DANCE

White Bird Dance: Love, L-E-V-style

The Israeli dance company returns to Portland with a tense dance about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

By HEATHER WISNER

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder—heartrendingly described in Neil Hilborn’s OCD: A Love Poem—provides the framework for Israeli dance company L-E-V’s hourlong piece OCD Love, which opened last night as part of the White Bird Uncaged series. The dance looks and sounds like Hilborn’s poem, which inspired co-artistic director Sharon Eyal, reads: a series of repeated phrases suggesting a longing for connection and normalcy, and the agony of watching both slowly elude your grasp, despite your best efforts.

L-E-V co-artistic directors Eyal and Gai Behar have built their choreography around movement tics: jittery legs, shuddery torsos, ritualistic gestures. There’s a tick-tick-ticking sound as the curtain rises on a lone dancer, her musculature accented by a stark contrast between light and shadow. (The piece is shrouded in what’s described as “water-based haze,” similar to a smoke-machine effect.) She moves in slow motion, contorting her limbs in ways that look impressive but probably aren’t comfortable. Eventually a second dancer her joins her, sort of: they dance near each other, but not with each other. These sorts of close-but-not-quite encounters recur within the various configurations of the company’s six dancers, who bring sharpness and clarity to choreography that could have gotten muddy quickly.

Continues…

DanceWatch Weekly: close partners

Spenser Theberge talks about “Rather This, Then” and his partnership with Jermaine Spivey; L-E-V comes to White Bird; Mood Factory; more

Dancer and Portland native Spenser Theberge and his partner in life and dance, Jermaine Spivey, are back in town to perform Rather This, Then, a work they developed last September during a residency at Disjecta here in Portland. They will perform it twice on Friday, Nov. 17, once at 12:15 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. at Reed College’s Massee Performance Lab in the Performing Arts Building.

Jamuna Chiarini

Theberge grew up in Portland dancing at The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre and Columbia Dance in Vancouver and went on to attend Juilliard and dance with the Netherlands Dance Theatre and The Forsythe Company.

Spivey also attended Juilliard, and went on to dance for Ballet Gulbenkian and the Cullberg Ballet, joining Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite’s company Kidd Pivot in 2008, where he dances now. You might have seen him perform back in April 2016 when White Bird brought Betroffenheit to Portland—a collaboration between Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company Theatre that combined dance and theater, which ArtsWatch’s Nim Wunnan captured in his review, which you can read here.

Therberge describes this collaborative work as “highly physical and highly human, calling on body, voice, and visual elements to reveal truths about each other. It’s privacy made public, it’s tenderly voyeuristic, and the result is an opportunity for the audience to see something of themselves represented in another.”

When Theberge was here last year I interviewed him via email about his life in dance in the United States versus Europe. “Working as a dancer in Europe means you’re really well taken care of,” he said. “You get paid all year, have health care, vacation time, physical therapy, a pension plan. Dancing is the same as any other job there (for the most part, although Europe is beginning to see similar budget cuts in the arts as we do in America) and the conditions and benefits of the all jobs are the same.” You can read the full interview here.

Since then, he and Spivey have been quite busy. Therberge has restaged works from Nederlands Dans Theater on companies in Rome, Lyon, and Tulsa, and Spivey just finished a long tour of Betroffenheit with Kidd Pivot and the Electric Company Theater that included being awarded an Olivier Award in London. The Olivier Award, or The Laurence Olivier Awards, is an annual award given by the Society of London Theatre in recognition of excellence in professional theater in London.

Spenser Theberge and Jermaine Spivey. Photo by Michael Slobodian.

Somewhere in there they moved to Los Angeles and are settling in for the first time in two years, Theberge said when we spoke recently via email. “We’ve been focusing a lot on establishing roots and connecting with our new community which has felt so enriching after missing that home feeling for so long. We’ve been teaching a lot and creating short works on dancers around L.A. and America. Now we’re talking about what we want our future to look like and how we can facilitate those experiences.”

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DanceWatch Weekly: Allie Hankins talks about her creative process

Allie Hankins keeps her conversation with DanceWatch going with an interview about a new duet, plus a hip-hop Nutcracker and lots of parties

When We, a duet choreographed by Portland-based performer Allie Hankins and San Francisco-based dance artist and curator Rachael Dichter, opens this weekend at Performance Works NW. The culmination of a two-year, long-distance collaboration, it is set in “an austere world characterized by coded language, penetrating focus, and biting humor,” according to Hankins.

Jamuna Chiarini

I sat down with Hankins this past week to pick up where we left off the last time we spoke, to learn more about her creative process and what drives her as an artist, and to get some insight into her new work. That conversation is below the listings.

But first, Portland’s beloved jazz teacher and choreographer Tracey Durbin is leaving town and moving to Durham, North Carolina, on Thanksgiving. If you’ve always wanted to take her class, love her class but haven’t taken it in a while, or want to say goodbye in person, now is your chance to do it. Durbin teaches weekly jazz classes at BodyVox and NW Dance Project, so check their schedules online for specific class times and get to a Durbin class while you still can.

Also this week in Portland dance: The Hip Hop Nutcracker is here on tour from New York; Polaris Dance Theatre connects with Prince, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen in Avalanche; The Holding Project directed by Amy Leona Havin is having a Season Launch Party at Ford Food and Drink; A-WOL Dance Collective celebrates its 15-year anniversary; and Horizon3 Dance, a brand new dance company co-directed by Brynn Hofer, Gerard Regot, and Melanie Verna, debuts at RAW.

Performances this week

Polaris Dance Theatre dancers in Avalanche. Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre. Photo by Brian McDonnell.

Avalanche
Polaris Dance Theatre, artistic director Robert Guitron
November 9-11
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave.
Creating an arch between Prince, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen in this dance/music tribute, Polaris artistic director Robert Guitron plays with themes that were central to these artists—gender identity, diversity, sexuality, racism, spirituality, and fashion—in an evening work for thirteen dancers.

Allie Hankins and Rachael Dichter in When We. Photo courtesy of Allie Hankins.

When We
Allie Hankins and Rachael Dichter, a PWNW Alembic Co-Production
November 9-12
Performance Works NW || Linda Austin Dance, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
See interview below.

The dancers of The Holding Project. Photo by Marina Choy.

Season Launch Party!
The Holding Project, artistic director Amy Leona Havin
7 pm November 11
Ford Food and Drink, 2505 SE 11th Ave.
Directed by Israeli dance artist, choreographer and writer Amy Leona Havin, The Holding Project will host a season opener fundraising party that will include solo performances by company members, live music, refreshments, raffles, and a silent auction. Prizes courtesy of Grand Central Bakery, Corepower Yoga, Lena Traenkenschuh LMT, Che Che Luna, and more. And, if you’re really really lucky you might win a chance to attend open rehearsals with The Holding Project.

