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January DanceWatch: Moving into a new year

From dancerly Broadway musicals to Éowyn Emerald's return to a Bantu circus, a mystical being from Buenos Aires, Linda Austin's birthday bash and more, 2024 kicks off in grand style.

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Welcome to the first DanceWatch of 2024, your curated passport to the vibrant realm of Oregon dance! Brace yourself for a January jam-packed with dance performances that promise to challenge your perceptions and ignite your passion for movement and social change.

Highlights include the homecoming of longtime Portland artist Éowyn Emerald and a 70th birthday celebration fundraiser for Performance Works NW artistic director Linda Austin.

Visiting performers include The Black Circus of the Republic of Bantu, a solo performance by South African artist Albert Ibokwe Khoza that sheds light on the violent and shameful history of ethnological expositions, and “Kid Lightening,” by Boise Dance Company LED and brought to us by White Bird, that looks at the competitive game show world of the 1970s.

January also debuts the epic collaboration between the push/FOLD dance company and 100 members of the Portland Symphonic Choir as they bring to life a choral masterpiece by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff that he wrote in response to the chaos and suffering he witnessed during his travels during World War 1. Of course, there are many more wonderful performances; read below to discover them. Happy New Year! Enjoy!

January Dance Performances

Bharatanatyam dancer Arshia Rajeshnarayanan will perform a solo concert 6 p.m. January 3, at the Jaya Hanuman Temple in Beaverton. Photo courtesy of Arshia Rajeshnarayanan.

Solo Bharatanatyam recital by Arshia Rajeshnarayanan
6 p.m. January 3
Jaya Hanuman Temple, 17235 N.W. Corridor Court #175, Beaverton

Arshia Rajeshnarayanan, a Bharatanatyam student of Srimati Radhika Narayanan in Portland and Sri Adithya P.V. in Bangalore, will perform four Bharatanatyam pieces in her 75-minute solo concert. She completed her arangetram in 2019. Four years ago, she began learning Odissi under Srimati Yashaswini Raghuram and Nattuvangam under Srimati Sweta Ravisankar. From 2019 to 2021, she was an Indian Raga Fellow in Bharatanatyam and has participated in various cultural programs and plays in the Pacific Northwest. Rajeshnarayanan is a second-year student majoring in Computer Science at Arizona State University.

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Sponsor

Portland Center Stage at the Armory Coriolanus Portland Oregon

Odissi Duet Recital
Performance by Jamuna Chiarini and Arshia Rajeshnarayanan
Originally scheduled for Friday, the performance will take place instead at 6:00 p.m. Saturday, January 6
Jaya Hanuman Temple, 17235 NW Corridor Ct #175, Beaverton
There is no admission fee

Chiarini and Rajeshnarayanan, disciples of Srimati Yashaswini Raghuram, will perform three iconic Odissi choreographies by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra and Shri Ratikant Mohapatra that have been passed down through four generations that all Odissi dancers perform. The works Mangalacharan, Basant Pallavi, and Moksha demonstrate the form’s graceful, lyrical, rhythmic, and spiritual aspects. Chiarini has been studying Odissi with Raghuram for six years and performed her first solo Odissi recital in March 2023. She is also a dance writer for Oregon ArtsWatch, including this monthly column. Rajeshnarayanan has been studying Odissi with Raghuram for four years and is also a Bharatanatyam student of Srimati Radhika Narayanan in Portland and Sri Adithya P.V. in Bangalore and is studying Nattuvangam under Srimati Sweta Ravisankar in Portland.

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Your Tomorrow
Éowyn Emerald & Dancers, artistic director Éowyn Emerald
January 5-6
Imago Theater, 17 S.E. 8th Ave., Portland

“Your Tomorrow” is an intimate dance for two performers and 144 Ferrero Rocher chocolates. The piece was partially inspired by Emerald’s grandparents, who immigrated to Canada from Glasgow in the 1950s. It also incorporates Emerald’s work with individuals living with Parkinson’ diseases, and is dedicated to their perseverance and the constant love of their families. The chocolates are a nod to the vitality of love and generosity.

