Oregon Children's Theatre Portland Oregon

DanceWatch Weekly: Pre-Holiday Dance Treats


Good news: the Oregon dance scene is thriving, as evidenced by the 12 performances you’ll find in this week’s column. And here’s another positive development: after an exhaustive national search, Portland’s Regional Arts & Culture Council has appointed a new executive director: Madison Cario, whose career was inspired in part by a contemporary dance performance. Cario, whose first day at RACC will be Jan. 14, 2019, has more than 20 years’ professional experience as an artist, presenter, producer, and arts leader, and we are so, very, very pleased by the news. Welcome, Cario! To learn more, check out RACC’s full release here.

Over the next two weeks, DanceWatch will be taking a much-needed holiday break and will return bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on December 5. But until then, let’s talk about this week’s dance offerings, starting with Perceiving the Constant, Jessica Hightower’s new contemporary work for three dancers.

When I moved to Portland about eight years ago, a big creative surge within the dance community seemed to be ebbing (perhaps as a side effect of the 2008 economic collapse). I never got to meet many well-regarded local dance artists or see their work, despite having heard a lot about it–and them.

Hightower was lucky enough to dance with many of these people and companies: bobbevy, Keely McIntyre, Oslund+Co/Dance, Tere Mathern, and Top Shake Dance, to name a few. When I asked Hightower via email how these artists influenced her work, she said, “Everyone you mentioned has stayed with me to some degree as I make new work. Specifically, Mary Oslund, whose work really honored each dancer’s strengths; she didn’t shy away from movement that might be considered quirky and strange. I carry these ideas with me in each new work I create. She is a huge inspiration to me.”

Perceiving the Constant, which Hightower performs with Dorinda Holler and long-time artistic partner Keely McIntyre, is set to an original score composed by Ash Black Bufflo’s Jay Clarke, and examines the passage of time.

In the early research stages of the work, Hightower asked both her 4-year-old daughter, Ari, and her 95-year-old grandfather about how they experienced time.

“When I talk to Ari about time,” Hightower said, noting that she was paraphrasing her young daughter’s answers, “she will say things like, ‘It will allow me to grow up,’ and ‘I don’t know what it is about, but it’s nothing to worry about.’ She naturally has a very loose sense of how long she sleeps, is at school, has been alive, etcetera. I find her lack of giving time control over her life, from simply being so young, to be both beautiful and heartbreaking.”

When she spoke with her grandfather, his response was, “When you get to be my age, you start living in the past.” “Obviously not the experience every 95-year-old has,” Hightower said, “but I found the very different conversations I had with both of them were rich sources of movement inspiration.”

Hightower’s complex choreography is based in ballet technique, overlaid with detailed gestures; the movement is arranged in trios, duets, and solos. “As a dancer/choreographer, I wanted to create a highly physical work that wove in the feeling of fragility that all of our lives have, and the quick pace at which they pass,” she said. “For me it’s the very crux of existence.”

Asked how she turned abstract ideas like time and aging into movement, she said, “I often start with a simple hand or arm gesture–my work is very hand-detail oriented–that I feel reflects the specific idea I am looking to develop, and then a phrase will grow from there. Specifically, I worked with ideas of time feeling slow, or wanting it to feel slow, and having one dancer walking very slowly, seemingly unaware of the other two, who were circling around them in a frenzy of movement. I would get into the studio on my own, and ask my body, ‘OK, how would you move if you felt you were living in the past/living just from memories?’ Solo and phrase work was developed this way, and then expanded into duets and trios. Each of my dancers and myself are in different decades in our lives, which, through discussions as a group, unearthed some beautiful concepts to work with. As a 34-year-old, I still feel like I have some control over time. I certainly know on some level I don’t, but for survival’s sake, I cling to that.”

Perceiving the Constant opens Friday, November 16 at New Expressive Works. At press time, Friday’s show was nearly sold out, but there were tickets available for the Saturday and Sunday shows.

Performances this week

Dance students at Willamette University. Photo courtesy of Michele Ainza.

Future Voices
Willamette University Theatre Department
November 15-17
Willamette University, Pelton Theatre, 289 12th St. SE, Salem
Michele Ainza, the newly appointed artistic director of dance at Willamette University, presents work showcasing the next generation of choreographers from Willamette and Chemeketa Community College. The program also includes work by Willamette University alumnus Genevieve Gahagan and Western Oregon University adjunct professor Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner. Among the evening’s themes are the body as narrative, the passage of time, and aspirations for (and doubts about) the future.

Ainza is a dance and somatics educator and the artistic director of Michele Ainza Dance (MAD), a Portland-based contemporary dance troupe that focuses on the deconstruction and abstraction of social and political issues through idiosyncratic movement material. Ainza has taught at Lewis and Clark College, Linfield College, Fresno City College and Mexico’s University of Veracruz.

White Bird Parsons Dance Portland Oregon Newmark Theatre
Polaris Dance Theatre dancer Xena Guitron. Photo by BMAC Photography.

