Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

DanceWatch: August feast of fests

Native American, east Indian, bachata, bhangra, bellydance, Art in the Dark: It's a month to see and do.


If you thought you were going to catch your breath this month before the crush of fall performances, forget about it. August is busier than ever, and the many dance genres it promises is a good thing. From Native American to Indian dance styles, bachata to bhangra to bellydance, there’s enough to keep us occupied throughout the month. Better still? Much of it is free. We’ll sleep when we’re dead, right?


Painted Sky Northstar Native Dance Company plays the Washington Park Summer Festival. Photo courtesy Mary Hager.

Painted Sky Northstar Native Dance Company with Evening Star Painted Ponies
6 p.m. Aug. 2
Washington Park Rose Garden Amphitheatre, 410 SW Kingston Ave.

As Jamuna Chiarini wrote her in March DanceWatch column, the Portland-based Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company has been hard at work since 2005, breaking down stereotypes and myths about Native American people, and building bridges through education and performance. Its repertoire, performed nationally and internationally by a dozen or so dancers, includes traditional dance forms as well as blended contemporary styles. Washington Park’s amphitheater will provide a beautiful backdrop for this summer evening show.


JamBallah 2018 Instructor Showcase. Photo by Casey Campbell Photography.

JamBallah Northwest
Aug. 2-4
Lewis & Clark College, 0615 Palatine Road

The bellydance diaspora congregates on the Lewis & Clark campus this month for the three-day Jamballah Northwest. Practitioners from all over will take part in classes and performances focused on Middle Eastern dance and its American Fusion versions. Two Portlanders—Sharon Kihara and Bevin Victoria—are among the featured artists, as are Amel Tafsout (Algeria/California), Aziza (Quebec), Ozgen (Turkey/England) and Rin Ajna (Washington, D.C.). There will be a vendor fair and three days of workshops with such titles as “Zoe’s Book of Shimmies,” “Flexibility: Jaw-Dropping Trickster” and the “The Soul of Cairo.” The fun begins with a meet-and-greet and Donna Mejia’s lecture “Courageous Conversations in the Midst of Cultural Collusion” on Aug. 1, followed by two nights of mixed-level, all-ages public performance showcases demonstrate the breadth of bellydance technique and style.


Iñaki & Deblin represent Portland at this year’s Bachata en la Calle fest. Photo: Iñaki & Deblin.

Bachata en la Calle
Aug. 3
Vitalidad Movement Arts & Events Center, 116 S.E. Yamhill St.


Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

The Dominican Republic gave us bachata, and Bachata en la Calle gives us a full day to celebrate it, not counting the pre-party held Aug. 2 on the Portland Spirit (it’s billed as “three floors of fun: salsa room, bachata room, and rooftop deck party,” and excuse us for a minute while we go cancel whatever we were planning to do that evening). Saturday is a Latin dance lovers’ paradise, with classes from 1-5 p.m., led by instructors who are headed our way from Miami, New York, and Chicago, although Portland will be well represented by local instructors Iñaki & Deblin. This is the place to learn what bachata is—it’s derived from Cuban bolero, for starters—and how it’s rightly done. On the musical end, looks for DJs and live music from outfits including the supercharged Portland collective Dina y Los Rumberos.


The Japanese Garden hosts one of two local Bon festivals. Photo: Japanese Garden.

Obon Fest
Aug. 3
Oregon Buddhist Temple

O-bon: Sapporo Cultural Festival
10 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 17-18
Portland Japanese Garden
Free with garden admission

Japan will celebrate this year’s Bon Festival Aug. 13-15; here in Portland, we’ll have our own parties before and after that. Obon is meant to honor one’s ancestors, and bon odori (bon dance) is a part of that: It’s a dance to receive the spirits of the departed, then send them on their way. The Oregon Buddhist Temple’s Obon Fest is a multicultural version of Obon, with bon odori as well as performances by the White Lotus Dragon & Lion Dancers and live music from the Minidoka Swing Band and the mightily percussive Portland Taiko. It wouldn’t be a festival without children’s activities and vendors; you can expect to find good things to eat and interesting items for sale, including kimonos. The story is much the same at the O-Bon Sapporo Cultural Festival, with the setting—Portland’s scenic and tranquil Japanese Garden—as additional incentive. Here, too, you’ll find bon odori, as well as food, crafts, and children’s activities. Both events are family-friendly and open to the public.


