Washougal Art & Music Festival

DanceWatch: Moving into Fertile Ground

January and early February bring a festival filled with dance, and several co-minglings with other art forms.


Here at DanceWatch, we are, of course, partial to dance-only events. But dance does not live in a vacuum; it is closely related to and involves other art forms. In this first month of a brand new year, dance in Oregon is not holding court but is blurring its boundaries and co-mingling with the other arts. In January, movement is sprinkled throughout the Fertile Ground Festival of New Works in all of its magnificent manifestations. It is also visible in a collection of paintings by Black Portland artists called Culture + Trauma+ Healing, curated by dance and visual artist Bobby Fouther, and in a new work by Graham Cole/Performance.

Dance Performances in the Fertile Ground Festival of New Works 

Polaris Dance Theatre’s new film Grains will be screened as part of the Groovin’ Greenhouse Fertile Ground Festival. Pictured are the dancers of Polaris dance theatre. Photo courtesy of Fertile Ground Festival.

Every January for the past 12 years, the Fertile Ground Festival of New Works has presented world premieres in theater, comedy, dance, and film in various stages of development in venues all around Portland, and this year is no exception. It’s an immersive 11-day celebration of Portland’s talent and creativity that will be performed both live and online. Live performances, of course, are subject to change depending on Covid. 

In preparation for the festival each year, Fertile Ground festival director Nicole Lane invites the press to meet the artists and hear them pitch their projects in a fast-paced “speed dating” scenario. Since the pandemic, this has been done over Zoom instead of in person. Each artist speaks for a couple of minutes, and then the press asks questions. I enjoy meeting people in person, but this platform helped me better focus on what they had to say without the distraction of background noise and hustle-bustle of people milling about behind them. It allowed me to garner a more intimate portrait of each artist and their work. Some artists talked to us from their cars, some from their beds, some from living rooms with beautiful objects placed artfully around them, and others from their offices. The 38 projects presented by Fertile Ground are unique, insightful, moving, and profound.

The experience was quite emotional for me. I hardly talk with anyone face-to-face anymore apart from my immediate family and the cashier at the grocery store, so watching folks up close and vulnerable, passionately talking about their creations, blew my world back open. The performances run from January 27 to February 6, with tickets ranging from free to $25. 

Dance-specific performances in the Fertile Ground Festival

Heart of Stone,” choreographed by the Fool House Art Collective tells the story of a Muslim Uighur boy, who loves dance and music, in spite of the obstacles he encounters. Part of the Fertile Ground Festival, it can be viewed online Feb. 4-5. Photo courtesy of Fertile Ground Festival of New Works.

Touch and Go
Echo Theater Co. 
Directed by Aaron Wheeler-Kay
Choreography and videography by the ensemble
Watch online January 27 – February 6


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Indulge, explore, connect, and delight in this wonderfully crafted care package of short films. Because you can control the order and duration of your experience, each viewer’s package will be different from another’s. Care packages might include playful, surprising, silly, relaxing, disorienting acts of art and Portland scenery. 

Earth: This Being Human
Portland Eurythmy, Co-directed by Jolanda Frischknecht and Carrie Mass
Choreographed by the entire cast 
Prerecorded and available on-demand from January 27-February 6

To connect humans to each other and the earth, Portland Eurythmy uses the philosophy and vocabulary of Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner to express the meaning of poetry and music. Created in 1912, Eurythmy is a form of movement that is a series of gestures that choreographically express parts of speech and music. Eurythmy is not considered dance but an entirely different art form. 

The Belongings
Presented by Chapel Theatre 
Written by Chad Dickerson, directed by Illya deTorres, and choreographed by 
Corinn deTorres  
Live and online February 3-6 
Chapel Theatre, 4107 SE Harrison St, Milwaukie

On a mystical quest searching for harmony, The Belongings, a musical, follows four human beings free from social conditioning who discover music, dance, and humor along the way. The question is, how will their bonds of friendship and romance hold up in the face of dark forces? 

Heart of Stone
Fool House Art Collective 
Directed and choreographed by Alisher Khasanov 
Online February 4-5
Live performances have been postponed
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave

When trying to save a mysterious ancient artifact in a cave, A Muslim Uighur boy, in love with dance and music, defies both his father and the government soldiers risking his life and discovering himself in the process. 


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Groovin’ Greenhouse

Bharatanatyam dancer Sweta Ravisankar will investigate complex rhythmic patterns through dance, instruments, and vocals for her live Groovin’ Greenhouse performance alongside her students. Photo by Phoebus Foto.

