“And spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Sensitive Plant
Welcome to DanceWatch for April.
Last year at this time, I was in Japan, and everywhere you looked there were cherry trees with cascading pink flowers, and countless people posing for photos beneath them. In Arashiyama, a district on the outskirts of Kyoto, spring celebrations were in full swing. The Hozu River, which runs from the mountains down into Kyoto, is lined with cherry trees. Large families with young girls dressed in colorful kimonos were strolling in the warm air along the banks, taking pictures under the trees, shopping, eating ice cream, and socializing late into the evening. It was idyllic.
Until that time, I don’t think I had ever experienced spring in quite this way before. The slower pace, the appreciation of nature, of the season, of family and tradition; it was all so beautiful, it made me euphoric.
I offer you this month’s performances as an embodiment of this experience, and of spring. April’s dance performances are full of new life, fresh ideas, and boundless energy. Enjoy!
International and cultural dance styles
Presented by HECSA Portland Balaji Temple
Choreography by Shubha Dhananjay, artistic director of Natyantharanga
4:30 pm April 6
Canby High School, Richard R. Brown Fine Arts Auitorium, 721 SW 4th Ave., Canby
Bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance form that originated in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. is known for its grace, elegance, expressiveness, and sculptural poses. Look for all of these in the dance drama Srinivasa Kalyana, which tells the story of Lord Vishnu’s descent to earth to spread love and devotion in the age of Kaliyuga (also known as the age of quarrel). The drama culminates in a royal wedding between Lord Vishnu and Princess Padmavati, and ends with Lord Vishnu taking the form of the deity Venkateshwara. (To read the full story, click here.)
Award-winning Bharatanatyam dance guru Shubha Dhananjay, artistic director of the Bagalore, India-based classical dance institute Natyantharanga, choreographed the work, which features lyrics by her late father, N. Narasimhaiah, and music by B. R. Hemanth Kumar. Dhananjay and her daughters, Maya and Mudra Dhananjay, will travel from India to perform the piece with Portland artists Radhika Narayanan, Prathibha Nandagudi, Mini Jairaj, Janaki Kolady, and Yashaswini Raghuram, as well as students and teachers Radhika Narayanan, Chitra Sridhar, Sridharini Sridharan, Sweta Ravisankar, Anita Menon, and Yashaswini Raghuram.
Presented by the Oregon Falun Dafa Association
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St.
The Shen Yun Performing Arts troupe was formed in 2006 by a group of artists and Falun Gong practitioners in New York City in response to the Chinese Cultural Revolution; the production explores Chinese culture through dance, music, and storytelling. This large-scale touring production, which has run afoul of the Chinese government by criticizing it, features folk dances from China’s many different regions, an orchestra that combines Western and ancient Chinese instruments, and singers performing in bel canto style. The Shen Yen blog shares personal stories of the dancers on the road, and gives audiences a glimpse into the inner workings of the production.
Student Flamenco Show
Portland Flamenco Events
Directed by Laura Onizuka
6:30 pm April 14
Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S State St., Lake Oswego
Beginning to advanced student performers celebrate flamenco’s cultural cross-pollination through singing, dancing, instrumental music, hand clapping, and finger snapping. The show is produced by Portland Flamenco Events, which offers classes, workshops, performance opportunities, and guided trips to Spain.
Tenali: The Royal Trickster
Northwest Children’s Theater
Avantika Shankar, Anita Menon, and
NWCT artistic director Sarah Jane Hardy
April 20-May 12
Northwest Children’s Theater and School, 1819 NW Everett St.
Playwright Avantika Shankar has created an original script based on the tale of Tenali Ramakrishna (or Tenali), an Indian poet and counselor in the Indian court of King Krishnadevaraya. When the king’s prized crown mysteriously disappears, everyone in court is a suspect, and Tenali must match wits with rival ministers, courtiers, and palace guards to find the missing headpiece. Anita Menon contributes Bharatanatyam choreography; children and adults perform, accompanied by South Indian Carnatic music played live.
Modern and contemporary: local
To Fly Again
Imago, Jerry Mouawad
Through April 6
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave.
