June is all about variety. Pick any show on the DanceWatch list this month and you’ll find a medley of work by different choreographers all in one evening. Travel back in time with Shaun Keylock Company and its revival of works by renowned Portland choreographers Josie Moseley and Gregg Bielemeier. Meditate on what it means to be an American and what American dance looks like with Oregon Ballet Theatre. And if you haven’t been able to travel, armchair travel to Mexico and soak up the culture with Ballet Folklorico Academia Gabriela.
This month, world premieres are also plentiful, from Keylock, Andrea Parson, Yoshito Sakuraba, and others. Experimental dance is also on the menu, with dancer and songwriter sophia tweed ahmad and the artists performing in the productions of Crossings at Performance Works NW: They’ll show up and collaborate with each other, having never worked together before, and let the chips fall where they may.
This June, in particular, also feels celebratory. One year ago this month, dancers began performing live again after the shutdown in March 2020 from the pandemic. I’m happy to report that everything on the list here is in person. Enjoy!
Performances this month:
Shaun Keylock Company
The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art Annex, 15 N.E. Hancock St.
Portland dance artist Shaun Keylock continues his initiative to preserve the choreographic work of LGBTQ+ and other elders, introducing a world premiere of his own alongside the historical work of renowned Portland modern dance choreographers Josie Moseley and Gregg Bielemeier.
Keylock’s choreography addresses the conflict between our desire to live and our inevitable mortality danced against the musical backdrop of Nico Muhly’s O Antiphon, a set of 8th-century celebratory Roman Catholic prayers recited during advent, the period leading up to Christmas.
Moseley’s With, an acclaimed duet choreographed in 1995 for Oregon Ballet Theatre, is poetic and expansive and refers to Moseley’s experience as a woman and a mother.
Bielemeier’s Lovely Beautiful, choreographed in 1996 and performed to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations, is a loose-limbed, quick-witted comedic homage to early modern dance; and S.K. Swan, a 1998 solo from his feature-length production, Odd Duck Lake, is set to the music of Portland’s 3 Leg Torso and features wacky costumes and zany characters.
Sophie Beadie, Annie Borden, Jillian Hobbs, Nicholas Le-Jurica, Aaron Petite, and Luke Dakota Zender are performing.
Americans Take Two
Oregon Ballet Theatre
Newmark Theatre, 111 S.W. Broadway
Americans Take Two features the works of three distinctly different American choreographic voices. The show features Fluidity of Steel by Darrell Grand Moultrie, Mirror, Mirror by Michelle Manzanales, and Big Shoes by BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland.
Fluidity of Steel explores an alternate view of masculinity and celebrates brotherhood, vulnerability, and physicality. Moultrie is a proud New Yorker born and raised in Harlem, a Juilliard graduate, and choreographs for ballet and contemporary dance companies as well as for commercials, film, and opera.
Mirror, Mirror reflects our collective “time out” imposed by the global pandemic and how that time helped us question what we prioritize in life. Manzanales originally planned for a career in business administration and finance but was drawn back to dance and became Ballet Hispanico’s rehearsal director and artistic associate and is now the director of Ballet Hispánico’s School of Dance.
Big Shoes is a playful, comedic look at how we grow into the shoes and clothes and adults we dress up as, as children. Roland and Hampton, co-artistic directors of BodyVox Dance Company in Portland, have been making dances and dance films for 25 years. Momix, Pilobolus, and ISO Dance were the companies they danced for before starting BodyVox, so their style is a mix of circus, mime, vaudeville, silent film, ballet, and contemporary dance techniques.
N.E.W. Residency Showing/sophia tweed ahmad 7:30 p.m. June 5 New Expressive Works, 810 S.E. Belmont St, Portland
Experimental dancer, songwriter, and queer child of Pakistani and Norwegian diasporas, sophia tweed ahmad, debuts a new work created during their New Expressive Works Residency. In describing the work, they say it “expresses waves of emotions through ancestral communion, lost conversations, gathering of stories and memories, deciphering what is mine or what is someone else’s.” They will decide what to carry forward and what to release through score-based choreography and a newly composed song.
NW Dance Project
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Ave.
NW Dance Project ushers in the summer season with two world premieres and a glimpse back to the company’s roots. Former NW Dance Project leading dancer Andrea Parson returns and premieres a new vision of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Japanese choreographer Yoshito Sakuraba, winner of the NW Dance Project 2015 Pretty Creatives International Choreographic Competition, creates a new work for the company that lies at the intersection of his interests in dance, photography, installations, plays, and films. NW Dance Project artistic director Sarah Slipper brings back her cinematic duet A Fine Balance from the company’s inaugural season in 2004. The dance was a finalist for the Benois de la Danse award in 2006 and was performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as part of the award’s gala celebration.
