Jamuna Chiarini

 

DanceWatch: A rich cultural stew

What's happening in Oregon dance now

Welcome to DanceWatch for March, the month that enters like a lion and retreats like a lamb, or so they say. While it’s still cold and dark outside, you can think of this month’s dance offerings like a warm winter stew: hearty, rich, varied, and soul-soothing. And don’t forget that spring is a mere 22 days away!

Let’s start this month’s column with Native American dance. Last fall, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art caught my attention with this statement in its Time-Based Art catalog: “The land now known as Portland rests on the traditional village sites of the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla, and many other Tribes who made their homes along the Columbia (Wimahl) and Willamette (Whilamut) rivers.”

I didn’t know this. Did you? I was struck. I rarely hear about the native tribes of Portland and the surrounding areas and I even more rarely see dance representing these cultures. I feel weird about this. I can’t go back to not knowing. In fact, this information made me want to learn more about Native American dance artists in Oregon and beyond, and recently, I did.

This past Sunday, I attended the Alembic artist performance at Performance Works NorthWest, where choreographer Olivia Camfield, a resident artists and a Muscogee Creek Tribal member from Texas Hill Country, choreographed and performed a powerful contemporary piece about indigenous people reclaiming their narratives. She welcomed everyone with this statement, a reminder to be respectful when we’re visiting someone else’s territory.

“Hensci (hello), estonko (how are you), Olivia Cvhocefkv Tos (my name is Olivia). I come from the Muscogee Creek nation of Oklahoma. Originally we come from the southeastern region of this continent. I would like to acknowledge that I am a visitor here today and in the spirit of reciprocity, I would like to bring medicine and movement prayer to this land and the people of it. These nations include the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tumwater, Watlala Bands of the Chinook, the Tualatin Kalapuya, and many other indigenous nations of the Columbia River valley region. I would like y’all to acknowledge whether you are a settler occupier of this stolen land, an indigenous visitor, or you are of this land and this is your ancestral territory. I would like to ask to come here and be in a good way and walk this land as a caretaker and a medicine giver. I would like y’all to do the same, be here in a way that is respectful and honorable to the people and spirits who have taken care of this land since time immemorial. Mvto (thank you).”

Camfield is also a member of Dancing Earth, a Bay Area company that focuses on indigenous dance. It’s represented by my friend and Portland resident Andre Bouchard, who’s a good source of information on Native American dance and culture. Born and raised on Montana’s Flathead Reservation, of Kootenai and Ojibwe descent, Bouchard is nationally recognized for his work in Native American contemporary performing arts. In 2001, he founded Walrus Performance Productions, a nonprofit dedicated to providing opportunities to choreographers, playwrights, and multi-disciplinary performing artists in the Pacific Northwest.

Bouchard told me that there are 573 federally recognized tribes in the U.S., that they are not necessarily similar, and that their members prefer to be recognized by their tribe name of origin rather than by the general term Native Americans. He also said that because of changes in laws, policy, and funding, these artists are thriving and their work is enjoying a resurgence and being recognized nationally and internationally today. This August, Bouchard will be a keynote speaker at the Asia Pacific Dance Festival Conference at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, where he will present a paper on contemporary Native American dance.

Also last week, ahead of their company’s performance in Hillsboro (see below), I had a wonderfully engaging phone conversation with Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company executive producer Mary Hager and dance director Damon Keller. The company, established in Portland in 2005 and composed of 12 or so dancers, is an intertribal organization that honors Native American culture by building awareness through performance and education. The company has taught and performed nationally and internationally; its repertoire includes traditional dance forms as well as blended contemporary styles. Its goal is to break down stereotypes, myths, and urban legends about Native American people, and to build bridges and create friendships. I am looking forward to seeing this performance, meeting Hager and Keller in person, and seeing how these ideas translate onstage.

As I work to de-colonize my own dancer body (and this column) of Western ideology, I’m excited to learn more about Native American culture and dance, and will continue to share what I discover along the way.

Indigenous and international dance styles

Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company (pictured: Aiyanna Bennett) performs traditional and blended contemporary dance styles. Photo courtesy of Mary Hager.

Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company
2 pm March 9
Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 East Main St., Hillsboro
See above.

Sankalpa Dance Ensemble members Sweta Ravisankar, Sridharini Sridharan, and Yashaswini Raghuram embody feminine power. Photo by Gidu Sriram.

Shakti
Sankalpa Dance Ensemble, Sweta Ravishankar, Sridharini Sridharan, and Yashaswini Raghuram
5:30 pm March 9
Hindu Education and Cultural Society of America, Portland Balaji Temple, 2092 NW Aloclek Dr., Suite 522, Hillsboro
Bharatanatyam dance company the Sankalpa Dance Ensemble presents Shakti, an evening of five dances created around the theme of feminine energy and power, The company is directed by, and features, dancers Sweta Ravishankar, Sridharini Sridharan, and Yashaswini Raghuram performing to live music.

The program opens with a dance dedicated to the goddess Parvati, wife of the Hindu god Shiva; she is the goddess of fertility, love, beauty, marriage, children, and devotion, and represents divine strength and power. The second dance is a varnam, the main dance in a typical Bharatanatyam concert, which emphasizes nritta (footwork) and abhinaya (expressions). This varnam praises the beautiful fish-eyed goddess Meenakshi. The third dance is dedicated to Devi, the Mother Goddess who speaks beautifully, walks majestically, and epitomizes music and the arts. She takes care of the afflicted, rids people of sin, and is a delight to all. The program also features a dance depicting pure love and compassion, a humble prayer to the mother as goddess. The finale is set to a collection of verses written by Tamil poet and Indian independence activist Mahakavi Subramania Bharati, also known as Bharathiyar, who was a vocal supporter of women’s rights in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Bharathiyar envisioned feminine power transforming the earth into a better place and uplifting mankind.

Modern and contemporary: local

NW Dance Project celebrates 15 years of working with dancers (pictured here: Julia Radick) in “Trip the Light Fantastic.” Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Trip The Light Fantastic
NW Dance Project
February 28-March 1
Gala and performance March 2
Expensify, 401 SW 5th Ave.
Limited capacity
In this 15th anniversary event, NW Dance Project performs pieces by artistic director Sarah Slipper, resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem, and Oregon Ballet Theatre founding artistic director James Canfield in and around the 40,000-square-foot former First National Bank building, now the headquarters of tech company Expensify. The event celebrates the company’s artistic achievements: work with more than 1200 professional and pre-professional dancers (including four Princess Grace Award winners) and the performance of more than 280 original pieces by nationally and internationally known choreographers. The evening will include a dance-cooking skit between Portland actor Susannah Mars and company dancer Andrea Parson, music by Pink Martini pianist Hunter Noack, and a post-performance dance party in the basement vault, hosted by former NW Dance Project star Viktor Usov.

Sisters Willow and Marley Swanson pair contemporary dance and martial arts at A Taste of Dance: A Wine and Dance Pairing. Photo courtesy of Willow Swanson.

A Taste of Dance: A Wine and Dance Pairing Performance
Produced by Chapel Theatre
6 pm March 10
Chapel Theatre, 4107 SE Harrison St., Milwaukie
As part of Chapel Theatre’s Second Sundays Winter Performance Series, choreographers whose work spans flamenco to tap will describe their artistic processes and Wine:30 wine steward Lenny Bennett will pair wine with each of the dances on the program, explaining how they relate to, and enhance, one another. Featured choreographers include Stephanie Seaman, Willow Swanson, Jessica Zoller, and Elena Villa.

See why Anya Pearson’s “Made to Dance in Burning Buildings” earned her a $10,000 grant. Photo courtesy of Shaking The Tree Theatre.

Made to Dance in Burning Buildings
Written by Portland playwright Anya Pearson
Directed by Jamie Rea with choreography by Jeff George
February 15-March 16
Shaking The Tree Theatre, 823 SE Grant St.
Made to Dance in Burning Buildings is a fusion of poetry, theater, and violent-visceral contemporary dance that poses this question: How do we heal from trauma? The story, performed by a multi-ethnic cast of 10, follows a young black woman who is raped, develops PTSD, and metaphorically fractures into five different women as a result. It’s from these five points of view that the story is told. Based on a true story, and inspired Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, the work earned Pearson the inaugural $10,000 Voice is a Muscle Grant from the Corporeal Voices Foundation.

Linda Austin explores the life of the aging body in her solo “Ordinary Devotions.” Photo by Ian Douglas

Ordinary Devotions (premiere)
Linda Austin
March 14-23
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
With her solo Ordinary Devotions, award-winning Performance Works NorthWest founder, director and choreographer Linda Austin has created what she is calling “a meditation-in-action on the ordinary/extraordinary life of the aging body and a tactile apprehension of the world to hand.”