As part of its Next Wave Festival this spring, Imago scheduled three original works: Leonard Cohen is Dead (staged last month), Pebble (May 10-25), and, sandwiched between the two, Jerry Mouawad’s movement-heavy To Fly Again (through April 6). ArtsWatch’s Bob Hicks reviewed To Fly Again last year and says that “Mouawad’s own description, from the show’s press release, perhaps explains the simple mystery of the thing as well as it can be explained: ‘A zany group of clown musicians and a clan of clay-tossed dancers roam a barren land … The clowns’ thoughts arise and pass like clouds, the dating game appears out of nowhere in clashes of absurdity, while joy and pathos skim their nonsensical wordplay as the clowns search for a suitable place to make camp. Psychedelic and existential humor pervades; the clowns are constantly interrupted by a clan of dusty dancers who live in a world beyond speech. Tater, the most vulnerable of the clowns, yearns to fly again. Questions open up to further questioning, and talk of sadness is eclipsed by looking at the stars.’”
The Pearl Dive Project
BodyVox, artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
Because they wondered what would happen if creatives outside of the dance world choreographed pieces for their company, BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland created the Pearl Dive Project in 2016. This year’s newly minted dancemakers include Toro Bravo chef John Gorham, illustrator Matt Mahurin, Nike designer Ryan Noon, sci-fi author Daniel H. Wilson, photojournalist Susan Seubert, and painter Sherrie Wolf (who comments in the promo video, “You never know when you do something different where it will take you, but it always changes you in some way.”) The project also includes a new dance made of movement that viewers performed in a video booth at past BodyVox concerts.
The Field Network Conference
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St.
New York-based artist services organization The Field will hold its biannual national conference in Portland this year. Field Network members from around the U.S., along with local artists and culture workers, will consider the roles of feedback and technology in contemporary culture through a series of performances, discussions, and mixers. Performances include turbulence: part 1 by dance artist Sarah Brahim, which addresses the constant pressure that women of color face to explain themselves, and NOISE/DATA, by drag artist and dancer Kaj-anne Pepper, whose work is meant to be an open-ended conversation between viewer and performer, technology and text. Check the website for registration and other information.
A Little Less Human: A Ghost Story
TripTheDark Dance Company, co-founded and directed by Stephanie Seaman and Corinn deTorres
Chapel Theater, 4107 SE Harrison St., Milwaukie
TriptheDark Dance Company, through the medium of contemporary dance, tells the story of a couple experiencing love, loss, and separation (the piece is based on the 2017 movie A Ghost Story). Now in its ninth season, TriptheDark mined popular culture in its previous productions as well, from the fairy tales that inspired The Wolf Child’s Mother and Just Right to the popular ’80s films that thread through I Carried A Watermelon and Labyrinth.
ELa FaLa Collective dancers Emily Running and Alaina Meyer perform at this year’s X-Posed showcase. Photo by BMAC Photography.
Works by Polaris Dance Theatre and ELa FaLa Collective
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave.
At the ninth annual X-Posed showcase, Polaris Dance Theatre (directed by Robert Guitron) and ELa FaLa Collective (directed by Barbara Lima) will present new work highlighting young voices and reflecting on contemporary cultural issues. Lima, a Brazilian choreographer, aims to bridge art, technology, culture, education, and science through her work, while Guitron creates emotional narratives that address societal and cultural changes through a variety of contemporary dance forms.
NW Dance Project, Sarah Slipper, Ihsan Rustem, and Patrick Delcroix
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
NW Dance Project presents three favorite repertory works in a three-night run. Among these is Casual Act, which artistic director Sarah Slipper choreographed in 2013, inspired by British playwright Harold Pinter’s Betrayal; the piece examines relationships and infidelity through a series of emotionally complex duets. Resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem’s Yidam, spurred by his journey into Buddhism and meditation in 2015, is also slated, along with acclaimed French choreographer and former Nederlands Dans Theater star Patrick Delcroix’s 2013 piece Drifting Thoughts, which ArtsWatch Bob Hicks wrote,“has a bit of a gone-native, science-fiction feel to it, like an equinoxal revel interrupted here and there by a brilliant Bikini Atoll flash of destruction … mesmerizing to watch.”
Cypher Culture Conference 2019
Co-founded and directed by Decimus Yarbrough and Michael Galen
Held in various locations throughout Portland, check website for details
Over four days and four nights, Oregon’s Cypher Culture Conference will educate, unify, and strengthen the Pacific Northwest urban dance community through panel discussion panels, parties, battles, workshops, and performances. Check the website schedule for the full conference details and event locations.
Works by Kelly Koltiska and Amelia Unsicker
April 26-May 4
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Portland choreographers Kelly Koltiska and Amelia Unsicker share an evening of choreography that examines the connections we build throughout life, how we affect one another and how internal and external stimuli shape how we present ourselves to the world. Performers include Sissy Dawson, Kasy Martinez-Musgrave, Megan Dawn, Patsy Morris, Nicholas Petrich, Willow Swanson, and Elizabeth Whelan.
