Jamuna Chiarini

 

DanceWatch: Pandemic downs and ups

Everyone's course through this year of isolation has been different—and sometimes it leads to growth

At the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns last March, it was exciting to have EVERYTHING go online. Dance classes, performances, lectures, and community conversations were suddenly available at the touch of a button. 

In the past, as a dance artist, I’d felt like I was never in the right place at the right time to get what I needed to succeed in my dance career. It felt like I was living in the wrong place, wasn’t studying with and being seen by the right teachers, and was missing out on auditions and opportunities. I felt like I was always out of step. FOMO (fear of missing out) was real for me. This was significantly exacerbated when I decided to have a baby, which took me right out of the game. But not anymore, thanks to Covid-19. (I feel yucky saying that.) Because suddenly everything I ever wanted was online. 

But, as you all know now, it’s hard to go at it alone in our tiny houses month after month. As you also know, trying to get time and space alone to be creative in a house with other people is REALLY HARD.

I tried connecting to what was available online. Still, it couldn’t keep my attention, and the sheer volume of choices became overwhelming. 

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DanceWatch: March hare edition

We are still watching dance online, and that's so much better than the alternative

Welcome to March. It’s almost spring! That means warmer weather, light in the sky, and flowers blooming everywhere. We also have the Coronavirus vaccine to look forward to, which means that maybe we can all commingle in theatres and dance studios once again by next fall, which is excellent! So, many things to look forward to, but dance and dance-related discussions are all still online until then. 

This month offers a mixed bag of performance experiences from new performance experiments from Linda Austin and Allie Hankins to an annual performance share by four different dance groups at AWOL Dance Collective’s performance space to a new film from PDX Contemporary Ballet and conversations with Oregon Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Kevin Irving on the future of classical ballet and its problems with racism and sexism. 

It’s a light month in terms of the number of dance performances, which is nice because I think we are all exhausted and could use some time offline. So go outside and dance, but don’t forget to watch and support the dance community online too. 

Last thought. Here is an excerpt of a poem I recently found by author Laura Kelly Fanucci:

“When this is over,
may we never again
take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the store
Conversations with neighbors
A crowded theatre
Friday night out
The taste of communion
A routine checkup
The school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend…”

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DanceWatch: Jan-bruary is the resilient month

Fertile Ground leads us into the next month of virtual dance

Welcome to the Jan-bruary edition of the dance calendar and the 396th day of 2020. It just keeps gettin’ better,  don’t you think? Somehow, though, through it all, a pandemic and the attempted overthrow of our government, dance artists are still making dances. I am continually amazed at how resilient humans are, even under the harshest conditions. 

Today I am feeling celebratory. Every month that DanceWatch can fill its calendar with dance performances is a minor miracle and a joyous occasion. Art is the mark of civilization. If we are here dancing, then we are thriving. 

This edition of DanceWatch is full to the brim with work that will break your heart open, make you want to smash through your screens and dance with the folks on the other side, transport you, connect you, and generally make you feel good. Enjoy!

January Dance Performances

The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, which features new experimental work in various development stages, opened on January 28 and will run till February 7. Projects are available through Feb. 15 to stream on Fertile Ground’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Curated by a committee for the first time in its 12-year history, the festival, not strictly a dance festival, will feature 31 projects by regional choreographers, theater artists, puppeteers, improvisers, animators, and mixed-media artists.

I was privileged to participate in Fertile Ground’s meet-the-press zoom call, where I met and heard the pitches from every participating show, and I can say with certainty that these shows are a must go! They are powerful and beautiful and are everything you need right now. Luckily all of the performances will be streamed online through the Fertile Ground Facebook and YouTube pages and will be available to view for seven days after, so you won’t miss a thing! And most importantly, they are FREE to watch. 

Artwork for the Fertile Ground production of Allies & Accomplices. Photo courtesy of Echo Theater Company

* Fertile Ground
Allies & Accomplices
Presented by Echo Theater Company
Performers include ETC Pro Lab, Noelle Simone, Tessa May, and Variat Dance Collective with direction by Laura Cannon and Aaron Wheeler-Kay
Opened 7 pm January 29; available to view through Feb. 15
Open and closed captioning available
Free

In these world premieres, five independently created dance works highlight the stories of marginalized and oppressed voices and examine how artistic creation is a political act. They seek to personalize the Black experience and the accompanying fear, help you find your voice through the Black Lives Matter movement, and lead you on a journey to discover your inner Greek goddess. 

