Seattle Opera The Life and Times of MalcolmX McCaw Hall Seattle Washington

February DanceWatch: Feelin’ the love

February brings world premieres, creative collaborations, and a fond farewell to a beloved classical dancer.

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Oregon Ballet Theater principal dancers Xuan Cheng and Brian Simcoe in Portland dance photographer Jingzi Zhao’s new solo photo exhibit called “Pas de Trois” on view at Portland Center Stage’s Ellyn Bye Studio Lobby from February 4 – March 31. Photo by Jingzi Zhao.

Portland dance photographer Jingzi Zhao will debut a solo photo exhibit called “Pas de Trois” at Portland Center Stage’s Ellyn Bye Studio Lobby from February 4 – March 31. Pas de Trois in French means a dance for three performers, and this new series of photos are from an ongoing three-year collaboration between Zhao and Oregon Ballet Theater principal dancers Xuan Cheng and Brian Simcoe. For Zhao, every session with the dancers was an experiment, and the exhibit celebrates inspiration, artistry, and their creative alchemy.

Zhao is originally from Shanghai, but has lived and worked on four continents before settling in the Pacific Northwest. She has been a professional photographer since 2005, initially photographing portraits and weddings. But when Zhao moved to Argentina, her focus changed. While living in Buenos Aires, learning Spanish and tango dancing, she met professional dancers who allowed her to photograph them performing.

In 2011 she attended a stage photography workshop in Argentina that exposed her to many different theater companies and their rehearsals and performances and offered a critique of her work. The experience and the encouragement from the instructor helped launch her into dance and theater photography professionally. Back in Portland, she reached out to dance companies like BodyVox, Polaris Dance Theatre, and Oregon Ballet Theatre to see if she could practice her photography on them; the rest is history. Zhao’s gorgeous dance photos frequently grace the pages of DanceWatch and the social media pages of dance students, independent choreographers, and dance companies all over Portland.

Her dance photography work has been featured in gallery exhibitions and acquisitions in Portland and Seattle. She is a first-place category winner and a two-time grand prize finalist of the Pas De Deux Dance Photography Contests. She is also a recipient of multiple project grants from the Regional Arts and Cultural Council here in Portland, Oregon.

Jingzi Zhao’s “Fuse-Portland Dance Portraits” features Amica Hunter and David Cantor dancing and vintage shopping. Photo by Jingzi Zhao

Zhao and I met in 2016 and became fast friends after I asked to be part of her “Fuse-Portland Dance Portraits” series, chronicling dancers in various locations around Portland. She created 25 photos of 45 dancers from ten different Portland dance companies posing in various locations, including Hopworks Brewery, Oblique Coffee, Salt & Straw, and the alley behind my house.

When I met up recently with Zhao to discuss “Pas de Trois” and get a deeper view of her and her work, she told me that, just before the pandemic, she was itching to create something from scratch. She wanted to have more control over the environment around the photos, to layer the images with lighting and sets and costumes and emotion to tell a story and create context. “I wanted to challenge myself,” she told me. “For dance photography, even though the subject is dance, it’s not just about the shape; it’s not even just about movement,” she said. “It’s about what you want to say about the shape, what you want to feel, and how you can make it more interesting,” she continued. “It’s just one photograph. I’m not putting on a 60-90 minutes show; I have one photo. If I only have a shape, I feel like it is not enough. So I always think about what more I can do.”

Soon after, she approached Cheng, who was already a friend, about working together, and Cheng brought in Simcoe, and the trio was born. “Suddenly, lucky me, I have two principal dancers to collaborate with,” she said, laughing. “I am very fortunate because not everyone, at the onset of trying to do something creative, has this caliber of a dancer to work with, so I am very grateful.”

Sponsor

Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

Because the collaboration happened over several years, Zhao told me this made experimenting much easier because it gave them time to get to know each other and become comfortable, allowing them to create interesting and exciting work. 

To see the collaboration between Zhao, Cheng, and Simcoe, head over to Portland Center Stage, where the photos will be on exhibit in the Ellyn Bye Studio Lobby, 128 NW Eleventh Avenue, from February 4 to March 31. There will be an artist reception on Sunday, February 12, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. before the evening performance of Young Americans.

February Dance Performances!