Multiple dance groups perform at the India Festival in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Photo: Pioneer Courthouse Square.

India Festival
Pioneer Courthouse Square
10 a.m.-8 p.m. Aug. 11


Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

With at least eight classical dance forms to its credit (not to mention popular dance forms), India has a rich movement legacy. That will quickly become apparent at the India Festival, which celebrates India’s Independence Day with dance performances, live music, and other entertainment. (And, we’re happy to report, food.) India Festival is hosted by the India Cultural Association, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing Indian cultural awareness.


DJ Prashant (left) and the Jai Ho! Dance Troupe celebrate Indian Independence Day. Photo: DJ Prashant.

DJ Prashant & Jai Ho! Dance Troupe

6:30 p.m. Aug. 15
Laurehurst Park, SE 37th Ave.


Celebrating Indian Independence Day with DJ Prashant and his Jai Ho! Dance Troupe is becoming something of a Portland summer tradition. This interactive evening of Bollywood and Bhangra dance unfolds outdoors: The company performs (likely the reprise of a dance sequence from a well-known Bollywood film), then invites viewers to join them for a basic dance lesson and impromptu group performance up front. Wear comfortable clothing, including shoes you can shed easily, and be ready to bounce. A screening of Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning feature film Slumdog Millionaire will follow at dusk.


Art in the Dark, 2016. Photo: A-WOL Dance Collective.

Art in the Dark
A-WOL Dance Collective
Aug. 1-4
Mary S. Young Park, West Linn


Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

If you’ve never seen dancers suspended from old-growth trees, you clearly haven’t seen A-WOL Dance Collective. A-WOL doesn’t mean what you think it does, by the way: it’s an acronym for Aerial Without Limits, which should give you some insight into the kind of dance you’ll see. The Portland-based collective specializes in aerial, acrobatic and contemporary dance, and runs a school that teaches the same.  The company’s Art in the Dark outdoor performances have become a family-friendly summer tradition. Shows are done in the round, illuminated, and clock in at a manageable hour and a half. This year’s show, Frost and Fur, concerns itself with a snow leopard and other denizens of the natural world. Musician Chet Lyster provides a live original soundtrack blending traditional and electronic instruments. Seating opens at 7:30 p.m. for concessions and shows start at 8:45 p.m.


Galaxy Dance Festival, hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre, returns for a ninth year of classes and performance. Photo: Polaris Dance Theatre.

Galaxy Dance Festival
Aug. 3-4
Director Park

Watching is only half the fun at the Polaris Dance Theatre Galaxy Dance Festival: The other half is taking advantage of all the outdoor dance classes. Now in its ninth year, the downtown festival offers free performances and classes from local, regional and national choreographers, companies and organizations. Starting 11 a.m. Aug. 3 with an Open Argentine Tango Class led by Glykeria Manis, the festival fills two days with dance genres including swing, salsa, hip-hop and contemporary. You don’t need to be an expert dancer, you just need comfortable clothes and an enthusiasm for movement. Tango fans, take note: Friday evening has a tango theme, with a class, a milonga deejayed by Derrick Del Pilar, and performances.


New Vision Dance Company
5:30 p.m. Aug. 15
AmberGlen Park, Hillsboro

Dance and sculpture go waaaay back (think Degas, then keep thinking); at the dedication of a new public artwork at Hillsboro’s AmberGlen Park, that collaboration continues. Youth ensemble the New Vision Dance Company stages a lyrical/contemporary work inspired by Illinois artist Dann Nardi’s Elemental Sequence. Envision a concrete sculpture that pairs curving upright columns evoking trees with low curving benches recalling the graceful bends in a river, and you have some idea of what you’re in for. A dance party follows with live music.



Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

PHAME Academy stages the rock opera “The Poet’s Shadow.” Photo: Friderike Heuer.

The Poet’s Shadow

PHAME Academy
Aug. 23-31
Hampton Opera Center, 211 SE Caruthers St.