ELa FaLa Collective and Polaris Dance Theatre
November 16-17
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave.
The two-act concert ¿LISTEN? features work by Polaris Dance Theatre artistic director Robert Guitron and Brazilian choreographer Barbara Lima, artistic director of the new Portland-based ELa FaLa Collective. Lima, whose work aims to bridge art, technology, culture, education, and science, will present a solo that expresses her frustrations and deep sadness as well as her power as a woman fighting to survive during this tumultuous time. Guitron presents a multimedia commentary on the political landscape and calls for kindness, unity and love; he will invite the audience to join the dancers on stage in the final moments of the dance.

Dancers Keely McIntyre, Dorinda Holler, and Jessica Hightower in “Perceiving The Constant” by Jessica Hightower. Photo by Meghann Mary Gilligan.

Perceiving The Constant
Jessica Hightower
November 16-18
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont
See above.

“Miranda” by 11: Dance Co. Photo courtesy of 11: Dance Co.

Reed Arts Week: Sensation
November 15-18
Reed College Performing Arts Building, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.

In the Sensation-themed Reed Arts Week, viewers are encouraged to experience art not just through sight, but through all their senses. Both student and professional artists will appropriate the Reed College campus as stage for dance, poetry readings, theatrical and performance works, live music, and visual art.

The two-day program includes work by olfactory artist Maki Ueda; poet Marty McConnell; fashion designer Eda Yorulmazoglu; animator Eric Dyer; artist Stephanie Gervais; poet Esther Belin; photographer Parker Day; 11:Dance Co.; photographer DJ Meisner; and musical performers Marquii and DJ Manny Petty. Below are some of the weekend’s dance/movement highlights.

11: Dance Co
Choreography by Bb DeLano in collaboration with company dancers
8:30 pm November 15
Performing Arts Building, Performance Lab, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Workshop with 11:Dance Co 7:30 pm November 18, Performing Arts Building, Dance Studio, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.

If the disintegration of everything is inevitable, is there any hope? This is the question that 11: Dance Co. poses in its new work, Miranda. 11: Dance Co. is a multi-disciplinary dance company that fuses urban and classical movement. It presents experimental, sometimes dark, often satirical performance art that explores how contemporary culture influences the human condition

Working 1
Reed College Dance Troupe
Created and produced by Morgan Meister and Hannah Jensvold
5 pm November 17
Performing Arts Building, Performance Lab, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd

This three-part work, which draws from improvisational prompts and the Gaga technique created by former Batsheva Dance Company artistic director Ohad Naharin, encourages both viewers and dancers to rely on senses other than sight to understand dance.

Abigail Amit
2 pm November 18
Performing Arts Building, Black Box Rehearsal Room, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
A transcendent performance piece incorporating audio/visual work and tap dancing.

Same As It Ever Was
Reed Dance 335
3 pm November 18
Performing Arts Building Atrium, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
In this movement-based exploration of the senses, student dancers guide viewers around Reed’s campus to past protest sites. Prior to the tour, viewers should meet the dancers in the Performing Arts Building Atrium.

Dancers of Automal. Photo by Bill Starr.

Guest artists with Lili St Anne
Produced by The Old Church
8 pm November 17
The Old Church Concert Hall, 1422 SW 11th Ave.

Portland dance company Automal, directed by choreographer Kate Rafter, will perform new, original dance works to several songs by Portland folk-rock band Lili St Anne. Automal is a small, project-based company specializing in dance, physical and site-specific immersive theater, and multimedia.

Oregon International Ballet Academy students rehearsing for “The Nutcracker.” Photo courtesy of Oregon International Ballet Academy.

The Nutcracker
Oregon International Ballet Academy and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony
Choreography by Xuan Cheng and Ye Li after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
7:30 pm November 17
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park

Oregon International Ballet Academy, directed by Oregon Ballet Theatre principal dancer Xuan Cheng and her husband, former OBT soloist Ye Li, present its first full-length Nutcracker in collaboration with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. The production, adapted from Lev Ivanov’s and Marius Petipa’s original Nutcracker. features 50 student performers and parents as well as professional guest artists from OBT.

Flamenco dancer Emilio Ochando. Photo courtesy of Emilio Ochando.

Emilio Ochando
Hosted by Portland Flamenco Events
6:30 pm November 17, Harvest Wine Bar, 14559 Westlake Dr.
6:30 pm November 18, Oregon Ballet Theatre, 0720 SW Bancroft St.

Madrid-based flamenco dancer Emilio Ochando–who has performed with Ballet Nacional de España and Nuevo Ballet Español–will share Clásica Tradición, a work in progress featuring original music by flamenco fusion group Los Makarines. Ochando will discuss his creative process after the performance, followed by an informal Q & A session with viewers.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by John Clifford, performed by The Portland Ballet. Photo courtesy of The Portland Ballet.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Choreography John Clifford
The Portland Ballet and The PSU Orchestra, directed by Ken Selden
November 23-25
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park

In this streamlined adaptation of Shakespeare’s popular comedy, choreographed by Balanchine protégé John Clifford, fairies feud, mischief is made, and a royal wedding is celebrated. In this holiday weekend spectacular, 80 student dancers from The Portland Ballet will populate Shakespeare’s enchanted forest; guest artists Josh Murry-Hawkins, Skye Stouber, and Seth Parker join in, accompanied by the PSU Orchestra and two PSU student opera singers. Ken Selden conducts the Mendelssohn score. Fun fact: the cast includes three sets of identical twins.

