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DanceWatch Weekly: Echo’s otherworldly dance for all


I recently spent three marvelous hours watching Echo Theater Company members negotiate a system of harnesses, ropes, and pulleys to move a butterfly with gigantic opalescent wings and a mad, spiky hermit crab-like monster around a stage. The atmosphere was electric: it was exciting to watch the collective synapses fire as the company, in an egalitarian way, created art in real time. “Whatever information set you have, you just lend it to the group to try to make the thing,” said creative director Aaron Wheeler-Kay. “The collaboration is constant and ongoing,”

Wheeler-Kay, a Portland native and Jefferson dance alum, directs ETC, which specializes in acrobatics, aerial dance, and physical theater. He has created an otherworldly new family-friendly work, It’s Like This, in collaboration with education director Wendy Cohen, deaf composer Myles de Bastion, ARC in Movement founders Alicia Cutaia and Russ Stark, and Rebound Movement instructor Laura Cannon for the upcoming Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, which runs January 24-February 3. The festival features new artistic work in various stages of development, from workshopped to fully formed, in dance, theater, comedy, film, and everything in between. (Check out Bob Hicks’s breakdown of festival offerings beyond dance in Speed-dating at Fertile Ground.)

You don’t often get to see the mechanics behind the theater magic, but in this production it’s all out in the open. The curtains are drawn to reveal the performers or riggers who hold the ropes propelling the central characters. The butterfly is attached to a four-pulley system that hoists her up and flies her around; the crab monster only needs a two-pulley system, because her movement is lower to the ground. The riggers need to remember the choreography and the timing of the ropes: it’s just as entertaining to watch these folks pulling, flying, and tumbling along with the performers.

The whimsical, gravity-defying creatures that slither, bounce, float, and pounce through It’s Like That are enhanced by imaginative costuming, music, and lighting. The show is designed to be accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers (and performers, two of whom are deaf). Composer de Bastion, a hardware/software designer, conceptual artist, and musician, founded CymaSpace, which specializes in equipment that translates audio information into sight (through light) and touch (through vibration). The music he has envisioned for It’s Like This, both improvised and composed, combines electronic and guitar sounds, he told me when we spoke through an ASL interpreter on Monday. A group of volunteers and a programmer worked with him on the software program he uses to track the music when he plays. Viewers will be able to feel the sound, thanks to a mechanism installed under some seats that creates low-frequency vibrations. American Sign Language interpreters will work all of the performances, and LED light panels installed on the back wall of the stage will use color to represent tone and blinking to represent rhythms.

Echo Theater Company will present its new work at Essentials, a program it will share with Tempos Contemporary Circus’ Underneath, a piece about living a good and fearless life. Essentials lasts an hour in total and will take place at Echo Theater, 1515 SE 37th Ave.

Performances this week


Oregon Cultural Trust

The MAC Dancers perform “The Project Approach” at Groovin’ Greenhouse Feb. 2.  Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre.

Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 24-February 3
Check the Groovin’ Greenhouse and Fertile Ground websites for locations and times
The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, including its dance-centric arm, Groovin’ Greenhouse (hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre), unfolds in venues around town with new performance works in various stages of development. Choreographers and companies presenting movement-related work in this year’s festival include Novoa Dances, Michal Schorsch, Hannah Downs, Polaris Company, Polaris Junior Company, NEO Youth Company, NW Fusion, the MAC dancers, Vitality Dance Collective, ELXR Dance Company, A-WOL Dance Collective, PDX Contemporary Ballet, ELa FaLa Collective, and Ballet Fiesta, Echo Theater Company, Tempos Contemporary Circus, and Living Room Circus.

“The Cutting Room” by BodyVox Dance Company. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

The Cutting Room
January 24-February 9
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
Multiple movie genres (action, comedy, drama, sci-fi) and memories of favorite films inspire BodyVox’s cinematic, virtuoustic dance performance The Cutting Room. Former BodyVox dancer Jonathan Krebs returns to perform with the company; look for new company member Jessica McCarthy and apprentice Coltrane Liu as well.