BodyVox Dance presents “Serious Cupcakes,” an evening of new choreography by current and former BodyVox dancers. Photo by Michael Shay

Serious Cupcakes
Presented by BodyVox Dance
Featuring choreography by Bo Brinton, Mr. Bobby Fouther, Jenelle Gaerlan, Theresa Hanson, Darvejon Jones, Andrea Parson, and Laure Redmond
January 26-February 4
BodyVox, 1201 NW 17th Ave, Portland

This evening of new choreography by current and former BodyVox dancers suggests that the petite confectionery treat, used for every kind of celebration with seemingly endless flavor and decorative combinations, requires deep consideration. Or is it a reference to the 1940s slang term for a beautiful woman? Who knows? What I do know is that the seven choreographers, Bo Brinton, Mr. Bobby Fouther, Jenelle Gaerlan, Theresa Hanson, Darvejon Jones, Andrea Parson, and Laure Redmond, have been invited to create premieres on BodyVox dance company members. The show will run for two consecutive weekends at the BodyVox Dance Center and promises to be as varied, fun, and yummy as those cupcakes.

The original Broadway production of “Cabaret” at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York in 1966, with Jill Haworth as Sally Bowles, Joel Grey as the Emcee, and Lotte Lenya as Fraulein Schneider. Photo by Friedman-Abeles Photography Studio

Cabaret
Stumptown Stages, directed by Pat Nims and choreographed by Jeff George
January 20-February 12
Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland

As the Nazis gain power in pre-World War II Germany, the drama unfolds between a young writer and Sally Bowles, a singer at the seedy Berlin nightclub called the Kit Kat Club. Nightlife is alluring but dangerous, and times are uncertain. The ghoulish Emcee tantalizes the crowd with his raucous, debauched performers, enticing them to forget. In the musical’s final scene, as the Emcee is giving his Auf Wiedersehen, Sally Bowles says, “It’ll all work out; it’s only politics, what’s it got to do with us?” A nod to society’s blindness towards the Nazis and a relevant critique today.

Sponsor

Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

Bang on a Can All-Stars presents an eclectic mix of music and dance in “Can Dance.” Video courtesy of Bang on a Can

Can Dance
Bang on a Can All-Stars, featuring choreographers Annie-B Parson, Keerati Jinakunwiphat, Rena Butler, Andros Zins-Browne, Jerron Herman, Brian Brooks, Pioneer Winter, Kyle Marshall, and Andrea Miller
Presented by Friends of Chamber Music
7:30 pm, February 1
Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, 12625 SW Crescent St, Beaverton

Presenting a seamless integration of dance on film and live music, “Can Dance” features the work of nine accomplished choreographers commissioned to create dance films performed to music written for and performed live by the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

Formed in 1992, this eclectic six-member musical ensemble (Robert Black, bass; Vicky Chow, piano; David Cossin, percussion; Arlen Hlusko, cello; Mark Stewart, electric guitar; and Ken Thomson, clarinet and bass clarinet) is recognized for freely crossing the boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world, and experimental music. With a massive repertoire of works written specifically for the group’s distinctive instrumentation and style of performance, the All-Stars have become a genre in their own right.

The dancers of Dance Middlebury in “Valorous Sky”, a new work by choreographers Meshi Chavez and Subashini Ganesan-Forbes. Photo courtesy of Reed College Department of Dance

Valorous Sky
A Dance Middlebury collaboration with choreographers Meshi Chavez and Subashini Ganesan-Forbes
Presented by Reed College Department of Dance

7:00 pm, February 2
Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Performance lab, 3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, Portland
Free and open to the public. Masks required. Reserve your seat here.

“Valorous Sky” is the culmination of a five-month residency with Middlebury College artist-in-residence Meshi Chavez and guest choreographer Subashini Ganesan-Forbes, in collaboration with the students of Middlebury College’s pre-professional dance company, Dance Middlebury. The work examines the nature of relationships, what is constant, and what changes. 

Chavez is a dancer, teacher, and choreographer. He co-founded Momentum Studio in Portland and teaches Butoh and other movement-based workshops in the United States and throughout Europe. Ganesan-Forbes is a curator, arts administrator, choreographer, and former Creative Laureate of Portland (2018 – June 2021). As a Bharathanatyam artist, she has been learning, teaching, performing, and presenting for over four decades.

