Dance is a global affair this spring, a series of international alliances and cultural collaborations that we can enjoy both in person and from afar.
Merce Cunningham centennial celebrations are in full swing all over the world and will continue throughout the summer. (Cunningham’s actual birthday, April 16, saw dancers in London, L.A., and New York City performing his work in a live stream of Night of 100 Solos). The Bolshoi, meanwhile, continues its live streaming series with that most Russian of ballets, Petrushka, showing this month in local theaters with a Cuban partner, Alfonso Alonzo’s Carmen Suite (see below). Not to be outdone, Eugene’s Ballet Fantastique is offering a live broadcast of its world-premiere work Cleopatra (see below). And BodyVox returns with the Contact Dance Film Festival, featuring shorts and feature-length dance movies created by choreographers from all over the world (see below).
On local stages, you’ll find a full complement of dance styles and traditions, sometimes intersecting in unexpected ways. To wit: our first entry.
International and cultural dance styles
Interwoven: Kathak/Tap, and Sitar
Featuring Seema Mehta, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Josh Feinberg, and Nilan Chaudhuri
Old Church, 1422 SS 11th St.
In April, White Bird brought us Savion Glover, one of tap’s brightest lights. This month we’re treated to another: the Bessie Award-winning hoofer Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. Like Glover, she’s a veteran of film (Tap, Bamboozled) and Broadway (Black and Blue, Bring in Da’Noise, Bring in Da’ Funk), and her appearance is one of the better kept secrets on the Portland performance calendar.
But hers isn’t strictly a tap concert. Sumbry-Edwards will be joined by Seema Mehta, a Mumbai-based leader in her own field, the classical Indian dance form kathak (her work recently earned her India’s highest civilian award for women). The pair will stage an improvisatory concert that demonstrates the shared qualities of their respective genres, rhythmic footwork primary among them. (This is a compelling, if not entirely new, idea: a few years ago, kathak dancer Pandit Chitresh Das and tapper Jason Samuels Smith collaborated on the shows India Jazz Suites and India Jazz Progressions, in which Sumbry-Edwards participated.) Here, sitarist Josh Feinberg and tabla player Nilan Chaudhuri provide a dynamic counterpoint to the percussive movement happening live onstage.
Feria Portland shares the joy of Sevillian dance, music, and cooking. Photo by Mirifoto
Feria de Portland
Espacio Flamenco Portland
PICA, 15 NE Hancock
Think of Feria de Portland as your day pass to Seville. Now in its fourth year, the fair is a festive, family-friendly convergence of dance and music, lectures and demonstrations, food and kids’ activities, It’s hosted by Portland performance space Espacio Flamenco, whose mission is to share flamenco music and dance with the local community.
The highlight, for dance-minded folks, is performances by Portland’s own Espacio Flamenco Company, which ably demonstrates the intricate rhythmic movement and graceful carriage of the form. Look for additional performances from Flamenco Idaho, Flamenco con Julia & Derek Brown, and student dancers from schools including Escuela Flamenca Elena Villa and Semilla Flamenca. Guitar and dance open mics will showcase flamenco more informally, while the lectures and demos provide historical and cultural context as well as technical insight. Andalusian culture gets its due on tables as well as stages, with tapas and desserts from local vendors such as Toro Bravo (try the paella!) and The Jamon Carver; wash these down at Bar Vivant’s sherry bar. Want a souvenir of your outing? Visit the onsite flamenco shop on your way out.
Dema African Dance and Drumming Ensemble
Dougherty Dance Theatre, 1484 University St. on the University of Oregon campus, Eugene
Since Portland State and Oregon State don’t offer dance degrees (or even departments to speak of), it’s encouraging to know that University of Oregon’s dance department is not only holding steady but maintaining a solid curriculum. Included in that is the African dance training students receive from assistant professor Habib Iddrisu, a Ghanaian musician, dancer, and historian. Iddrisu directs the Dema African Dance and Drumming Ensemble, a troupe of students who study and perform traditional drumming, dance, singing, and storytelling from a variety of African cultures. “My goal with Dema is to advance cross–cultural understanding,” Iddrisu has said of the company, whose members “expand their world views through performances, student interactions, and interactions with performers and teachers from African nations.” This public concert will demonstrate what they’ve learned.