 

A-WOL Dance Collective. Photo courtesy of A-WOL.

A-WOL Dance Collective 15th Anniversary Celebration
7 pm and 10 pm November 11
A-WOL Warehouse, 513 N Schuyler St.
Founded in 2003 by a collective of artists desiring to mix the worlds of dance and aerial arts, A-WOL Dance Collective Celebrates 15 years hanging around Portland and beyond with a party, and you are invited.

The warehouse social will include local food and brew, live music by Love Gigantic, and pop-up performances by A-WOL, Circus Rose, and A-WOL’s training companies, FlyCo and Aeros. The After Hours Show (21+) will be emceed by John Ellingson, and acrobatic feats of all sorts will be performed.

Photo by Meagan Hall Photography

COnTenT: beyond binary | safe space \ un-safe performance
Presented by Water in the desert, hosted by Carina Borealis
8 pm November 11
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. Suite 9
No one will be turned away for lack of funds
Featuring performances by Alice Johnson, Douglas Allen, Kit Epiphany Apparently, Mars Mars, Kaj-anne Pepper, Kel Dae and more, COnTenT “is both ritual and live performance…and is a collective coming together in celebration of the genderqueer, the trans, the androgynous, the non binary—and every arc of color upon the spectrum between.”

Decadancetheatre’s Hip Hop Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts.

The Hip Hop Nutcracker Featuring MC Kurtis Blow
Decadancetheatre, artistic director Jennifer Weber
Presented by Portland’5 Centers for the Arts
8 pm November 15
The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway Ave.
Set in Brooklyn in the 1980s, this contemporized Nutcracker performed to Tchaikovsky’s original Nutcracker Suite with some hip-hop interludes mixed in, follows Maria-Clara and her prince as they travel back in time to the moment when her parents first meet in a nightclub.

This evening-length production, choreographed by Brooklyn-based Decadancetheatre’s artistic director Jennifer Weber, will be performed by a dozen all-star hip hop dancers to a live DJ onstage accompanied by an electric violinist, all emcee’d by rap legend Kurtis Blow.

Photo courtesy of Horizon3 Dance. Photo by @perceptivecreation & @theframedeye.

Horizon3 Dance in collaboration with RAW PORTLAND
Brynn Hofer, Gerard Regot, and Melanie Verna
7 pm November 15
Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave.
Horizon3 Dance, based in Vancouver, Washington, directed by former Polaris Dance Theatre dancers Brynn Hofer, Gerard Regot, and Melanie Verna, makes its Portland debut this week at RAW Portland-SAVOR. The company will present one live performance and three dance films and will be joined in performance by company dancers Preeya Kannan and Willow Swanson. The works focus on societal expectations, vulnerability, and individual expression.

RAW is an organization run by artists, for artists, that was formed to connect artists of all mediums in every city and town, and provide a platform for the presentation of their work. Raw currently produces artists in 60 cities around the world.

Interview with Allie Hankins

Since I spoke with her last (you can catch up on our earlier conversation here), Hankins debuted her solo Now Then: A Prologue in May 2016 at The Siren Theatre in Portland, performed it again at PICA’s TBA festival that September, performed with Morgan Thorson in Still Life in the same TBA festival, traveled to Toronto to work with a Parisian artist, performed Now Then in Cork, Ireland, and Tel Aviv as well as co-produced events with the Portland collective Physical Education (which also includes Lu Yim, Keyon Gaskin and Taka Yamamoto). And I’m sure I’ve left a few things out. She’s also been on When We with Rachael Dichter,

How did you meet Rachael?

Rachael and I met at Larry Arrington’s Squart performance at TBA (2014). She and I didn’t really meet then, but we met at a workshop the next day, I think. Then the following the summer I went to Dos Rios, California, for some workshops with Sara Shelton Mann and Abby Crain. Then right after that I went to Ponderosa, which is just outside of Berlin. It’s another dance place: it’s kind of like summer camp for adults. Rachael was at both places. At Poderosa she and I took a workshop together. It was a workshop about making performance really quickly. They would say, ‘You have ten minutes to make a two-minute performance, go!’ She and I were partnered up a lot, and we ended up making things together all summer. She went to Dance Web [A nonprofit dance organization based in Vienna, Austria, committed to developing contemporary dance throughout Europe as well as connecting it to the larger international dance community enhancing dialogue between cultures] right after that, and she sent me an email: “Hey I really enjoyed our time, do you want to see what it would be like to work on something together?” [For the next two years Hankins and Dichter alternated traveling to each others towns, meeting when they could.]

What was it like working together?

While I would say we have an excellent working relationship and really complement each other’s working styles, and I really like this thing we made, and I think it’s so different than anything I would make on my own and I love that about it, we definitely had friction. Which I definitely think is good.

How did you maintain the piece and your relationship under these circumstances?

Rachael is an excellent communicator, and when I’m in the room with an excellent communicator I can also be an excellent communicator. I have a hard time starting a conversation, but once it’s going, I can do it. She’s very good at just being like, ‘hey, I’m seeing this, I’m feeling this, can we talk about it?’ And then I can. But if it’s just tension in the room then I’ll just ride that tension. I’ll be like, “who’s gonna break first, who’s gonna break first.’ [Allie laughs] She’s really good at nipping it in the bud. So I think sometimes it was just a matter of saying it out loud, and being like, ‘ok my feelings are hurt, ok my feelings are hurt, ok we’ll work through it.’ Sometimes it’s a matter of taking a pause, let’s take a break, let’s calm down. Other times it was like, ‘let’s do some body work and roll around on the floor’ and let it work itself out…

Video still of When We by Allie Hankins and Rachael Dichter.

What’s it like working on a solo versus a duet?

I’m not freaking out at all… If this were a solo I would be a mess. You know? Doing all the things, it’s only me up there, everything has to be perfect. With this it feels like because it’s both of our work equally…we both have the same amount of investment, the same amount of history, the same knowledge of the trajectory of the work. So it feels very much like we are performing together, and I feel very held by her presence on stage and I think she feels the same. It’s a different entity. It’s just like this strength that I’ve never really experienced before. Having someone so close, and we’ve gotten so close over this…there’s just this intimacy there that feels pretty unique to this project and makes it feel really sustainable and really powerful. And of course we’re really nervous about fucking up the choreography or whatever, but we both feel met by each other and because we’re both there, nothing can really go that wrong.