Performers in the Broadway Across America tour of “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations”. Photo courtesy of Broadway Across America

Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations
Written by Dominique Morisseau, directed by Des McAnuff, and featuring choreography by Sergio Trujillo 
Presented by Broadway in Portland
February 7-12 
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay, Portland

Sponsor

Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

They rose to the top of the charts creating an incredible 42 Top Ten Hits, with 14 of them reaching number one. Follow The Temptations’ remarkable journey from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in this new Broadway musical that features signature dance moves and silky-smooth harmonies. Nominated for 12 Tony® Awards and the winner of the 2019 Tony Award for Best Choreography of Sergio Trujillo, “Ain’t Too Proud” tells the thrilling story of brotherhood, family, loyalty, and betrayal as the group’s personal and political conflicts threatened to tear them apart during a decade of civil unrest in America.

Oregon Ballet Theatre principal dancer Xuan Cheng alongside company dancer Bailey Shaw performing in her last role with OBT as Sylphide in August Bournonville’s “La Sylphide”. Photo by Jingzi Zhao

La Sylphide
Oregon Ballet Theater
February 8 – 25
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay, Portland

Oregon Ballet Theatre principal dancer Xuan Cheng will perform as Sylphide in August Bournonville’s Romantic era ballet “La Sylphide” in her farewell performances, alongside long-time partner Brian Simcoe, who will dance the role of James. After performing with OBT for ten years, Cheng will depart for Hong Kong Ballet, where she will take on the dual roles of principal dancer and ballet mistress. La Sylphide tells the story of a young Scotsman who awakens on his wedding day from a dream to see a mysterious and tantalizing Sylph before him. Bewitched and mesmerized by her presence, his obsession with her sets off a fateful sequence of events where joy turns to sorrow, love to betrayal, and infatuation to tragedy.

Xuan’s final performance will be on the closing night of “La Sylphide,” Saturday, February 25, at 7:30 pm. OBT will honor her career during its annual gala dinner held the same evening, followed by an on-stage post-show party.

The elevated dancers of Trinity Irish Dance Company. Photo by Lois Greenfield

Trinity Irish Dance Company
Presented by White Bird
February 9-11
Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, 12625 SW Crescent St, Beaverton

Founded in 1990 by Artistic Director Mark Howard, Chicago-based Trinity Irish Dance Company is a uniquely Irish-American legacy rooted in Irish dancing tradition that continues to innovate and evolve. 

Twenty dancers from around the world will perform classic as well as new and inventive works. Of the eight Portland premieres presented, the program includes “American Traffic,” a hybrid of Irish step and American tap that plays at the intersection of rhythmic sensibilities and rebellious histories choreographed by NYC-based tap dancer and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Michelle Dorrance and tap dancer and choreographer Melinda Sullivan; “Sparks,” choreographed by Howard and Artistic Associate and dancer Ali Doughty, that brings together the technical prowess and virtuosic skill of Doughty, who won a solo world championship title during her competitive career, and New York-born, All-Ireland champion fiddle player Jake James; and “Black Rose” a TIDC classic choreographed by Howard, featuring Portland-native percussionist Steven Rutledge playing ‘Big Horse,’ a 120-year-old Irish lambeg drum, to name just a few of the night’s unique works.

Sponsor

Seattle Opera The Life and Times of MalcolmX McCaw Hall Seattle Washington

Eugene Ballet resident choreographer Suzanne Haag’s modern take on “Petrushka” will premier alongside Orchestra Next February 11-12 at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts in Eugene. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet

Petrushka (World Premiere) 
Choreographed by Eugene Ballet resident choreographer Suzanne Haag
Eugene Ballet and Orchestra Next
February 11-12 
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Silva Concert Hall, Eugene
Free Live Streamed Rehearsal: 4:15-5:00 pm on Wednesday, February 2nd

Headlining this triple bill program is the world premiere of Eugene Ballet’s resident choreographer Suzanne Haag’s futuristic technology-infused “Petrushka”. The ballet will be accompanied live by Orchestra Next, who will play Igor Stravinsky’s 1911 score of the same name. Instead of three puppets coming to life, Haag’s version follows an empathetic android who explores identity, love, and humanity amidst the sleek and stark environment of a space station trade center.  

The program also includes Toni Pimble’s “The Rite of Spring” and Melissa Bobick’s “Apollon Musagète,” a work that continues the theme of self-discovery with the young Apollo, the changing relationships with his Muses, and his destiny as an eternal god. “It is this journey of self-discovery that makes Stravinsky’s “Apollon Musagète” a timeless work that continues to speak to all of us,” Bobick noted.