The work—which explores beauty, humor, rebelliousness, and awkwardness—pairs task-like movement with the unorthodox use of objects including a vinyl tarp, a twig, stones, a lamp worn on the body, cassette tapes, and multiple spools of thread. The piece, Austin says, will “yield to poetically and emotionally charged movements, text, and images—evoking vulnerability and hints of mortality.” The piece will be framed by field recordings by Juniana Lanning and video by Kelly Rauer.

Austin has been making dance and performance works since 1983. She was active in the dance and performance communities in New York City during the 1980s, lived and worked in Mexico during the mid-1990s, and relocated to Portland, Oregon, in 1998, where she established PWNW and Linda Austin Dance. I interviewed her in 2015 when PWNW turned 15. You can read our conversation here.

Oluyinka Akinjiola, Decimus Yarbrough, Michael Galen, Bethany Harvey, and Jamie Minkus revisit “A Midsummer Night at the Savoy.” Photo by Andy Batt.

A Midsummer Night at the Savoy
Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater
March 16-17
Self Enhancement, Inc., 3920 N. Kirby Ave.
Set in Harlem’s historic Savoy Ballroom, but using Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the dramatic framework, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater weaves together four contemporary choreographers’ work (Oluyinka Akinjiola, Decimus Yarbrough, Michael Galen, and Jamie Minkus) into one piece that highlights the massive contributions African-American artists have made to the American cultural landscape. Actor Kevin Jones narrates as Langston Hughes.

Send in the clowns! Imago Theatre remounts “To Fly Again.” Photo courtesy of Imago Theatre.

To Fly Again
Imago, Jerry Mouawad
March 22-April 6
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave.
As part of its Next Wave Festival this spring, Imago stages three original works: Leonard Cohen is Dead (March 1-16), Pebble (May 10-25), and, sandwiched between the two, Jerry Mouawad’s movement-heavy To Fly Again (March 22-April 6). ArtsWatch’s Bob Hicks reviewed To Fly Again last year 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.’”

Queer burlesque performer and voguer Bouton Volonté shares new work at the N.E.W. residency show.  Photo by Ms. Lopez.

New Expressive Works Residency Performance
March 29-31
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St. (in the Wyse Bldg.)
The 11th New Expressive Works residency performance will showcase work by its newest resident choreographers, Bouton Volonté, Sarah-Luella Baker, Kayla Banks, and Hannah Krafcik with Emily Jones.

Volonté, a queer burlesque performer and voguer, will perform LABOR,, a love letter. In Without a Map, Baker, a multi-disciplinary artist, combines original music and movement with theatricality to create non-linear storylines where the personal and political intersect. Banks, a Colorado native who danced professionally with Impact Dance Company and trained with NW Dance Project, will present the contemporary dance work Mixology. Krafcik and Jones, who met three years ago and began combining their interests in writing, somatics, bodywork, and a variety of dance practices into a practice in Krafcik’s living room, present their work switch.

The residency program, which N.E.W. founder Subashini Ganeshan began in 2012, supports the making of dance in all genres. The program offers four choreographers per session 144 hours of free rehearsal space over six months; “fieldwork,” or peer-to-peer feedback sessions facilitated by dance artist Katherine Longstreth; and a fully produced, ticketed performance at the end.

Modern and contemporary: imported

Fierce and fabulous: Compagnie Hervé Koubi returns with “The Barbarian Nights or The First Dawns of the World.” Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Compagnie Hervé Koubi
Presented by White Bird
February 28-March 2
Newmark Theatre, 111 SW Broadway
French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi and his company of 13 male street dancers from Algeria and Morocco present The Barbarian Nights or The First Dawns of the World. Set against the musical backdrop of Wagner, Mozart, French composer Gabriel Fauré, and traditional Algerian melodies, the dancers, dressed in Swarovski crystal masks and long dark skirts, use capoeira, martial arts, and urban and contemporary dance to explore the idea of otherness. The barbarians of the title come from the term that Greeks and Romans used to describe foreigners who did not speak their languages or understand their customs.

Compagnie Marie Chouinard draws from the poetry and paintings of Belgian artist Henri Michaux in “Henri Michaux: Mouvements.” Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Compagnie Marie Chouinard
Presented by White Bird
March 7-9
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
“My source has always been the body itself,” Montreal-based choreographer Marie Chouinard notes on her company’s website, “and especially the silence and the breath which make up the ‘invisible’ stuff of life. At the root of each new work there is always what I call the ‘mystery,’ an unknown wavelength that calls out to me in an almost obsessive manner. My work consists of capturing this primordial wavelength, of ‘tuning’ it in a sense, and of arranging it in space and time with a structure and form proper to it.”

Chouinard makes a fourth visit to Portland through White Bird with a two-part program. One part is Henri Michaux: Mouvements, a 35-minute one-act ballet that she choreographed between 2005 and 2011, inspired by the India ink drawings and poetry of Belgian artist Henri Michaux. The other part is 24 Preludes by Chopin, a work she created in 1999, inspired by Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 28. She has fashioned, she says in her description, “ a composite dance consisting of solos, duos, trios, and group movements that marry gentleness with strength, and subtlety with rawness.” Portland State University music professor and pianist Susan Chan will play the preludes live.

Send in the clowns, part 2: Cirque du Soleil returns with “Corteo.” Image courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.

Corteo
Cirque du Soleil
Written and directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca
March 14-17
Moda Center, 1 N. Center Ct. St.
In the mysterious space between heaven and earth, a clown imagines his own funeral taking place in a carnival-like atmosphere, guided by a benevolent group of angels. Steeped in Old World circus charm, Corteo (the Italian word for a joyous procession), combines theatricality, acrobatics, comedy, and wit. As the company describes it, “The story juxtaposes the large with the small, the ridiculous with the tragic, and the magic of perfection with the charm of imperfection. Corteo highlights the strength and fragility of the clown, as well as his wisdom and kindness, illustrating the humanity in all of us.”

Ballet: local and imported

PDX Contemporary Ballet dancers find symbolism in a white dress this season. Photo by Andy Batt.

Materialize
PDX Contemporary Ballet
March 1-3
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St.
PDX Contemporary Ballet’s artistic director Briley Neugebauer chose the image of a white dress as an overarching theme for the company’s 2018-2019 season. To Neugebauer, the dress, which appears onstage, symbolizes womanhood, tradition, potential, and the passage of time. In Materialize, the season’s second installment, company dancers Muriel Capdepon, Victoria Lauder (who also sewed the dress), Tessa Salomone, and Katherine Evans have created four new works based on their own interpretations of what the white dress symbolizes, from virgin bride to rampant consumerism.

Ballet Fantastique goes adventuring in “The Odyssey.” Photo courtesy of Ballet Fantastique.

The Odyssey
Ballet Fantastique, Donna Marisa and Hannah Bontrager
March 1-3
Hult Center, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Choreographers Donna Marisa and Hannah Bontrager retell Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey using the language of contemporary ballet. Featuring music from Lyre ‘n’ Rhapsody and Audiomachine, and live looping from electric violinist Cullen Vance, the ballet chronicles a great warrior hero’s journey home and the trials and tribulations that journey entailed.

Eugene Ballet and the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance play well together in Interplay. Photo by Aran Denison.

Interplay
Eugene Ballet
March 8-10
Hult Center, Soreng Theater, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Interplay, the way two or more things have an effect on each other, is both the title and the subject of a new collaboration between Eugene Ballet and the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance.

The program includes choreographic work from University of Oregon associate professor of dance Walter Kennedy, dance professor Steven J. Chatfield, associate professor of dance Shannon Mockli, and dance instructor Sarah Ebert. Eugene Ballet is represented be resident choreographer Suzanne Haag, associate artistic director Jennifer Martin (staging Marius Petipa), and artistic director Toni Pimble.

Eugene Ballet and UO dancers will share the stage in Kennedy’s Whorl, Ebert’s The Exchange and Haag and Mockli’s Between Your Eyes and You, which they created using music from Maurice Ravel’s Miroirs and spoken word read by actors Craig Phillips and Milagro Vargas. UO dancers will perform Chatfield’s Bach to Bach, while Eugene Ballet dancers will perform Petipa’s Don Quixote Grand Pas de Deux and a pas de deux from Common Ground, a sensual contemporary ballet Pimble choreographed for Atlanta Ballet in 1991.

Wake up! The Bolshoi Ballet brings “The Sleeping Beauty” to the big screen. Photo courtesy of Pathe Live.