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The year in dance: 2020, go away!

A look back at a year of closures, crises, streamings and reimaginings, and ahead to a more cheerful 2021

I have been trying to summarize 2020 Oregon dance events in my head for days now in anticipation of writing this piece, but every time I sit down to write, something catastrophic happens in my personal life that takes my attention away. It seems fitting that 2020, the year of Donald Trump’s impeachment, the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor by the police, the evisceration of the performing arts industry, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide from Covid-19, should end so badly. 2020 has been the saddest, loneliest, most tragic year I have ever known.


LOOKING BACK: 2020 IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR


Ironically, the first 2020 DanceWatch was a preview of Marquee TV, the newish streaming service for dance, opera, and theatre. Who knew that this idea would no longer be an anomaly a couple of months later and that ALL performing arts would end up online. 

Part 3 of Linda Austin’s (Un)Made. Choreographed by Linda Austin in collaboration with the cast. Visual design and costumes by Sarah Marguier; Set design by Linda Austin; Set construction by Seth Nehil; Sound design by Seth Nehil; Lighting design by Jeff Forbes; Performed by Austin, claire barrera, jin camou, Nancy Ellis, keyon gaskin, Jen Hackworth, Allie Hankins, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles, and Takahiro Yamamoto. Photo: Chelsea Petrakis

January, which feels like a thousand years ago, was a month packed full of dance performances. One was part three of Linda Austin’s a world, a world, which I previewed. This iteration of the four-year-long project was a collection of movements taken from the earlier two phases of the process, reworked and reimagined into a completely new idea performed in two disparate worlds. The entire process was chronicled on the (Un)Made website and includes performance and rehearsal photos and writing by Austin and Allie Hankins, the project’s dramaturg.

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DanceWatch: Virtual Nutcrackers and Happy Hours

This month the dancers are playing remotely with the holiday favorites

In a normal year, December is a bustling time for dance in Oregon with Nutcrackers and holiday shows busting out all over. But this isn’t a normal year, and without the holiday shows, dance is comparatively quiet. But don’t fret, dance performances haven’t disappeared entirely. Technology and dancer ingenuity are here to save your holiday dance watching traditions. So put on those festive jammies, grab a hot toddy if you’re old enough, and get out your Nutcracker collection ‘cause December dancing is here!

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Dance news: Creativity is flowing

NW Dance Project, Franco Nieto and BodyVox adapt to pandemic circumstances

Back in March and April, when cities began closing up due to the spread of Covid-19, many folks were prophesying that the pandemic would change art forever. They said artists would come up with great ideas, that the pandemic would force into existence incredible art, create new and beautiful things, and develop solutions. Artists would show the world how to adapt.

I thought this to be true, but I had never experienced a pandemic before, so it was hard to imagine how this new world would look.

Well, here we are eight-ish months later, and the creativity is flowing. Portland’s dance scene is adapting.

In good news this week…

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DanceWatch Monthly: Focus on Linda Austin and Bobby Fouther

Dancers are adapting to the pandemic reality, mostly by taking performance online

For most dancers, the ability to maintain a career over a lifetime is nearly impossible. If the body doesn’t give out, the funds aren’t there to eat and pay rent. There are few opportunities, and the dance culture isn’t supportive of dancers growing families AND careers. And it definitely doesn’t take a dancer’s mental health into consideration. It really isn’t supportive of the whole dancer at all.

There are many reasons that dancers exit their dance careers to no fault of their own. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. The odds against you succeeding worsen if you are an independent dance artist working outside of a major non-profit dance organization and have to secure funding on your own. And it gets even more difficult if you are a woman and an artist of color.

But there are exceptions. And it is these folks that I look to as examples of how to carve out my own future in dance. Because there is going to be one. 

For me, Portland dance artist Linda Austin and dance and visual artist Bobby Fouther exemplify how to live as an artist FOREVER. Austin is 66 years old, and Fouther is 70. Slowing down or stopping anytime soon isn’t a consideration for either of them. And lucky for you, there are several opportunities to connect with them both this month!

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