Due to the mature themes presented in all three ballets, Eugene Ballet recommends viewers be age 11 and up for these performances.

The dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre performing “Beautiful Decay” by Nicolo Fonte. Photo by Jingzi Zhao, featured in her own photo exhibit, “Pas De Trois”.

Pas De Trois
A Photography Exhibit by dance photographer Jingzi Zhao
February 4 – March 31
Portland Center Stage at The Armory: Ellyn Bye Studio Lobby, 128 NW Eleventh Avenue, Portland

An artist reception will take place on Sunday, February 12, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. before the evening performance of the play “Young Americans.” Free admission.

For more information, please see above. 

Sponsor

Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

The dancers of Ronald K. Brown/Evidence. Photo by Quinn B Wharton

Ronald K. Brown/Evidence
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm, February 15
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland

The renowned award-winning Choreographer Ronald K. Brown and his dance company, EVIDENCE, bring three influential works to Portland this month as part of White Bird’s We are One festival. Brown’s works integrate African and contemporary dance with spoken word and deeply explore human struggles, tragedies, and triumphs.

The first of three pieces in the program was initially choreographed for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2015. “Open Door” exemplifies Brown’s signature fusion of African, Afro-Cuban, and contemporary dance. “The Equality of Night and Day (TEND)” (2022). TEND examines the concepts of balance, equity, and fairness in light of the conflicting present-day issues that young people, women, and people of color now face in a world where exploitation, gentrification, racism, and xenophobia are rising. “TEND” features a commissioned score by Jason Moran and text by Angela Davis. “Upside Down” (1998), an excerpt from the evening-length work Destiny that was created in collaboration with Rokiya Kone of the Ivory Coast and her company Jeune Ballet d’Afrique Noire. “Upside Down” begins with the premonition of community mourning and continues as a race that reflects the impetus that drives the individual towards their destiny.

“Junction:23” offers a shared concert with works by three Portland danPhoto courtesy of B. Movement Project, push/FOLD, and TEMPOS Contemporary Circus.

Junction:23
Featuring choreography from B. Movement Project, push/FOLD, and TEMPOS Contemporary Circus 
February 17-18
Polaris Dance Theater, 826 Northwest 18th Avenue, Portland

Featured in this shared concert is B. Movement Project, a new artistic venture directed by Brandy Caroline Guthery, former co-director and founder of Portland’s AWOL Dance Collective. Guthery combines her distinctive blend of contemporary dance and aerial movement in a new work titled “Latched”, a dark and offbeat exploration of the relationship between parasite and host.

Performing alongside will be push/Fold, directed by Samuel Hobbs, and TEMPOS Contemporary Circus. push/FOLD is the vision of composer-choreographer Hobbs, whose work fuses his background in athletics, dance, music, and osteopathic medicine. Hobbs’ abstract choreography, supported by his compositional score, plays with momentum and partnering, creating a moody, immersive landscape. Tempos Contemporary Circus is an ensemble that combines dance, music, acrobatics, and physical theater to explore the connection between ourselves and our community’s vulnerability.

“Imposter/Switch” returns this month for a second iteration at Performance Works NW. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW

Imposter/Switch #2
Co-curated by Marissa Rae Niederhauser and Kennedy Verrett
8:00 pm, February 18
Performance Works Northwest, 4625 SE 67th Ave, Portland 

Sponsor

Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

In its second iteration, “Imposter/Switch”, co-curated by Marissa Rae Niederhauser (Dance, video, performance art) and Kennedy Verrett (Music), celebrates the imposter syndrome living in each of us by poking fun at the idea that mastery is necessary for creative viability by inviting artists to switch disciplines with another artist. Each curator picks three artists working in various fields. Those artists’ names go in one hat and their discipline in another. In a publicly shared video drawing, artists are randomly assigned a medium outside their usual practice. They are given two weeks to gather supplies and prepare to show the result of their experimentations.

This month’s participating artists are ara oshin (clay artist), Chaz Van Queen (musical performer), Linnea Solveig (painter), dee bustos (performance artist), Nickalus Lindale (composer), and Kelly Nesbitt (clown).

If you are interested in participating in this experiment, submissions are ongoing, and diverse disciplines and demographics are encouraged.