The Sleeping Beauty
Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema
Presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
12:55 pm March 10
Check local theater listings for more information
The Bolshoi Ballet presents The Sleeping Beauty, filmed live Jan. 22, 2017, and screening at a movie theater near you. Choreographed in 2011 by Bolshoi Ballet ballet master and choreographer Yuri Grigorovich after Petipa, the ballet tells of the evil fairy Carabosse (played by Alexei Loparevich), who curses Princess Aurora (played by prima ballerina Olga Smirnova) to a 100-year sleep, from which she is awakened by a magical kiss. Performed to Tchaikovsky’s score, the ballet features dancing by memorable characters including fairies, Little Red Riding Hood, and Puss in Boots.

Upcoming Performances

April
April 5, Lecture Demonstration with Rosie Herrera and Company, Reed College
April 4-6, Parsons Dance, presented by White Bird
April 4-13, The Pearl Dive Project, BodyVox
April 5-13, Prism, A Mixd Dance Company Production
April 7, The Golden Age, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
April 9-10, Savion Glover, presented by White Bird
April 11-14, Director’s Choice, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 12-14, Shen Yun, Presented by the Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 12-27, A Little Less Human: A Ghost Story, Trip The Dark
April 13, Koichi and Hiroko Tamano, Butoh College 2019
April 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 20, Kudo Taketeru, Butoh College 2019
April 24, Philadanco, presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Encores, NW Dance Project
April 26-May 4, Pathways, works by Kelly Koltiska and Amelia Unsicker

May
May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (world premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene

June
June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Performances, NW Dance Project

Happy Lunar New Year and welcome to DanceWatch Monthly! We’ve decided to switch from a weekly to a monthly format for awhile to see if we like it better. (If you have an opinion on weekly vs. monthly, let us know; we’re here to serve you.) We’re still writing about Oregon dance performances and related events, but we’re organizing them by genre now, to help you more quickly find what interests you. February’s plentiful dance performances, 17 in total, offer celebration, cultural exploration, romance, joy, comedy, and deep dives into a variety of concepts. We hope you enjoy our new monthly edition: remember to check back with us on February 27 for the March DanceWatch.

February Performances

International cultures and dance styles

Feeling lucky? White Lotus Dragon & Lion Dance Team perform at the Lan Su Chinese Garden Lunar New Year celebration. Photo courtesy of White Lotus Dragon & Lion Dance.

New Year Lion Dance/Chinese New Year at Lan Su Chinese Garden
February 5-19
11am, 1pm, 3pm February 9, White Lotus Dragon & Lion Dance Organization
11am, 1pm, 4pm, February 10, Viet Hung Lion & Dragon Dance Team
11am, 1pm, 4pm, February 16, Portland Lee’s Association Dragon & Lion Dance Team
11am, 1pm, 4pm, February 17, International Lion Dance Team
Lan Su Chinese Garden, 239 NW Everett St.
Ring in the 2019 Lunar New Year with a lion dance, traditionally performed in China as well as in other Asian countries at cultural and religious festivals. The dance, an important part of new year celebrations, is meant to ward off bad spirits and bring prosperity and good luck in the upcoming year. The lion dance is performed by two people (not to be confused with the dragon dance, which is performed by 12). It imitates a lion’s movements or displays martial arts agility, depending on the style. The performance is accompanied by drums, symbols, and gongs, and is one of the many ways to celebrate the new year at Lan Su Chinese Garden. There are 12 chances to see a lion dance performed by four different Portland lion dance teams.

Bharatanatyam dancer Mayurika Bhaskar shows how it’s done in a one-night-only concert. Photo courtesy of Sweta Ravisankar.

Bharatanatyam dancer Mugdha Vichare, with Mayurika Bhaskar, performs in a Hillsboro-area concert. Photo by Sarathy Jayakumar.

Bharatanatyam Margam by Mugdha Vichare and Mayurika Bhaskar
Students of Sweta Ravisankar (Sarada Kala Nilayam)
5:30 pm February 24
Hindu Education and Cultural Society of America, Portland Balaji Temple, 2092 NW Aloclek Dr., Suite 522, Hillsboro
Free
Bharatanatyam is an ancient style of South Indian dance that interprets Hindu mythology and spirituality and traces its roots back to Natya Shastra, the ancient Sanskrit text on the performing arts written sometime between 200 BCE and 500 CE. The dance is characterized by a fixed torso, angular arms, bent knees, complex rhythmic footwork, and a sophisticated vocabulary of gestures for the hands, eyes, and face.

Portland Bharatanatyam dancers Mugdha Vichare and Mayurika Bhaskar, students of Bharatanatyam and Nattuvangam performer, teacher, and choreographer Sweta Ravisankar, will perform four dances (Alaripu, Varnam, Padam, Abhang) from the Bharatanatyam repertoire, accompanied by a live orchestra composed of Portland-area musicians.

Ballet

The panel discussion Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power explores issues in the ballet world. Photo by Erin Zysett.

Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power
A panel discussion hosted by Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter
Noon February 6
University of Oregon, Berwick Hall, Tykeson Rehearsal Hall, 975 E 18th Ave., Eugene
Free
Inspired by the #MeToo movement, challenges to age-old ballet narratives, and questions surrounding race, gender roles, sexism, equality, eating disorders, and abuse in ballet, Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter hosts a panel discussion exploring the state of ballet prior to the Eugene Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet. (The event is part of the ongoing Ballet Outsider series). Guest speakers include Lara Bovilsky, an associate professor of English at the University of Oregon whose work focuses on early modern British understandings of group and individual identity; Jamie Friedman, an assistant professor of English at Linfield College, who specializes in identity politics in 14th-century English literature; and Shannon Mockli, a University of Oregon associate professor of dance and choreographer known for provocative, individualistic work.

The next Ballet Outsider panel takes place at noon April 10. It will feature Eugene Ballet resident choreographer Suzanne Haag, who is choreographing an updated version of The Firebird that puts the story in a contemporary context.

Eugene Ballet celebrates the season with doomed romance and family drama in Toni Pimble’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Photo by Aran Denison.

Romeo and Juliet
Eugene Ballet/Orchestra Next
February 9-10
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Eugene Ballet’s 40th anniversary season continues with Shakespeare’s tale of youthful romance and family feuding in a ballet choreographed by artistic director Toni Pimble. Orchestra Next, conducted by Brian McWhorter, plays Prokofiev’s rich score for the drama. “Prokofiev’s score to Romeo and Juliet is so ridiculously full of color and drama” McWhorter said in a statement, “it often sounds to me like the score itself is bursting apart at the seams.”

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (here in “Stars and Stripes Forever”) do ballet their way. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm February 13
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
For one night only, the 14-member all-male ballet company known as The Trocks graces Portland for a fifth time, thanks to White Bird. Founded in 1974, The Trocks skillfully perform classical ballet on pointe, dancing both male and female roles, all with a hilarious comic flair that parodies balletic conventions while also paying homage to the famed Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. (For background, see Rebels on Pointe, the 2017 Trocks documentary)

Xuan Cheng, dancing the title role, keeps it clean in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s production of Ben Stevenson’s “Cinderella.”  Photo by Yi Yin.

Cinderella
Oregon Ballet Theatre/OBT Orchestra
Choreography by Ben Stevenson
February 16-23
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St.
Cinderella suffers at the hands of her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, as we all know, but British choreographer Ben Stevenson’s choreography emphasizes the courage, hope, love, and magic in this tale. A sizable cast of dancers wearing fanciful costumes performs to Sergei Prokofiev’s lush score, played live at all shows by the OBT Orchestra.

Modern and contemporary: local

Film genres inspire BodyVox’s collection of contemporary dance pieces in “The Cutting Room.” Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

The Cutting Room
BodyVox
February 8-9
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
Multiple movie genres (action, comedy, drama, sci-fi) and memories of favorite films inspire BodyVox’s cinematic, virtuosic dance performance The Cutting Room. Former BodyVox dancer Jonathan Krebs returns to perform with the company; look for new company member Jessica McCarthy and apprentice Coltrane Liu as well.

Heidi Duckler Dance will brave the chill during a performance at the Portland Winter Light Festival. Photo courtesy of Heidi Duckler.

Sleepless Like Light
Portland Winter Light Festival/Heidi Duckler Dance
February 7-9
West Riverfront Art Experience, 1000 SW Naito Pkwy.
Free
In venues all over town, the Portland Winter Light Festival celebrates art, technology, and the season with events designed to draw Portlanders out of their homes and into the wintry night. This year’s festival features work by choreographer Heidi Duckler, founder of Heidi Duckler Dance. Duckler is interested in art that reshapes our vision of ourselves and our world; to that end, she has worked on redefining audience-performer relationships by staging dance in unusual locales. She presents the duet Sleepless Like Light, created in collaboration with fabric artist Mimi Haddon, in which two dancers perform in wearable cages illuminated by disco balls.

PDX Dance Collective dancer/choreographer Zahra Garret performs in the group’s swan song. Photo courtesy of PDX Dance Collective.

