Cascadia Composers May the Fourth

DanceWatch Weekly: A new year in dance


Welcome back dance lovers, and welcome to a brand new year of dance in Oregon.

Let’s begin the new year with exciting dance news. Dance Wire, Portland’s dance service organization, founded and directed by Emily Running, has just received a Miller Foundation grant to fund a new, part-time position, dedicated to patron and member services. This person will be Automal artistic director and artist extraordinaire Kate Rafter. Rafter will be responsible for helping develop Dance Wire services, and its presence in the community.

Portland has two, brand new dance spaces: Steps PDX, a 1,421 sq/ft studio space with vaulted ceilings in the Troy Laundry Building on SE 11th Ave., owned and run by ballet dancer and pilot Kathryn Harden; and Chapel Theatre, a new multi-use space in Milwaukie owned by TriptheDark Dance Company artistic director Corinn deWaard, Illya Torres-Garner, and JR Holland. More to come on both of these spaces as we get closer to their grand opening parties.

And, if you missed it, the Portland City Council met on Tuesday to unveil a plan for preserving and expanding affordable art spaces in Portland. You can catch up with April Baer’s report for OPB and watch the entire session on the Cities Youtube channel. A full presentation of the proposals is scheduled for February 15.

In my weekly column back in December, I wrote a list of things I wanted for the Portland/Oregon dance community (for example; more funding, more producers, more opportunities, etc.) under the guise of a letter to Santa. This was a list that I created from my own experiences as a dance artist living and working in Portland, and what I saw was lacking in the community. The response was hugely positive and even brought out a few folks who felt underrepresented in my DanceWatch columns (which is fine with me), and folks who had big news to share, also great. I will share those bits with you over the next couple of weeks.

Hearing from new dance folks broadened my understanding of who was in Oregon’s dance community and how we are all interconnected. This led me to consider the idea of ecosystems. Can we apply the inner workings of these natural systems to Oregon’s dance community and look to mother nature for answers on how to make it stronger? Possibly.

But before I dig into the structure of a healthy ecosystem and how it applies to Oregon’s dance community, here are this week’s performances.


PPH Passing Strange

Harmonic Laboratory’s Tesla: Light, Sound, Color. Photo courtesy of Harmonic Laboratory.

The new year’s performing season opens with Tesla: Light, Sound, Color, a new work from Eugene’s Harmonic Laboratory that explores the life of physicist and inventor Nikola Tesla. Tesla’s story is told through live physics demonstrations, digital animation, contemporary choreography performed by dancers from Eugene Ballet, and an original string and electronic musical score performed by the Delgani String Quartet. Harmonic Laboratory is an interdisciplinary artist’s collective based in Eugene that combines dance and technology, and will perform Tesla: Light, Sound, Color in Eugene January 10-11, in Portland on January 13, and in Bend on January 15. “Come live the science and experience the art.”

Sada Naegelin and Leah Wilmoth in I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra. Photo by Kelly Rauer.

Sada Naegelin and Leah Wilmoth’s I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra runs Friday and Saturday, January 12-13,at Performance Works NW. As the title suggests, it’s a comedic and sincere look at female archetypes, pop culture, ritual, and the distortion of it all. Naegelin and Wilmoth have performed extensively with well-known Portland choreographers Lu Yim, Taylor Eggan, Kelly Rauer, Claire Barrera, Danielle Ross, Liz Mehl and and Jin Camou, to name a few. Naegelin and Wilmoth will be joined by Alanna Marguritte, Fern Wiley, and pianist Charlie Copeland.

Dance artists Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz. Photo courtesy of Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz.

Also opening on Friday at the Newmark and playing for one night only: Love Heals All Wounds, a new work by Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz that addresses “police brutality and violence in America, while also seeking to promote diversity, inclusion, and empathy as a uniting force.” Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz are widely known for Color of Reality, a video collaboration with visual artist Alexa Meade, and for their work as dance artists inspiring social change.

Back to ecosystems.

A healthy ecosystem is made up of a diverse population of living and nonliving organisms that are interconnected and working in balance with each other. If any one part is out of balance, the entire system is affected. Also, no job or contribution is to small. EVERYONE is important to the survival of the system. Adaptation is also important for survival and there are definitive boundaries.

How this applies to dance seems obvious to me: we must have diversity. Diversity in style, approach and support. We also need to find and make connections with each other far and wide. We can’t have more dancers than rehearsal spaces, theatres, jobs, and funding, which is where we are right now, and not just in Oregon. This is where the balance is off, which is a nationwide issue that is quickly becoming a global one.

Healthy ecosystems have an energy source, usually the sun. In dance this could translate to funding and other kinds of support like administrative support, emotional support, etc. These are ways to feed energy into the dance community that don’t require the dancers to create it themselves. This in turn provides energy to the producers/plants/artists to help them grow or make art/dance. Then the consumers, which could translate as audience members, come along and eat or consume the plant or art. Oregon has great audiences and great consumers of dance. I have never been to a dance performance that wasn’t mostly packed with avid dance lovers.


PPH Passing Strange

Inevitably, higher level members of the system come in and eat other members. This is the predator- prey scenario that I think translates to the idea of competition. Healthy competition forces us to be more creative, it teaches us, it promotes growth, it promotes risk taking, it makes us more goal-oriented, it’s natural, and ultimately advances the form of dance.

The last group in this cyclical process are the decomposers. I’m not sure exactly how that translates into real world, but I’m thinking that they are the people that “break down” or explain dance like dance teachers, writers, arts critic, historians, etc. The translators or decomposers take the whole process and pass it on to the next generation.

I know this isn’t a comprehensive description of an ecosystem, but I like the idea as a framework, or a guide, on how to build a healthy Oregon dance ecosystem. If you were to lay it out, connect all the dots, and plug in the resources that we have, I think it would be clear what we don’t have and what areas we need to work on. I think the further and further away from nature we get, the more we need to look to it for answers on how to live a balanced life.

Upcoming Performances

January 12-13, I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra, Leah Theresa Wilmoth and Sada Naegelin
January 12, Love Heals All Wounds, Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz, Presented by Portland’5 Center for the Arts
January 10-11, Tesla: Light, Sound, Color, Harmonic Laboratory, Eugene
January 13, Tesla: Light, Sound, Color, Harmonic Laboratory, Portland
January 15, Tesla: Light, Sound, Color, Harmonic Laboratory, Bend
January 18, Zoe Jakes & Special Guests: A Dance & Variety Revue, Presented by Narcissa Productions LLC
January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 19, The Global Street Dance Masquerade Presentation and Film, Portland Art Museum
January 21, M/f duet + Teething, Marissa Rae Niederhauser (Berlin) and Aaron Swartzman (Seattle), Performance Works NW Alembic Artists
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 2, The Shore of Endless Worlds, A solo by Nathan Montogomery
February 3-25, Chitra The Girl Prince, NW Children’s Theatre, Anita Menon
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 15, Faculty Dance Concert featuring guest artist Vincent Mantsoe, Hosted by University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 18, Chapel Theatre Open House, Chapel Theatre
February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre

March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, HEDDA, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox


Cascadia Composers May the Fourth

April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 9, Noontime Showcase: Jefferson Dancers, Presented by Portland’5
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, a dance for film by The Holding Project
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem


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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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