Dance Weekly: Two by two and ‘Side by Side’

A set of duets by Portland independent choreographers highlights the weekend

Jordan Matter is a New York photographer who captures dancers doing extraordinary physical feats in ordinary everyday places, talking on a phone in a phone booth with one leg dangerously stretched to the max against the wall or leaping across a crosswalk in the middle of a busy intersection. His series of photos is called Dancers Among Us, a title I love because for me it evokes the image of dancers as superhuman creatures with powerful abilities living incognito amongst “regular” folk.

This is a little how I feel about pop-up performance projects here in Portland. All of these creative people come out of the woodwork for a night or two and put on a great show and then disappear again back into the fabric of Portland.

Luke Gutgsell and Elise Knudson.

Luke Gutgsell and Elise Knudson.

In an attempt to draw out these “dancers among us” for a little longer than their scheduled events, I would like to draw your attention to the five choreographers who were chosen by Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance to make new dances for the upcoming show, Side by Side, moving in twos.

But first, here are this weeks performance listings.

Lucy Yim, Allie Hankins and Takahiro Yamamoto
Physical Education (PE)
7:00 pm November 7
Short Space, 707 NE Broadway #202
With the body in mind and all that it represents, dance artists Lucy Lee Yim, Allie Hankins and Takahiro Yamamoto will perform individually and together minus their fourth member, Keyon Gaskin, who is away. Together, the four have formed Physical Education to offer audiences new/different modes in which to engage with dance and performance and inspire “critical dialogue between individuals of varying mediums or artistic practices (INCLUDING NO ARTISTIC PRACTICE), while deepening their connection to performance and their sense of embodiment.”

We’re From Here
Directed and edited by Conrad Icon Kaczor
6:30 pm November 8
Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave
This documentary film follows three dancers born and/or raised in Portland, from three different dance styles, three different perspectives and three different backgrounds, over the course of a year. The three: Joshua Dudley, aka Big Snubb; Ibrahim Moustafa, aka Ra Boogie; and William Jay Ylvisaker.

Side by Side, moving in twos
Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance Company
Co-Directed by Rachel Slater and Suzanne Chi
November 5-7
Studio 2, 810 SE Belmont St. #2
Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance formed in 2014 by co-directors Rachel Slater and Suzanne Chi, is a part-time, project-based, professional company interested in presenting high quality, cross genre, contemporary work, of Portland choreographers. Muddy Feet’s upcoming performance, Side by Side, moving in twos, will showcase new choreographic work by Luke Gutgsell, Eliza Larson, Carla Mann, Franco Nieto, and Rachel Slater. (See below.)

Marginal Evidence (an interactive experience of dance-making)
Katherine Longstreth
October 1 – November 14
3 pm November 7, Panel Discussion with curator Sara Huston, Paleontologist Theodore Fremd, Criminalist Mark Johnson and Katherine Longstreth to talk about tracing the ephemeral.
5 pm November 14, closing conversation with Linda Austin, Linda K. Johnson and Anne Mueller to talk about dance-making.
White Box, 24 NW 1st Ave
Marginal Evidence is a visual art installation about the intimate act of choreography. Dance is ephemeral and when it is gone, what is left? How do we know it existed? What is the evidence left behind? Using the approach of a forensic investigator, Longstreth reveals the private process of dance making and exposes the inner life of archival materials. You can read Martha Ullman West’s review here.

The Side by Side choreographers

Through emails and phone conversations (Slater, Larson, Mann, Gutgsell and I spoke with via email, and Nieto and I spoke with on the phone), I gathered together bits about the Side by Side choreographers and what they were thinking about when it came to making their dances for this concert. Without giving away too much information and keeping it somewhat mysterious, here are those bits.

Rachel Slater/Photo by Chris Peddecord

Rachel Slater/Photo by Chris Peddecord

Rachel Slater has performed for Tere Mathern Dance, Éowyn Emerald & Dancers, Tracey Durbin, Kristine Anderson, Franco Nieto and in her own work. Slater was a New Expressive Works Resident and a 2014 recipient of the Oregon Arts Commission Career Opportunity Grant. She is also the co-founder and co-director of Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance with Suzanne Chi.

Her new piece “examines the first moments of deep connection between two people. It follows the chance meeting of two people and investigates the delicacy, fear and hope that is present in the first charged moment of that connection. With attention to vulnerabilities, exposure, taking risks and being open, this piece expresses curiosity about the growth of trust within a relationship.”