The Gift
PDX Dance Collective
February 8-10
The Headwaters Theater, 55 NE Farragut St., Suite #9
This is the last performance from PDX Dance Collective, which, ironically, was founded after a group of friends lamented the lack of performance opportunities for dancers who also have day jobs. The company will present an evening of original choreography by April MacKay, Zahra Garrett, and Rachael Singer. The work is loosely based on Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver, which explores contrasts between conformity and individuality, safety and sterility, passion and pain, asking how we, as fallible humans, can manage our differences.

Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde share new work on the double billing “Two of a Kind.” Photo courtesy of Beth Whelan.

Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance
Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde
February 15-16
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Choreographers and recent Portland transplants Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde present the double bill Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance. Whelan’s Georgia is inspired by the life, art, and writings of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe; it’s set to minimal, classically styled piano music. Wilde’s three-part piece Anotherwom(e)n delves into trauma and transformation. Whelan is a movement-based artist, choreographer, teacher, and dance writer for Oregon ArtsWatch. Wilde is a dance artist, performer, and choreographer who co-founded Dillon & Wilde + Artists and dances with Shaun Keylock Company. (For more on recent Portland dance transplants, see Whelan’s story “Is Portland the Newest Dance Destination?” here.)

See why Anya Pearson’s “Made to Dance in Burning Buildings” earned her a $10,000 grant. Photo courtesy of Shaking The Tree Theatre.

Made to Dance in Burning Buildings
Written by Portland playwright Anya Pearson
Directed by Jamie Rea with choreography by Jeff George
February 15-March 16
Shaking The Tree Theatre, 823 SE Grant Street
Made to Dance in Burning Buildings is a fusion of poetry, theater, and violent-visceral contemporary dance that poses this question: How do we heal from trauma? The story, performed by a multi-ethnic cast of 10, follows a young black woman who is raped, develops PTSD, and metaphorically fractures into five different women as a result. It’s from these five points of view that the story is told. Based on a true story, and inspired Ntozake Shange’s choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf, the work earned Pearson the inaugural $10,000 Voice is a Muscle Grant from the Corporeal Voices Foundation.

Minh Tran & Company samples Vietnamese Buddhist rituals in “Anicca/Impermanence.” Photo courtesy of Minh Tran.

Anicca/Impermanence
Minh Tran & Company
February 21-24
Reed College Performing Arts Building, Massee Performance Lab, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Longtime Portland choreographer Minh Tran explores Vietnamese Buddhist rituals surrounding death and mourning in this new 49-minute work, which was inspired by the recent loss of his parents. A native of Vietnam, Tran immigrated to the United States in 1980 as a political refugee; he choreographs pieces that fuse traditional Asian performance techniques with contemporary Western dance. His work reflects an unwavering commitment to breaking down cultural and racial barriers.

Alembic artists in residence present their perspectives in the Alembic Artists Showcase. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NorthWest.

Alembic Artists Showcase
Presented by Performance Works NorthWest
February 22-24
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Friday night reception and a talk-back after the Sunday matinee.
After working in the Performance Works NorthWest studio for the past year, Alembic resident artists Olivia Camfield, KT Kusmaul of Body Home Fat Dance, and Fernanda D’Agostino, Sophia Emigh, and Jaleesa Johnston of IN/BODY and are ready to share their work.

Camfield, a member of the Texas Hill Country Muscogee Creek Tribe, performs a contemporary piece about indigenous people reclaiming their narratives; she’s joined by dancers Kayla Banks (African-American, Choctow), Celeste Camfield (Muscogee/Creek), and Victoria Perez (Mexica/Indigena). IN/BODY uses a marriage of technology and movement to explore trauma and healing. KT Kusmal/Body Home Fat Dance, which describes itself as “a fat-celebrating dance collaboration,” examines the emotional terrain and cultural meanings of fatness in its work.

A-WOL Dance Collective, just hanging out in “Left of Center.” Photo courtesy of A-WOL Dance Collective.

Left of Center
A-WOL Dance Collective
February 23-24
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NW Alberta St.
A-WOL Dance Collective, a 13-member company combining aerial arts and dance, offers Left of Center, in which dancers wearing Victorian-era costumes perform in the round to a haunting soundscape. A-WOL describes the work as “a fantastical tale suspended between reverie and reality … enveloped in a dream state free of the limitations of the waking world.”

NW Dance Project celebrates 15 years of working with dancers (pictured here: Julia Radick) in “Trip the Light Fantastic.” Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Trip The Light Fantastic
NW Dance Project
February 28-March 1
Gala and performance March 2
Expensify, 401 SW 5TH Ave.
Limited capacity
In this 15th anniversary event, NW Dance Project performs pieces by artistic director Sarah Slipper, resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem, and Oregon Ballet Theatre founding artistic director James Canfield in and around the 40,000-square-foot former First National Bank building, now the headquarters of tech company Expensify. The event celebrates the company’s artistic achievements: work with more than 1200 professional and pre-professional dancers (including four Princess Grace Award winners) and the performance of more than 280 original pieces by nationally and internationally known choreographers. The evening will include a dance-cooking skit between Portland actor Susannah Mars and company dancer Andrea Parson, music by Pink Martini pianist Hunter Noack, and a post-performance dance party in the basement vault, hosted by former NW Dance Project star Viktor Usov.

Modern and contemporary: imported

Beijing Dance Theater makes its West Coast debut with three contemporary works. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Beijing Dance Theater
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm February 20
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
Beijing Dance Theater makes its West Coast debut through White Bird with three works from award-winning contemporary Chinese choreographer Wang Yuanyuan, set against striking visual designs by Tan Shaoyuan and Han Jiang. The company’s 13 highly skilled dancers perform Farewell, Shadows, inspired by a book of poetry by Chinese literary giant Lu Xun; Crossing, an ominous journey in which individual dancers struggle to mark their paths along an empty stage, and Hamlet, a balletic take on Shakespeare’s melancholy prince. Yuanyuan, who founded the company in 2008 after completing an MFA in dance at California Institute of the Arts, prides herself on creating innovative contemporary dance steeped in Chinese cultural traditions.

 

Fierce and fabulous: Compagnie Hervé Koubi returns with “The Barbarian Nights or The First Dawns of the World.” Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Compagnie Hervé Koubi
Presented by White Bird
February 28-March 2
Newmark Theatre, 111 SW Broadway
French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi and his company of 13 male street dancers from Algeria and Morocco present The Barbarian Nights or The First Dawns of the World. Set against the musical backdrop of Wagner, Mozart, French composer Gabriel Fauré, and traditional Algerian melodies, the dancers, dressed in Swarovski crystal masks and long dark skirts, use capoeira, martial arts, and urban and contemporary dance to explore the idea of otherness. The barbarians of the title come from the term that Greeks and Romans used to describe foreigners who did not speak their languages or understand their customs.

Upcoming Performances

March
March 1-3, The Odyssey, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Materialize, PDX Contemporary Ballet
March 7-9, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, presented by White Bird
March 8-10, Interplay, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
March 9, Shakti, Sankalpa Dance Ensemble, Sweta Ravishankar, Sridharini Sridharan, and Yashaswini Raghuram
March 9, Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company, Walters Cultural Arts Center
March 10, The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
March 14-17, Corteo, Cirque du Soleil
March 14-21, Ordinary Devotions, Linda Austin
March 16, A Midsummer Night at the Savoy, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater
March 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April
April 5, Lecture Demonstration with Rosie Herrera and Company, Reed College
April 4-6, Parsons Dance, presented by White Bird
April 4-13, The Pearl Dive Project, BodyVox
April 7, The Golden Age, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
April 9-10, Savion Glover, presented by White Bird
April 11-14, Director’s Choice, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 12-14, Shen Yun, Presented by the Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 24, Philadanco, presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Encores, NW Dance Project

May
May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (world premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene

June
June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Performances, NW Dance Project

DanceWatch Weekly: Echo’s otherworldly dance for all

What's happening in Oregon dance now

I recently spent three marvelous hours watching Echo Theater Company members negotiate a system of harnesses, ropes, and pulleys to move a butterfly with gigantic opalescent wings and a mad, spiky hermit crab-like monster around a stage. The atmosphere was electric: it was exciting to watch the collective synapses fire as the company, in an egalitarian way, created art in real time. “Whatever information set you have, you just lend it to the group to try to make the thing,” said creative director Aaron Wheeler-Kay. “The collaboration is constant and ongoing,”

Wheeler-Kay, a Portland native and Jefferson dance alum, directs ETC, which specializes in acrobatics, aerial dance, and physical theater. He has created an otherworldly new family-friendly work, It’s Like This, in collaboration with education director Wendy Cohen, deaf composer Myles de Bastion, ARC in Movement founders Alicia Cutaia and Russ Stark, and Rebound Movement instructor Laura Cannon for the upcoming Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, which runs January 24-February 3. The festival features new artistic work in various stages of development, from workshopped to fully formed, in dance, theater, comedy, film, and everything in between. (Check out Bob Hicks’s breakdown of festival offerings beyond dance in Speed-dating at Fertile Ground.)