Can you tell me about the work?

It feels really related to how the process has actually worked. Like we have these short burst of intense activity where we’re in the same room and we’re working together, and then these long stretches of time where we’re not in the room together and were not even talking, but the piece is still being made. All the things are still moving forward, the piece is still going to happen, we’re still thinking about it and we come together [she snaps her fingers], things are propelled forward, we separate and come back. And so the rhythm of it, I hope it’s not too predictable, but also I don’t care necessarily, I’m not sure. But it feels very of that working process.

So there are just these moments that are about the world that we are in, and the density we’ve created with stillness and presence. And then something happens, and it shifts the world, and the world rotates, or your relationship to it rotates or you learn something about one of us, then there’s a time where we settle into it again. For me the piece is really about relearning what intimacy is for me and what is intimacy with an audience and what is a power dynamic with the audience.

I think that’s a trite things to say right now because a lot of people are exploring that right now, but I also am. If our gaze is penetrating the audience does that mean we have power, and this idea around the word penetration and the power behind that, and the confrontation of being in the room with someone in a performative context and how you can really be together. But at the same time we’re in an alliance, we are very much on the same page and have all the secrets and y’all might get them but you might not. But we are trying to create this exchange.

I think the piece for me is really exploring modalities of that and then also just making movement again and how the movement interacts with the stillness and the pauses and the text, and trying to find this overall rhythm and tension. Rachael doesn’t like the word “tension”—she says the word “depth”…

When We by Allie Hankins and Rachael Dichter. Photo by Ashely Sophia Clark.

Why are you interested in the audience-performer relationship?

I think because, self producing work can feel like a really big ask, to invite people to come watch you for an hour, and I want to really be in the room with people when they’re there, for me. There are ways of performance that you can fake that intimacy. Right? We have these tools of looking just above the heads and looking at the audience but not really. I really want to be with you when you’re there. It doesn’t mean that I want to be friendly necessarily or totally vulnerable with you, but I want us all to be in the room. I think it’s a much more satisfying relationship to the audience for me now, this might change but…

Performance for me in my life, I’ve always been super shy and very self-effacing and at my worst very self-deprecating. I think when I learned that performance was this one time that I felt totally confident, in control, could say anything, could do anything, I realized that I should utilize these moments as a means of connecting with people, in a way. Instead of just doing a show, being like, ‘you’re seeing me at my best right now,’ let’s acknowledge that.

How do you get involved in so many different kinds of projects?

When I moved to Portland, I met a bunch of people—like Taka [Yamamoto] has a visual arts practice, Lu [Yim] recently has been going to graduate school for visual art/performance—and just sort of connected with people who had a lot more access to these things than I previously did, because I went to college for dance, did mostly dance, choreography. I did take a few classes in college around photography and things like that, but whatever, I think as I became a choreographer of my own work, I quickly discovered other things that I like doing onstage, like speaking. And I enjoy writing as a craft, and I found that I really enjoyed video work. And the video work kind of became this way of keeping things moving all the time even if I wasn’t working on a specific project. It was like, you’re filming, you’re always crafting something, whatever. I think those various interests have allowed me to reach out to people with other things. Lu is always working on visual stuff, and I always ask to jump on board. It just sort of happens, I guess. I get wrapped up in these other things and suddenly I’m doing a video performance or doing a weird karaoke performance or whatever, you know.

I feel like you straddle both the dance and performance worlds. When I first saw you dancing in Portland, I felt like your work was more movement based, and now you have brought in a lot of other elements. I’m curious about this evolution and how you do that, and why you felt like you needed to bring things outside the body in, to tell your story?

I think honestly it was curiosity. The solo I made four years ago now, I call it the Nijinsky solo, but it was called Like a Sun that Pours Forth Light but Never Warmth. Long title: that’s another thing I do, make up long titles.

It was the first thing I had made. I had worked on it for three years just not knowing how to actually do it, you know? When do I actually perform it, how do I know when it’s done? And then I managed to get a RACC grant, and I was like. ‘ok, now I have a deadline so I guess I’ll just figure it out.’

I think after that process it had pretty much exhausted all of my resources—personal resources, not just money, time, energy. I was just so spent. I luckily had a lot of help, Jerry [Tischleder] from Risk/Reward helped me a bunch, and I was just done. Then literally the next day, Physical Education went on a tour to Minneapolis, and I had to present something. I was like, ‘there’s no way in hell I’m doing that solo because I never want to think about it again.’ And I was in the Midwest, and I was like, ‘Jello moulds are fun,’ and I got one and didn’t want to dance, didn’t want to choreograph anything. I just wanted to talk basically. I went out there and told a few jokes and wiggled some jello around and then did end up dancing to Dionne Warwick. But that piece became the next thing that I did. I think this is usually how it works for me where I’m just like, “huh, that’s funny,” and then suddenly I’m obsessed with it and becomes this driving momentum of whatever project comes out of it.

I like text and I do write a lot, but I never really felt comfortable sharing that aspect of my practice. But then when I started working on the last solo, I did I got lucky enough to have a residency with a few writers who really gave me a lot of tools and really coached me some, when I asked them to, about how to deliver text, about how to tell jokes, about how to engage an audience in this way. And I just thought it was super interesting and such a different challenge, because I know I can keep interest with dance—I’ve done it for a long time, I’ve performed, I know how to do that. I didn’t know how to do the other thing. And so I was like, ‘I have to figure this out.’ I never have a plan from the beginning. It’s like, ‘oh that’s what I’m doing.’

I’m really really lucky to have studio space, because I live in a room that’s like this big and I pay next to nothing for it, and then I spend the rest of my rent, or what I would be spending on rent, on a studio rental. I’m able to go to the studio all the time and just dick around and find things that are interesting and curious. I’ve gotten better over the years at just more organically following curiosity instead of trying to immediately put parameters on it …I’m better at letting it be very expansive for longer, and then because I am a control freak at the end I’m like, ‘ok, now it’s this thing, you know?’

When We by Allie Hankins and Rachael Dichter. Photo by Ashely Sophia Clark.

How do you know when it’s done and ready to be performed?

The shows happening. You know? You got to get money so you gotta get the grant. And I didn’t get the grant last year, so I’ll try again this year. And then we’ll see. Then you have to just set a date based on what else is going on in the world, in your life, you know? It’s kind of arbitrary, which I think is kind of fun actually. Because maybe I’ll never have to actually learn when something is done, maybe it will always just sort of realize itself in the last moments. And I think there’s a lot of power in that, and I think that’s one of the secret things about performance making is that a lot of it happens, at least for me, opening night. Where I’m like, ‘ooh, that’s how that’s supposed to go, or that’s how that lands, and that’s how this timing should work.’ And it’s a really unique experience, because you don’t have an audience until then and everything happens then. It’s kind of terrifying, but really fun, you know?