“I am very interested in people, in humans,” Slater wrote. “I always want to see something of the dancers I am working with in final performance. That depth and respect is important to me. What we experience and how and why is often the driver for my creative output. I commonly work from personal experience, folding in my own movement with some generation from my dancers directed by the concepts we are dealing with.”

Carla Mann creates choreography for stage, alternative sites, installations and video and serves as Professor of Dance at Reed College, where she has taught since 1995. She currently serves as Associate Artistic Director of Heidi Duckler Dance Theater/NW, a site-specific performance company, and has performed in many of her own choreographic works, as well as with Oslund + Co/Dance, Dance Gatherer, tEEth, Troika Ranch, Imago Theatre, Bonnie Merrill, Lynn Phelps, JED, the Navigators, Cydney Wilkes, Linda Austin and Benny Bell & Company, among others.

“Since the piece is a duet, I was interested in making something specifically for these particular dancers—Anna Marra and Shaun Keylock. Both are deeply interesting people who possess light, gentle demeanors, and so I wanted to make something rather dark for them. We started with several images; I’m really drawn to photographer Diane Arbus’s work, especially her empathetic portraits that reveal people in all of their beautiful strangeness, and the dancers, including alternates Kim Ames and Stephanie Ennes, were instrumental in bringing these images to life. Videographer John Bacone and lighting designer Robin Greenwood are creating a stark visual in which Anna and Shaun can embody a sort of twinned psychology.”

Luke Gutgsell has performed with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company and Shen Wei Dance Arts, David Dorfman Dance, Tiffany Mills Company and Risa Jaroslow. His work has been presented on both coasts and internationally. In Fall 2015 he was presented by PICA at the TBA festival here in Portland and was the recipient of Artist Residencies at Performance Works Northwest and Studio 2.

Gutgsell’s piece is a “portrait of sibling rivalry, repressed longing and loss. The original 2009 version premiered at Danspace Project in New York City. Getting UP unearthed major discrepancies between the choreographer’s and audience’s interpretation of the narrative. While the work was intended to depict the contentious relationship between two brothers, its reading was inevitably colored by the opposing sex of the performers/collaborators (Luke Gutgsell and Elise Knudson). Now in 2015, this dance will be performed by two excellent male dancers, Mykey Lopez and Shaun Keylock.”

Eliza Larson

Eliza Larson

Eliza Larson co-directs the Mountain Empire Performance Collective, a long-distance dance company. She is also the author of Terpsichore’s Deck, a set of 52 choreographic cards to use in dance making and performance, and her primary research on gender in dance has been presented at several conferences, including the Congress on Research in Dance.

“For this performance, I wanted to work with Siren mythology. My favorite poem, Siren Song by Margaret Atwood, is such a brilliant journey for the reader in so few words. I wanted to capture that same essence with this work – an abstracted work, more of the internal or personal perspective of the siren. I also wanted to specifically work with two women for this show, to depict a nuanced and complex relationship between them.”

“I always work in a very collaborative manner with my performers. Almost all the material is created in the studio as a group effort. I will come in with some scores, and we create material from there. Or I will have an idea and will have the dancers improvise on that, then cull what I like. I want the movement material to be germane and connected to the performers, rather than something I teach or layer on their bodies. My goal is for the dancers movement to look like it belongs to them.”

Franco Nieto, on loan from NW Dance Project, was originally a football player before making his choice to become a dancer. He is originally from Vancouver, Washington, and studied with Tracey Durbin. He has danced with many well-known choreographers from all over the world at NW Dance Project over the years and was one of six dancers in 2012 to win a Princess Grace Award for Dance.

Nieto’s original idea for his new piece was scrapped after his recent trip to Mongolia to perform with NW Dance Project when he became inspired to “talk” about the process of translation, how it works and what gets lost during it and how it works out in the end.

The primary inspiration for this piece came from observing the backstage activities between NW Dance Project and the Mongolian stagehands. It was chaotic to say the least and Nieto enjoyed all of the yelling involved and a recording of these conversations is worked into the sound score that Nieto has created. Distorted chaos he said.

He is also interested in the juxtaposition of opposites and how clearly different they are but how harmonious they can be together as well; like sweet and sour, loud and quiet, physicality and sensitivity.

Because of a recent illness, Nieto is getting the chance to slow down, he says, to be quiet and listen and see things differently for a while outside of the regular chaotic buzz of everyday life and he likes it.

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