You don’t often get to see the mechanics behind the theater magic, but in this production it’s all out in the open. The curtains are drawn to reveal the performers or riggers who hold the ropes propelling the central characters. The butterfly is attached to a four-pulley system that hoists her up and flies her around; the crab monster only needs a two-pulley system, because her movement is lower to the ground. The riggers need to remember the choreography and the timing of the ropes: it’s just as entertaining to watch these folks pulling, flying, and tumbling along with the performers.

The whimsical, gravity-defying creatures that slither, bounce, float, and pounce through It’s Like That are enhanced by imaginative costuming, music, and lighting. The show is designed to be accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers (and performers, two of whom are deaf). Composer de Bastion, a hardware/software designer, conceptual artist, and musician, founded CymaSpace, which specializes in equipment that translates audio information into sight (through light) and touch (through vibration). The music he has envisioned for It’s Like This, both improvised and composed, combines electronic and guitar sounds, he told me when we spoke through an ASL interpreter on Monday. A group of volunteers and a programmer worked with him on the software program he uses to track the music when he plays. Viewers will be able to feel the sound, thanks to a mechanism installed under some seats that creates low-frequency vibrations. American Sign Language interpreters will work all of the performances, and LED light panels installed on the back wall of the stage will use color to represent tone and blinking to represent rhythms.

Echo Theater Company will present its new work at Essentials, a program it will share with Tempos Contemporary Circus’ Underneath, a piece about living a good and fearless life. Essentials lasts an hour in total and will take place at Echo Theater, 1515 SE 37th Ave.

Performances this week

The MAC Dancers perform “The Project Approach” at Groovin’ Greenhouse Feb. 2.  Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre.

Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 24-February 3
Check the Groovin’ Greenhouse and Fertile Ground websites for locations and times
The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, including its dance-centric arm, Groovin’ Greenhouse (hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre), unfolds in venues around town with new performance works in various stages of development. Choreographers and companies presenting movement-related work in this year’s festival include Novoa Dances, Michal Schorsch, Hannah Downs, Polaris Company, Polaris Junior Company, NEO Youth Company, NW Fusion, the MAC dancers, Vitality Dance Collective, ELXR Dance Company, A-WOL Dance Collective, PDX Contemporary Ballet, ELa FaLa Collective, and Ballet Fiesta, Echo Theater Company, Tempos Contemporary Circus, and Living Room Circus.

“The Cutting Room” by BodyVox Dance Company. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

The Cutting Room
BodyVox
January 24-February 9
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
Multiple movie genres (action, comedy, drama, sci-fi) and memories of favorite films inspire BodyVox’s cinematic, virtuoustic dance performance The Cutting Room. Former BodyVox dancer Jonathan Krebs returns to perform with the company; look for new company member Jessica McCarthy and apprentice Coltrane Liu as well.

Sankalpa Dance Ensemble is one of 11 groups performing at the fundraising event Nrityotsava. Photo courtesy of Sweta Ravisankar.

Nrityotsava 2019 /Fundraiser
Indian Classical and Folk Dance Event
Hosted by Kalakendra
5 pm January 26
Lakeridge High School, 1235 Overlook Dr., Lake Oswego
Kalakendra’s mega Indian classical and folk dance fundraising event will feature 11 area professional and student groups performing dance styles including Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Gaudiya Nritya, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Assamese, Punjabi, and more. The Portland-based Kalakendra promotes performing arts from across the Indian subcontinent through classical dance and music performances.

Kudo Taketeru performing at The Tiny Theater PDX. Photo by Sophia Emigh.

The Art of Seeing: The Masculine Dancing
Anet Margot Ris
The Tiny Theater PDX
4 pm January 27
The Tiny Theater PDX, 3306 SE 65th Ave.
New to the performance scene is The Tiny Theater PDX, a home for radical performance curated by Anet Margot Ris, the theater’s founder and self-described “artistic directress.” Ris, a multi-disciplinary performer and former member of Daniel Nagrin’s The Workgroup and The Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble, among others, launches the theater’s 2019 Sunday series The Art of Seeing with The Masculine Dancing, an evening of film and video depicting 20th- and 21st-century male dancers/choreographers. Screenings will be followed by a conversation about how the masculine is portrayed. The series continues through May with sessions devoted to The Feminine Dancing, clowning, drag, and performance art.

Vancouver, B.C.-based Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art brings its cross-disciplinary work “Telemetry” to Portland. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Telemetry
Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art
Presented by White Bird
January 31-February 2
1 pm February 2, master class with Shay Kuebler at Floor Dance Center, reservations recommended
Vancouver, B.C.-based choreographer Shay Kuebler and his company Radical System Art draw from martial arts, hip-hop, contemporary ballet, modern and tap to create theatrical, highly physical work. In the 65-minute work Telemetry, Kuebler and award-winning tapper Danny Nielson (who performs as part of the eight-member cast and contributes the work’s rhythmic score), explore the science of telemetry, a communications process by which measurements and other data are collected and transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring. Kuebler extends that idea to the human body, using it, he says, as “a device—a tool—that translates, relays, and communicates intangible and unseen processes. Dance [uses the] body [to] translate an audible form into a visual form.” In short,Telemetry focuses on how the human body serves as a kind of antenna for sound, energy, and memory.

Upcoming Performances

February 2019
February 5-19, Chinese New Year at Lan Su Chinese Garden
February 6, Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power, a panel discussion hosted by Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter
February 8-10, The Gift, PDX Dance Collective, choreography by April MacKay, Zahra Garrett, and Rachael Singer
February 9-10, Romeo and Juliet, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
February 13, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, presented by White Bird
February 14, Fall In Love With Flamenco, Espacio Flamenco Portland
February 15-16, Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance, Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde
February 16-23, Cinderella, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 20, Beijing Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
February 21-24, Anicca/Impermanence, Minh Tran & Company
February 22-24, Alembic Resident Artists Performance, Performance Works NW
February 23-24, Left of Center, AWOL Dance Collective
February 24, Bharanatayam Margam by Mugdha Vichare and Mayurika Bhaskar, students of Sweta Ravisankar
February 28-March 2, Compagnie Hervé Koubi, presented by White Bird
February 28-March 2, Trip The Light Fantastic, NW Dance Project

March
March 1-3, The Odyssey, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Materialize, PDX Contemporary Ballet
March 7-9, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, presented by White Bird
March 8-10, Interplay, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
March 9, Shakti, Sankalpa Dance Ensemble, Sweta Ravishankar, Sridharini Sridharan, and Yashaswini Raghuram
March 9, Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company, Walters Cultural Arts Center
March 10, The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
March 14-17, Corteo, Cirque du Soleil
March 14-21, Ordinary Devotions, Linda Austin
March 16, A Midsummer Night at the Savoy, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater
March 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April
April 5, Lecture Demonstration with Rosie Herrera and Company, Reed College
April 4-6, Parsons Dance, presented by White Bird
April 4-13, The Pearl Dive Project, BodyVox
April 7, The Golden Age, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
April 9-10, Savion Glover, presented by White Bird
April 11-14, Director’s Choice, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 12-14, Shen Yun, Presented by the Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 24, Philadanco, presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Encores, NW Dance Project

May
May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (World Premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene

June
June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Performances, NW Dance Project

DanceWatch Weekly: The spaces we move through

What's happening in Oregon dance now

Lately, I’ve become obsessed with castles: their architecture; their scale; their permanence; their connections to history; their construction; their inhabitants. Castles are lasting, tangible creations, unlike dance pieces, which are fleeting. But they share some commonalities.

I recently had a conversation with someone about how being a dancemaker is similar to being an architect. I explained that when constructing a dance, a choreographer considers the same things that an architect might: style, time, space, design, scale, etc. Like architects, dancemakers create work in collaboration with other skilled artists and craftspeople, using the materials at their disposal. Architects and choreographers experiment as they work, and their creations often reflect their surroundings and culture. (I’m even more aware of the dance-architecture relationship now that I’m studying Odissi, a classical Indian dance form partially derived from relief sculptures, found on temple walls, that depicted movement.)

Ultimately, architects and choreographers both create structures that organize bodies in space. This week’s dance events do that too, removing barriers and bridging divides in the process.

