DanceWatch: Virtual Nutcrackers and Happy Hours

December dance bustles with a stocking full of Nutcrackers, Christmas Carols, and the odd Happy Hour.

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In a normal year, December is a bustling time for dance in Oregon with Nutcrackers and holiday shows busting out all over. But this isn’t a normal year, and without the holiday shows, dance is comparatively quiet. But don’t fret, dance performances haven’t disappeared entirely. Technology and dancer ingenuity are here to save your holiday dance watching traditions. So put on those festive jammies, grab a hot toddy if you’re old enough, and get out your Nutcracker collection ‘cause December dancing is here!

Performances this month!

American Christmas Carol: A Ballet Movie
Ballet Fantastique, Donna Bontrager and Hannah Bontrager
November 28-December 28

In this made-for-TV dance film, filmed throughout Oregon, the ever-inventive Ballet Fantastique has reimagined  Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a 1940’s post-war American novella. Set to a swingin’ jazz score from international award-winning vocalist Halie Loren, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Smokey Joe and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.  

Eugene Ballet dancers joyously leaping in Toni Pimble’s The Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

The Nutcracker
Eugene Ballet, Toni Pimble 
December 18-27
Virtual or in-person depending on Governor Kate Brown’s orders. Check back for more info.

In this version, The Nutcracker becomes a story of young love. In Clara’s dream, the nutcracker transforms into Hans, a young man who works for Drosselmeyer, instead of a prince. The couple takes off on their journey in hot air balloons instead of a horse and sleigh and encounters more culturally sensitive dances that borrow from the folk dances of each country represented. 

Jennifer Weber’s Hip Hop Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Weber.

Hip Hop Nutcracker
Decadancetheatre, artistic director Jennifer Weber, featuring Kurtis Blow
Presented by Portland’5 Centers for the Arts
7 pm December 12
Virtual/recorded live at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center

Set in Brooklyn in the 1980s, this contemporary Nutcracker is performed to Tchaikovsky’s original Nutcracker Suite mixed with hip-hop. The story follows Maria-Clara and her prince as they travel back in time to the moment when her parents first meet in a nightclub.

This evening-length production, choreographed by Brooklyn-based Decadancetheatre artistic director Jennifer Weber, will be performed by a dozen all-star hip-hop dancers to a live DJ on stage, accompanied by an electric violinist. Rap legend Kurtis Blow emcees.

Images from the work of Jaleesa Johnston and Sophia Wright Emigh. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance.

PWNW Happy Hour featuring Jaleesa Johnston and Sophia Wright Emigh
Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance
5 pm December 17
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 (this month it’s a Maple & Spice Old-Fashioned), a toast, a performance, lively post-performance discussions, PWNW-themed Bingo, and prizes, of course! 

Happy Hour will feature Portland-based artist Jaleesa Johnston and Sophia Wright Emigh and a surprise guest! Johnston is an interdisciplinary artist whose work explores the black female body as both the subject and material through performance, video, photography, sculpture, and collage. Wright Emigh is an interdisciplinary artist who explores the themes of ancestral connection, quantum observation, matrescence, through film, photography, installation, performance, and participatory media. 

For Happy Hour the pair will share collaborative and individual work.

About the author

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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