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DanceWatch: Jan-bruary is the resilient month

We are still dancing, but mostly we are watching dance on screens. And we are getting better at it, too.


Welcome to the Jan-bruary edition of the dance calendar and the 396th day of 2020. It just keeps gettin’ better,  don’t you think? Somehow, though, through it all, a pandemic and the attempted overthrow of our government, dance artists are still making dances. I am continually amazed at how resilient humans are, even under the harshest conditions. 

Today I am feeling celebratory. Every month that DanceWatch can fill its calendar with dance performances is a minor miracle and a joyous occasion. Art is the mark of civilization. If we are here dancing, then we are thriving. 

This edition of DanceWatch is full to the brim with work that will break your heart open, make you want to smash through your screens and dance with the folks on the other side, transport you, connect you, and generally make you feel good. Enjoy!

January Dance Performances

The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, which features new experimental work in various development stages, opened on January 28 and will run till February 7. Projects are available through Feb. 15 to stream on Fertile Ground’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Curated by a committee for the first time in its 12-year history, the festival, not strictly a dance festival, will feature 31 projects by regional choreographers, theater artists, puppeteers, improvisers, animators, and mixed-media artists.

I was privileged to participate in Fertile Ground’s meet-the-press zoom call, where I met and heard the pitches from every participating show, and I can say with certainty that these shows are a must go! They are powerful and beautiful and are everything you need right now. Luckily all of the performances will be streamed online through the Fertile Ground Facebook and YouTube pages and will be available to view for seven days after, so you won’t miss a thing! And most importantly, they are FREE to watch. 

Artwork for the Fertile Ground production of Allies & Accomplices. Photo courtesy of Echo Theater Company

* Fertile Ground
Allies & Accomplices
Presented by Echo Theater Company
Performers include ETC Pro Lab, Noelle Simone, Tessa May, and Variat Dance Collective with direction by Laura Cannon and Aaron Wheeler-Kay
Opened 7 pm January 29; available to view through Feb. 15
Open and closed captioning available


Washougal Art & Music Festival

In these world premieres, five independently created dance works highlight the stories of marginalized and oppressed voices and examine how artistic creation is a political act. They seek to personalize the Black experience and the accompanying fear, help you find your voice through the Black Lives Matter movement, and lead you on a journey to discover your inner Greek goddess. 

In an endeavor to preserve some of what makes a live, in-person performance different from a virtual viewing experience, Echo Theater has created experiential kits to help viewers engage physically with the works. Audience members can pick these kits up at Echo Theater, 1515 SE 37th Ave, Portland, or assemble them themselves. The kit includes citrus with the peel intact, a candle, and something to lite the candle, an invitation to get a breath of fresh air, and a poem by Black American feminist poet Audre Lorde.

Dancer/aerialist Kapu Waiaʻu Dancel in her modern-day moʻolelo, I’ll Tell You How To Love Me for the Fertile Ground Festival of New Works. Photo by Romnick Dancel.

*Fertile Ground
I’ll Tell You How To Love Me 
By Kapu Waia’u Dancel
Directed by Kapu Waia’u Dancel and Romnick Dancel
Produced by Brave Ass Scaredy Cat
Opened 2 pm Jan. 30; available to view through Feb. 15

I’ll Tell You How To Love Me is a modern-day moʻolelo choreographed and performed by dancer/aerialist Kapu Waiaʻu Dancel that combines spoken word, music, and dance. Moʻolelo in the Hawaiian language describes the succession of speech, or stories traditionally passed down orally through families, that provide ancestral wisdom and guidance for the future. This moʻolelo told through the camera’s eye in beautiful architectural, and natural scenery gives tangible expression to how trauma can shape us and how we can reclaim ourselves.

Performance Works NW Celebrating 20 years of experimental dance and performance with experimental poetry. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

Poet’s Benefit for PWNW-The dance moves on and prose limps hopelessly behind
4 pm January 31 
Zoom link sent upon registration

Performance Works NW celebrates 20 years of fostering experimental performance with an evening of experimental poetry hosted by Spare Room and Passages Bookshop. Spare Room is a grassroots group of people in Portland, Oregon, who organize readings and events that focus on experimental poetry that often happens at Passage Bookshop, which specializes in rare books and art and poetry. 

This fundraiser event will feature virtual readings and performances by Mark Owens, Maryrose Larkin, Laura Feldman, Chris Piuma, David Abel, Joseph Bradshaw, Sam Lohmann, Endi Hartigan, James Yeary, Jen Coleman, and Chris Ashby. 


Seattle Opera Pagliacci

PWNW was founded in 1999 by award-winning dancer, choreographer, performance artist, and writer Linda Austin with technical director and partner Jeff Forbes. PWNW is a studio theatre in Southeast Portland that engages artists and audiences in experimentation, creation, and dialogue around contemporary performance. 