Koltiska is a freelance choreographer, dancer and teacher. After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Choreography and Performance from the University of Montana, she moved to Portland and performed with Top Shake Dance and Happy Dog. Koltiska teaches community focused classes through (com)motion and Portland Parks and Recreation. Unsicker, a Portland native, received her Master of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of California, Irvine, and has danced with Pacific Festival Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Agnieszka Laska Dancers, and Jamuna Chiarini, to name a few.
All FuNK’D Up
Presented by White Bird
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
The Tony Award-winning choreographer and tap virtuoso Savion Glover will perform with a six-piece funk band, a vocalist, and a tap ensemble in this two-night run. Glover, now celebrating his 37th year as a performing artist, is known for the Broadway shows Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, The Tap Dance Kid, Black & Blue, and Jelly’s Last Jam; the movies Tap and Bamboozled, and Happy Feet and Happy Feet 2, which he choreographed.
Modern and contemporary: imported
Presented by White Bird
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
12:15 pm April 6, Workshop with Parsons Dance, BodyVox Dance Center
1201 NW 17th (at Northrup), reserve a spot at firstname.lastname@example.org
The company, founded in 1985 by former Paul Taylor dancer David Parsons and Tony Award-winning lighting designer Howell Binkley, is known for athletic prowess, technical skill, and exuberant choreography. Program highlights include Parsons’ Whirl Away and Trey McIntyre’s Ma Maison, both of which salute New Orleans jazz with music by Allen Toussaint and Preservation Hall Jazz Band; Parsons’ Microburst (2018), a fiery, rhythmic work set to an original score by tabla player Avirodh Sharma; and Caught, Parson’s signature work, in which a well-timed strobe light creates the illusion that the solo performer never touches the ground.
Lecture Demonstration with Rosie Herrera and Company
7 pm April 5
Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Massee Performance Lab,
3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard
Free, reservations recommended
Rosie Herrera, a Cuban-American dancer/choreographer and the artistic director of Miami’s Rosie Herrera Dance Theater, comes to Reed College for a five-day residency culminating in a lecture-demonstration that’s open to the public. Herrera stages dance theater, operas, cabarets, short films, and music videos, and directs a diverse ensemble of performers and creators who come from theater, performance art, opera, drag, and contemporary ballet.
Butoh College 2019: Performance Series
Koichi and Hiroko Tamano, Kudo Taketeru, and Shadow Tender
Presented by Butoh College 2019/Mizu Desierto
The Headwaters, 55 NE Farragut Street #9
Butoh College is an immersive 11-day experience into the world of butoh, the “dance of darkness” that emerged in post-war Japan. The program includes 40 hours of training led by international butoh artists Koichi and Hiroko Tamano (founders of the Berkeley, California-based butoh company Harupin-Ha) and Kudo Taketeru. This year’s Butoh College is themed “Generations”; it considers how lineage is passed from one generation to the next–in this case, from Japanese butoh founder Tatsumi Hijikata himself to the Tamanos (who brought butoh to America in the 1970s) to Taketeru, a third-generation artist. Mizu Desierto, a local teacher and performer who champions butoh through her company Water in the Desert and performance space The Headwaters Theatre, is presenting the event, which will also include performances by the Tamanos, Taketeru, and Shadow Tender, a bicoastal team of dancers, artists, and designers debuting a new work called Liber II, which the group calls “a love letter to the terrifying secrets of the queer female body.”
Philadanco! The Philadelphia Dance Company
Founder/ Artistic Director Joan Myers Brown
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm April 24
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
Internationally celebrated for its creativity and its preservation of African-American traditions in dance, Philadanco will make its Portland debut this month. The company, founded in 1970 in Philadelphia by Joan Myers Brown, performs works by innovative choreographers such as Ulysses Dove, Talley Beatty, Rennie Harris, and Christopher Huggins. In 2012, Brown (who also founded The Philadelphia School of Dance Arts and the International Association of Blacks in Dance) received the National Medal of the Arts from President Barack Obama, who said she had carved out “an artistic haven for African-American dancers and choreographers to innovate, create, and share their unique visions with the national and global dance communities.”