The Oregon Dance Education Organization, for example, is creating an infrastructure of sorts with its conference Building Bridges, Connecting the Field. Dance can be divisive and competitive, so the conference is a welcome attempt to unite its different factions under one roof. The conference, staged in partnership with Portland Community College’s Dance Department, features BrainDance creative movement founder Anne Green Gilbert as keynote speaker. She will guide participants through a five-part dance class focused on building community through relationships and emphasizing skill development, choreography, and reflection. Additional presenters will include Terra Lyn Anderson, Sherrie Barr, Sarah Ebert, Laura Haney, Amy Werner, Sara Parker, and Mary L. Seereiter. Building Bridges will be held Saturday, January 19, at the PCC Sylvania campus. For more information, see oregondeo.org.

DanceAbility in performance. Photo courtesy of DanceAbility.

Eugene’s DanceAbility International, a program that Alito Alessi and Karen Nelson created in the 1980s to connect people with and without disabilities through movement classes, events, and teacher trainings, is one of 10 international programs selected to participate in the 2019 Zero Project Impact Transfer Program in Austria. The Zero Project Impact Transfer Program, which promotes solutions to the problems that people with disabilities face, prepares organizations to develop their programs into business models for worldwide application. Connie Vandarakis, vice president of DanceAbility’s board of directors, issued a statement on what selection means for the organization: “This opportunity has helped us shift our organization from an arts initiative program to a social entrepreneur program. One cannot overestimate the potential of being selected for the Zero Project and the Impact Transfer Program. The impact will magnify the DanceAbility methodology all over the world.”

Northern California Ballet, which lost its dance studio and costumes in the Camp Fire in Paradise, California this fall, is rebuilding with help from Eugene Ballet. The two companies have had a longstanding relationship ever since 2001, when Eugene Ballet principal dancer Jennifer Martin began guest teaching and dancing for NCB; since then, many Eugene Ballet dancers have participated in NCB programs as instructors and guest artists. This year, Eugene Ballet director Toni Pimble packed up and sent her company’s Nutcracker sets and costumes to NCB, which will perform the ballet January 18-20 in Oroville, California.

A window onto the choreographic process opens during a low-key work-in-progress show from dance artists Joanna Furnans (Chicago), Hope Goldman (Seattle), Allie Hankins (Portland), and Linda Austin (Portland). The show is held 3-5pm Saturday, January 19 at Flock Dance Center. Donations are welcome at the door and no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

A still from the film “sweetgrass” by Portland artists Amy Leona Havin/The Holding Project and Tomas Alfredo Valladares.

How does dance translate to a one-dimensional format? You have two opportunities to find out: the nine international dance films that won awards at the 2018 Portland Dance Film Fest will screen January 19 at the Clinton Street Theater. And the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow is back with La Bayadère on January 20. Presented by Fathom Events, La Bayadère, choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich to music by Leon Minkus, tells the tragic tale of temple dancer Nikiya and her doomed love affair with the warrior Solor.

Finally, two dance-centric productions created largely by female artists and artists of color continue this week. These productions embrace global culture, mark the intersection of art forms, explore universal themes, and feature both inspirational and aspirational qualities.

The first production is Indian Music Now, a collaboration among Bharatanatyam dancer Subashini Ganesan and composers Reena Esmail, Asha Srinivasan, Shirish Korde, and Nina Shekhar. Produced by Third Angle New Music, the show plays January 19 at The Vault, in Hillsboro. Indian Music Now reflects the contributors’ experiences growing up within Indian and American cultures. The show features a dance performance by Ganesan and musical performances by Louis DeMartino on clarinet, Branic Howard on electronics, and Sarah Tiedemann on flute.

Bradley Gibson as Simba in “The Lion King”. Photo by Deen van Meer.

The second production is the Broadway tour of The Lion King, running at Eugene’s Hult Center January 9-20. The musical, which premiered in New York in 1997, is Broadway’s third-longest-running show and its highest grossing. It has received 70 major awards, including a Tony for its Jamaican-born choreographer, Garth Fagan.

The musical, based on the Walt Disney animated film of the same name, tells the story of the young lion Simba, who is to succeed his father, Mufasa, as king. But Simba’s uncle, Scar, kills Mufasa and takes over as king: Simba is then manipulated into thinking he was responsible for his father’s murder and goes into hiding. When Simba grows up, he returns to challenge Scar and reclaim his birthright.

“We have the negative forces in our lives, but if you are good and strong, you overcome them to beauty, and harmony, and peace,” Fagan told UK radio host Alex Belfield in 2009 in a discussion of the show’s theme.

Adrienne Walker as Nala and the cast of “The Lion King.” Photo by Deen van Meer.

Fagan, whose Rochester, New York-based company Garth Fagan Dance has appeared in Portland through White Bird, created The Lion King choreography with a unique mix of Caribbean and African dance, modern, jazz, hip-hop, ballet, and stilt work. Fagan has said he intended to expand viewers’ consciousness and reflect the varied experiences of children who came to see the show.

Director Julie Taymor, the first woman to receive a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, also co-designed the masks and puppets, wrote additional lyrics for the show, and designed its costumes, for which she received a second Tony. Elton John composed the music, which earned him an Oscar.

The production features elaborate sets that rise up from the floor; magnificent, heartfelt songs sung in six indigenous African languages; actors and dancers dressed in colorful, ornate animal costumes; puppets; and a luminous orange sun made of silk that shimmers as it rises over this theatrical African desert.

The Lion King is full of theater magic. I hope its universal message of hope, perseverance, and goodness will inspire you and renew your spirit as you move forward into the new year. Surround yourself with beauty and people who inspire you, and go see lots of art–and dance, of course.

Upcoming Performances

January 2019
January 24-February 3, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin Greenhouse
January 24-February 2, The Cutting Room, BodyVox
January 26, Nrityotsava 2019 , Indian Classical & Folk Dance Event, Hosted by Kalakendra
January 27, The Art of Seeing: The Masculine Dancing, The Tiny Theater PDX
January 31-February 2, Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art, presented by White Bird

February

February 5-19, Chinese New Year at Lan Su Chinese Garden
February 6, Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power, a panel discussion hosted by Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter
February 8-10, The Gift, PDX Dance Collective, choreography by April MacKay, Zahra Garrett, and Rachael Singer
February 9-10, Romeo and Juliet, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
February 13, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, presented by White Bird
February 14, Fall In Love With Flamenco, Espacio Flamenco Portland
February 15-16, Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance, Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde
February 16-23, Cinderella, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 20, Beijing Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
February 21-24, Anicca/Impermanence, Minh Tran & Company
February 22-24, Alembic Resident Artists Performance, Performance Works NW
February 23-24, Left of Center, AWOL Dance Collective
February 24, Bharanatayam Margam by Mugdha Vichare and Mayurika Bhaskar, students of Sweta Ravisankar
February 28-March 2, Compagnie Hervé Koubi, presented by White Bird
February 28-March 2, Trip The Light Fantastic, NW Dance Project

March
March 1-3, The Odyssey, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Materialize, PDX Contemporary Ballet
March 7-9, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, presented by White Bird
March 8-10, Interplay, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
March 9, Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company, Walters Cultural Arts Center
March 10, The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
March 14-17, Corteo, Cirque du Soleil
March 14-21, Ordinary Devotions, Linda Austin
March 16, A Midsummer Night at the Savoy, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater
March 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April
April 5, Lecture Demonstration with Rosie Herrera and Company, Reed College
April 4-6, Parsons Dance, Presented by White Bird
April 4-13, The Pearl Dive Project, BodyVox
April 7, The Golden Age, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
April 9-10, Savion Glover, presented by White Bird
April 11-14, Director’s Choice, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 12-14, Shen Yun, Presented by the Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 24, Philadanco, presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Encores, NW Dance Project

May
May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (World Premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene

June
June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Performances, NW Dance Project

Welcome back, dance lovers, to a brand-new year of dance in Oregon.

DanceWatch 2019 opens with two dance-centric productions that promote the visibility of female artists and artists of color. These productions embrace global culture, mark the intersection of art forms, explore universal themes, and feature both inspirational and aspirational qualities.

Bharatanatyam dancer Subashini Ganesan performing at Ten Tiny Dances. Photo by Scott H. Forbes

The first production is Indian Music Now, a collaboration among Bharatanatyam dancer Subashini Ganesan and composers Reena Esmail, Asha Srinivasan, Shirish Korde, and Nina Shekhar. Produced by Third Angle New Music, the show opens January 10 at Portland’s New Expressive Works. Indian Music Now reflects the contributors’ experiences growing up within Indian and American cultures. The show features a dance performance by Ganesan and musical performances by Louis DeMartino on clarinet, Branic Howard on electronics, and Sarah Tiedemann on flute.

The second production is the Broadway tour of The Lion King, running at Eugene’s Hult Center January 9-20. The musical, which premiered in New York in 1997, is Broadway’s third-longest-running show and its highest grossing. It has received 70 major awards, including a Tony for its Jamaican-born choreographer, Garth Fagan.