Mercedes Ruíz & Santiago Lara
Hosted by Portland Flamenco Events
The Old Church Concert Hall, 1422 SW 11th Ave.
The celebration of flamenco that began with Feria de Portland continues with the local debut of internationally touring Spanish flamenco duo Mercedes Ruíz and Santiago Lara. Ruíz, an award-winning flamenco dancer and veteran road warrior, now runs her own company, Compañia Mercedes Ruíz, which produces work in collaboration with Lara, a flamenco guitarist and composer who also happens to be Ruíz’s husband. Theirs is an intimate interplay between music and dance styles, from bulerias to siguiriyas, with room for improv: “It’s like he is my right hand and he understands me perfectly on stage,” Ruiz said of their partnership in an Experience Flamenco interview. “At times I’ve put something together based on his compositions. And at times I’ve created a choreography then he later put music to it. It depends on the show and it depends upon what we want in that moment.”
Modern and contemporary: local and imported
Works by Kelly Koltiska and Amelia Unsicker
Through May 4
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Portland choreographers Kelly Koltiska and Amelia Unsicker present what they describe as an evening of “thoughtful, beautiful, intriguing, quirky movement” 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 who, after earning a Master of Fine Arts in Choreography and Performance from the University of Montana, moved to Portland, performed with Top Shake Dance and Happy Dog, and began teaching classes through (com)motion and Portland Parks and Recreation. Unsicker, a Portland native, earned her MFA in Dance from the University of California, Irvine, and has danced with Pacific Festival Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Agnieszka Laska Dancers, and ArtsWatch contributor Jamuna Chiarini, to name a few.
Contact Dance Film Festival
Presented by BodyVox
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
The annual Contact Dance Film Festival returns with three different programs that reflect the technical and cultural range—and the seemingly endless creative possibilities—of the dance film genre. Curated by BodyVox, which hosts the event in its 180-seat theater, the festival includes shorts and feature-length films from around the world, including our corner of it: a new film by BodyVox, which has already made several shorts in collaboration with filmmaker and Ohio State University Department of Dance professor Mitchell Rose, will debut at this year’s event.
Dancing Over Borders, running 7:30 pm May 9 and 6 pm May 11, includes work from established and emerging French, Spanish, Belgian, Swiss, and African artists. Dance@30FPS, running 7:30 pm May 9 and 6 pm May 11, is curated by Rose’s graduate students with an eye toward the dance between performer and filmmaker. And in the feature-length film Dancing7Cities, running at 4:30 and 9 pm May 11, New Zealand filmmaker Nicolas Rowe travels to Laos, Fiji, Lebanon, Italy, Palestine, Finland, and Australia, to explore how dancers respond to their respective landscapes.
Shaun Keylock Company
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St.
Shaun Keylock is a multifaceted dance artist. He performs (you might have caught him in Minh Tran’s February Reed College concert Anicca/Impermanence), teaches (at BodyVox and Pacific University, to name a few), and choreographs work, in which sharp-eyed viewers may spot elements of Limón technique, which Keylock absorbed by training and performing with the José Limón Dance Company. This year, he also becomes the proud owner of White Bird’s Barney Creative Prize, which allows him to create work for White Bird’s 2020-21 series.
Keylock recently added director to his list of credits by forming the Shaun Keylock Company, which performs two of his pieces in its first full-length production this May: A Small Pleasure (a duet between company members Liane Burns and Kristalyn Gill, based on correspondence between women during World War II) and, in a kind of counterpoint, Calamus, which draws from Walt Whitman text and Civilian Conservation Corps oral histories in a portrait of friendships between young men. The program also features Josie Moseley’s athletic Solo, which Keylock danced in 2016 and which company member Jillian Hobbs takes on here, and Jordan MacIntosh-Hougham’s brightly bewigged Bad!, Bad!, Bad!, in which an onstage camera captures dancers’ moments of competition and vulnerability.
In The Rough: Works in Progress Showing
Floor Center For Dance, 6635 N. Baltimore Ave.