A classically trained dancer, Éowyn’s work is physically and technically demanding, strongly emphasizing partnering and performance. She received her BFA in contemporary dance and choreography from The University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where she studied closely with Dianne Markham. Additional training came from The Juilliard School, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company, Utah Regional Ballet, and the RDA Craft of Choreography. In Portland, Barrett performed with BodyVox, Lane Hunter, Tracy Durbin, and Tere Mathern, and in the Le Grand Continental produced by White Bird. Éowyn’s company, Éowyn Emerald & Dancers (ÉE&D), was founded in Portland in 2011 and relocated to Scotland in 2017; she returned to Vancouver, B.C., in the summer of 2022. Éowyn Emerald & Dancers have performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, On The Boards, Risk/Reward, and at the J.A.W. festival at Portland Center Stage.

Sponsor

Cascadia Composers May the Fourth be with you Bold new music for winds and piano Lincoln Recital Hall PSU Portland Oregon

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Adrienne Walker as Nala and the cast of “The Lion King.” Photo by Deen van Meer.

Disney’s The Lion King
Presented by Broadway in Portland
January  7-28
Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St., Portland

The Lion King premiered in New York in 1997 and is Broadway’s third-longest-running show and its highest-grossing. It has received 70 major awards, including a Tony for its Jamaican-born choreographer, Garth Fagan.

The musical, based on the Walt Disney animated film of the same name, tells the story of the young lion Simba, who is to succeed his father, Mufasa, as king. But Simba’s uncle, Scar, kills Mufasa and takes over as king. Simba is then manipulated into thinking he is responsible for his father’s murder and goes into hiding. When Simba grows up, he returns to challenge Scar and reclaim his birthright.

“We have the negative forces in our lives, but if you are good and strong, you overcome them to beauty, and harmony, and peace,” Fagan told UK radio host Alex Belfield in 2009 in a discussion of the show’s theme.

Fagan, whose Rochester, New York-based company Garth Fagan Dance has appeared in Portland through White Bird, created The Lion King choreography with a unique mix of Caribbean and African dance, modern, jazz, hip-hop, ballet, and stilt work. Fagan has said he intended to expand viewers’ consciousness and reflect the varied experiences of children who came to see the show.

Director Julie Taymor, the first woman to receive a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical, also co-designed the masks and puppets with Oregon designer Michael Curry, wrote additional lyrics for the show, and designed its costumes, for which she received a second Tony. Elton John composed the music which earned him an Oscar.

Sponsor

Cascadia Composers May the Fourth be with you Bold new music for winds and piano Lincoln Recital Hall PSU Portland Oregon

The production features elaborate sets that rise up from the floor; magnificent, heartfelt songs sung in six indigenous African languages; actors and dancers dressed in colorful, ornate animal costumes; puppets; and a luminous orange sun made of silk that shimmers as it rises over this theatrical African desert.

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Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW.

Imposter/switch
Co-curated by Liz Howls and Marissa Rae Niederhauser
8 p.m. January 13 
Performance Works NW, 4625 S.E. 67th Avenue, Portland

Co-curated by Liz Howls (puppetry) and Marissa Rae Niederhauser (dance, video, performance art), Imposter/Switch 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 results of their experimentations.

This month’s participating artists are Hannah Krafcik, Yaara Valey, Devin Devine, Sarah Eaton, The Bone Goddess, and Stephanie Leet.

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

Sponsor

Portland Columbia Symphony Adelante Voices of Tomorrow Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

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A scene from the musical Chicago. Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Chicago
January 13-14
Hult Center,  Silva Concert Hall, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

Set in the roaring twenties, the musical Chicago tells the story of aspiring chorus girl Roxie Hart and fading vaudeville star Velma Kelly, each facing trial for murder. The two women compete for the services of shady lawyer Billy Flynn, who promises to make them media celebrities and win acquittals. Based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, the story is a satire on corruption in the criminal justice system and celebrity criminals. The choreography is inspired by the original 1975 production, directed and choreographed by jazz choreographer Bob Fosse. Fosse’s choreography was known for its sensuality. It included body-part isolations, hunched shoulders, turned-in knees, and props such as bowler hats, canes, and gloves, and a keen sense of timing and musicality.

