I have ALWAYS been interested in the intersection and cross-pollination of cultures. As someone who grew up in Berkeley, California, in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s (hippie to hip hop), and within the Hare Krishna movement (a Gaudiya Vaishnava Hindu religious organization), I live at this intersection. I am the embodiment of that idea.
I may look like a typical, Caucasian, American woman, but I’m not. I went to protest marches in a stroller before I could walk. I was named after a very important sacred river in India. I can sing and recite songs and prayers in Sanskrit. I know how to wear a sari. I believe in reincarnation and Karma. I have always been a strict vegetarian (no meat, fish, or eggs), and I almost allowed my marriage to be arranged (though I found love on my own). And the first dance class I ever took was a Bharatanatyam (classical South Indian dance) class taught by a white American ballerina. These experiences have afforded me the ability to understand many perspectives, to move between worlds, to see beauty in things outside of my own experiences, and to sometimes/often, feel like an outsider.
This week’s dance performances intersect, cross boundaries, share elements, and they speak of new experiences, shared experiences, multicultural experiences, human experiences, that stretch our brains and go to the edge.
On Saturday, 17 Indian dance groups from Portland and beyond, made up of students and professionals, will converge on Lewis & Clark College’s Evans Auditorium to perform in Nrityotsava, a fundraiser for Kalakendra—a Portland-based organization founded in 1987, that promotes the performing arts from across the Indian subcontinent through classical dance and music performances. The dance styles presented on Saturday will include Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Bharatha Nrithyam, Rajasthani dance, Goan dance, Haryanvi folk, and Garba. It’s going to be an Indian dance feast to end all feasts.
I spoke with Gidu Sriram, one of the Kalakendra board members, about the importance of an organization like this, especially considering our current political climate and our government’s perspective on immigrants. We spoke via email, and this is what he wrote:
“Indian classical music and dance is one of the richest if not the richest in the world and it dates back to over 2000 years ago. We believe that it is not only our duty to preserve our art but also showcase it to the American audience who may not be aware of it and to present it to the Indian Americans who would be sorely missing it being so far away from their homeland.”
Most of us came to the States to either pursue higher studies or a better standard of living and we were trading our rich culture in this pursuit. Organizations like Kalakendra fill a void by bringing highly talented artists to perform in the United States. In this process, it also brings us pride as we see Americans getting exposed to this art, some of whom have become ardent lovers of Indian classical music and dance.
In the current political environment, it definitely brings diversity and educates Americans to become aware of the rich talent in people from other parts of the world and to not judge people simply by their ethnicity.”
Nrityotsava is being coordinated by Mini Jairaj, a community organizer and accomplished dancer, singer, and musician. Jairaj began taking dance lessons from her father, the late renowned Sri. T Radhakrishnan, at the age of three. He was a master in Kathakali and Kerala Natanam, dance forms from the tropical state of Kerala in South India.
She has also trained in Bharatanatyam from Kalakshetra Vilasini and in Mohiniyattam from Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty amma and her daughter Smt. Sridevi Rajan. She learned Ottamthullal Dance (a Kerala temple art form) from her father and later from master Kalamandalam Prabhakaran. She is currently studying Kuchipudi (a dance form of Andhra Pradesh) from Smt. Anuradha Ganesh, the director of Nartana school of Kuchipudi here in Portland. She is trained in Carnatic music under Sri. Mahadeva Iyer, Sri. Natesan Master and Sri. Kalyana Sundaram Bhagavathar, and has been singing for Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi arangetrams (an onstage debut for students of Indian classical dance and music) for many years.
I have admired Jairaj from afar for several years now because of her tireless commitment to organizing community events, her ability to perform so many different styles of Indian dance, and her desire for continued learning. Jairaj of course is not alone. She is part of a large community of talented individuals from all over India, also living in the Portland area, who are deeply committed to creating community and keeping their home cultures alive while living here in America.
I hope to see you all at Lewis & Clark on Saturday where you can experience much more and be part of something much bigger. I’ll be there.
Performances this week
The Light of Progress-Portland Winter Light Festival
Flamebuoyant Productions, Circus Luminescence, BodyVox, Éowyn Emerald & Dancers, and Rainbow Dance Theatre
World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon Street
Across town, in venues far and wide, Portland Winter Light Festival will attempt to draw Portlanders out of their homes into the night, in the dead of winter, to be together in celebration of Winter, art and technology. The festival will feature live performances by BodyVox, Circus Luminescence, Flamebuoyant Productions, Éowyn Emerald & Dancers, and Rainbow Dance Theatre. A little bit of movement energy to keep you warm.
Reed College Dance Thesis Showing: Greetings and Elaborations
Olivia Hasencamp, Mackenzie Schuller, and Rika Yotsumoto
Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Massee Performance Lab PAB 128, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd
Reed Dance thesis candidates Olivia Hasencamp, Mackenzie Schuller, and Rika Yotsumoto integrate their experiences with choreographers Bouchra Ouizguen (Morocco), Ohad Naharin (Israel), Wim Vandekeybus (Belgium), and Bailarines Toda La Vida (Argentina), into new works focusing on intimacy, collaboration, and the subconscious mind.
Oregon Bird sketches—open rehearsal
Agnieszka Laska Dancers
7 pm February 1
Polish Hall, 3832 N Interstate
Celebrating its 15th anniversary, Agnieszka Laska Dancers, directed by Polish contemporary choreographer Agnieszka Laska, in collaboration with composer Jack Gabel, will present new choreography to choral works by Henryk Górecki, Oregon Bird Sketches by Gabel, and cabaret songs of Zygmunt Konieczny to name a few. Full concert April 14-15.
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, 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. Dance writer Heather Wisner takes a closer look at the works and its choreographers in her preview Skinner/Kirk Dance Company hits rewind and fast-forward for ArtsWatch.
The Shore of Endless Worlds
A solo by Nathan Montgomery
7:30 pm February 2
The Headwaters, 55 NE Farragut St. #4
In his solo, The Shore of Endless Worlds, Butoh performer Nathan Montgomery reveals that his dance is “an energetic and formal pattern stitched through space and time…a deep inner world…a presentation of the wholly unique individual…a gift of one soul sprouting something beautiful from the dark soil of the human experience.”
Nrityotsava 2018: An evening of Indian Classical & Folk Dances
Presented by Kalakendra
4:30 pm February 3
Evans Auditorium, Lewis and Clark College, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Road
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.
The Lady Of The Camellias
Choreography by John Neumeier with music by Frédéric Chopin
Performed by the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
12:55 pm February 4
Playing at Lloyd Center 10 with IMAX, Century 16 Eastport, Clackamas Town Center, and Liberty Theatre.
In a live broadcast all the way from Moscow to a movie theatre near you, the Bolshoi Ballet performs The Lady Of The Camellias, live, for one performance only.
The ballet, choreographed by John Neumeier in 1978 for the Stuttgart Ballet, is based on the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas fils, and depicts Parisian life in the 19th century. The story tells the tale of a doomed love affair between a sick and dying courtesan, Marguerite Gautier, and her lover Armand. The ballet takes place during an auction after Marguerite’s death, and develops into a series of memories recalled from the points of view from Armand’s, his father’s, and Marguerite’s.
February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 3-25, Chitra The Girl Prince, NW Children’s Theatre, Co-directed by Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon
February 8, Fall in Love with Flamenco, Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
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, 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