Floor Center for Dance, a small St. John’s studio just a stone’s throw from Cathedral Park, is on a mission to create more performance opportunities for regional artists, and more affordable community access to creators and their creations with the works-in-progress series In the Rough. Artists will present developing movement-based works, finished or unfinished, in a shared evening before a live audience. At a small reception following the show, artists, performers, and viewers will have an opportunity to mingle and discuss the work.
Jana Kristi Zahler
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Jana Kristi Zahler’s original dance piece Sea Foam is all about relationships, among people and their environments, but also among movement, music, and film. Zahler collaborated on Sea Foam with Jana Meszaros, Patsy Morris, and Charlie Stellar, who contributes a piece of dance on film. Ivy Farrell and Anna Olmstead dance the work, to original music by Luke Matter.
Heidi Duckler Dance/Northwest
6 and 8 pm May 18
Marine Artists Studios Northwest, 2516 NW 29th Ave.
What’s driving the choreography in Rush Hour? Actual vehicles: cars, trucks, bikes, motorcycles—even vintage horse trailers. Heidi Duckler Dance/Northwest has curated this interdisciplinary show which, in the company’s usual fashion, is site-specific: this time, the dancers perform narratives about human relationships and identities outdoors, in and around said vehicles. Duckler herself has created work for the show, as have Carla Mann, Conrad Kaczor, Kiel Moton, and Jennifer Wright.
Derek Hough: Live! The Tour
7:30 pm May 26
Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
In the last two decades, dance has found a big following on the small screen, which presents any number of pros and cons. (Pro: dance on TV. Con: Dance Moms on TV.) Cheese factor notwithstanding, there’s plenty of talent to be found on programs like World of Dance and even Dancing With the Stars, which pairs two-left-footed celebrities with dance pros such as Derek Hough. A competitive Latin and ballroom dancer and Olympic ice-dancing choreographer, Hough has parlayed his success on DWTS—a record-setting six wins and two Emmys for choreography—into a touring performance career. Which brings us to Derek Hough: Live! The Tour. Hough powers his way through a solo show incorporating ballroom, tap, salsa, hop-hop, and today’s choreographic catch-all, contemporary. NappyTabs (Napoleon and Tabitha Dumo, of Michael Jackson’s Immortal World Tour fame) co-create and direct.
Ballet: local and imported
The Portland Ballet
Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.
It’s not all Swan Lake all the time: any more, professional ballet dancers are expected to move seamlessly from classical to neoclassical to contemporary ballet styles (not to mention styles outside of ballet). So Portland Ballet is preparing its pre-professional students for that inevitability with a program that’s Swan Lake only some of the time. The mixed-rep concert Current/Classic sees young dancers spreading their wings in Swan Lake’s Act II and flowing through the first movement of Balanchine’s visually arresting, Serenade, both set to Tchaikovsky. By contrast, Aphex Twin electronica backs backs Rip/Tide, an ocean-inspired piece from BodyVox cofounders Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, and Philip Glass propels Quinary, an edgy contemporary work that ballet master Jason Davis created with 10 company dancers. Somewhere in the middle lies Festival Russe, a Ballets Russes-inspired piece incorporating Russian folk dance, set to Shostakovich and created by former New York City Ballet soloist Tom Gold.
Ballet Fantastique, Donna and Hannah Bontrager, choreographer-producers
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Considering everything else she inspired (including a film starring Elizabeth Taylor, herself the stuff of legend), it’s a little surprising that Cleopatra hasn’t been the subject of more dance pieces. Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes offered one (called Nuit d”Egypte) back in the early 1900s; the English company Northern Ballet premiered a Cleopatra ballet in 2011; this month, so will Eugene’s Ballet Fantastique. Set to the live electronic/world-beat fusion of Beats Antique, this contemporary ballet about the kohl-eyed Egyptian queen is brimming with political intrigue, power struggles, family drama, and dangerous liaisons with fellow leaders. The concert will be broadcast live to international audiences via the website Concert Window (2:30 pm PST May 12). Click here to learn more/sign up to watch.