Bradley Gibson as Simba in “The Lion King”. Photo by Deen van Meer.

The musical, based on the Walt Disney animated film of the same name, tells the story of the young lion Simba, who is to succeed his father, Mufasa, as king. But Simba’s uncle, Scar, kills Mufasa and takes over as king: Simba is then manipulated into thinking he was responsible for his father’s murder and goes into hiding. When Simba grows up, he returns to challenge Scar and reclaim his birthright.

“We have the negative forces in our lives, but if you are good and strong, you overcome them to beauty, and harmony, and peace,” Fagan told UK radio host Alex Belfield in 2009 in a discussion of the show’s theme.

Fagan, whose Rochester, New York-based company Garth Fagan Dance has appeared in Portland through White Bird, created The Lion King choreography with a unique mix of Caribbean and African dance, modern, jazz, hip-hop, ballet, and stilt work. Fagan has said he intended to expand viewers’ consciousness and reflect the varied experiences of children who came to see the show.

Adrienne Walker as Nala and the cast of “The Lion King.” Photo by Deen van Meer.

Director Julie Taymor, the first woman to receive a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, also co-designed the masks and puppets, wrote additional lyrics for the show, and designed its costumes, for which she received a second Tony. Elton John composed the music, which earned him an Oscar.

The production features elaborate sets that rise up from the floor; magnificent, heartfelt songs sung in six indigenous African languages; actors and dancers dressed in colorful, ornate animal costumes; puppets; and a luminous orange sun made of silk that shimmers as it rises over this theatrical African desert.

The Lion King is full of theater magic. I hope its universal message of hope, perseverance, and goodness will inspire you and renew your spirit as you move forward into the new year. Surround yourself with beauty and people who inspire you, and go see lots of art–and dance, of course.

Upcoming Performances

January 2019
January 9-20, The Lion King, Eugene
January 10-19, Indian Music Now, Subashini Ganesan and Third Angle New Music
January 19, Building Bridges, Connecting the Field, Oregon Dance Education Organization
January 19, Award Winners Screening, Portland Dance Film Fest
January 20, La Bayadère, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
January 24-February 3, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin Greenhouse
January 24-February 2, The Cutting Room, BodyVox
January 26, Nrityotsava 2019 , Indian Classical & Folk Dance Event, Hosted by Kalakendra
January 27, Oleaje Flamenco at Tablao Artichoke, Espacio Flamenco Portland
January 27, The Art of Seeing: The Masculine Dancing, The Tiny Theater PDX
January 31-February 2, Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art, presented by White Bird

February

February 5-19, Chinese New Year at Lan Su Chinese Garden
February 6, Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power, a panel discussion hosted by Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter
February 8-10, The Gift, PDX Dance Collective, choreography by April MacKay, Zahra Garrett and Rachael Singer
February 9-10, Romeo and Juliet, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
February 13, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, presented by White Bird
February 14, Fall In Love With Flamenco, Espacio Flamenco Portland
February 15-16, Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance, Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde
February 16-23, Cinderella, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 20, Beijing Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
February 21-24, Anicca/Impermanence, Minh Tran & Company
February 22-24, Alembic Resident Artists Performance, Performance Works NW
February 23, Left of Center, AWOL Dance Collective
February 24, Bharanatayam Margam by Mugdha Vichare and Mayurika Bhaskar, students of Sweta Ravisankar
February 28-March 2, Compagnie Hervé Koubi, presented by White Bird
February 28-March 2, Trip The Light Fantastic, NW Dance Project

March
March 1-3, The Odyssey, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Materialize, PDX Contemporary Ballet
March 7-9, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, presented by White Bird
March 8-10, Interplay, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
March 9, Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company, Walters Cultural Arts Center
March 10, The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
March 14-17, Corteo, Cirque du Soleil
March 14-21, Ordinary Devotions, Linda Austin
March 16, A Midsummer Night at the Savoy, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater
March 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April
April 5, Lecture Demonstration with Rosie Herrera and Company, Reed College
April 4-6, Parsons Dance, Presented by White Bird
April 4-13, The Pearl Dive Project, BodyVox
April 7, The Golden Age, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
April 9-10, Savion Glover, presented by White Bird
April 11-14, Director’s Choice, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 12-14, Shen Yun, Presented by the Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 24, Philadanco, presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Encores, NW Dance Project

May
May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (World Premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene

June
June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Performances, NW Dance Project

Portland embraces Odissi Indian dance at first festival

One of India’s eight classical dance forms, Odissi is not often performed locally. Extraordinary performances made the case for changing that.

This fall, Portland, Oregon, saw its first-ever Odissi dance festival, and it was extraordinary. The 8th Kelucharan Guna Keertanam (it has been offered previously in major Indian and U.S. cities), was produced as a fundraiser for, and in partnership with, the Pratham Education Foundation. Directed by Odissi dancer and choreographer Aparupa Chatterjee, it paid homage to the late Shri Kelucharan Mohapatra, the legendary Indian classical dancer, guru, and exponent of Odissi dance, credited with helping revive and popularize this ancient form in the 20th century. The festival, held Sept. 23, featured Mohapatra’s son, Ratikant Mohapatra; Chatterjee and her Texas-based ensemble, the Odissi Dance Company; and Washington State’s Urvasi Dance Ensemble, directed by Ratna Roy.

Because Odissi is deeply rooted in Jagannath culture and Hindu religious practices, using a church as a performance venue made sense. The Portland program took place downtown in the First Congregational United Church of Christ. This beautiful, 1800s-era Venetian Gothic church has stained glass windows, a bell tower, and an elaborate pipe organ, encased in finely carved dark wood, that reaches up toward the domed ceiling. This backdrop rivaled the majesty of the Odissi dance tradition itself.

Odissi Dance Conpany’s Artistic Director Aparupa Chatterjee with Tanvi Prasad, Divya Srinivasa, Divya Chowdhary, Swati Yarlagadda, and Ramyani Roy. Photo by Sarathy Jayakumar.

One of India’s eight classical dance forms, Odissi originated in India’s eastern state of Odisha and draws from the Mahari temple dance tradition, the Gotipua tradition (male dancers who dress as women), and the Bandha Nritya and Chau martial arts traditions. It also draws on information gleaned from the relief sculptures on temple walls and from Natya Shastra, a Sanskrit text on the performing arts written by Bharata Muni sometime between 200 BCE and 500 CE.

After India’s independence from Great Britain in 1947, there was a movement to revive Indian cultural traditions that had been suppressed and even criminalized by the British during their reign. Although Odissi had existed long before, it was formalized in the 1950s by a group of Orissan artists called the Jayantika.

Odissi as we now know it combines emotional expression with intricate footwork, sculptural poses, and storytelling. In Odissi, every part of the body is involved in the dance, from the eyes to the toes, and all the parts move independently. Odissi has two stances, chaukha and tribhangi, upon which all of the dances are built. Chauka is a wide, deeply bent, turned-out position, very similar to ballet’s second position. Tribhangi means “three parts break” and consists of bends at the neck, waist and knee, creating an S curve in the body. There are 10 steps each in chauka and tribhangi that correspond to the number of beats in each step.

ODC presented six dances, performed by Chatterjee and dancers Aswati Nandakumar, Divya Chowdhary, Divya Srinivasa, Ramyani Roy, Sadrita Mondal, Swati Yarlagadda, Tanvi Prasad, Veena Surya, and Yashaswini Raghuram. Dances included two works by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra: Dashavatar, a depiction of Lord Vishnu’s ten avatars, and Vande Mataram, an invocation and tribute to mother India. Ratikant Mohapatra’s Patadeep Pallavi and Natangi were both pure technical dance without narrative. Chatterjee’s Jo bajhe Hari Ko Sada described Krishna or god as the ultimate goal of one’s life, and her work with Ratikant Mohapatra, Ye Ho Vithala, described Krishna’s beauty.

Odissi Dance Company dancers Divya Srinivasa, Yashaswini Raghuram, Swati Yarlagadda, Ramyani Roy, Tanvi Prasad, Aswati Nandakumar, and Veena Surya. Photo by Sarathy Jayakumar.

Because of the synchronicity in their movements and form, you might assume that the ODC dancers live near each other and practice together often. But they all live in different states around the U.S. They learn from Chatterjee, practice daily on their own, and rehearse together several times a week online. Considering that most Odissi dance is performed solo, it’s a powerful experience to see an idea multiplied by a full company: it makes statements and ideas that much stronger. The choreography, which felt fresh and new but stayed true to traditional Odissi vocabulary, is a credit to the continued efforts of Chatterjee and Ratikant Mohapatra to contemporize Odissi. It played with patterns, formations, and relationships, creating tableaux that brought to life the stories and personalities of Hindu mythology.

