DANCE

By SANDRA KURTZ

Seattle loves a festival.  Whatever the topic—food, film, music, boats—we’ve got some kind of event that offers city dwellers a chance to dive into their obsessions, and dance is one of those. In June, when a lot of dance communities are winding up the year with studio recitals, Seattle audiences are facing a scheduling challenge with two significant festivals, full of brand-new and new-to-us programming.

Robert Moses’ Kin is one of the big names at this year’s Seattle International Dance Festival. Photo by RJ Muna.

Portland audiences are probably already familiar with On the Boards: the Seattle presenter has collaborated with regional friends like PICA in the past, and Oregon artists have swapped spots with Seattle folks in projects like the TBA Festival. In Seattle, On the Boards stakes its reputation on presenting work from the leading edge of performance, wherever that might be at the time. Most of the year, its artists come from far and wide, but in June, the Northwest New Works Festival (held June 12-16) narrows the geographic focus, digging into the region and connecting local creators to international trends.

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Dance never sleeps

June is dancing out all over on Oregon stages: what, where, and when

If you think dance has left the building for the summer, you’re half right. While it’s not the mad crush of fall and spring, summer means festivals, which, in turn, means several artists packed into a single weekend. Summer also marks year-end recitals and the beginning of barefoot-in-the-park season, when we can all enjoy some fresh air with our art. (For every kid who fell hard for ballet after seeing The Nutcracker, there must be an equal number whose love of dance was inspired by the the dazzling swirl of Mexican folkloric dancers’ skirts viewed at close range.)

Where, besides in theaters, can you find June dance? In a winery, on a road trip, and even—we’re told—around a swamp in Forest Park. People of every age, shape, and skill level are making dance this month, in well-known styles and newly smashed-together genres. What’s your pleasure?

International and cultural dance styles

Cosecha Mestiza takes viewers for a spin at the Wilsonville Festival of the Arts. Photo courtesy of Wilsonville Festival of the Arts.

Wilsonville Festival of the Arts
June 1-2
Town Center Park, Wilsonville
wilsonvillearts.org

If you’ve never been to the Wilsonville Festival of Arts, what have you been waiting for? The event is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with art you didn’t know you needed until you did, such as the mobile opera truck and the mask parade.

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Keylock company finds its footing

The contemporary dance company stages its first evening-length performance with work by founder Shaun Keylock and two others

Portland’s Shaun Keylock Company staged its first evening-length performance this past weekend at New Expressive Works, offering contemporary pieces that demonstrate the emerging company’s aesthetic and interests, as well as founder/artistic director Shaun Keylock’s curatorial practice, which combines technical rigor with historical references and a queer sensibility.

The bill featured two of Keylock’s pieces as well as work by Seattle’s Jordan
MacIntosh-Hougham and Portland’s Josie Moseley. The last time I saw Keylock’s work was June 2018, when he debuted Calamus for New Expressive Works’ 10th residency cycle. After that residency, Keylock continued to meditate on Calamus—a piece about what he calls “quiet queerness” that draws from Walt Whitman text and World War II-era oral historiesand created a second, more mature iteration of the work for this program.

Kristalyn Gill (from left), Shaun Keylock, Trevor Wilde, Jillian Hobbs, and Liane Burns wig out in Jordan MacIntosh-Hougham’s “Bad! Bad! Bad!” Photo by Jingzi Zhao.

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Dance on film: Making contact

The Contact Dance Film Festival, an eclectic weekend of international dance films presented by BodyVox, returns for its fourth year.

The Contact Dance Film Festival, a weekend of eclectic international dance films presented by BodyVox, returns for its fourth year this weekend. “Festival” might seem like a bit much to describe a three-night event, but the company has managed to pack an impressively broad selection of independent, dance-centric films into the weekend. Running May 9 to 11, the festival is divided into three programs, each with its own perspective on the intersection between dance and film.

Founded, as the company says, to support and promote new independent dance films, the Contact Dance Festival offers a slate of international films, a feature-length film, and another collection of short films guest-curated by Ohio State University students.

The Dancing Over Borders program features “Unfolding,” a film with work created and performed by Portland’s Muddy Feet contemporary dance collective.

The Dancing Over Borders program, running on both opening and closing nights, is a collection of 11 films from nearly as many countries, including one from Portland. Unfolding, shot in part in a classic Portland bungalow, adds recognizable local flavor to this worldwide survey.  The alternately surreal and playful piece within it is choreographed and danced by the Muddy Feet contemporary dance collective, featuring local mainstays Suzanne Chi, Rachel Slater, Kailee McMurran, and Lena Traenkenschuh.