PDX Contemporary Ballet, artistic director Briley Neugebauer
N.E.W. Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St.
The White Dress, a staple of PDX Contemporary Ballet’s 2018-19 season, makes one last appearance in the season’s final installment, “Undone.” Beginning last November with “Cloth” and continuing in March with “Materialize,” artistic director Briley Neugebauer has used the White Dress to symbolize what women are supposed to want, the choices they must make, how they are perceived in relation to others, and the costs of compromising themselves for the sake of conformity. “Undone,” staged in the round and largely set to in Ludovico Einaudi arrangements for piano and chamber ensemble, alternates between athletic, fast-paced movement and slow gestural phrases highlighting a desire to escape and the reality of being stuck.
Carmen Suite / Petrushka
Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live From Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
12:55 pm May 19
Check local theater listings for more information.
Fokine’s Petrushka holds a special place in ballet lore, thanks to Stravinsky’s score and storied performances from both Nureyev and Baryshnikov as the sad puppet. Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes premiered the work in 1911 with Nijinsky in the title role; now, more than 100 years later, contemporary choreographer Edward Clug has put his own stamp on the ballet, creating a new version for the Bolshoi. Petrushka plays with Carmen Suite, which Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonso, himself a veteran of Col. de Basil’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, originally created for the legendary Bolshoi ballerina Maya Plisetskaya. What the ballets share is outsized characters caught up in love triangles that end badly. Bring tissues.
Portland Tap Festival
Presented by the Portland Tap Alliance
DoubleTree Hotel Portland, 1000 NE Multnomah St.
That pitter-patter of feet you hear near Lloyd Center can only mean one thing: the return of the Portland Tap Festival. Hosted by the Portland Tap Alliance, the event draws both emerging and established local and national tap talent for a weekend of classes and performances. It opens Friday with the Portland Tap Company’s The Man Who Forgot, which debuted last fall. Saturday’s highlight is the faculty showcase, where artists ranging from Chicago Tap Summit founder Bill Barrett to Broadway veteran Dianne “Lady Di” Walker show viewers how it’s done. Sunday’s main event is the Student Showcase and Cutting Contest: the second refers to an improv-style competition in which participants show off their best moves and try not to get cut from the lineup; sharp implements are not involved.
Ballet Papalotl members perform at the Dance Wire Ambassador Showcase. Photo Ballet Papalotl.
Dance Wire Ambassador Showcase
6 pm May 18
Steps PDX, 221 SE 11th Ave., Suite 220
With this one-night event, local dance networking group Dance Wire asks, “Are you dance-curious?” (It seems like a personal question, although truth be told, I did experiment a little in college.) Consider this a good opportunity to learn more about several dance styles all in one place, as the group’s “ambassadors” (experts in their respective genres) perform and discuss their work. Expect hoofing from Portland Tap Company’s Kelsey Leonard and Sarah Brahim; modern from Oregon ArtsWatch contributor Elizabeth Whelan; Persian dance from Sitara Lones; ballet from Portland Ballet dancer Rebekah WolfsonKilayko; contemporary from AWOL’s Aphyna Zoe and Brandy Guthery; experimental fusion bellydance from Laura Blake; urban/contemporary fusion from of ELa FaLa’s Bárbara Lima and Jordan Kriston and Mexican folkloric from Ballet Papalotl dancers; Dance Inspired members round out the program. Drinks and snacks will be available, and an in-studio dance party follows the performances.
June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 7, Instaballet, Eugene
June 7-22, Seattle International Dance Festival, Seattle
June 12-16, NW New Works Festival, Seattle
June 13-15, Summer Premieres, NW Dance Project
June 13-23, SoLow Fest PDX
June 15-16, Oregon Ballet Theatre Annual School Performance
June 18-22, Ordinary Devotions, Linda Austin
June 28-30, World Beat Festival, Salem
August 2, JamBallah NW
August 2: Painted Sky Northstar Native Dance Company with Evening Star Painted Ponies
August 2, Instaballet, Eugene
August 3, Bachata en la Calle
August 15: DJ Prashant & Jai Ho! Dance Troupe—Interactive Bollywood & Bhangra dance