February Dance Performances

Weekly #instaballet Creative Hour
5:30 pm February 4

Consider choreographic elements: time, space, and energy, while you choreograph a ballet with #Instaballet, every Thursday via Zoom. Join directors Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan as they reimagine who creates ballets, giving you artistic control. There is an optional movement warm-up at the beginning that you can do on or off-camera, or not at all—your choice. You do not have to be a trained dancer or choreographer to join in on the fun and be a part of this creative process. 

Learn more about #Instaballet and how it came to be in Crowd-sourced Choreography by ArtsWatch Eugene correspondent Gary Ferrington.

BodyVox Video Installation
BodyVox Dance Company, artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland
February 4-6
Pop-up Gallery at the Maddox Building, 1231 NW Hoyt St, Portland
Tickets must be reserved in advance.

Continuing their tradition of melding dance with technology, BodyVox artistic director Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland have created an immersive experience modified to fit the pandemic’s limitations. 


Seattle Opera Pagliacci

Every thirty minutes, 15 audience members will be allowed to enter the gallery to engage in a three-dimensional, multi-projection world of light, music, and dance. Featured will be three BodyVox dance films accompanied by the music of Maurice Ravel, Ludovico Einaudi, and Mark Mothersbaugh. 

BodyVox dancers Javan Mngrezzo and Brent Luebbert leaping into the new year at Cathedral Park under the St Johns Bridge. Photo by Michael Shay of Polara Studio.

BodyVox Dance Company, artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland
February 11-13
Zidell Yards, 3121 S Moody Ave
A Drive-in and streamed event

Initially created as a live performance work meant to tour the U.S. during BodyVox’s 2020-2021 season, Figments has been reimagined into an immersive full-length dance film. Created during the pandemic and within a “quaran-team bubble,” the film invites audiences to travel back in time to revisit iconic BodyVox dances that combine dance and theatre, creating a quirky comedic vaudevillian flavor-at the drive-in. 

A Morfose: Chapters One to Five
Performed by PDX Contemporary Ballet
Choreographed by Helbert Pimenta
Video Release Dates: Chapter One-January 22, Chapter two-February 5th, Chapter three-19th, Chapter four-March 5th, and Chapter five-19th. 

Shutdowns, lockdowns, social distancing, and no in-person live performances have wholly altered the dancer/choreographer experience. Instead of folding, PDXCB found alternative ways to work within the new parameters. 

Together via Zoom with Brazilian choreographer Helbert Pimenta, a dancer with Grupo Corpo, the company created a five-chapter series of short dance films inspired by Franz Kafka’s novel Metamorphosis. The story is about a traveling salesman who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant bug. 

In each dance chapter, Pimenta offers an analysis of the book’s characters and relates the story’s themes of transformation, isolation, and adjustment to our current pandemic lives. 


Washougal Art & Music Festival

*Fertile Ground
Prismagic Radio Hour
By Petra Delarocha
9 pm February 5; available to view through Feb. 15

In this whimsical throwback to the variety shows of yore, the besparkled host Gerr-In, accompanied by an original score by Makenna Carrico, presents raunchy dancing cowgirls, aerialists, magicians, and jugglers, a Hoola hooper, and a star in training in this magical radio hour.

Lean In: a live podcast in celebration of Black History Month
Hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre artistic director Robert Guitron
1:00 pm February 7
Live streamed through @PolarisDanceTheatre FaceBook page

Topic: Financing and funding and issues affecting the Portland dance community. Special guests include Portland Creative Laureate and artistic director of New Expressive Works, Subashini Ganesan, and KeyBank manager Travious Shanklin. Both are passionate supporters of communities and organizations of color. 

1:00 pm February 21
Topic: Celebrating BIPOC contributions to the Portland Dance Community with special guests Bobby Fouther.

*Fertile Ground
The November Project
7 pm February 7; available to view through Feb. 15
By Jessica Wallenfels, Beth Thompson, and Lava Alapai
Directed by Beth Thompson
Produced by Many Hats Collaboration

In 1995, The November Project creator Jessica Wallenfels had a revelatory moment while sitting in a Narcotics Anonymous meeting that became the spark for The November Project as it is today. The one other woman at the meeting stated emphatically that “No man comes in between me and my drugs.” Wallenfels, who has been chronicling the project’s evolution in her blog for several weeks now, wrote that she felt that this statement articulated something taboo. That a woman might put herself first and not for the good of other people, but for selfish ends was like a peek behind the curtain of womanhood. 

Attempting to articulate this private space behind the curtain, Wallenfels created several versions of the work over the years, finally landing on the perfect backdrop as an expression of the idea, a public restroom. More specifically, old department store women’s restrooms that contained a discrete sitting room just outside the toilet room, allowing women to privately compose themselves before reentering the world post pee. Wallenfels felt that these rooms behind closed doors were a perfect expression of women’s public and private spaces. 

To read more about the evolution of The November Project, click here. 