How do you work your writing into your work?

I write most every day. If I’m being honest I haven’t been doing it the last couple of weeks because I’ve been too busy. That’s real. I write my dreams a lot…I feel really inarticulate a lot of times and trying to maintain a practice in that weird cognitive gap that happens where you’re like, ‘I’m thinking all these things,’ and it’s very hard to put into words on a page for me, it always has been.

I think what keeps me doing it, honestly, sometimes I’ll go back to old things, and I’ll be like, ‘oh right I forgot I was thinking about that’ and how weird to see how my thoughts evolve over time. I think I’m just interested in having a records of these ideas.

In this piece happening soon [she laughs], next week [she laughs again], there’s very little text, there’s some. It was sourced from a rhythmic prompt, actually. We were trying to really research rhythm, this very specific rhythm inside the movement choreography, and we wanted to reflect it and balance it with text. And the way the text works in the piece is that it is obfuscated, so you can’t really discern what we’re saying, but it’s definitely there and it’s informing. So, it was then, ‘ok what’s the rhythm, how do we establish that, how do we layer that, how do we perform it together?’ It’s very minimal, but I really like it, I don’t know, we’ll see.

Performances Next Week

November 11-18, Symbolic Interactions, Willamette University Theatre Department
November 16-18, L-E-V, presented by White Bird
November 16-18, Autumn Choreographers Concert, Pacific Dance Ensemble
November 17, Rather This, Then, Jermaine Spivey and Spenser Theberge
November 18, Mood Factory, Hosted by Dan Reed Miller and Ben Martens

Upcoming Performances

November
November 24, Mushimaru Fujieda: Natural Physical Poetry Performance, hosted by Water in the Desert
November 24-26, The Enchanted Toyshop by John Clifford, Tourbillon by Anne Mueller, performed by the PSU Orchestra and The Portland Ballet
November 26, The Taming Of The Shrew, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
November 30-December 9, Lexicon (world premiere), BodyVox

December
December 2, Tidal-the first cut, Wobbly Dance
December 7-9, Bolero + Billie, Ihsan Rustem, NW Dance Project
December 8-9, The Nutcracker with Chamber Ballet of Corvallis, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
December 9, Winter Dance Concert, Reed College Performing Arts
December 9-24, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 13-17, a world, a world (work-in-progress), Linda Austin Dance, PWNW
December 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Crystal Jiko, Tere Mathern, Madison Page, Wolfbird Dance
December 17, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
December 17, Fiesta Navideña, Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
December 22-24, The Nutcracker with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene

January

January 12, Love Heals All Wounds, Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz, Presented by Portland’5 Center for the Arts
January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

February
February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre

March
March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, World Premiere’s by Sarah Slipper and Cayetano Soto, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April
April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May
May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

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

 

‘Diva Practice’ review: self-made magic

Pepper Pepper's solo dance-drag performance takes audiences on a ride through the life cycle of a drag queen

by ANTHONY HUDSON

Being a diva is exacting and it’s lonely. Look at the tragic lives of Maria Callas, Judy Garland, and Edith Piaf. The life of a diva is one of expectation, work, and the pain that comes with it. For a freelance artist, drag queen, and dancer, the same is true – but with an obligation to say yes to any and every opportunity that could mark a big break or financial well-being. To become a diva takes practice – maybe even enough to break your back – and unless you’ve gone viral on social media or hit reality TV gold, you’re going to do all the hard work yourself. Luckily the perks of being a diva include champagne.

Pepper Pepper’s ‘Diva Practice (Solo).’ Photo: Chelsea Petrakis from 2017 Risk/Reward Festival.

Following last year’s Diva Practice duet with Mr. E and a months-long residency tour this spring and summer across the United States, Portland diva-in-the-making Pepper Pepper’s solo dance-drag piece Diva Practice presents the fruit of Pepper’s research into what it takes to summon the heightened feminine, the Diva. Think of it like a drag queen Consumer Reports, only as a dance piece complete with its own fragrance (for real: you can purchase OLO Fragrance’s “Pepper Spray” – it’s like poppers but Pepper! – in the lobby).

Sharing the stage with a suitcase, a webcam, a ring light, and a golden cape that would put Liberace to shame, Pepper summons the Diva and takes us on a ride through the life cycle of a drag queen. Equally dance and drag-based, the show takes on an earworm of a sonic element as well – throughout the piece Pepper only says “yes,” repeatedly, constantly, as many queens who have not yet ascended into RuPaul’s Gender Illusionist Correctional Institute must do to get by.

Continues…

DanceWatch: Xuan Cheng and Ye Li’s ballet academy.

This week a performance by the students of a new Beaverton ballet school and a busy schedule of concerts

Did you know that Xuan Cheng (a Principal Dancer with Oregon Ballet Theatre) and her husband Ye Li (a soloist with OBT from 2011-2015) co-direct their own ballet school in Beaverton? They do! It’s called Oregon International Ballet Academy (OIBA) and they are performing this weekend, one classical work and one brand new contemporary ballet choreographed by Li.

Jamuna Chiarini

I just discovered their school this week in a last-minute search online before writing this week’s DanceWatch. It’s one thing to be a performer, but it’s a whole other ball of wax when performing artists, who have spend the majority of their careers bringing other people’s artistic vision to life, venture out on their own, creating work in their own voices. Watching a rehearsal video of Li’s new work sparked my curiosity, and I had to learn more. Cheng, Li, and I met briefly for coffee during Xuan’s lunch break from OBT, and we talked about their dance life, their history together, the new school, and the new work.

The OIBA students will be performing the Second Act of Swan Lake, staged by Cheng and adapted from Lev Ivanov’s choreography, and a world premiere by Li called Black and White at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall this Saturday night. They will be joined by 18 student musicians from the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, directed by Raúl Gómez, with costumes designed by Annika Schindler, a costume fabricator for LAIKA. Cheng and OBT Principal Dancer Brian Simcoe will be guest performing as well, courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre. The set design for Black and White includes a series of different-sized black and white boxes that the dancers engage with rhythmically, and the costumes have been created to evoke a sense of time, which is the constant, and the elegance of Victorian times.

Artistic Director Xuan Cheng working with her students at Oregon International Ballet Academy. Photo by Yi Yin.

Cheng and Li joined OBT in 2011 when they were hired by Christopher Stowell after one audition. They loved Portland right away and were very happy to call it home. Prior to OBT, they both danced for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and Cheng danced for La La La Human Steps. They both danced for GuangZhou Ballet in China straight out of ballet school—she became a principal dancer with the company and he a soloist.

