Portland Playhouse Passing Strange Portland Oregon

Dance Review: ‘Rejigged, desperately seeking Dorinda’

Seven of Portland’s local dancers come together for an evening of solos, duets, trios, quartets, and quintets that reflect love and camaraderie.

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An opening act by Gregg Bielemeier and Leanne Grabel set the tone for "Rejigged, desperately seeking Dorinda." Photo: David Balsley.
An opening act by Gregg Bielemeier and Leanne Grabel set the tone for “Rejigged, desperately seeking Dorinda.” Photo: David Balsley.

As of late, I am hungry for context when attending dance performances. I crave candor and plain language about dance work to support me as I digest complexity. Context draws me in and holds me just gently enough to quell my anxieties while not giving a dance away. With a smidgen of context, I can find myself in the orbit of a dance. I need not bother asking, “…but what is this dance about?”, because that question falls beside the point. In the case of Rejigged, desperately seeking Dorinda a contemporary dance that premiered at Shaun Keylock Company’s space on February 27 and 28 – my yearning for context was satiated with program notes, spoken text, and community presence. Initiated by Dorinda Holler and Celine Bouly, this ensemble work depicted an autobiography of loving, dancing relationships. Its context gave way to concept and its dancers became the dance. 

I entered SKC’s upstairs ballroom space, which had been converted with extra touches of lighting design by Dora Gaskill into a glowing performance arena. The audience sat in a single row of chairs on all sides, facing the iconic wood floor of concentric square panels. What would this evening hold? 

David Balsley and Celine Bouly in "Rejigged, desperately seeking Dorinda." Photo: Monika Field.
David Balsley and Celine Bouly in “Rejigged, desperately seeking Dorinda.” Photo: Monika Field.

The program in my hand spelled out the dance’s evolution: I learned that Dorinda Holler and Celine Bouly had originally co-created a short duet that became an expression of their friendship. They decided to invite more friends – Sada Naegelin and Mark Koenigsberg, as well as Stephanie Schaaf and her husband David Balsley – to develop additional duets that expanded the project scope. In Fall 2023 Holler suddenly moved to California. The rest of the cast, “after a lot of crying,” carried on with the project, remixing or “rejigging” it into a series of solos, duets, trios, quartets, and quintets. The cherry on top of this collaborative sundae was the addition of an “Opening Act” by legendary Portland dance elder Gregg Bielemeier and his long-time collaborator Leanne Grabel, a duo that set the tone for the evening. 

Bielemeier and Grabel took the stage first, entering ceremoniously with the drop of an electronic drum beat. Bielemeier wore a stunning checkered shirt with flowing black pants, while Grabel wore a sparkling suit with bowtie and tophat. 

Grabel assumed her station at a keyboard on the side of the space. Bielemeier meandered toward centerstage to solo in his singular modernist fashion – with long lines and peculiar interruptions. As he danced, Grabel began to reminisce about their friendship, the theme of this evening. She said they met in 1976 and that she was intimidated by Gregg because he was such a fashionable dancer. 

“Don’t you love nuance, Gregg?” Grabel called out at one point during her spiel. “No,” Bielemeier muttered in reply. “Gregg, do the pony!” she instructed. “Look at your ugliest toe. Any will do.” 

“This could be us,” I whispered to a fellow dancer sitting beside me as Grabel and Bielemeier took their bows. My friend laughed knowingly. We would be lucky to be in their shoes decades from now, still dancing, collaborating, looking phenomenal, I thought. 

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The following ensemble, Rejigged proper, brought an influx of choreography that ebbed and flowed. I found it such a treat to watch this dance with an audience on all sides. Many of the viewers held obvious familiarity with these dancers, offering smiles and glances that brightened the performance arena.

Stephanie Schaaf and David Balsley in "Rejigged, desperately seeking Dorinda," a contemporary dance performance Initiated by Dorinda Holler and Celine Bouly. Photo: Monika Field.
Stephanie Schaaf and David Balsley in “Rejigged, desperately seeking Dorinda,” a contemporary dance performance Initiated by Dorinda Holler and Celine Bouly. Photo: Monika Field.

First came a duet dressed in blue, Schaaf and Balsley dancing to sparkling string music with swirling arms and occasional fists to the ground. A second duo wearing red tones – Naegelin and Koenigsberg – wove their arms together, over and over, evolving this gesture into a big wrestling hug. Bouly rounded out the chromatics in an outfit with purple hues. She joined the duo, dancing in her distinct fashion, with simultaneous spirals circulating throughout her body. 

Ornery woodwinds accompanied Naegelin and Koenigsberg as they jumped to face one another and hissed, with hands like cat paws. I so appreciated this surprise. Another came when Balsley seemed to fall forward and backward at once, his arms swaying as if breathing for him while he moved offstage. 

Sada Naegelin and Mark Koenigsberg (front) in a duet from "Rejigged, desperately seeking Dorinda." Photo: Monika Field.
Sada Naegelin and Mark Koenigsberg (front) in a duet from “Rejigged, desperately seeking Dorinda.” Photo: Monika Field.

Schaaf danced to a mysterious recording of her own voice in which she described a dream about Holler’s departure. She painted a picture of the dream-memory’s essence so clearly, yet without dipping into overt representation in her movements. Shortly afterward, the dancers acted out a sequence of choreography described by Holler over another voice recording. “Bump chest and then chug, chug, chug!” said Holler playfully.

Near the dance’s conclusion, Bouly threw Balsley to the floor by the hips, and slid down to the floor beside him stealthily in a moment of high physicality. 

Suddenly, before I could register it, the performance was over. Though taken off guard by its abruptness, it felt fitting. The dancers had whipped up a relational frenzy, and now the audience could dive into the aftermath of hellos and post-show hugs. Witnessing this epilogue, I cherished how the spectrum of age and experience begot dancing relationships of such inquiry and delight, forever to be rejigged.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Hannah Krafcik (they/them) is a Portland-based interdisciplinary neuroqueer artist and writer whose work emerges from ongoing reflections on social patterning and censorship, (over)stimulation, perseveration, and intuition. Their practices span dance, writing, new media, and sound design. Hannah continues to be influenced by their collaboration with artistic partner Emily Jones.
Photo credit: Jo Silver
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2 Responses

  1. This is a lovely review Hannah and I couldn’t agree with you more about the tone of the evening, the warmth, the humor, the love. I would only add that the dancers are all the students of the “legendary Portland dance elder,” (who has danced and taught internationally incidentally) and make his quirky, idiosyncratic technique their own. Thank you for your well-chosen words and your warm approach.

    1. I need to make a correction: David Balsley, who danced with Margaret Jenkins’ company in San Francisco for many years, is not one of GB’s students and Stephanie Schaaf took some classes from him a while ago (I watched a couple of them) but isn’t one of his regulars.

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