Washougal Art & Music Festival

Today’s version of The November Project is a film collage of 20 women and nonbinary persons dancing in their home bathrooms in response to the 2020 Presidental election and the pandemic to music composed by Amenta Abioto. The camera captures private moments of people experiencing isolation, confronting the unknown, and finding personal agency. 

A dancer with Portland’s Espacio leaning into the groove.
Photo courtesy of Espacio Flamenco.

Fall in Love with Flamenco – on the Portland Music Stream
Presented by Espacio Flamenco and The Alberta Rose Theatre 
7:00 pm February 13 PST

Espacio Flamenco continues their annual February performance tradition with a live-streamed concert from the Alberta Rose Theatre. This year the cast will be smaller and socially distanced, of course, but no less passionate than any other year. Espacio Flamenco dance company members have chosen their favorite flamenco styles from Fandangos to Farruca, Alegrias to Siguiriyas, in this showcase performance that will feature.

Ballet Fantastique dancers Fredrick David and Ashley Bontrager. Photo by Greg Burns.

Pride and Prejudice: A Parisian Jazz Ballet 
Ballet Fantastique, artistic directors Donna and Hannah Bontrager
February 13-15 Or join the watch party virtually on February 14 at 4: 00 pm PST.

Featuring a singing, dancing, comical narrator, and music played live by Gerry Rempel Jazz Syndicate, Ballet Fantastic puts a spin on Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice by placing Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in 1920s swingin’ Paris instead of old rural Britain. Just in time for Valentine’s Day!

A past Cabaret Boris & Natasha performer caught in a moment. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW and Linda Austin Dance.

Performance Work NW Retrospective: Cabaret Boris & Natasha 
4 pm February 14

PWNW trips down memory lane in an evening filled with performance art, music, dance, film and video, theater, and poetry by your favorite Portland performers in a joyful live cast on Vimeo.


Seattle Opera Pagliacci

Marjani Forté-Saunders
Photo Credit: Ian Douglas
Iris Erez
Photo Credit: Barbara Dietl

Homework: Exercising Wombhood (Tentative Title)
by Iris Erez and Marjani Forté-Saunders
Commissioned and presented by White Bird 
Noon PST (10 pm Israeli time) February 15
Vimeo Link (To Be Announced) will also be accessible through White Bird’s website and will continue to be available ten days after on White Bird’s website.

In their latest commission, White Bird artistic directors Paul King and Walter Jaffe have brought together American choreographer, performer, educator, Marjani Forté-Saunders and Israeli dance artist Iris Erez. The two artists have collaborated on a 20-minute duet that they describe as a “Cross-Atlantic Virtual Women Duet,” with the tentative title “Homework: Exercising Wombhood.” 

Accompanying the virtual duet will be a conversation between the two artists about creating the new work and their artistic paths in both Israel and the United States. 

Marjani Forté-Saunders, an award-winning choreographer, performer, educator, community organizer, and mother, refers to “dance and embodiment as her sorcery-revolutionary, transformative, wild, ancient, and fresh.” She received a “Bessie” for Outstanding Performer (2017) and is the recipient of the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Fellowship (2017), a Jerome Foundation, Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship (2018), a Dance/USA Artist Fellowship (2019), and is a two-time Princess Grace Award winner. 

Iris Erez is also an award-winning artist, a mother, independent choreographer, dancer, and teacher. She has worked with choreographers Anat Danieli, Ronit Ziv, Inbal Pinto, Lara Barsacq, Uri Ivgi, Arkadi Zaides, and Yasmeen Godder. She has created many works and has been invited to perform in Israel and worldwide. Erez was a visiting artist at Reed College here in Portland in 2017 and performed her work Local (not easy).

Pictured: Happy Hour performers Intisar Abioto and Maura Campbell Balkits. Photos courtesy of Performance Works NW.

PWNW Happy Hour featuring Intisar Abioto and Maura Campbell Balkits
Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance
5:00 pm February 18
Via Zoom

In a mindful approach that provides financial support to artists of color in the community while centering dance and experimental performance, PWNW has created a Happy Hour on Zoom that features a variety of artists. The evening includes a cocktail demo (specific drink TBA), a toast, a performance, lively post-performance discussions, PWNW-themed Bingo, and prizes, of course! 


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This month, Happy Hour will feature Portland artist Intisar Abioto and Maura Campbell-Balkits. Abioto works in photography, dance, and writing and is nationally known for her photography project, The Black Portlanders, which documents and illuminates Black people living in a predominantly white city that tries to erase them. Abioto will be sharing work in response to the previous week of her life before the date of this performance. 

Campbell-Balkits is the current PWNW Alembic Resident Artists and has a background in film studies, theatre, sketch comedy, and stand-up. For Happy Hour she will present “Talk Show,” a television show hosted by her character Grace Doonan. In this episode, Doonan invites Janet Boomhauser, the inspirational speaker and author of the best-selling book Stop Being a Loser, for a fun, intimate, devastating, and life-changing visit. 

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Photo Joe Cantrell

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.


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