Between the two of them there is a lifetime of experience of training and dancing ballet’s classics, as well as the works of many well-known contemporary choreographers, including William Forsythe, Nacho Duato, Ohad Naharin, Jirí Kylián, Mats Ek, Mauro Bigonzetti, Christian Spuck, Christopher Stowell, and Nicolo Fonte.

When they first came to Portland, the Chinese community was very excited and proud to see Chinese dancers performing with Oregon Ballet Theatre and asked if they would teach their children. At that point they were still focused on their performing careers with OBT and weren’t able to devote the time they would like to teaching. But as time passed, Cheng started volunteering and creating small pieces for different community shows. She found that there was a big need for them and was drawn to teaching. She and Li both felt strongly that it was important to pass on their experience to the next generation and decided to open a school.

They opened Oregon International Ballet Academy in 2015, and it now has approximately 50 students. Cheng is still performing full time with OBT and teaches ballet classes in the evening, and Li retired from performing in 2015 to run the school full time.

Young dancers at the Oregon International Ballet Academy. Photo by Yi Yin.

When we met, Cheng said that teaching and running a school was satisfying. “It’s different than dancing,” she said “I feel like my life is actually very balanced. Before, I only knew ballet, ballet, ballet. Ballet is everything in my whole life. And as a dancer it’s always me, me, me, me. So during teaching it’s actually made me a better dancer. I’m also learning from the kids, too.”

She says she is treasuring her time dancing in the studio much more these days now that she has a thousand other things to focus on when she leaves at the end of the day. “It’s made my life more full and not so one sided,” she said.

When I asked about how the two of them work together, Cheng said, “It’s very challenging but we help each other. Our whole life since we met, we’re dancing together, we are always helping each other. We help each other grow and become a better person, we’re honest with each other. Sometimes we have to really say it, touch the pain. In Chinese we have a saying, it’s like the good medicine is the bitterest.” They have known each other since 1998, were each other’s first love, and married two years ago.

Ballet students at the Oregon International Ballet Academy. Photo by Yi Yin.

They want to teach their students the connections between the ballet steps and the stage, and teach the why of it all. They want to teach them curiosity and to become active participants in the process. They want more for their students than just performing and smiling and looking pretty on stage. They want to involve the students in the creative process.

The new work by Li, Black and White, is based on an idea that came from his mother. “My mom always said when a baby is born, we are like a white paper, white colors, you put a color on there. Black is a bad thing you did. You punched the cat. You did a bad thing, You put the black color on your paper. You hug somebody, you make somebody happy, then you add another color. So basically that’s your life. So the idea is at the end, we’re going to have a lot of colorful stuff, a lot of painting on the white paper. No matter what kind of stuff you do, when you look back, those colors are what you did, or your memories.”

Li’s new work features live music with compositions by David Long, ERA, Samuel Barber, Ezio Bosso, Raul Gomez-Rojas, and Li himself, who originally wanted to be a violinist. His mother wanted him to be a dancer.

The performance also holds a few surprises, especially in reference to Li’s mother’s metaphor.

Performances this week

Diva Practice (Solo) at the Risk/Reward Festival 2017.  Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

Diva Practice (Solo)
Pepper Pepper
November 2-November 5
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St.
November 2 Post-Show Q+A talk back with Pepper Pepper
November 2-3 performances have ASL Interpretation

Diva Practice (Solo), is the last leg in a three-part cycle created by multidisciplinary artist Pepper Pepper who works in performance, drag, theatre, and dance.

“Diva Practice is a research project about drag and contemporary performance as a solo, duet, and ensemble,” Pepper says. “Diva Practice is a performance about queens dancing in the face of uncertainty, because being fabulous takes practice.”

I asked Pepper in an email interview what uncertainty queens have to face. Pepper said that “uncertainty is a political, choreographic, and emotional narrative throughout the show.” Using “improvisation and video interactivity” it places the character in uncertain situations where choice, impulse, and intention combine to illustrate her “practice.”

The making of Diva Practice (Solo), happened through a series of residencies, performances, and a tour through Oregon, Louisiana, Maine, Texas, and Georgia that “make accomplices of the audience and initiate conversation around gender, power, and vulnerability.”

“The diva practice research tour allowed me to experiment and practice with live audiences across the US,” Pepper said. “In a way, the practice became performing the show as a live rehearsal. This informs the ethos of the show, which is radical acceptance and discernment. The tour was also a way for me to see drag and diva worship in many different states which influenced my choreography and frame of mind.”

I interviewed Pepper back in 2016 close to the debut of D.I.V.A. Practice in Pepper Pepper explains D.I.V.A. Practice.

Polaris Dance Theatre dancers in Avalanche. Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre.

Avalanche
Polaris Dance Theatre, artistic director Robert Guitron
November 2-10
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave.

Creating an arch between Prince, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen in this dance/music tribute, Polaris artistic director Robert Guitron plays with themes that were central to these artists—gender identity, diversity, sexuality, racism, spirituality, and fashion—in an evening work for thirteen dancers.

PDX Contemporary Ballet dancers attempting to read while dancing in Converge. Don’t try this at home. Photo courtesy of Briley Neugebauer.

Converge
PDX Contemporary Ballet, directed by Briley Neugebauer
November 3-5
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St.

In this collaborative project, PDX Contemporary Ballet, which thrives on experimentation in ballet, has combined spoken word and contemporary ballet choreography to expand the storytelling power of both by pairing Portland choreographers with Portland writers.

The pairings are: BodyVox dancer/choreographer Alicia Cutaia and Fox and Beggar Theater Director Nat Allister; ballet dancer/choreographer Micah Chermak and poet Milly Wallace; Briley Neugebauer (artistic director of PDX Contemporary Ballet) and playwright Claire Willett; and Neugebauer and poet Lorelei O’Connor.

Due to a generous donation, PDX Contemporary Ballet is offering $5 and $10 tickets on opening night.

A moment from Linda Austin’s solo Big Real from 2004. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW.

ICONIC
A fundraiser performance presented by Performance Works NW
7:30 pm and 9:30 pm November 4
Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance, 4625 SE 67th Ave.

Celebrating 17 years of engaging artists and audiences in “the process of experimentation, creation and dialog around the presentation of contemporary performance,” Performance Works NW directed by dance artist Linda Austin and lighting designer Jeff Forbes present Iconic, a fundraiser performance of 18 short works by community of artists inspired by photographic prompts highlighting memorable PWNW performance from 2000-2017.