The longest piece of the night, Les Sirènes—Chant XII, is also one of the standouts. Directed by Philippe Saire, this Swiss film is broadly inspired by Homer’s Odyssey and Joyce’s “transposition” of it in Ulysses. Three women in vibrant but simple outfits stumble and slide gracefully down giant piles of sand, bottles in hand, three sheets to the wind as they embark on a journey from the sand to the water, exploring the environment through improvised but intentional movement.

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Dance is a global affair this spring, a series of international alliances and cultural collaborations that we can enjoy both in person and from afar.

Merce Cunningham centennial celebrations are in full swing all over the world and will continue throughout the summer. (Cunningham’s actual birthday, April 16, saw dancers in London, L.A., and New York City performing his work in a live stream of Night of 100 Solos). The Bolshoi, meanwhile, continues its live streaming series with that most Russian of ballets, Petrushka, showing this month in local theaters with a Cuban partner, Alfonso Alonzo’s Carmen Suite (see below). Not to be outdone, Eugene’s Ballet Fantastique is offering a live broadcast of its world-premiere work Cleopatra (see below). And BodyVox returns with the Contact Dance Film Festival, featuring shorts and feature-length dance movies created by choreographers from all over the world (see below).

On local stages, you’ll find a full complement of dance styles and traditions, sometimes intersecting in unexpected ways. To wit: our first entry.

International and cultural dance styles

Dormeshia Sumbrey-Edwards. Photo by Eduardo Patino

Tap dancer Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards finds commonalities with kathak dancer Seema Mehta at Interwoven. Photo by Eduardo Patino.

Interwoven: Kathak/Tap, and Sitar
Featuring Seema Mehta, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Josh Feinberg, and Nilan Chaudhuri
May 5
Old Church, 1422 SS 11th St.

In April, White Bird brought us Savion Glover, one of tap’s brightest lights. This month we’re treated to another: the Bessie Award-winning hoofer Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. Like Glover, she’s a veteran of film (Tap, Bamboozled) and Broadway (Black and Blue, Bring in Da’Noise, Bring in Da’ Funk), and her appearance is one of the better kept secrets on the Portland performance calendar.

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Natalya Kolosowsky plunges into her Soviet past and the deep subconscious

A new movement work recalls Kolosowsky's Soviet childhood and her struggle to dance

Several weeks ago a beautiful image of four female dancers—wearing long, red and white skirts, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a tight-knit circle, facing inward—crossed my Facebook feed. Out from under the back of their skirts onto the floor, came a thick coil of red rope, which also wound around their waists. Facebook has just a few redeeming qualities these days and being able to discover new Portland dance artists on it is definitely one of them.

This striking image, I learned later, is a section from Liber ll, a new work by Shadow Tender, a brand-new, Portland-based project founded and directed by Natalya Kolosowsky, that combines butoh, physical theatre, martial arts, and wearable sculpture. Liber ll, as described in the release, is “a love letter to the terrifying secrets of the {queer} female body,” and premieres April 26-28 at The Headwaters Theatre in Northeast Portland as part of The Butoh College 2019: Performance Series.

This is the original image of “Liber ll” that captured my attention as it came through my Facebook feed. The dancers pictured are Amy Leona Havin, Ariel Bittner, Carly Ostergaard, and Haley Jensen. The photo was taken by Shadow Tender artistic director Natalya Kolosowsky.

I met up with Kolosowsky during a Shadow Tender rehearsal at the The Headwaters’ Waterline studio and later at her cedar-shingled tiny house/studio in Northeast Portland to view and talk about the work and its intersections with her life.

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Chauncey Parsons’ final bow

As Oregon Ballet Theatre swings into its spring concerts, its principal dancer prepares to take the final steps in his storied career

Chauncey Parsons, long dark cloak whipped behind him by the speed of his movement, makes an anguished, running entrance onto the Keller Auditorium stage, which is set as a medieval German graveyard, and flings the cloak aside as he kneels before Giselle’s grave.

That was in 2012, in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s incredibly elegant and expensive production of Giselle. A year later, as Florimund in Christopher Stowell’s staging of The Sleeping Beauty (which will be revived next season), Parsons made every entrance with the presence and panache of the great Russian dancers – but, as I wrote for The Oregonian, minus the bombast.

Chauncey Parsons in Nicolo Fonte’s “Giants Before Us.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert/2016

Last fall, Parsons—a fantasy cape hanging from his shoulders, back as straight as a coral spine—made his first entrance as Golfo, ruler of his undersea territory, in the second act of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s evening-length production of Bournonville’s Napoli, inhabiting the arrogant sea monster’s role with chilling authority.

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