Presented by Performance Works NorthWest, Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, and Buckman Journal
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 S.E. 67th Ave.
In this collaborative work among Performance Works NorthWest, Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, and Buckman Journal, creative impulses come alive at the moment at the hands of the artists who have never met. Featured are dancers sophia tweed ahmad, Danielle Ross, and Akela Jaffi; musicians Michael Gamble, Machado Mijiga, and Cyrus Nabipoor; and poets Rich Perin, Emmi Greer, and Carolyn Supinka. Expect the unexpected.
Presented by Open Space Dance
7:30 p.m. June 17
Royal Durst Theatre, 3101 Main St., Vancouver, Wash.
Open Space Dance presents a collective reflection on the past, present, and future. Featured in the concert is the work of Keelan Whitmore, a former dancer with Alonzo King LINES Ballet and Tanz Theater Münster. Their work explores the archetypal hero, deriving inspiration from ancient mythologies, spiritual traditions, and literary histories. Franco Nieto, the artistic director of Open Space Dance and a Princess Grace Award winner, will showcase two works: Sheen, a duet that navigates each individual’s confined relationship to the pandemic; and terremoto waves, which investigates the concepts of a constantly changing environment. Co-Founder and School Director Charlene Hannibal will also present new works for the dancers of Open Space’s Young Artists Co. Hannibal’s Noctambulist is set to two Chopin Nocturnes and plays with the idea of “sleep-dancing” and the fractured yet seemingly real interactions we have in our dreams.
TOO MUCH, or maybe not enough
Pathways Dance Company
New Expressive Works, 810 S.E. Belmont St. (entrance is the South Eastern door of the WYSE Building.)
Portland choreographers Kelly Koltiska and Amelia Unsicker share an evening of choreography that examines connection, technology, climate change, vulnerability, and whimsy.
Koltiska is a freelance choreographer, dancer, and teacher. After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Choreography and Performance from the University of Montana, she moved to Portland and performed with Top Shake Dance and Happy Dog. Koltiska teaches community-focused classes through (com)motion and Portland Parks and Recreation. Unsicker, a Portland native, received her Master of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of California, Irvine, and has danced with Pacific Festival Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Agnieszka Laska Dancers, and Jamuna Chiarini, to name a few.
Que Bonita Es Mi Tierra (How Beautiful Is My Land)
Ballet Folklorico Academia Gabriela
12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. June 19
Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, 12625 SW Crescent St., Beaverton
Through the performance of traditional Mexican folk dance known as ballet (or baile, Spanish for “dance”) folklorico, colorful costumes, and vibrant music, Que Bonita Es Mi Tierra (How Beautiful is My Land) tells the story of Mexico’s history and its diverse traditions and cultures.
Broadway in Portland
Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay St., Portland
Andrew Lloyd Webber and T.S. Eliot’s Jellicle cats are coming to Portland and they are going to turn Keller Auditorium into a howling junkyard.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular name.
CATS tells the story of one mystical night when an extraordinary tribe of cats gathers for its annual ball and decides which cat will be reborn.
This production of CATS uses the original score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, original scenic and costume design by John Napier, and new choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton) based on the original choreography by Gillian Lynne and direction by Trevor Nunn (Les Misérables).
Portland Center Stage, 128 N.W. 11th Ave
Risk/Reward presents brand new work from seven groups from Portland to Seattle that blur the boundaries among dance, theater, music, and performance art.
This year’s Risk/Reward artists that are dance-specific are Wade Madsen, and Nancy Cranvourne from Seattle, Jenny May Peterson and Hendri Walujo from Seattle, Noelle Simone from Portland, and (not specifically a dancer, but someone who has worked extensively with dancers and dance companies) Portland lighting designer extraordinaire James Mapes. Mapes, who is also a board game designer, has designed a large-format tabletop video game where audiences will compete piece-by-piece to build the city of Portland on a giant digital game board set up in the lobby.
Madsen and Cranvourne get absurdist in their philosophical meanderings, asking questions like, “What is life? Is it performance? Are we all on stage?” etc.
Jenny May Peterson and Hendri Walujo have created a dance ritual sourced from internet workout fads, Hollywood death scenes, and trendy self-soothing techniques: “Together, we do our due diligence to avoid sudden accidental death and prepare for personal disaster.”
Noelle Simone, a dancer and choreographer from Portland, examines the mind of a Black woman suffering from anxiety, PTSD, and ADHD in a one-woman dance project dedicated to exploring the mental health and history of Black women and uncovering the support we need to flourish and thrive.
Inspired by Seattle’s Northwest New Works (NWNW) at On the Boards, Risk/Reward artistic director Jerry Tischleder started Risk/Reward in 2008 to help launch new work and create a community among artistic disciples to expose audiences to a variety of works in one sitting.