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push/Fold dancers: Willow Swanson, Ashley Morton, Alana Stubbs, Maile Crowder, Briley Jozwiak, along with Portland Symphonic Choir Artistic Director Alissa Deeter in “Vespers.” Photo: Samuel Hobbs

Vespers
Presented by push/FOLD and the Portland Symphonic Choir 
January 18-21
Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, 12625 SW Crescent St., Beaverton
Also available via multi-camera livestream

Together for the first time in a project of epic proportions are Portland’s push/Fold dance company, directed by Samuel Hobbs, and 100 members of the Portland Symphonic Choir, directed by Alissa Deeter. The two will join in a performance of Vespers, a choral work originally titled All-Night Vigil, written by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1915 for the Russian Orthodox Church. At the time of its creation, Rachmaninoff had just finished a year-long tour to support Russian troops. The feeling of spiritual transcendence in the work was the composer’s response to the chaos and suffering he witnessed during his travels.

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Sponsor

Portland Playhouse Passing Strange Portland Oregon

South African artist Albert Ibokwe Khoza in their solo The Black Circus of the Republic of Bantu. Photo: Sanele Thusi. 

The Black Circus of the Republic of Bantu
By Albert Ibokwe Khoza
Presented by Boom Arts
January 18-21
Ellyn Bye Studio at The Armory, 128 N.W. 11th Ave., Portland

This immersive interactive solo performance, created by 2023 Bessie Award-winning South African artist Albert Ibokwe Khoza, pays tribute to the spirit of Sarah Baartman and the many Africans whose lives and bodies were turned into a spectacle for white supremacist pleasure. The work sheds light on the violent and shameful history of ethnological expositions, which were once widespread in Western society. The Black Circus wields theater as a weapon and a salve, turning its gaze outward to heal the soul and reclaim dignity through the power of confrontational art.

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A mystical being in Rainbow Dance Theatre’s Maria de Buenos Aires! Photo courtesy of Rainbow Dance Theatre.

Maria de Buenos Aires
Presented by Rainbow Dance Theatre and the Smith Fine Arts Series
7:30 pm January 19
Rice Auditorium, 344 Knox St N., Monmouth

Set to a passionate tango suite composed by Astor Piazzolla, Rainbow Dance Theatre’s Maria de Buenos Aires begins at a café on a warm, sultry night in Buenos Aires, then takes audiences on a magical journey of renewal as Maria is transported to another world where mystical beings shelter her and conjure her transformation into a Phoenix of Light.

With a base in Monmouth, Rainbow Dance Theatre is led by Darryl Thomas and Valerie Bergman, who were formerly members of Pilobolus and Merce Cunningham. Their distinctive and groundbreaking choreography is created using a fusion of dance styles, acrobatics, fiber optics, and electro-luminescent technology.

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Sponsor

Portland Opera Puccini in Concert Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon

Aerialist Brandy Guthery flying high to Pink Floyd’s cerebral soundscape “Dark Side of the Moon” performed by Love Gigantic. Photo: Kevin Hlas

Dark Side: A Piece For Assorted Lunatics
B. Movement Project, artistic director Brandy Guthery, and Love Gigantic
January 19-21
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 N.E. Alberta St., Portland

Portland’s all-star rock band Love Gigantic will perform Pink Floyd’s cerebral soundscape “Dark Side of the Moon” in its entirety, accompanied by aerial performer Brandy Guthery. Guthery was the co-director and founder of Portland’s AWOL Dance Collective and now directs her company, B. Movement Project. The band features Sarah King, Arthur Parker, and David Langenes (Nowhere Band), Chet Lyster and Joe Mengis (Eels), Jenny Conlee-Drizos (The Decemberists), Michael Nelson (Climber), and Kristi Evans and Jon VanCura (Marchfourth).