Ballet: local and imported
The Golden Age
Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
12:55 pm April 7
Check local theater listings for more information
The Bolshoi is the only company that performs this ballet, which debuted at the Kirov in the 1930s and was criticized by the Soviet government for its treatment of class war. Former Bolshoi Ballet artistic director Yuri Grigorovich revived it in 1982 and revisited it in 2006, using Shostakovich’s jazzy score and setting the action in a 1920s Russian seaside town, where a love story unfolds among criminal elements and the nouveau riche against the backdrop of the country’s New Economic Policy.
Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power
A panel discussion hosted by Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter
12 pm April 10
University of Oregon, Berwick Hall, Tykeson Rehearsal Hall, 975 E 18th Ave., Eugene
Prior to the Eugene Ballet’s production of The Firebird, Eugene Ballet music director Brian McWhorter hosts a discussion exploring the #MeToo movement, challenges to age-old ballet narratives, and questions about race, gender roles, sexism, equality, eating disorders, and abuse in ballet. Eugene Ballet resident choreographer Suzanne Haag, whose Firebird is making its debut, will be a guest speaker.
Oregon Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Kevin Irving
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
Oregon Ballet Theatre artistic director Kevin Irving has curated an evening of work demonstrating the creative scope of contemporary ballet. This will also be the final show for OBT principal dancer Chauncey Parsons, who will retire this month after dancing 11 seasons with OBT.
There are five ballets on the program, including Canadian choreographer Gioconda Barbuto’s BringingOutside. In 2017, Barbuto and choreographers Helen Simoneau and Nicole Haskins won commissions to make work for OBT through Irving’s Choreography XX competition, which was designed to discover new female ballet choreographers. When I interviewed Barbuto then about that ballet, she said she was interested in bringing the individuality and personality of each artist into the center of the work. “Because my work is so collaborative,” she said, “it cannot be made without them. So this work represents who they are individually, as individuals, but also as a group.”
OBT resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte has two works on the bill. Giants Before Us mixes romanticism with extreme physicality; virtuoso pianist Hunter Noack plays the accompanying Liszt and Schubert music live. Oregon ArtsWatch writer Damien Jack described Fonte’s 2015 work Presto as “a short trip in a very fast machine. As soon as it’s over you want to press replay and see it all over again. Driven by Ezio Bosso’s fun stop-and-start score, the dance is an explosive workout for four dancers.”
Darrell Grand Moultrie’s 2005 work Vital Sensations is a colorful, Latin jazz-inspired ballet set to music by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Vinícius de Moraes. Within the ballet is a solo called “Love” that Moultrie created for Parsons early in his career. Parsons has described the choreographic process “as an affirmation in how I grew as a dancer. It is abstract but very musical and emotionally connected–it was my first approach to a big idea in dance, resulting in a really nice work.”
Finally, Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato’s Jardi Tancat pays homage to Catalonia: it’s accompanied by Maria del Mar Bonet’s haunting rendition of Catalan folk songs. Duato made Jardí Tancat for a choreography competition in 1983; since then, ballet companies worldwide have added it to their repertoires.
The Firebird (world premiere)
Eugene Ballet, Artistic Director Toni Pimble
Orchestra Next, Music Director Brian McWhorter
Choreography by Eugene Ballet resident choreographer Suzanne Haag and Gerald Arpino
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Eugene Ballet’s 40th anniversary season concludes with the world premiere of The Firebird, Eugene Ballet resident choreographer Suzanne Haag’s contemporary reimagining of the 1910 Michel Fokine/Igor Stravinsky production. All of the creative details involved in the making of The Firebird, from the costumes by San Francisco-based designer Susan Roemer of S-Curve Apparel & Design to the music, directed by Brian McWhorter, and Haag’s research and concepts behind the ballet, are all captured in Gary Ferrington’s preview for Oregon ArtsWatch, which you can read here. The program will also feature Italian Suite, a neo-classical ballet choreographed in 1983 by Joffrey Ballet co-founder Gerald Arpino.
May 3-4, Pathways, works by Kelly Koltiska and Amelia Unsicker
May 5, Interwoven: Kathak/Tap, and sitar, a shared evening featuring Seema Mehta, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Josh Feinberg, and Nilan Chaudhuri
May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (world premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 11, Feria de Portland, Presented by Espacio Flamenco Portland
May 12, In The Rough: Works in Progress showing, Floor Center For Dance
May 16-18, Sea Foam, Jana Kristi Zahler
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Mercedes Ruíz & Santiago Lara Live in Portland, hosted by Portland Flamenco Events
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 24-26, Portland Tap Festival, Portland Tap Alliance
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene
June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Premieres, NW Dance Project
June 28-30, World Beat Festival, Salem