Choreographer Ameila Unsicker. Photo credit: Crystal Amaya

Presented by RAW: natural born artists
7 pm November 28
Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave.

For one night only, Portland choreographers Amelia Unsicker and Alexander Dones will each perform at a showcase featuring 50 Portland artists of all kinds, as part of RAW, an international organization that fashion designer Heidi Luerra developed in 2009 in Los Angeles to showcase emerging artists. Both Unsicker and Dones are Portland natives, and have extensive experience performing, choreographing, teaching, and advocating for the arts.

Dance Films

Bolshoi Ballet dancers in “Don Quixote.” Photo courtesy of Pathe Live.

Don Quixote
Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
12:55 pm December 2
Click here for movie locations
Bolshoi principal dancers Ekaterina Krysanova and Semyon Chudin star in Cervantes’ classic tale of Don Quixote’s quest to find his ideal woman, Dulcinea. Accompanied by the Léon Minkus score, a colorful cast of characters, including toreadors, flamenco dancers, gypsies, and tree nymphs, help bring to the story to life.

The dancers of “Suspira.” Photo by Alessio Bolzoni/Amazon Studios/courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino with choreography by Damien Jalet
Released October 26
Click here for movie times and locations
In Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 cult classic, a young American dancer arrives in 1970s Berlin to audition for the world-renowned Helena Markos Dance Company and discovers that it’s run by a coven of witches. Choreographed by Belgian-French freelance choreographer Damien Jalet, this supernatural horror film stars Dakota Johnson as dancer Susie Bannion and Tilda Swinton as dance instructor Madame Blanc. Former Portland dancer Olivia Ancona (The Portland Ballet, NW Dance Project) makes an appearance as Marketa. The tale is haunted by dance legends Martha Graham, Mary Wigman, and Pina Bausch and “unleashes its witchy power through modern dance,” according to Gia Kourlas of The New York Times.

Misty Copeland in “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Walt Disney Pictures
Featuring Misty Copeland, Sergei Polunin, and Lil Buck
Opened in theaters November 2
Click here for movie times and locations
Warning: this is not a dance-centric film and it is not The Nutcracker as you know it. But it does feature choreography by Royal Ballet resident choreographer Liam Scarlett. and spectacular dancing by American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland (here dubbed Ballerina Princess), Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin (as the Cavalier), and street dancer Lil Buck as the Mouse King. Loosely based on Marius Petipa’s The Nutcracker Ballet (which, in turn, is based on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King), this is a Narnia-meets-Harry Potter-meets-Alice in Wonderland-style fantasy adventure tale. Morgan Freeman is Drosselmeyer, Helen Mirren is Mother Ginger, and young actress Mackenzie Foy is Clara, who travels to the so-called Fourth Realm to retrieve a key that will unlock a box containing a precious gift and restore harmony to an unstable land.

Upcoming Performances

December 6-8, Winter Performance, NW Dance Project
December 8, So You Think You Can Dance Live! 2018, Eugene
December 8-25, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 9, Strewn, a fundraising party celebrating 18 years of Performance Works NW
December 14-16, Babes in Toyland (World Premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
December 16, Fiesta Flamenca Navideña, presented by Espacio Flamenco
December 21-23, The Nutcracker, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
December 23, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live

January 2019
January 9-20, The Lion King, Eugene
January 20, La Bayadère, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
January 24-February 3, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin Greenhouse
January 24-February 2, The Cutting Room, BodyVox
January 26, Nrityotsava 2019 , Indian Classical & Folk Dance Event, Hosted by Kalakendra
January 31-February 2, Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art, presented by White Bird

February 9-10, Romeo and Juliet, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
February 13, Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, presented by White Bird
February 15-16, Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance, Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde
February 16-23, Cinderella, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 20, Beijing Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
February 21-24, Anicca/Impermanence, Minh Tran & Company
February 22-24, Alembic Resident Artists Performance, Performance Works NW
February 28-March 2, Compagnie Hervé Koubi, presented by White Bird
February 29-March 2, Trip The Light Fantastic, NW Dance Project

March 1-3, The Odyssey, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Materialize, PDX Contemporary Ballet
March 7-9, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, presented by White Bird
March 8-10, Interplay, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
March 9, Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company, Walters Cultural Arts Center
March 10, The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
March 14-21, Ordinary Devotions, Linda Austin
March 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April 4-6, Parsons Dance, Presented by White Bird
April 4-13, The Pearl Dive Project, BodyVox
April 7, The Golden Age, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
April 9-10, Savion Glover, presented by White Bird
April 11-14, Director’s Choice, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 12-14, Shen Yun, Presented by the Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 24, Philadanco, presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Spring Performance, NW Dance Project

May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (World Premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene

June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Performances, NW Dance Project

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.