ODC performed together seamlessly as a company; the choreography, in fact, isn’t intended to draw attention to any one individual. But I will say that my eye was often drawn to Chatterjee, an exceptional dancer and mesmerizing performer. She fully embodies the form and expresses an array of emotions while she dances. For her, performing seems as natural as breathing. I also enjoyed Chowdhary, whose serene facial expressions and soft lyrical movements, juxtaposed with her grounded presence, made for a dynamic performance. Raghuram is also an exceptional performer whose movements are quick and strong as well as soft and lyrical, sometimes reminding me of a hummingbird.

Odissi dancer Ratikant Mohapatra in “Shabari.” Photo by Sarathy Jayakumar.

Ratikant Mohapatra choreographed and performed the solo Shabari, about a woman who, after a lifetime of waiting, finally meets Lord Rama. Mohapatra’s quiet, introspective, unadorned performance moved me to tears. His expressions and gestures very clearly depicted Shabari’s longing and love for Lord Rama. I was amazed that such a “simple” dance could so powerfully transcend time and geography to communicate so effectively.

The Urvasi Dance Ensemble performed two works; Bandha Thali Sthayi, which combines three Odissi dance styles (Sthayi, Bandha, Thali), and Shakti, a depiction of primal female power inspired by Roy’s research of the Yogini and Shakti temples in Odisha. The choreography is by Roy and Guru Pankaj Charan Das, and is derived from the Mahari temple dancer tradition. Guru Pankaj Charan Das was the adopted son of an original mahari and was one of the dance gurus who helped reconstruct and popularize Odissi. The performers–Marissa Betz-Zall, Moria Chappell, Sukanya Nanda, Douglas Ridings, Jamie Lynn Colley, Ashlesha Mishra, Megha Mishra, and Suma Mondal–wore red-and-black Odissi costumes, a nice visual counterbalance to ODC’s brighter, jeweled-toned costumes.

Urvasi Dance Ensemble’s Moria Chappell, Douglas Ridings and Marissa Betz-Zall. Photo by Sarathy Jayakumar.

Toward the end of Bandha Thali Sthayi, the Urvasi dancers broke from the dancing and collected the medium-sized brass plates they had entered with; these held two smaller plates and two candles. After splitting into two lines, the three dancers in the back row balanced the smaller plates on their hands while spinning on their knees. Ridings and Chappell, in the front row, performed headstands on the plates while slowly moving their legs in and out of splits in the air. Viewers were so wowed by Urvasi’s acrobatic skills that they jumped out of their seats and rushed toward the stage to take pictures.

Shakti was no less resplendent, with intense energy, spinning knee crawls, yogic hand balances, dramatic backbends, and a tableau depicting the multi-armed warrior goddess Durga; another form of the goddess Shakti. In a dramatic moment, Ridings, lying with his back on the floor, held Chappell above him by her shoulders and hips in a flying warrior yoga pose, her arms outstretched, back arched, and legs pointed toward the sky in a diamond.

Urvasi Dance Ensemble’s  Moria Chappell and Douglas Ridings. Photo by Sarathy Jayakumar.

Odissi dance demands athletic rigor, grace, emotional and spiritual investment, and strong technique. (Full disclosure: I study Odissi dance with ODC member Yashaswini Raghuram). In Odissi, the dancer is the personification of the music. Whenever I watch an Odissi dancer, I imagine that I am seeing the sounds of the instruments emanating from the movements of the dancer’s body. I see the drum when the dancer’s feet strike the floor; the softer, more melodic sounds of the flute and the tanpura when the torso and arms move; and the metallic ding of the rhythmic brass cymbals when a dancer’s head moves side to side, causing the jhumka earrings to sway.

I hope this festival will continue here in Portland, grow to include more styles of Odissi dance, partner with other cultural organizations to create new audiences, and match the variety and popularity of established Indian dance festivals like New York’s Erasing Borders and Drive East.

DanceWatch Weekly: Dance Lights Up December’s Darkness

The week's DanceWatch covers a month of dance from "Wolf Tales" to a trio of Nutcrackers and so much more.

Happy holidays, happy solstice, happy Hanukkah, happy Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas, and happy New Year. I’m saying all that now because THIS DanceWatch Weekly will be the last one of 2018. I know, I’m sad too, but don’t worry: DanceWatch will return again in 2019 with a look at the musical The Lion King, featuring choreography by Garth Fagan. It opens in Eugene January 9.

Before we go our separate ways to enjoy our seasonal celebrations, let’s take a moment to reflect.

This was a busy year for dance in Oregon and for DanceWatch, as well as for ArtsWatch’s incredible team of dance writers: Martha Ullman West, Bob Hicks, Barry Johnson, Heather Wisner, Nim Wunnan, Gary Ferrington, and Elizabeth Whelan, who tried hard to cover it all. As one of the relatively rare sources of dance writing in the U.S., ArtsWatch is a valuable platform; I’m grateful for it, and for the company of such talented writers. If you would like to read ArtsWatch’s coverage of dance in 2018, begin here and click through.

December, dark and magical, brings festive dance performances of all kinds, beginning with NW Dance Project’s Wolf Tales, a remix of fables and fairy tales choreographed by the company dancers: expect lots of surprising twists and turns. Wolf Tales runs December 6-8 and features NW Dance Project executive director Scott Lewis’s world-famous warm wassail served up in the lobby after each show.

This 2016 photo of Linda Austin Dance performing “The last bell rings for you” serves as a prompt at the December 9 STREWN fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NorthWest.

On December 9, for one night only, Performance Works NorthWest will present Strewn, a party to celebrate 18 years of experimental dance and performance held in the Performance Works NorthWest space, to keep the space affordable for artists, and to help sustain programming such as the Alembic artist residencies, various co-productions, and Linda Austin Dance. Two performances, at 7 and 9pm, feature seven outstanding multi-discipline performances by an amazing lineup of Portland artists. The performances are inspired by archival photos of past PWNW performances, and the evening will include a raffle, refreshments, and a karaoke after-party at 9pm.

Other attractions this month include Robin Lane’s holiday spectacular, held December 14-16 at the Alberta Rose Theatre and brimming with musical, acrobatic, and theatrical glory. DO JUMP physical theatre and 3 LEG TORSO perform; Pepe Raphael (of Pepe & the Bottle Blondes) and Jenny Conlee-Drizos (of the Decemberists) make guest appearances. Milagro/Miracle Theatre Group’s Posada Milagro is a Latino Christmas celebration that includes crafts, Spanish storytelling, piñatas, food, and folkloric dance and music performances by Ballet Papalotl and Son Huitzilín; it’s held at the company’s home theater on Stark Street December 16. Espacio Flamenco celebrates the holiday flamenco style with Fiesta Navideña. Held December 16 at the Alberta Abbey, the event features performances of traditional holiday songs and dances by Espacio Flamenco students and the Espacio Flamenco Company.

Ballet Fantastique’s “Babes in Toyland” premieres December 8. Photo courtesy of Ballet Fantastique.

In Eugene, the Emmy Award-winning television dance competition series So You Think You Can Dance Live! 2018 comes to the Hult Center on December 8, featuring winning performers and choreography from the show’s 15th season. Babes in Toyland, a world premiere by Ballet Fantastique, runs December 14-16 at the Hult Center as well, and will be danced to Duke Ellington’s rendition of The Nutcracker Suite, played live by the Swing Shift Orchestra. The ballet, choreographed and produced by the mother-daughter artistic team of Donna Marisa and Hannah Bontrager, is a reimagining of the original Babes in Toyland operetta that Victor Herbert composed as a Christmas-themed fairy-tale mashup; it debuted in 1903.

As for Nutcrackers, there are three: Oregon Ballet Theatre performs George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker December 8-26, the majority with live music live by the OBT orchestra. Eugene Ballet’s The Nutcracker, choreographed by artistic director Toni Pimble and accompanied live by Orchestra Next, runs December 21-23. And the Bolshoi Ballet performs Yuri Grigorovich’s The Nutcracker (after E.T.A. Hoffmann and Marius Petipa) live from Moscow in movie theaters near you on December 23.

BodyVox’s Junior Artist Generator (JAG) Company performs December 14-15. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

Student performances, which tend to be less expensive and shorter (great for the younger set) include The Reed College Winter Dance Concert, featuring student and faculty choreography; it runs December 8-9. Steps PDX Youth Program dancers perform excerpts from The Nutcracker, Land of the Sweets, featuring choreography by artistic director Kathryn Harden, ballet Mistress Olivia Ornelas, and instructors Lauren Smith and Jesus Rodales; the show is held December 15. And BodyVox’s pre-professional dance group, the Junior Artist Generator (JAG) Company, performs works by BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland as well as pieces by a who’s who of up-and-coming Portland choreographers December 14-15.

That’s a wrap. We’ll bring you more Oregon dance events in the new year.