DanceWatch Weekly: A dance that can be whatever it wants to be

Shannon Stewart talks about the 3-year process that her dance "Relatives" has gone through

“Honestly, the real reason for this production is because I wanted to get Shannon Stewart here (in Portland) again,” said Portland choreographer Tahni Holt when we met for coffee last week at Posies Bakery & Cafe in NE Portland. “She’s just a power house. She’s an amazing choreographer, and teacher, and a very dear colleague of mine.”

New Orleans-based Stewart’s Relatives and Holt’s newest work-in-progress, Rubble Bodies, will share the stage this weekend at Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance. The two pieces are in conversation with each other Holt said.

“So many of our ideas—what we think about, and what we are working on—are on similar paths,” Holt says. “We are at similar points in our lives, and we’re similar ages” she continued. “I think that they will be really amazing pieces to see together and hers (Stewart’s) is an incredibly complicated, rigorous piece, that you get a bit lost in the meditation of it and the consistency of it. The dedication she brings to that hour—and the fierceness—is really amazing. I’m very excited to bring that piece to this community. I want this community to show up for it because I think it’s a really important work to see.”

Stewart, a Texas native who moved to the Pacific Northwest as a child,  is a dance artist, filmmaker and writer who has toured internationally and performed in the works of Tino Seghal, Deborah Hay, Joan Jonas, zoe | juniper, tEEth, and many others.

Relatives is now a duet she performs with dancer Ellery Burton. The work was originally a trio that included dancer Sierrah Dietz. But Dietz broke her leg in a cycling accident just before going into a company residency and performance in Atlanta, Stewart told me over the phone on Monday. “And so what ended up happening,” she said, “is that Ellery and I just continued the work without Sierrah. But her presence is very much in there.”

Stewart’s process for Relatives began when she was in grad school three years ago at Tulane University, and it’s an accumulation of everything that she has been thinking about and working on ever since.

In grad school, Stewart said, “I became really curious about gender and queer theory with an overlay of somatic practices in dance, and the potentiality of teaching and learning embodied theory and understanding as a way to disrupt or way to queer experience, education and performance.”

“For me,” she continued, “I was interested in—and I feel like this is something that a lot of people are thinking about and talking about right now—looking or looking back, seeing and being seen, or watching and being watched. The gender implications inside of that, but also the othering implications inside of that, and the performative implication inside of that.”

“We have been been working with this score that we call ‘Watch her transform,’ “Stewart told me. A score is an framework that might contain different ideas, actions and problems to solve that many choreographers create to develop choreography. “We did it every rehearsal for about five months.”

I asked Stewart how the score went, but she wouldn’t tell me. If you would like to experience the score yourself, Stewart will be teaching it at Flock on Saturday during her workshop, What does this body make?, July 21, from 1-3 pm. If you attend her class, it’s $10 for those who go to the performance, and $15 for a drop-in.

“For a while our piece was just doing this practice. And again, me attempting this thing of like, ‘this is enough,’ ‘this is all were going to do,’ ‘and that is the show.’ That’s it.”

“This isn’t funded. No one’s asking to present it. We can do it in a gallery, we could do it in a theatre or wherever. But then we ended up taking breaks from doing the practice because it gets to be like going in a wormhole. We would just do other distracting things like make up tiny dances, or think of rhythmic pattern that we would do for a while before we could go back into this thing.”

“For me it has been a really intuitive process, which is really nice after grad school. We’re just going to make this performance, and it can be whatever it wants to be. It doesn’t have to be the most subversive thing I’ve ever made. I feel really proud of the work that we’ve made, and Ellory and I work really well together. It also feels like the result of a three-year collaborative creative relationship, which is really nice.”

In her own words from the press release: “Relatives is a movement and light meditation on the (in) visibility of identities—seen, felt, heard, remembered, presented, and ‘repeated to form what appears a natural being.’ or a relative one. or two relatives. A meditation on objectification performed as a dance duet. “

Performances this week

Photo credit: Patrick Weishampel

RELATIVES and Rubble Bodies
The screaming traps (Shannon Stewart and Ellery Burton) and Tahni Holt
July 19-21
Performance Works NW, 4626 SE 67th Ave.
1 pm July 21 workshop with Shannon Stewart at FLOCK, discount for those who see the performance
See above.

Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake. Photo courtesy of Fathom Events.

Swan Lake
Bolshoi Ballet Summer Series
Choreography by Yuri Grigorovich (2001) with scenes by Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov, and Alexander Gorsky
Presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
7 pm July 23
Click HERE for participating theatres and locations
Captured live at The Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, the Bolshoi Ballet presents

Prince Siegfried, on the moonlit banks of a mysterious lake, meets the bewitched swan-woman Odette. Spellbound by her beauty, he swears his faithfulness to her. Sadly the Prince gets tricked by the evil Rothbart and promises his love to the wrong swan, the black swan, Odile, and fate gets the better of them all.

The dual role of the white swan Odette and her rival black swan Odile is danced by Prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova, and Siegfried is danced by Denis Rodkin.

Dance artist keyon gaskin. Photo courtesy of PICA.

[A Swatch of Lavender]: A Self Portrait
keyon gaskin
July 25-27
PICA at Hancock, 15 NE Hancock St.

Dancemaker keyon gaskin in last week’s DanceWatch Weekly spoke with me about about his new work [A Swatch of Lavender]: A Self Portrait, at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.

“Gaskin’s work is complex and layered, deeply intellectual and questioning. His work butts up against normative performance practices and can disturb, confuse, and up-end.”

“I think with this piece, I’m really trying to value and center all the ways in which we receive information,” gaskin continues. “I also think about feminist ways of engagement with it. I think the whole piece in general is very decentralized. It’s not about WATCHING. Things are happening all around you. You can’t possibly see everything the whole time because there are three different people moving throughout the room at any given time….trying to center text and experience, and sensations, smell, feel, as equally receiving of information.”

To read the full interview, click here.

Upcoming Performances

July
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival
July 28, National Dance Day
July 28, Living Room Circus, The Circus Project

August
August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 4, A Celebration of Bill Bulick, hosted by Tere Mathern
August 4, Portland Iranian Festival
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-Wol Dance Collective
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September
September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
September 6-16, TBA Festival:PICA
September 23, 8th Kelucharan Guna Keertanam, hosted by Odissi Dance Company

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