Groovin’ Greenhouse, the dance-centric arm of The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works that’s hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre, will present Polaris’s Grains, a dance made for film that expresses human connection through a commonality, grains. Performing live will be Bharatanatyam dancer Sweta Ravisankar, along with her students. They will gradually transition from individual beats to complex rhythmic patterns through dance, live instruments, and vocals. Aerial performers Flo Buddenbaum, Meghan McClure, and Grace Turner will perform three solos and a trapeze duet. Lastly, dancer Jordan Kriston who recently performed with push/ Fold on its international tour to Mexico will perform a solo that includes any and seemingly every movement under the sun. Kriston’s dance background also includes a stint with Pilobolus Dance Theatre. 

7:30 pm January 28 
Polaris Dance Theatre – Dance for Film
Sweta Ravisankar – Sarada Kala Nilayam
Flo Buddenbaum + Meghan McClure + Grace Turner – Aerial

7:30 pm January 29 | 
Polaris Dance Theatre – Dance for Film
Sweta Ravisankar – Sarada Kala Nilayam
Nonsense Dance Company
Flo Buddenbaum + Meghan McClure + Grace Turner – Aerial

7:30 pm February 4 | 
Polaris Dance Theatre – Dance for Film
Jordan Kriston
Flo Buddenbaum + Meghan McClure + Grace Turner – Aerial

7:30 pm February 5
Polaris Dance Theatre – Dance for Film
Jordan Kriston
Nonsense Dance CompanyFlo Buddenbaum + Meghan McClure + Grace Turner – Aerial

Culture + Trauma+ Healing, Bobby Fouther


Oregon Cultural Trust

Photo of Portland dance and visual artist Bobby Fouther by Portland photographer Intisar Abioto, with graphic re-design by Fouther. Both artists’ work can be seen at Fouther’s newest curated exhibit, Culture+Trauma+Healing, at The Albina Art Center.

The lockdown has been abundant and creative for Bobby Fouther, a lifelong Portland creative force in dance, fashion design, and visual art. Following a successful exhibition at Gallery 114 in the Pearl, Fouther has moved his curated collection of uncensored visions of Black life in America by Black Portland artists home to where his love of art began, to The Albina Art Center (The Center), 14 N.E. Killingsworth St. The new showcase is titled Culture + Trauma+ Healing. It features the work of Alice Price (painter), Christ McMurry (painter), Kali Hosch (painter), Mufu Ahmed (sculpture/quilter), Intisar Alioto (photographer), Hobbs Waters (painter/dancer), Cole Reed (mixed media/sculpture), S. Renee Mitchell (mixed media) and Liz Fouther Branch (archivist). This show demonstrates that the Black body shows unparalleled resistance and resilience in the face of being demonized, abused, and traumatized.

The exhibit also includes a collection of family photos of Fouther and his sister Liz Fouther Branch; a retired educator turned historical storyteller and equity facilitator. The pictures tell the story of their family and a prosperous, thriving African American community whose territory the City of Portland destroyed in the early 1970s to make room for a hospital expansion. In all, 171 homes were destroyed to build Legacy Emanuel Hospital, and descendants of the area’s displaced families are still fighting for promised reparations from the City. OPB reported on this story in 2020 following the resurgence of the racial justice movement, and Bruce Poinsette interviewed the Fouthers on The Blacktastic Adventure! You can watch it here

Culture + Trauma+ Healing runs from January 15-February 28 from 12 pm to 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. 

SOLO TRIPS: A Dance Evening in Three Episodes, Graham Cole/Performance

Solo Trips: A Dance Evening in Three Episodes by Choreographer Graham Cole. Photo courtesy of Graham Cole.

Solo Trips: A Dance Evening in Three Episodes
Graham Cole/Performance 
January 26-30
A-Wol Dance Collective, 513 NE Schuyler St

Choreographer Graham Cole investigates with humor, satire, and deep character analysis what happens to a person when they become isolated. Do they shrink, or do they thrive? How do they adjust? 

Cole is a Portland choreographer, director, producer, and dance teacher who trained in his formative years with Oregon Ballet Theatre and now serves as the executive director of White Bird.


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February Performances

February 24-26, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Presented by White Bird 
February 12-13, Celebration of the Uncommon Woman, Eugene Ballet
February 17-19, CineVox Dance Film Festival VI, Presented by BodyVox Dance
February 19, Dracula, Oregon Ballet Theatre


March 4-5, Spring Premiers, NW Dance Project 
March 4-6, Beauty and the Beast, Ballet Fantastique
March 4-6, Grammar of the Imagination, Claire Barerra-Postponed
March 17-19, Nineteen Twenty, BodyVox Dance


April 8-17, /ə ˈsɪŋgəl pɪŋk klɑʊd/, Linda Austin and Allie Hankins

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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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