The evening promises revelry and refreshments, and all proceeds go to supporting the awesome PWNW programming.

EARLY SHOW: 7:30pm
Linda Austin and the Boris & Natasha Dancers (Michael Chambers, Tom DeBeauchamp, Ben Martens), Gregg Bielemeier, Catherine Egan, Allie Hankins, Linda K. Johnson, Meg McHutchison, Kelly Rauer & claire barrera, edward sharp, and Lu Yim & keyon gaskin

LATE SHOW: 9:30pm
Tracy Broyles, Jeff Donaldson-Forbes, Maggie Heath, Seth Nehil, John Niekrasz, Stephanie Lavon Trotter, Leah Wilmoth with Alanna Hoyman-Browe & Simone Wood, Takahiro Yamamoto & Roland Dahwen Wu, and James Yeary.

Dancers Xuan Cheng and Brian Simcoe. Photo by Yi Yin.

Swan Lake Act 2 and Black and White (world premiere)
Oregon International Ballet Academy, directed by Xuan Cheng and Ye Li
Swan Lake Act II, Stage by Xuan Cheng after Lev Ivanov, World Premiere: Black and White, Contemporary Ballet Choreography by Ye Li
Featuring Xuan Cheng and Brian Simcoe, guest dancers from Oregon Ballet Theater,
OIBA students, and live music by members of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and Music Director Raúl Gómez
7:30 pm November 4
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.

See above.

Performances Next Week

November 9-12, When We, Allie Hankins & Rachael Dichter, a PWNW Alembic Co-Production
November 11, A-WOL Dance Collective 15th Anniversary Celebration
November 15, The Hip Hop Nutcracker Featuring MC Kurtis Blow, Decadancetheatre
November 15, Horizon3 in collaboration with RAW PORTLAND, Brynn Hofer, Gerard Regot, and Melanie Verna

Upcoming Performances

November
November 16-18, L-E-V, presented by White Bird
November 18, Mood Factory, Hosted by Dan Reed Miller and Ben Martens
November 24-26, The Enchanted Toyshop by John Clifford, Tourbillon by Anne Mueller, performed by the PSU Orchestra and The Portland Ballet
November 26, The Taming Of The Shrew, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
November 30-December 9, Lexicon (world premiere), BodyVox

December
December 7-9, Bolero + Billie, Ihsan Rustem, NW Dance Project
December 8-9, The Nutcracker with Chamber Ballet of Corvallis, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
December 9-24, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 13-17, a world, a world (work-in-progress), Linda Austin Dance, PWNW
December 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Crystal Jiko, Tere Mathern, Madison Page, Wolfbird Dance
December 17, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
December 22-24, The Nutcracker with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene

January

January 12, Love Heals All Wounds, Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz, Presented by Portland’5 Center for the Arts
January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

February
February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre

March
March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, World Premiere’s by Sarah Slipper and Cayetano Soto, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April
April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May
May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

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

 

At White Bird, ‘Attractor’ is magnetic

Australian dance talent meets Javanese musicians, and the result is transformational

Attractor could rightfully be called Condenser for how much talent is concentrated into a single show. First we have Lucy Guerin and Gideon Obarzanek. Though partners in everyday life, they don’t collaborate professionally very often—about every six years by their own account. Portland’s seen some good work by Lucy Guerin Inc., and as one of the founders of Chunky Move, Obarzanek has brought some amazing work through town. However, they’ve never been to Portland at the same time. When the directors of White Bird noted this in the Q&A after the performance, they suggested that they might kidnap them and keep them here. I hope Guerin and Obarzanek didn’t sense how much the audience seemed to support the idea.

Any collaboration between these two is worth noting, but joining forces with Dancenorth brings a whole new artistic dimension. Created when Ann Roberts placed $100 on the table during a public meeting because she was tired of seeing talented dancers leave Australia or gravitate to the more populous south to pursue their careers, Dancenorth has become an artistic center in Queensland near the Great Barrier Reef. A multifaceted program, the company produces new work, hosts classes, and provides professional development opportunities, putting northern Australia on the map for contemporary dance. They seem to bring with them some of the coastal wildness of their part of the world.

Dancenorth and Senyawa joined forces for ‘Attractor’/Photo courtesy White Bird

Ok, so we have two award-winning choreographers in a rare collaboration and an acclaimed dance company. That’s enough Australian talent to stuff the stage, but those are just the dancers. The musicians knock this one out of the park.

Javanese duo Senyawa are not just central to the stage and the performance. Their work was the inspiration for the entire piece, and they were full creative partners in the development of the choreography. As they developed the show, sometimes the music led the movement decisions, and at other times it followed. This exchange is central to the performance itself, and belies an incredibly fruitful collaboration between these talented groups.

Continues…

DanceWatch: A look back and a look ahead

We look back to NW Dance Project and Rejoice! before moving forward to Dancenorth and Nancy Ellis

Saturday mornings at 10:30 am Portland dance artist Tracey Durbin teaches a Luigi based, lyrical jazz class at NW Dance Project. It’s a phenomenal class that is emotional and technical and kicks my butt on a weekly basis, rendering me more or less useless for the rest of the day, but I love it.

Jamuna Chiarini

This past Saturday was extra special. Unbeknownst to me, the NW Dance Project dancers were also taking the class. It was also Ching Ching Wong’s last Durbin class before taking off on a ten-month world tour of performing and teaching. If you need to catch up with Wong and where she’s been and where she’s going, you can read our conversation in last week’s edition of DanceWatch.

Because the company (NW Dance Project) was in class, the energy and effort of everyone in the room was cranked up just a notch or two, and it became one of the most fun, most ecstatic classes I have taken. At the end of class Durbin put a piece of music on and made Wong improvise a solo for us. It was lovely—longing and poetic—and through her movement she thanked the dancers and Durbin. It was a truly memorable Saturday morning.

Saturday night was also Wong’s last performance with NW Dance Project, a performance I desperately wanted to see, but I was also performing at the same time with Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre at Reed College.

That evening, after I finished dancing with Rejoice!, I booked it downtown to Lincoln Hall and caught the last two pieces of NW Dance Project’s Fall show: If at Some Hour You Return by Jiri Pokorny and Wen Wei Wang’s You Are All I See. Writer Heather Wisner saw the entire show and wrote about it for ArtsWatch. Overall she felt the evening echoed George Orwell’s 1984, and that Felix Landerer’s Post-Traumatic Monster, the opening work “felt industrial, edgy, dark; a little European, a little dystopian,” which “suffused the whole evening.”

