Washougal Art & Music Festival

December DanceWatch: A month for Nutcrackers, independent dancemakers, and more

More nuts than you can crack a whip at, classical Indian dance, contemporary premieres, the return of "ZooZoo," five women choreographers at NW Dance Project – and even a "NOT-Cracker."

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Welcome to the final DanceWatch of 2023.

December is a magical month full of whimsy, joy, and Nutcracker performances, of course! Seven different Nutcracker performances (that I know of) are taking place across the region, ranging from large-scale, two-hour productions to less expensive, shorter performances by ballet students, with one production offering tea and cookies after the show.

The range of themes covers the spectrum from traditional to nontraditional, offering something fun for everyone. A special addition to the Nutcracker list this year is Oregon Ballet Theater’s sensory-friendly, one-hour Nutcracker performance at noon Tuesday, December 19, meant for children and people with sensory-processing challenges.

December also offers a sampling of new work by independent Portland choreographers such as Amy Leona Havin and the Holding Project and established dance companies such as NW Dance Project, which will present the work of five Portland-based female choreographers.

Expanded details are listed below.

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December Dance Performances

Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher, and scholar Jayanthi Raman. Photo by Lenzville Photography.
Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher, and scholar Jayanthi Raman. Photo by Lenzville Photography.

Jayanthi Raman’s Samatvaa: Celebrating Equity: Dance, Music and Poetry

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

  • Presented by Rasika-Society for Arts of India
  • 4 p.m. December 2 
  • Dance Concert and Panel talk 
  • Kalapuya Hall, Hidden Creek Community, 5100 N.E. Hidden Creek Drive, Hillsboro
  • Free; limited seating.
  • Please RSVP to rasikapdx@gmail.com 

Jayanthi Raman, an award-winning, Oregon-based Bharatanatyam dancer, will present a new work titled “Samatvaa: Celebrating Equity: Dance, Music and Poetry.” The performance will feature Raman and her company’s repertoire dancers from her school, Natya Dance Academy, performing a fusion of Bharatha Natyam’s classical Indian dance, music, and poetry. Raman is a renowned Bharanatayam dancer, choreographer, author, and scholar whose career spans more than three decades. Her choreography is rooted in classical dance but incorporates modern themes, concepts, and technology to showcase her Indo-American identity. She has choreographed 25 full-length evening works, published two books and several articles, and holds an M.D. in Internal Medicine and a Master’s in Computer Science and Informatics.

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Veteran Imago performer Danielle Vermette in full polar bear mode on tour. Photo courtesy Danielle Vermette.
Veteran Imago performer Danielle Vermette in full polar bear mode on tour. Photo courtesy Danielle Vermette.

ZOOZOO

  • Imago Theatre, Co-Artistic Directors Carol Triffle and Jerry Mouawad
  • December 8-January 1
  • Imago Theatre, 17 S.E. 8th Avenue, Portland

ZooZoo is back! This longtime audience favorite magnifies the quirkiness in our everyday lives with an expert composition of elaborate costumes, masks, dance, music, physical comedy, and anthropomorphic humor. ZooZoo features a zany cast of characters like playful polar bears, firefly eyes, hippos with insomnia, arrogant anteaters, introverted frogs, acrobatic worms, self-touting accordions, and tricky penguins, in this carnival of the absurd. 

Founded in 1979 by Carol Triffle and Jerry Mouawad, Imago presents original productions using masks and elaborate costumes, making the humans disappear and the imaginative creatures appear.

Sponsor

CMNW Summer Festival SB FIXED #1, TP, Top

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Pumpkin king Jack Skellington and Sally, the ragdoll, are dancing their way into your nightmarish holidays. Photo by Jingzi Zhao.  
Pumpkin king Jack Skellington and Sally, the ragdoll, are dancing their way into your nightmarish holidays. Photo by Jingzi Zhao.  

The Nightmare Before Christmas

  • Presented by Steps PDX, artistic director Kathryn Harden
  • December 8-9
  • Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Avenue, Portland

Steps PDX will perform a dance adaptation of the beloved stop-motion animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas, featuring the choreography of artistic director Kathryn Harden. It will follow the misadventures of Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, as he discovers Christmas Town and attempts to kidnap Santa Claus and bring Christmas to Halloween Town.