The cast of “Memphis Jookin'”. Photo by Louis ‘Ziggy’ Tucker

Memphis Jookin’: The Show Featuring Lil Buck
Presented by Portland’5
7:30 pm, February 21
Newmark Theatre, 111 SW Broadway, Portland

Renowned dance artist Lil Buck presents an ode to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, the birthplace of the dance style known as Memphis Jookin’. Eight dancers and a DJ will perform alongside Lil Buck in a 90-minute show that chronicles the emergence of this singular dance style to a soundtrack that evokes the energy of the streets and the clubs where Memphis Jookin’ was born.

push/FOLD Artistic director Samuel Hobbs brings the world premiere of his dance “Illum” to the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts this month. Photo by Holly Shaw

Illum
push/FOLD Dance Company
Artistic director composer-choreographer Samuel Hobbs
February 24-26
Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, 12625 SW Crescent St, Beaverton
Artist-Talks and Q&A follow each performance
Also available via multi-camera live-stream 

push/Fold dance company, directed by Samuel Hobbs, presents an evening of three works demonstrating the breadth of the company’s style and work that is influenced by Hobbs’ eclectic background in dance, partnering, martial arts, athletics, and Visceral Movement Theory,™ a somatic theory rooted in the anatomy and kinesiology of the organs, informs his work. 

Sponsor

Portland Opera The Snowy Day Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

The program begins with the world premiere of “Illum,” an ethereal and moody dance that explores ideas of home, acceptance, and belonging through Hobbs’s signature high-impact and sweeping movement, floorwork, and high-powered partnering.

Following is “Wolf,” a duet set to heartfelt vocals expressing loneliness and perseverance that evolves into tranquility and empowerment. Performed in unison with line-driven athleticism, slow sweeping movements, and angular articulations.

“Dark Wings” is an ode to jazz that tells the story of a solitary creature that transcends its life, guided and carried away by three friendly spirits. Playfully moving within 70’s era chic, the arc of this work centers on concepts of death and rebirth and celebrates the yin-yang of life and grief.

Portland Kathak dancer Shivani Joshi will perform a solo concert to live music. Photo courtesy of Shivani Joshi

Shivani Joshi
Disciple of Pt. Rajendra Gangani
Presented by Swaranjali Academy of Indian Music
7:00 pm, February 25
Evans Auditorium, Lewis & Clark College, Portland

Portland Kathak dancer Shivani Joshi, a disciple of Pt. Rajendra Gangani will perform a solo concert to live music played by Vishal Nagar on tabla, Suhail Yusuf Khan on the sarangi, with vocals by Shruti Jahangirdar, and Padhant by Shrikant Naware. Kathak is a classical dance form of north India that is derived from the art of storytelling and includes intricate footwork, hand gestures, and facial expressions.

The lively and talented dancers of Espacio Flamenco. Photo by Glisson Imaging-PDX

Tablao Flamenco La Alcachofa
Espacio Flamenco Portland
7:30 pm, February 25
Artichoke Music, 2001 SE Powell Blvd, Portland

Do you enjoy interactive, boisterous communal gatherings, hand clapping, finger-snapping, and shouting out praises along to live music and dance? Then Flamenco is for you! Join local and visiting Flamenco dancers and musicians at Café Artichoke for their monthly assemblage. This month features dancer Rachel Sidles from Seattle, violinist and vocalist Michelle Alany, dancers Lillie Last and Shiho Travis, vocalist Yeshe Wingerd, and co-director of Portland’s Espacio Flamenco and guitarist Brenna McDonald. 

Sponsor

Metropolitan Youth Symphony Music Concert Rooted Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon

The performers of the US tour of “My Fair Lady.” Photo courtesy of Broadway in Portland

My Fair Lady
Broadway in Portland Season
February 28 – March 5
Keller Auditorium
222 SW Clay Portland

If you think the story of a linguistics professor determined to transform a young woman into his ideal of a “proper lady” is outdated and inappropriate, you are not wrong. But, thankfully, Tony Award-winning director Bartlett Sher reimagines the musical into a social critique of class and society’s limitations on women. Adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s play and Gabriel Pascal’s motion picture Pygmalion, “My Fair Lady” is packed with magnificent sets, Downton Abbey-worthy costumes, standout performances, and exuberant dancing. And to top it off, a radically reimagined ending. 

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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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