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LED, from Boise, Idaho, presented by White Bird, will present “Kid Lightning,” directed by Lauren Edson, featuring both LED and Portland’s Open Space dancers. Photo: Daniel Rosenthal

Kid Lightning
LED, artistic director Lauren Edson
Presented by White Bird as part of the Uncaged Series 
January 25-27
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Ave., Portland

Kid Lightning takes the audience on an adventurous wild ride back in time to the world of 1970s game show competitions. Each contestant pushes the limits to claim fame, only to discover it was more than they bargained for.

Boise, Idaho’s LED (Lauren Edson Dance) was named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2020. The company is the sister company to Portland’s Open Space, directed by Franco Nieto, who also dances for LED. They create projects, whether dance, film, or music, full of imagination and intense physicality. Edson founded LED in 2015 with her husband, songwriter, composer, producer, and musician Andrew Stensaas, and creates works in collaboration with the company dancers, musicians, designers, and technicians.

Edson received her training at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and The Juilliard School and was a celebrated dancer with the Trey McIntyre Project for many years. She returned to her hometown with a desire to build a community of artists and artmaking practices that inspire risk-taking, greatness, and sustainability.

Sponsor

Portland Opera Puccini in Concert Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon

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A retrospective of work by Linda Austin in photos. Photos courtesy of Linda Austin.

Linda Austin’s 70th Birthday “Roast”
6 p.m. January 28
Performance Works NW, 4625 S.E. 67th Ave., Portland
Linda Austin, the Founding Artistic Director of Performance Works NW, is turning 70! 

Austin, who grew up in Medford, Oregon, and attended Lewis & Clark College, is an award-winning dancer, choreographer, performance artist, and writer who founded Performance Works NW in 1999 with technical director and husband Jeff Forbes. PWNW is a studio theater in Southeast Portland that engages artists and audiences in experimentation, creation, and dialogue around contemporary performance. Austin’s work, which she has been making since 1983, is both improvisational and highly choreographed. It contains interesting and unusual visual elements, is humorous and poetic, and purposefully disrupts what is considered dancerly. 

In celebration of her birthday, Performance Works NW will host a party to raise funds to support Performance Works NW and its artist-centric projects. The evening includes short “roasts” from close friends; drinks, tacos, a raffle, karaoke, and dancing. Arrive early for a seat at a table!

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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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Corrib Theatre From a Hole in the Ground Contemporary Irish Theatre Alberta House Portland Oregon
Kalakendra Indian Classical Instrumental Music First Congregational Church Portland Oregon
Portland Opera Puccini in Concert Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon
Portland Center Stage at the Armory Coriolanus Portland Oregon
Cascadia Composers May the Fourth be with you Bold new music for winds and piano Lincoln Recital Hall PSU Portland Oregon
Chamber Music Northwest Imani Winds and BodyVox Beautiful Everything The Reser Beaverton Oregon
Portland Columbia Symphony Adelante Voices of Tomorrow Beaverton and Gresham Oregon
Newport Visual and Performing Arts Newport Oregon Coast
Kalakendra Indian Classical Instrumental Music First Congregational Church Portland Oregon
Triangle Productions Perfect Arrangement Portland Oregon
NW Dance Project Moving Stories Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
Oregon Repertory Singers Finding Light 50th Season Portland Oregon
Portland Playhouse Passing Strange Portland Oregon
Imago Theatre Carol Triffle Mission Gibbons Portland Oregon
Maryhill Museum of Art Goldendale Washington
Portland State University College of the Arts
Bonnie Bronson 2024 Fellow Wendy Red Star Reed College Reception Kaul Auditorium Foyer Portland Oregon
PassinArt Theatre and Portland Playhouse present Yohen Brunish Theatre Portland Oregon
Pacific Maritime Heritage Center Prosperity of the Sea Lincoln County Historical Society Newport Oregon Coast
Portland Art Museum Virtual Sneakers to Cutting Edge Kicks Portland Oregon
High Desert Museum Sasquatch Central Oregon
Oregon Cultural Trust donate
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