Both pieces were darkly lit and from where I was sitting the details were difficult to see. The dancers for Pokorny’s work wore heavy black shoes, which I enjoyed. I like the weight they gave to the movements and the sounds they created on the stage. Wearing shoes also eliminates my fear of anyone slipping from dancing in socks, which these dancers wear a lot. The movements were also very angular and postmodern-like, which were beautifully juxtaposed with the circular pools of light they were dancing in.

Wang’s work felt softer and lighter in comparison, and because it said in the program that the movement was created in collaboration with the dancers, I spent a lot of time wondering which movement belonged to whom, and wondering about the dancers personal movement choices. Both pieces were superbly danced, of course.

I have a growing dislike of seeing dance far away in proscenium settings. I want to see dance up close. I want to be able to see dancers faces and feel their energy. I want to feel what they are feeling. I want to be involved. Something gets lost in translation for me if I’m sitting far away in a theatre separated by that invisible fourth wall and the space between us.

After the company bowed at the end of the performance, NW Dance Project artistic director Sarah Slipper brought out an enormous bouquet of flowers with extremely long flowing streamers attached and presented it to Wong. At this point the entire audience was on their feet clapping wildly, and several people in the front row were waving poster boards with hand drawn messages to Wong on them. The two male dancers who flanked Wong even raised her up on their shoulders and brought her to the front of the stage. It was a spectacular send off and I’m so glad to have witnessed it. It’s inspiring to see a dancer and her dancing so appreciated by an audience.

This brings me to Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre, and their fifth show Uprise, which opened this past weekend at Reed College’s Greenwood Theatre.

I like the Greenwood Theatre. The dancers are close, you can see their faces, and feel their energy. There is nowhere to hide. It’s all out in the open, which makes the experience so personal and relatable.

Uprise is a collection of six dances choreographed by Oluyinka Akinjiola, the company’s artistic director and company dancers Michael Galen and Jamie Minkus, in collaboration with the other company dancers: Uriah Boyd, Bethany Harvey, Juliette Nolan and Xavier “Decimus” Yarbrough.

I performed with the community ensemble in The Beast In Us, the first piece in the program choreographed by Akinjiola to the song Beasts of No Nation by Fela Kuti. We wore multicolored African print tunics with matching leggings and were encouraged to find our inner beast while performing a mix of steps based in the African diaspora. The ensemble included me, Christina Bazzaroni, Katie Emery, Jenny Fremont, Simeon Jacob, Jennifer Hanis-Martin, and Paige Thomas. I loved dancing the movement we were given and I had an amazing time dancing with Rejoice! and the ensemble.

The company is multi-ethnic and multicultural, and the movement forms represented in the works encompass every style imaginable from contemporary dance, dances from the African and Cuban diasporas, capoeira, hip-hop, krumping and more. A true representation of the actual world that we live in here in America.

The music ranged from Fela Kuti to Jill Scott to Portland singer/songwriter Amenta Abioto, who sang three heavenly solos interspersed between the dances. Abioto also composed the music for Quiet Strength, which was choreographed and performed by Akinjiola to Forget me not America, written by Joselyn Seid with vocals by Andrea Vernae. Against the backdrop of the rhythmic music, Akinjiola’s powerful, airborne dancing and her manipulation of yards of blue, white, and red cloth (introduced in that order, I think), the names of African-Americans killed by police were spoken with the words “Forget me not America” following.

The other pieces in the program dealt with finding the inner beast, differentiating fact from fiction in the story of Xica da Silva (a black woman who transcends slavery to become Brazilian aristocracy), keeping hope alive in the journey from oppression to awareness, using movement from B-boying, stepping, Palo, and Krumping for their roots in resistance as inspiration, and so much more.

This was a powerful performance with a purpose. The company’s work is significant and important at this moment in time, and their presence and energy to create change in this mostly white city, and Trump’s America is important.

Performances this week

Cocktail Hour: The Show-Florence
Ballets With A Twist
Artistic director/choreographer Marilyn Klaus
Presented by Seacoast Entertainment Association
7 pm October 26
Florence Events Center, 715 Quince St, Florence

Cocktail Hour: The Show, created by New York choreographer Marilyn Klaus, in collaboration with Grammy-nominated composer Stephen Gaboury, and costume designer Catherine Zehr, brings back the glamour and excitement of Hollywood’s Golden Age, capturing the timeless American spirit in a series of ballet vignettes inspired by American cocktails. The “Martini” is a dangerous, super cool blonde bombshell, the “Manhattan” is a big city socialite, the “Mai Tai” is Hawaiian, and the “Bloody Mary” is styled after the original bloody Mary, the murderous Queen Mary of England.

Diva Practice (Solo) at the Risk/Reward Festival 2017.  Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

Diva Practice (Solo)
Pepper Pepper
October 26-November 5
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St.

Diva Practice (Solo), is the last leg in a three-part cycle created by multidisciplinary artist Pepper Pepper who works in performance, drag, theatre, and dance.

“Diva Practice is a research project about drag and contemporary performance as a solo, duet, and ensemble. Diva Practice is a performance about queens dancing in the face of uncertainty, because being fabulous takes practice.”

I asked Pepper in an email interview what uncertainty queens have to face. Pepper said that “uncertainty is a political, choreographic, and emotional narrative throughout the show.” Using “improvisation and video interactivity” it places the character in uncertain situations where choice, impulse, and intention combine to illustrate her “practice.”

The making of Diva Practice (Solo), happened through a series of residencies, performances, and a tour through Oregon, Louisiana, Maine, Texas, and Georgia that “make accomplices of the audience and initiate conversation around gender, power, and vulnerability.”

Pepper said, “The diva practice research tour allowed me to experiment and practice with live audiences across the US. In a way, the practice became performing the show as a live rehearsal. This informs the ethos of the show which is radical acceptance and discernment. The tour was also a way for me to see drag and diva worship in many different states which influenced my choreography and frame of mind.”

I interviewed Pepper back in 2016 close to the debut of D.I.V.A. Practice in Pepper Pepper explains D.I.V.A. Practice.

Dancenorth Australia. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Attractor
Dancenorth Australia, Lucy Guerin Inc, Gideon Obarzanek, and Senyawa
Presented by White Bird Uncaged
October 26-28
Portland State University, Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.

Inspired by traditional Javanese trance ceremonies, where you enter a trance state through dance and music, Dancenorth Australia, Lucy Guerin Inc., Gideon Obarzanek (founder of Chunky Move), and the Javanese music duo Senyawa, have created Attractor. A work performed by eight dancers and two musicians, it aims to show how music and dance can create heightened physical states by turning performance into experience. Furthering the idea of an all-inclusive shared ritual, pre-selected audience members are invited into the performance, dissolving any demarcations between performer and audience.