PHAME, a Portland-based performing arts academy serving adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has gone all in on its newest venture, rock opera The Poet’s Shadow. Eight PHAME students wrote it (in collaboration with the Portland Opera’s manager of education and outreach, Alexis Hamilton); more than 30 adults with developmental disabilities have been cast in leading and supporting roles, and the music will come from a choir and musicians playing iPads alongside Metropolitan Youth Symphony members playing their instruments. On the dance front, Erik Ferguson and Yulia Arakelyan—of the multidisciplinary, butoh-influenced performance company Wobbly Dance—have contributed choreography.

Sound like a big deal? It is: This is the first fully staged PHAME production written, staged, and performed by people with developmental disabilities (down to the musical composition and costume and set design), and marks the culmination of an 18-month collaboration between PHAME and the Portland Opera, which provided vocal coaching to the show’s lead actors.

And if you’re wondering what it’s all about, The Poet’s Shadow tells the story of Elizabeth, a young poet who, in despair following a breakup, writes a series of poems that take on a life of their own, sending her on a personal quest that challenges what she thought she knew.


Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance’s film “Unfolding” is among the selections at this year’s Northwest Screendance Exposition. Photo: Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance.

Northwest Screendance Exposition
7:30 p.m. Aug. 6-7
Broadway Metro, 43 West Broadway, Eugene

The Eugene Film Society spearheads the Northwest Screendance Exposition, which is now in its fourth year of soliciting and compiling collections of dance films by local and international artists. The best kinesthetic-cinematographic collaborations make the cut in an evening of dance on film, and a $500 Jury Award and $250 Audience Award only sweeten the deal for creators.  This year’s selections, which cover styles spanning swing to ballet, include Portland’s Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance in Unfolding, its second dance film together; In the House of Mantegna, by Michele Manzini of Verona, Italy, an ensemble movement piece gaining a worldwide following on the festival circuit; and two films by Cara Hagan, a filmmaker, dance professor, and choreographer from Appalachian State University of Boone, North Carolina. Cygnus, created with Portland filmmaker Robert Uehlin, celebrates a quiet morning sunrise, while Sound and Sole is a short documentary about the only professionally working African-American buck dancer in Boone.


Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon


Viewers suggest movement at #Instaballet. Photo: #Instaballet.

5:30 p.m. Aug. 2
Oregon Contemporary Theatre, 222 Southwest Columbia St., Eugene

Test your dancemaking skills at #Instaballet, a recurring feature of the Lane Arts Council’s First Friday ArtWalks. Eugene Ballet veterans Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan devised this simple but intriguing concept: create a new piece in real time, based on movement suggestions from viewers. The dance takes shape as onlookers add their input. The final work, performed at the end of the session, is a truly collective effort. All ages are welcome to contribute, and dance experience isn’t required—neophytes just might have the freshest ideas. (For more on the genesis of #Instaballet, see Gary Ferrington’s feature on its creators: https://www.orartswatch.org/crowd-sourced-choreography/)


Broadway Rose Theatre Company gets “Footloose.” Photo: Broadway Rose Theatre Company.

Broadway Rose Theatre Company, 12850 SW Grant Avenue, Tigard
Aug. 1-Sept. 1

This musical isn’t six degrees of Kevin Bacon: It’s just one—plus one degree of Kenny Loggins, and if you have the title track stuck in your head for the next 24 hours, we feel your pain. Actually, that reminds us that that Footloose—best known in its original 1984 film incarnation—also brought us “Holding Out for a Hero” and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.” Even Sammy Hagar was involved. But never mind all that. What’s important here is the story: it’s about a city boy who moves to a small town where dancing is outlawed and runs afoul of the local preacher who pushed for the ban after attracting the attention of his rebellious daughter. It’s dance as cultural protest, and in its way, fitting for the times we live in now




Seattle Opera The Life and Times of MalcolmX McCaw Hall Seattle Washington

Sept. 5-15: Time-Based Art Festival
Sept. 26-28: NW Dance Project
Sept. 26-29: Union PDX Festival of Contemporary Dance

Oct. 3-5: Momix
Oct. 5-12: OBT Roar(s)
Oct. 10-12: Sasha Waltz
Oct. 17-19: Caleb Teicher and Company

November 21-23

Nov. 7-9: Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group
Nov. 21-23: CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston

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