Portland Playhouse Performances Portland Oregon Events

DanceWatch: Alonzo King, the White Bird word, ‘Dracula’ & more

February highlights: White Bird plans a changing of the guard; a wild rumpus erupts; women choreographers in Eugene; more.


This month, the big dance news is that White Bird, Oregon’s most prominent dance presenter, will be handing over the reins of its operations in Fall 2023, after 25 years, to current executive director Graham Cole. White Bird’s co-founders, Paul King and Walter Jaffe will remain as the White Bird Board co-chairs. The rest of the team consists of the director of patron services and communications, Christopher Carvalho, and administrative assistant Jeremy Husserl.  

Cole is originally from Portland and is the son of Gary Cole, co-founder of the theater company CoHo Productions, which started the same year as White Bird. Cole is also a dancer trained at Oregon Ballet Theatre and An Daire Academy in Irish step dancing. He holds a BFA in Contemporary Dance from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and worked as a performer, choreographer, teacher, and dance administrator in New York City and North Carolina. Graham directs his own dance-theater company Graham Cole/Performance, which premiered a new work several weeks ago. 

Thanks to White Bird, San Francisco’s Alonzo King LINES Ballet will be breaking our Covid-induced dance fast, gracing Portland’s Newmark stage February 24-26. The company is part of White Bird’s new festival called We Are One, which will present dance companies of color. The inaugural season includes Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem and Complexions Contemporary Ballet from New York, and Versa-Style Dance Company, a hip-hop company from Los Angeles. Versa-Style Dance Company will perform at Beaverton’s new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, a brand new, 550-seat venue easily accessible by the MAX Light Rail, with plenty of affordable, easy-to-access parking. White Bird is planning a full dance season beginning in Fall 2022.

Alonzo King LINES Ballet will present a two-part program that features Four Heart Testaments, four excerpts from various works representing Alonzo King’s forty-year history of choreography, and Azoth, a 45-minute, 10-part work that abstractly invokes the element mercury. Mercury was an essential agent of transformation in alchemy, the transmutation of base metals into gold. Azoth was also considered the animating energy that inspired the body and mind, and represented a unity of beginning and ending by tying together the first and last of its letters.

King’s work reflects growing up in Georgia as the child of civil rights activists Slater King and Valencia King Nelson. King senior had a close relationship with Malcolm X and introduced Alonzo to Gandhi and yoga, creating an east-west continuum and solidifying nonviolence and the power of love in his psyche. Thus, King’s dance company looks like the world. 

He is also profoundly inspired by nature. 

In a conversation with Gia Kourlas of The New York Times in a June 2020 story titled, Note to Dancers: ‘Drop Your Self-Consciousness’ and Get Into It,’ King describes dance/movement ideas as already existing in nature and declares that we are always dancing with our environment: “The origin of classical form came from nature. This is what people don’t get. They think, Oh, let’s see: a pirouette. No! It existed in whirlpools and eddies and the way that the world turns on its axis and goes around the sun. So all of this is based in nature, and that’s why it’s always wonderful to go back to nature because these are the true origins of this form.”

Performances this month!

The members of Wild Rumpus Jazz Co. getting a Clue. Photo courtesy of Wild Rumpus Jazz Co. 

Wild Rumpus Gets A Clue
Wild Rumpus Jazz Co. 
10 am February 5
The company will release the YouTube link onto our Facebook and Instagram page along with a QR code for optional donations.

Wild Rumpus Jazz Co. (co-founded by Kelsey Adams and Lucy Brush) creates murder and mayhem in its new full-length jazz-dance film, Wild Rumpus Gets A Clue. Inspired by Clue, the classic murder mystery board game, the dancers will dance out who murdered whom, where the crime occurred, and which weapon was used. 

Boyeurism. Photo courtesy of JamBallah NorthWest

The JamBallah NorthWest Virtual Showcase 
Presented by Narcissa Productions
January 29-February 12
A prerecorded online event

Fostering a global and inclusive perspective on dance, JamBallah brings its annual festival online. The dance styles included are classical Indian, North African, Middle Eastern, Hellenistic, Turkish, and fusion. Featured performers include Izohnny, Boyeurism, Sweta Ravisankar of Sarada Kala Nilayam dance school, Baksana, Heather Louise of Henna Dances, Variat Dance Collective, Nazeneen, Claudia, Emilie Lauren, and friends, Elena Villa, Amel Tafsout, and Ebony Qualls Femme-cee: B B Sanchez.

Alicia Cutaia of ARC in Movement flying through the air. Photo by Jingzi Zhao.

Virtual Cabaret
ARC in Movement, directed by Alicia Cutaia
6 pm February 12
Email arc.in.movement@gmail.com to get a zoom link for the performance
Donations encouraged: Venmo@Arc-in-Movement 
Paypal: arc.in.movement@gmail.com

Grab a drink, get comfy, and enjoy this eclectic virtual cabaret from home. The cabaret is directed by Portland fire performer, dancer, and aerialist Alicia Cutaia/ARC in Movement. Dress up or dress down, your choice! Pandora’s Box and the seven deadly sins are the themes. The eclectic group of performers includes Cutaia, contortionist Orchid, Bellydancer MirCat, Stiltwalker Kylee Wegner, Juggler Eli March; emcees by Angelique DeVil with music by musical director Sean Daly. 