Lucy Guerin Inc. is an Australian dance company established in Melbourne in 2002: “The Company is committed to the exploration of everyday events and the redefinition of the formal concerns of dance. New productions are generated through an experimental approach to creative process and may involve voice, video, sound, text and industrial design as well as Guerin’s lucid physical structures.”

Dancenorth is a contemporary dance company based in Townsville, Tropical North Queensland. “An epicenter for artistic exchange and collaboration Dancenorth balances a dynamic regional presence with a commitment to creating bold, adventurous and critically acclaimed contemporary dance.”

White Bird has presented Lucy Guerin’s and Gideon Obarzanek’s work numerous times to great acclaim, including the North American premieres of Chunky Move’s Tense Dave (2004) and Two-Faced Bastard (2009) as well as Lucy Guerin’s Weather (2013).

 

Ching Ching Wong in rehearsal for Migrants. Photo by Jim Lykins.

Migrants
Ching Ching Wong, Joe Kye, and Bravo Youth Orchestra with choreography by Katie Scherman
7:30 pm October 27
Alberta Abbey, 126 NE Alberta St.

In collaboration with Korean violinist looper Joe Kye and the Bravo Youth Orchestra, former NW Dance Project dancer Ching Ching Wong will perform “Migrants,” a solo choreographed by Portland choreographer and Princess Grace Award winner Katie Scherman.

The work is “a multi-disciplinary exploration of identity, culture, and the spirit of human migration, Migrants will also include tales of immigration from Kye and Wong’s personal journeys. The show explores many themes relevant to a rapidly globalizing world: the celebration of roots, cross-cultural interactions, and the need to recognize universal humanity across borders and artificial boundaries. At its conclusion, Migrants will offer audiences an opportunity to root themselves in their local community while simultaneously seeing themselves as part of a global village.”

Nous, on va danser by Nancy Ellis. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

Nous, on va danser
Nancy Ellis
October 27-29
New Expressive Works (N.E.W.), 810 SE Belmont Street

Nous, on va danser (We are going to dance) is the third work in a triptych of autobiographical works choreographed and performed by Portland dance artist Nancy Ellis.

The series began with Nancy, four interpretations of the same solo created by longtime collaborator and New York choreographer Yanira Castro, inspired by Ellis. Ellis and Castro performed together in college and Ellis was a founding company member of Castro’s company.

From there Ellis created Nancy’s NANCY, Mid-Me, and now Nous, on va danser.

Nous, on va danser forecasts the future using Julien Blanc-Gras’s phrase from Nous Sommes Charlie as her touchstone.

I asked Ellis via email how this quote forecast the future.

I read a beautiful passage in writer Julien Blanc-Gras’s piece Un Monde Meilleur in the collection Nous sommes Charlie: 60 écrivains unis pour la liberté d’expression or We are Charlie: 60 writers united for freedom of expression back in March 2015, while I was working on Mid-Me. It concluded with the words Nous, on va danser and they became a kind of mantra for me. His message was similar to ones we told ourselves after 9/11. The show must go on. For me personally, I know that I must go on. And for me, to “go on” means to dance.

How are all three pieces connected?

Besides being autobiographical and chronological (Nancy’s NANCY is retrospective, Mid-Me was about my present, and Nous, on va danser evokes the future), I’ve discovered that they’re all about moving through fear: stage fright, fear of change, fear of being seen and heard.

The first solo in the triptych was Nancy’s Nancy, a multidisciplinary work where you used movement, set design, theatre, and music. Is this latest solo also multi-disciplinary? If so, how do you develop the different forms and weave them together to tell a complete story? What is your creative process like? What informs your choice making?

In Mid-Me, I wanted to try not talking, but I still use props and video with people speaking in it. In Nous, I ultimately wanted to use only my voice and my body. There is no video, only one minimal prop. Stephanie Lavon Trotter composed and recorded a score so that I could have music without having to “outsource” to other musicians. (Incidentally, I’ve also exclusively hired women to help me with this piece.) I’m less concerned with telling a complete narrative than using language, sound, and movement to engage with the audience and hopefully keep them engaged. I’d rather people be confused or even uncomfortable than have no thoughts or feelings about it.

Opus Cactus by Momix. Photo courtesy of Momix.

 

Opus Cactus-Eugene
MOMIX directed by Moses Pendleton
7:30 pm October 31
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

Immerse yourself in the desert with giant cactuses, lizards, snakes, insects, and the dancers of Momix in Opus Cactus, an illusory work created by MOMIX artistic director Moses Pendleton that celebrates the landscape of the American Southwest.

Pendleton was the co-founder of Pilobolus Dance Theater in 1971, and formed his own company, MOMIX, in 1980.

Performances Next Week

November 2-5, Diva Practice (Solo), Pepper Pepper
November 2-10, Avalanche, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
November 3-5, Converge, PDX Contemporary Ballet
November 4, Swan Lake Act ll & Black and White (world premiere), Oregon International Ballet Academy, Artistic Directors Xuan Cheng and Ye Li
November 4, ICONIC, A Fundraiser to support Performance Works NW Programming

Upcoming Performances

November
November 9-12, When We, Allie Hankins & Rachael Dichter, a PWNW Alembic Co-Production
November 11, A-WOL Dance Collective 15th Anniversary Celebration
November 15, The Hip Hop Nutcracker Featuring MC Kurtis Blow, Decadancetheatre
November 15, Horizon3 in collaboration with RAW PORTLAND, Brynn Hofer, Gerard Regot, and Melanie Verna
November 16-18, L-E-V, presented by White Bird
November 18, Mood Factory, Hosted by Dan Reed Miller and Ben Martens
November 24-26, The Enchanted Toyshop by John Clifford, Tourbillon by Anne Mueller, performed by the PSU Orchestra and The Portland Ballet
November 26, The Taming Of The Shrew, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
November 30-December 9, Lexicon (world premiere), BodyVox

December
December 7-9, Bolero, Ihsan Rustem, NW Dance Project
December 8-9, The Nutcracker with Chamber Ballet of Corvallis, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
December 9-24, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 13-17, a world, a world (work-in-progress), Linda Austin Dance, PWNW
December 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Crystal Jiko, Tere Mathern, Madison Page, Wolfbird Dance
December 17, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
December 22-24, The Nutcracker with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene

January

January 12, Love Heals All Wounds, Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz, Presented by Portland’5 Center for the Arts
January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

February
February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre

March
March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, World Premiere’s by Sarah Slipper and Cayetano Soto, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April
April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May
May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

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