Sankalpa Dance Ensemble is one of 11 groups performing at the fundraising event Nrityotsava. Photo courtesy of Sweta Ravisankar.

Nrityotsava 2019 /Fundraiser
Indian Classical and Folk Dance Event
Hosted by Kalakendra
5 pm January 26
Lakeridge High School, 1235 Overlook Dr., Lake Oswego
Kalakendra’s mega Indian classical and folk dance fundraising event will feature 11 area professional and student groups performing dance styles including Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Gaudiya Nritya, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Assamese, Punjabi, and more. The Portland-based Kalakendra promotes performing arts from across the Indian subcontinent through classical dance and music performances.

Kudo Taketeru performing at The Tiny Theater PDX. Photo by Sophia Emigh.

The Art of Seeing: The Masculine Dancing
Anet Margot Ris
The Tiny Theater PDX
4 pm January 27
The Tiny Theater PDX, 3306 SE 65th Ave.
New to the performance scene is The Tiny Theater PDX, a home for radical performance curated by Anet Margot Ris, the theater’s founder and self-described “artistic directress.” Ris, a multi-disciplinary performer and former member of Daniel Nagrin’s The Workgroup and The Rudy Perez Performance Ensemble, among others, launches the theater’s 2019 Sunday series The Art of Seeing with The Masculine Dancing, an evening of film and video depicting 20th- and 21st-century male dancers/choreographers. Screenings will be followed by a conversation about how the masculine is portrayed. The series continues through May with sessions devoted to The Feminine Dancing, clowning, drag, and performance art.

Vancouver, B.C.-based Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art brings its cross-disciplinary work “Telemetry” to Portland. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art
Presented by White Bird
January 31-February 2
1 pm February 2, master class with Shay Kuebler at Floor Dance Center, reservations recommended
Vancouver, B.C.-based choreographer Shay Kuebler and his company Radical System Art draw from martial arts, hip-hop, contemporary ballet, modern and tap to create theatrical, highly physical work. In the 65-minute work Telemetry, Kuebler and award-winning tapper Danny Nielson (who performs as part of the eight-member cast and contributes the work’s rhythmic score), explore the science of telemetry, a communications process by which measurements and other data are collected and transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring. Kuebler extends that idea to the human body, using it, he says, as “a device—a tool—that translates, relays, and communicates intangible and unseen processes. Dance [uses the] body [to] translate an audible form into a visual form.” In short,Telemetry focuses on how the human body serves as a kind of antenna for sound, energy, and memory.

Upcoming Performances

February 2019
February 5-19, Chinese New Year at Lan Su Chinese Garden
February 6, Ballet Outsider: Gender Politics and Power, a panel discussion hosted by Eugene Ballet Music Director Brian McWhorter
February 8-10, The Gift, PDX Dance Collective, choreography by April MacKay, Zahra Garrett, and Rachael Singer
February 9-10, Romeo and Juliet, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
February 13, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, presented by White Bird
February 14, Fall In Love With Flamenco, Espacio Flamenco Portland
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 23-24, Left of Center, AWOL Dance Collective
February 24, Bharanatayam Margam by Mugdha Vichare and Mayurika Bhaskar, students of Sweta Ravisankar
February 28-March 2, Compagnie Hervé Koubi, presented by White Bird
February 28-March 2, Trip The Light Fantastic, NW Dance Project


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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, Shakti, Sankalpa Dance Ensemble, Sweta Ravishankar, Sridharini Sridharan, and Yashaswini Raghuram
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 14-17, Corteo, Cirque du Soleil
March 14-21, Ordinary Devotions, Linda Austin
March 16, A Midsummer Night at the Savoy, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater
March 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April 5, Lecture Demonstration with Rosie Herrera and Company, Reed College
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, Encores, 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

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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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