The dancers of "precious cargo (always the point)," Part 2 of an evening-length work by Amy Leona Havin. Photo courtesy of Amy Leona Havin.
The dancers of “precious cargo (always the point),” Part 2 of an evening-length work by Amy Leona Havin. Photo courtesy of Amy Leona Havin.

precious cargo (always the point)

  • Presented by The Holding Project, artistic director Amy Leona Havin
  • December 8-10
  • Shaking the Tree Theatre, 823 S.E. Grant Street, Portland 

In her seventh evening-length work, Amy Leona Havin – Israeli-born, Portland-based choreographer, filmmaker, artistic director of The Holding Project, and a regular contributor to ArtsWatch – takes us on Part 2 of a nostalgic journey along the Pacific coastline. Part 1, “precious cargo (days of old),” debuted in May 2022. This pathos-driven work, performed in the round, explores the urgency of life, changing landscapes, and each individual’s negotiation with time and space. Featured performers include Lindsay Dreyer, Heather Hindes, Carly Nicole Ostergaard, Elle Sevi, and Whitney Wilhardt.

Sponsor

Washougal Art & Music Festival

To dive deeper into Havin’s continuing work, please check out my review of “precious cargo (days of old).”

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NW Dance Project Dancers Nicole Hennington and Jacob Beasley. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert
NW Dance Project Dancers Nicole Hennington and Jacob Beasley. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

New Stories-In Good Company

  • NW Dance Project, artistic director Sarah Slipper
  • December 8-10
  • NW Dance Project Creative Center, 211 N.E. 10th Avenue, Portland

New Stories-In Good Company will showcase the works of five women choreographers from Portland. These include former NW Dance Project dancer Andrea Parson, Reed College dance professor Carla Mann, and current NW Dance Company dancers Ingrid Ferdinand, Lucia Tozzi, and Nicole Hennington. The show features a range of styles, including dance theater, spoken word, contemporary, modern, and more. Included is a highly physical and musical duet choreographed by Nicole Hennington for Beatriz García Díaz and Armando Brydson, the company’s newest dancers from Cuba.

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Oregon Ballet Theatre's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker® runs December 8- 24 at the Keller Auditorium. Photo: Yi Yin
Oregon Ballet Theatre’s production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® runs December 8-24 at Keller Auditorium. Photo: Yi Yin/2022

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® 

Sponsor

Seattle Opera Pagliacci

  • Oregon Ballet Theater, artistic director Dani Rowe
  • December 8-24
  • Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay Street, Portland

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker© has been performed every winter holiday season in America since its debut on February 2, 1954. The story revolves around little Marie, who embarks on a fantastical journey to the land of sweets after rescuing her Nutcracker Prince from the Rat King. This grand production features larger-than-life characters, whimsical sets, and live music performed by the OBT Orchestra, led by resident music director Raúl Gómez-Rojas. 

Oregon Ballet Theater will present a sensory-friendly, one-hour Nutcracker performance at noon on Tuesday, December 19. This condensed version of The Nutcracker picks up at the beginning of the second act in the Land of the Sweets. This additional performance is for people with sensory processing challenges and young children. It will be a relaxed environment with lighting, sound modifications, and a revolving entry/exit. Patrons may move, vocalize, and bring comfort items to feel at ease in the theater.

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Reed College Community Dancers. Photo courtesy of Reed College.
Reed College Community Dancers. Photo courtesy of Reed College.

Reed College Winter Dance Concert

  • 7:30 pm December 9 
  • Reed College, Greenwood Theater, 3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, Portland

The Reed College Winter Dance Concert will feature performances by Reed students, Reed’s Contemporary Performance Ensemble, faculty, and guest choreographers. Free and open to the public. Reservations required. Reserve your spot here.

Sponsor

Seattle Opera Pagliacci

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The dancers of Sultanov Ballet Academy in "The Nutcracker" with choreography by Russian-trained Artur Sultanov. Sitting In the sleigh is dancer Emili Kobayashi. Photo by @pnw.boxcamera.
The dancers of Sultanov Ballet Academy in “The Nutcracker” with choreography by Russian-trained Artur Sultanov. Sitting In the sleigh is dancer Emili Kobayashi. Photo by @pnw.boxcamera.

The Nutcracker

  • Presented by Sultanov Ballet Academy, artistic director Artur Sultanov
  • December 9-10
  • Lake Oswego High School Auditorium, 2501 Country Club Road, Lake Oswego

Experience the magical world of the Sultanov Ballet Academy’s rendition of the classic Christmas tale, The Nutcracker, featuring the choreography of artistic director Artur Sultanov. Sultanov was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, and trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy. At 17, he joined the Kirov Ballet, where he danced a classical repertoire. In 2000, he joined Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet in San Francisco and, in 2003, joined Oregon Ballet Theatre, where he performed principal roles in Swan Lake, Firebird, and The Nutcracker, among others. 

