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DanceWatch Weekly: Summer improvises


At the core of it all, life is really one big improvisation. I’m thinking dance improvisation, of course. Every day, in this funny, wonderful, and truly bizarre world we live in, we are presented with a variety of people and events to interact with, and how we bump into them, or embrace them, or avoid them, or dance with them, can change the trajectory of our lives. I find this process and where it takes us to be magical and thrilling in its mechanics, and sometimes a little frightening, too. It’s the not knowing and the risk that we encounter everyday that makes life interesting, don’t you think?

This week’s dance performances all move in this realm of chance and risk beginning tonight, July 5, with four soul-searching solos in Finding Soul: A Constellation of Stories, directed by Susan Banyas and Andrea Parson at the CoHo Theatre Summerfest. Opening Friday, July 6, at the Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, the Creative Music Guild’s Improvisation summit takes over the center’s voluminous space featuring some of Portland’s dance improvisation veterans in collaboration with other artistic mediums.

In Eugene, #instaballet, the brainchild of Eugene Ballet dancers Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan, will take place on Friday, July 6, at Oregon Contemporary Theatre, and the idea is to allow audiences to take part in the choreographic process. Haag recently retired as a dancer from Eugene Ballet after 15 seasons and was appointed resident choreographer of the company beginning in the 2018-2019 season. She is currently in the middle of a five-week choreographic residency at University of North Carolina School of The Arts, designed to foster the development of new work by emerging choreographers of exceptional promise. Haag is developing her new version of The Firebird for Eugene Ballet, which is slated to debut April 13-14 at the Hult Center in Eugene.

In movie theatres on Monday July 9, Giselle, performed by the Bolshoi Ballet, will make the unfaithful Albrecht dance to his death one more time. The role of Giselle will be danced by prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova, and Albrecht will be danced by Sergei Polunin, who recently played Count Andrenyi, a former Hungarian dancer prone to violence in Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Agatha Christie Murder on the Orient Express.

It’s all in the wash now and how it turns out, no one knows.

Performances this week

Megan Memphis and Stephanie W. Schaaf in Finding Soul: A Constellation of Stories by Andrea Parson and Susan Banyas.Photo by Fuchsia Lin.

Finding Soul: A Constellation of Stories (Coho Theatre Summerfest)
Directed by Andrea Parson and Susan Banyas
July 5-8
Coho Theatre, 2257 NW Raleigh Street

Dancers Megan Dawn, Andrea Parson (co-director), Stephanie Schaaf and Susan Banyas (co-director), will perform dance theatre solo works telling deeply personal tales of love, loss, triumph, and mystery. Dawn’s work looks back at a childhood spent on a farm and explores hidden memories; NW Dance Project’s Parson introduces us to the love story of her Italian ancestors Carmella and Girlomo; Schaff explores the power that her grandmother’s engagement ring has to connect generations; and Banyas takes us back to a ride in a ’55 Buick with her mom when she eight.

The solos were made through a creative process that Banyas has developed. Called Soul Stories, it involves dancing, writing, painting, and speaking as a means to mine personal stories and turn them into colorful, visually arresting, multi-dimensional works of art.

Finding Soul is part of the Coho Theatres Summerfest series that runs from June 28-July 22. ArtsWatch’s Marty Hughley featured in last week’s DramaWatch Weekly.

Portland dance artist Linda Austin as photographed by Gregory Bartning for the book Beauty is Experience: Dancing 50 and Beyond by Emmaly Wiederholt and Gregory Bartning. Austin will be one of the improvisers in this year’s Improvisation Summit.

Improvisation Summit of Portland
Creative Music Guild
July 6-7
Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave

The Improvisation Summit of Portland is a two-day performance festival combining dancers, musicians, filmmakers and performance artists. The dance bill includes such improv masters as Linda Austin (co-founder and director of Performance Works NorthWest), Tracy Broyles in collaboration with singer Holland Andrews, Emily Jones, and Suniti Dernovsek. Each medium works in collaboration with another to create an, in-the-moment, one-of-a-kind dance/performance work.

Eugene Ballet dancers excited about performing in #INSTABALLET NO.26. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Haag and #INSTABALLET.

Artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
5:30 pm July 6
Oregon Contemporary Theatre, 194 W Broadway, Eugene
This event is FREE

Reimagining who creates ballets, Instaballet, directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of Eugene Ballet company, gives artistic control to the audience. If you have ever wanted to choreograph a ballet but aren’t a dancer or a choreographer, now is your chance. Head on over to First Friday ArtWalk in Eugene and be a part of the process and make a ballet on the spot. The creative process begins at 5:30 pm and a performance of the final product will happen at 8 pm. This month’s performance will feature Eugene Ballet dancers Reed Souther, Vivien Farrell, and Erin Johnson, and will be facilitated by Antonio Anacan.

Portland Center Stage Portland Oregon Theatre

If you are interested in learning more about Instaballet and how it came to be, Eugene ArtsWatch correspondent Gary Ferrington wrote about them in 2015 in Crowd-sourced Choreography.

Svetlana Zakharova (Giselle) and Sergei Polunin (Albrecht) in the Bolshoi Ballet’s Giselle. Photo courtesy of Fathom Events.

Bolshoi Ballet Summer Series
Presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
7 pm July 9
Click HERE for participating theatres and locations

This romantic ballet in two acts, originally performed in 1841 by Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi, follows Giselle as she learns that her beloved (Albrecht) is promised to another. After dying from a broken heart, she returns from the dead as a vengeful spirit and makes Albrecht dance to his death.

Captured live in 2015, Giselle is choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich with music by Adolphe Adam, and will be performed by Svetlana Zakharova (Giselle) and Sergei Polunin (Albrecht).

Upcoming Performances

July 11-27, [A Swatch of Lavender]: A Self Portrait, keyon gaskin
July 14, Ten Tiny Dances, Produced by Mike Barber
July 14, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
July 16, Romeo and Juliet, Bolshoi Ballet Summer Series, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
July 19-21, RELATIVES // Rubble Bodies, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 23, Swan Lake, Bolshoi Ballet Summer Series, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-Wol Dance Collective
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag

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.