Portland Playhouse Performances Portland Oregon Events
Uncommon Woman ensemble member Hayley Tavonatti. Photo © Ari Denison 2019

Celebration of the Uncommon Woman
Eugene Ballet
February 12-13
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center

With continued inequality for women choreographers and artistic directors in ballet, it’s essential to center women’s voices. Eugene Ballet’s artistic director, Toni Pimble, is doing just that in the new Celebration of the Uncommon Woman program, which features choreographers Sabrina Madison-Cannon, Penny Saunders, Nicole Haskins, Eugene Ballet resident choreographer Suzanne Haag, and Pimble. In his ArtsWatch story Celebrating new visionaries of dance, Gary Ferrington introduces the works. 

Ben Stevenson’s Dracula. Photo by Rich Sofranko courtesy of Pittsburgh Ballet.

Choreographed by Ben Stevenson 
Performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
Music by Franz Liszt, arranged by John Lanchbery 
All performances accompanied by the OBT Orchestra
February 19-26
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St
Opening Night Gala, 5:30 pm February 19 

Count Dracula and his ghostly undead brides fly in this lavish romantic ballet-era-styled production. Elaborate costumes and scenery, supported by composer Franz Liszt’s gothic works, set the haunting tone. In this atmospheric theatrical tale, Dracula’s castle and Transylvania come to life in Ben Stevenson’s distillation of Bram Stoker’s novel. 

Alonzo King LINES Ballet dancer’s Adji Cissoko and Robb Beresford. Photo by RJ Muna.

Four Heart Testaments and Azoth
Alonzo King LINES Ballet
Presented by White Bird 
February 24-26
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway

See above.

push/Fold artistic director Samuel Hobbs and Ashley Morton, partnering. Photo by Gregory Bartning.

Featuring Tempos Contemporary Circus, push/FOLD, and B. Movement Project
February 25-26
In-Person and Live-Streamed
Polaris Dance Center, 1826 NW 18th Ave

Featured in this shared concert is B. Movement Project. This new artistic venture is directed by Brandy Caroline Guthery, former co-director and founder of Portland’s AWOL Dance Collective. Guthery combines her distinctive blend of contemporary dance and aerial movement in a new work titled Latched, a dark and offbeat exploration of the relationship between parasite and host.

Performing alongside B will be push/Fold, directed by Samuel Hobbs, and TEMPOS Contemporary Circus. push/FOLD will present Ghost Pipe, a meditation on power and flow, and TEMPOS will present Tossed, a reckless riot in celebration of taking chances, featuring the flight and fancy of throwing circus artists through the air.

push/FOLD is the vision of composer-choreographer Hobbs, whose work fuses his background in athletics, dance, music, and osteopathic medicine. Hobbs’ abstract choreography, supported by his compositional score, plays with momentum and partnering, creating a moody, immersive landscape. 

Tempos Contemporary Circus is an ensemble that combines dance, music, acrobatics, and physical theater to explore the connection between ourselves and our community’s vulnerability.

Dancer Colleen Loverde. Photo courtesy of Open Space Dance.

Choreography by Franco Nieto 
Presented by Open Space Dance
February 26-27
Oregon Contemporary, 8371 N Interstate Ave

Former NW Dance Project dancer and Princess Grace Award winner Franco Nieto presents an intimate evening of his choreography that investigates the boundaries and connections between humans and exposes vulnerabilities. The work was made in collaboration with company dancers: Colleen Loverde, Kristalyn Gill, Michael Arellano, Tony Carnell, and Noelle Kayser. Nieto’s work is physical, raw, emotional, and playful.

Upcoming Performances


March 4-5, Spring Premiers, NW Dance Project 
March 4-6, Beauty and the Beast, Ballet Fantastique
March 17-19, Nineteen Twenty, BodyVox Dance


April 1-2, Dark Side: A Piece For Assorted Lunatics, B movement project
April 8-10, Dreamland, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 8-17, /ə ˈsɪŋgəl pɪŋk klɑʊd/, Linda Austin and Allie Hankins
April 22-May 1, National Dance Week


May 12-14, CineVox Dance Film Festival Vl, BodyVox


June 3-11, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre

Jamuna Chiarini is a dance artist, producer, curator, and writer, who produces DanceWatch Weekly for Oregon ArtsWatch. Originally from Berkeley, Calif., she studied dance at The School of The Hartford Ballet and Florida State University. She has also trained in Bharatanatyam and is currently studying Odissi. She has performed professionally throughout the United States as a dancer, singer, and actor for dance companies, operas, and in musical theatre productions. Choreography credits include ballets for operas and Kalamandir Dance Company. She received a Regional Arts & Culture Council project grant to create a 30-minute trio called “The Kitchen Sink,” which was performed in November 2017, and was invited to be part of Shawl-Anderson’s Dance Up Close/East Bay in Berkeley, Calif. Jamuna was a scholarship recipient to the Urban Bush Women’s Summer Leadership Institute, “Undoing Racism,” and was a two-year member of CORPUS, a mentoring program directed by Linda K. Johnson. As a producer, she is the co-founder of Co/Mission in Portland, Ore., with Suzanne Chi, a performance project that shifts the paradigm of who initiates the creation process of new choreography by bringing the artistic vision into the hands of the dance performer. She is also the founder of The Outlet Dance Project in Hamilton, N.J.