Since Saturday night, I have been riding on a blissful cloud of happy after seeing 17 Indian dance groups from the Northwest and beyond perform as part of Nritsovava, a fundraiser for Kalakendra. The Portland-based organization founded in 1987, that promotes the performing arts from across the Indian subcontinent through classical dance and music performances.
The dancers—adorned in bright, shiny golds, glittering jewels and effulgent smiles— brought to life the stories of Lord Krishna, the goddess Saraswati, Shiva, the Mahabharata and so much more. This epic, four-hour dance concert represented an enormous swath of dance styles from across India. It was a feast for the senses, and included samosas and tea at intermission. You might think that a four-hour dance concert was a bit long, but it wasn’t. I was truly sad when it was over. But I’m a big fan.
Since the concert, my brain has been abuzz with many thoughts about contrasting cultures, the role and importance of dance in society, women, beauty, and bodies, to name a few. Some of my bigger observations are queries I’ve decided to list below. Feel free to respond to any of them in the comments section below, but please be polite.
- If you were to look at a map and chart trade routes, migration patterns, and colonizations, you would clearly be able to see similarities between the different cultures of the world. This makes the white nationalist idea (which has become central in the policies of the Trump administration) of a “pure” American culture pure baloney. Culturally, America is rooted in Puritan traditions, African American culture, American Indian culture, and then it has incorporated traditions of all the immigrant groups that have moved here. We are a global culture with distinct regional flavors. This is also true in India and was evident this weekend in a performance of a dance from Goa. Goa, on the West Coast of India, was colonized by the Portuguese 450 years ago and the dance and costumes look distinctly Spanish. The women wore long, ruffled skirts and red flower earring, and the men wore formal looking black dress pants, white button down shirts, and black fedoras.
- Why are visual art, music, and theater much more understood and supported than dance in America? Why in America does art seem like an outsider activity? This is not the same in India. Is this because of America’s Puritan roots? This discomfort with the body in American culture runs deep, and it’s disturbing to me. Why is American culture so removed from the arts?
- Why is the American standard of beauty so narrowly defined, especially for dancers? I much prefer to see a variety of bodies and ages on stage. This is a much more inclusive idea that focuses on a person’s talents and not their genetics. Thankfully, it’s a big, broad, beautiful world out there with a lot of variety, and beauty everywhere, so we aren’t stuck looking at one thing.
- It was a true pleasure to see so many different dance groups sharing the same stage. This is something I wish Portland’s contemporary dance community would do more of.
- The Northwest has an incredible talent pool of Indian dancers in all styles. I would like to see concerts featuring these dancers produced outside of the Indian community by non Indians. White Bird perhaps?
- Often times community performance events can be loosey goosey and of lower quality, but this performance was none of that. The choreography and dancers were spot on. It was exceptional.
- The theatre, Evans Auditorium, which seated 400, was full and not everyone was Indian.
- I think it’s important to go see dance and experience cultural events that you aren’t familiar with. It helps develop empathy and so much more.
Which brings me to Portland dance this week which includes more opportunities to stretch yourself. No pun intended. The skinner|kirk Dance Ensemble blazes through their second weekend; Chitra: The Girl Prince, co-directed by Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon, continues at Northwest Children’s Theatre; and an evening of flamenco, Fall in Love with Flamenco, will be hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland.
Performances this week
Fall in Love with Flamenco
Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
7:30 pm February 8
McMenamins Mission Theater, 1624 NW Glisan St.
Espacio Flamenco dance company members have chosen their favorite styles of flamenco from Fandangos to Farruca, Alegrias to Siguiriyas, in this showcase performance that will feature dancers Montserrat Andreys, Kelley Dodd, Lillie Last, Brenna McDonald, and Christina Lorentz alongside Singers Randa BenAziz, and Elisa Rocha and percussionist Nick Hutcheson.
The skinner|kirk Dance Ensemble
Presented by BodyVox
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
Highlighting their Portland dance legacy, Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk present an evening of two restaged works, Here and there, now and then and Semita, and a world premiere duet. The three works, performed by Brian Nelson, Chase Hamilton, Skye Stouber, Skinner and Kirk, reflect complex relationships, aging, perception, and loss. The concert was previewed by Heather Wisner who took a closer look at the works and its choreographers in “Skinner/Kirk Dance Company hits rewind and fast-forward” and was also reviewed by Elizabeth Whelan for ArtsWatch.
Chitra: The Girl Prince
NW Children’s Theatre, Co-directed by Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon
Mainstage, NW Children’s Theatre, 1819 NW Everett St.
In this retelling of a fourth-century tale from the Mahabharata, co-directors Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon along with a collaborative team of theater artists, musicians, and dancers from India and Portland’s Bengali-American community, tell the story of a warrior princess who struggles to stay true to herself while balancing her responsibility to her people and true love’s call. Chitra was reviewed by Deann Welker for ArtsWatch in Chitra: tale as old as time.
February 15-18, a·mor·phous, DownRight Productions
February 15, Faculty Dance Concert featuring guest artist Vincent Mantsoe, Hosted by University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
February 16-March 4, Left of Center, A-WOL Dance Collective
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, Performance Works NW Alembic Artist’Showcase, Catherine Egan, Suzanne Chi, and GRINDGROUP
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 25, Shivarpanam, performance by Sweta Ravisankar
February 26, Rejoice! at AWMC Regional Finals, Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater
February 27-March 1, Kinky Boots, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene
March 2-4, Zorro: The Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 3-4, Voices: A Choreographers’ Showcase, Hosted by PDX Dance Collective
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
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 7, Reaching Back to Our Roots: Annual Gala Fundraiser, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe
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 11-13, Alice in Wonderland, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, 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