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June Taylor-Dixon's "A Nutcracker Tea" at NorthWest Dance Theatre. Photo courtesy of NorthWest Dance Theater.
June Taylor-Dixon’s “A Nutcracker Tea” at NorthWest Dance Theatre. Photo courtesy of NorthWest Dance Theater.

A Nutcracker Tea

  • NorthWest Dance Theatre, artistic director June Taylor-Dixon
  • December 9-17
  • PCC Sylvania Performing Arts Center, 12000 Southeast, S.W. 49th Ave, Portland

This condensed version of The Nutcracker follows Clara and her prince through the Snow Kingdom and the Land of Sweets, serving complimentary tea and cookies after each performance. The performance features exquisitely designed sets and costumes, with choreography by June Taylor-Dixon and Gretta Murray-Marchek, who are celebrating their 35th season.

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

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Image design by Kathleen Darby courtesy of Graham Cole/Performance.

Origami Night

  • Presented by Graham Cole/Performance and Annas-Lee Design Group
  • December 15-22 
  • Building 5, 2516 N.W. 29th Avenue, Portland

“Origami Night” is a performance piece that tells the story of a woman’s life through poetry, dance, and sensory design. It follows her journey from childhood as a working-class Navy brat to adulthood as a radical feminist and mother. The driving force behind Origami Night is the poetry of Pamela Annas, a poet from Boston who formalized the pedagogy of working-class literature in the United States. Her work focuses on social justice, economic inequality, and gender discrimination. Origami Night is performed by Elenaluisa Alvarez, a BodyVox dancer, and choreographed by Graham Cole, White Bird’s executive director and a dance artist, with lighting, sound, scenic design, and libretto by Christopher Annas-Lee.

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The "Not-Cracker" by Open Space Dance Company and The School at Open Space. Photo: Lee Gumbs
The “Not-Cracker” by Open Space Dance Company and The School at Open Space. Photo: Lee Gumbs

NOT-Cracker

  • Presented by Open Space Dance Company and The School at Open Space
  • December 16-17
  • Nemark Theater, 1111 S.W. Broadway, Portland

The NOT-Cracker tells the tale of Ted, an unfortunate individual living in rainy Portland, struggling to find joy. Ted believes they can’t dance until a cast of wild characters sweeps them up! Utilizing much of Tchaikovsky’s iconic score, NOT-Cracker invites its viewers to celebrate the many varieties of dance, gender expression, and body positivity. Join Ted as they enter NOT-Cracker‘s colorful world filled with rainbow-hued NOT-Bunnies, Polichinelles, a street-dancing Toy Soldier, a particular Sugar Plum Fairy, Waltzing Flowers, and the showstopping Baby Penguins.

Sponsor

CMNW Summer Festival SB FIXED #1, TP, Top

NOT-Cracker, choreographed by Open Space artistic director Franco Nieto and co-founders Charlene Hannibal and Maeve Dougal, will present more than fifty children from The School at Open Space and the newly established training program, Open Space Too. It will also feature local Street dancer NØIR as the Toy Soldier, an act by Charles Roy starring the House of Ada (Portland’s gender-nonconforming Ballroom house of HBO Max’s Legendary fame), and a Sugar Plum Fairy remix choreographed by renowned Tokyo Street artist Uno.

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Eugene Ballet's "The Nutcracker" by Toni Pimble. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.
Eugene Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” by Toni Pimble. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

The Nutcracker

  • Eugene Ballet, artistic director, Toni Pimble
  • Orchestra Next
  • December 21-26
  • The Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene; Silva Concert Hall, One Eugene Center (7th & Willamette), Eugene

In this version of The Nutcracker, performed live by Orchestra Next and led by Brian McWhorter, The Nutcracker becomes a story of young love. In Clara’s dream, the nutcracker transforms into Hans, a young man who works for Drosselmeyer instead of a prince. The couple travels on a hot air balloon instead of a horse and sleigh, and they encounter more culturally sensitive dances that borrow from the folk dances of each country represented.

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NW Dance Project's 2023 Youth Dance Program winter showcase is here. Check out what the next generation has to offer. Photo courtesy of NW Dance Project.
NW Dance Project’s 2023 Youth Dance Program winter showcase is here. Check out what the next generation has to offer. Photo courtesy of NW Dance Project.

Winter Showcase

Sponsor

All Classical Radio James Depreist

  • NW Dance Project
  • December 16-17
  • NW Dance Project Creative Center, 211 N.E. 10th Avenue, Portland

NW Dance Project’s 2023 Youth Dance Program is pleased to present its Winter Showcase. This year’s show will feature a variety of dance styles, from ballet to hip-hop. The students have been working hard all year to prepare for this event and are excited to share their talents with audiences. Don’t forget to bring your camera and video recorder to capture the performance!

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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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