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July DanceWatch: Tiny dances, miles to go, beating pulses, shadows in the dark

As summer rises, dance goes outdoors and site-specific (and sometimes stays inside on theater stages, too).


It’s July! Along with sunny skies and warmer days, finally, come outdoor performances—site-specific ones, to be exact. Site-specific dance is defined as dancing outside the conventional theater setting, conceived with a particular location in mind or relating to a site, which encompasses a lot. Not a new concept, though: most indigenous cultures already dance in various outdoor or non-theater spaces, for a wider variety of reasons than Western cultures. But what’s unique about it is that it animates and redefines spaces in surprising and magical ways, and helps us see our “ordinary” surroundings in a new light. 

In the West, site-specific dance performances emerged as a movement in the 1960s and ’70s from postmodern choreographers like Trisha Brown and Pina Bausch, Merce Cunningham, and the Judson Church Group, among others, as a response to the rigid culture around them. Site-specific dance refuses to be confined. You can see it on sidewalks, in town squares, in museums, hanging off the sides of buildings, rooftops, bridges, airports, forests, beaches, pretty much anywhere. 

This month offers two outdoor site-specific dance performance opportunities for you to see and two indoor ones. Ten Tiny Dances is back at the Beaverton Farmers Market with ten new dances on a four-by-four stage. And the aerial dance company A-wol Dance Collective will be swinging limb to limb in trees under the stars at Mary S. Young State Park. 

In addition, Linda Austin will be traveling onto the second mile of her new durational work, 3 miles of possible, throughout the space at Performance Works NW. And Muffie Delgado Connelly and Tahni Holt will be addressing the body and its multiple forms in the former industrial building, Building Five. 

It’s going to be a great summer. Enjoy!

Performances this month:

Portland choreographer Jessica Zoller performing her work at Ten Tiny Dances in Beaverton. Photo courtesy of the Beaverton Arts Program.

10 a.m.-noon July 9 
Beaverton City Park, 12500 SW 4th St., Beaverton 


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Ten dance groups will perform on a 4-by-4 foot stage, revealing unlimited creative potential. Founded in 2002 by Portland dance artist Mike Barber, Ten Tiny Dances has become a staple of Oregon’s dance scene. The object of the game is to uncover as many creative solutions to choreographing on a small stage as possible, offering the audience a rich alternative viewing experience. Sometimes the dancers perform on the stage, sometimes under. Sometimes the stage is turned on its side or even hacked to bits. You never know. The possibilities are infinite.

Featured performers include Samuel Hobbs, Jessica Zoller, FaceKing, Sweta Ravisankar, Tracy Broyles, Painted Sky/Northstar, Grupo Ritual Azteca Huitzilopochtli, Rebecca Chadd, Donna Mation, and Akela Jaffi. 

Portland dance artist Linda Austin performing in her new solo, 3 miles of possible. photo by Jeff Forbes

3 miles of possible (the first 2 miles)
Performance Works NW | Linda Austin Dance
July 10-16 Cancelled
July 18-22
Performance Works NW, 4625 S.E. 67th Ave.

Dance and performance artist Linda Austin presents the second mile of her new durational solo, 3 miles of possible. The first mile was presented in fall 2021. She explores what’s possible in a world of fluctuating personal, material, political, and artistic contingencies. Within the work, Austin travels along spatial paths, animating objects, text, sound compositions, and choreography, touching upon ideas of utopian longings, possible world theory, and modal logic.

Audiences can view the first mile, the second mile only, or both miles back to back. Each mile will last about one and a half hours, and audiences can come and go, change seats as they like, and enjoy refreshments in the backyard. The entire three miles will be performed on summer solstice 2023.

Austin is an award-winning dancer, choreographer, performance artist, and writer who founded Performance Works NW in 1999 with technical director 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. 

Pulse Mountain
Muffie Delgado Connelly and Tahni Holt 
July 21-23
Building Five, 2516 N.W. 29th Ave.


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Portland choreographers Muffie Delgado Connelly and Tahni Holt join with composers Luke Wyland and Maxx Katz to present Pulse Mountain, a new work that delves into bodies: land bodies, ancestor bodies, kid bodies, aging bodies, and no bodies. 

Connelly, who has received numerous awards and has presented her choreography nationally, describes her work as a curative strategy for fostering resilience and growth. Her interests lie in decolonizing dance, amplifying the disqualified, erased, silenced, and disappeared, the experience of being biracial, and, in her words, “being a fat, Indigenous mother.”

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Holt is endlessly curious about what lies in the in-between. For her, dancemaking is a way to imagine and question the things that cannot be named and find new meanings for the things that can. Holt has shown her work nationally and internationally. Among other accolades, awards, and residencies, in 2017 she received the Barney Award commission through White Bird dance for her work Sensation/Disorientation.

Art in the Dark 2020. Photo courtesy of A-WOL Dance Collective.

ART in the DARK: Glass Shadows 
A-WOL Dance Collective    
July 28-August 6
Mary S. Young State Park, 19900 Willamette Drive, West Linn

Every summer, you can find the dancers of A-WOL Dance, an acronym for Aerial Without Limits, suspended from trees under the stars in their annual Art in the Dark performance along the Willamette River at Mary S. Young Park in West Linn. This dynamic and powerful troupe of dancers creates magic as its members twist and twirl their way through the treetops, creating an unpredictable performance that lives between the tangible and the ethereal.

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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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