not a regular Butoh practitioner, I still felt a connection with Tenko’s movement history because of the modern dance lineages that we are both tied into from our training that connect us all world wide. It was pretty cool.

And with that I offer you this week’s performances, some of which are Butoh based.

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