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June DanceWatch: Unity in Diversity

Jamuna Chiarini takes a deep dive into Indian dance this month with a look at a performance of the epic "Ganga to Kaveri," plus productions from NW Dance Project, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Danielle Ross, and more.


The Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada, Brahmaputra, and Kaveri are five major rivers that flow through India and are essential to people’s daily lives. Each has a mythological story about its creation, and bathing in them is said to purify the soul and wash away sins and misfortunes.

Ganga to Kaveri, a dance production opening in Portland on June 17, personifies the phrase “Unity in Diversity,” encapsulating the importance of these rivers, their diverse landscapes and communities around them, their origin stories, and the dance styles of each region they flow through.

Produced and curated by Utsav Music’s Churchill Pandian, a freelance journalist and cultural conceptualizer, curator, producer, director, and impresario for Indian Classical Fine Arts, with music by Praveen D Rao, and presented by Yashaswini Raghuram (with her Guru Aparupa Chatterjee as a coordinator), Ganga To Kaveri gathers Portland’s vast Classical Indian Dance community to bring the rivers and their stories to life. 

Students of Sivagami Vanka’s Kalabharathi School of Dance. Photo courtesy of Yashaswini Raghuram.

The production features Sivagami Vanka’s Kalabharathi School of Dance as the river Kaveri in the Bharatanatyam style of Indian Classical Dance. Bharatanatyam is one of the nine Indian Classical dance styles from South India, and, like many other styles of Indian dance, interprets Hindu mythology and spirituality and can trace its roots back to the Natya Shastra, the ancient Sanskrit text on the performing arts written between 200 BCE and 500 CE.

Celebrating her 29th year in Oregon, the award-winning Vanka has performed internationally and has taught children to adults who have performed roughly 300 times in the last 15 years. She is a prolific choreographer whose subjects range from ancient Hindu mythology to modern social themes. 

Students of Anuradha Ganesh’s Nartana Kuchipudi. Photo courtesy of Yashaswini Raghuram.

Anuradha Ganesh and the students of her school Nartana Kuchipudi will perform as the river Yamuna in the Kuchipudi style of Indian Classical Dance. Kuchipudi, from Andhra Pradesh, is characterized by quick footwork, dramatic characterization, expressive eye movements, and emotional narrative. Ganesh has won many accolades and was awarded a scholarship from the Indian government to train in Kuchipudi. She studied under her Guru, the late Shrimati Chitti Durga Devi, and has been a teacher and choreographer for three decades. 

Students of Sweta Ravisankar’s Sarada Kala Nilayam. Photo courtesy of Yashaswini Raghuram.

Sweta Ravisankar and her school Sarada Kala Nilayam will perform as the river Narmada in the style of Bharatanatyam. Ravisankar is a performing artist, teacher, and choreographer who began her journey three decades ago as a student of Guru Padmini Radhakrishnan and Guru Roja Kannan. Sweta holds a Master’s in Bharatanatyam and teaches dance in addition to Nattuvangam (cymbals).


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Students of Shivani Joshi’s Shivaanjani. Photo courtesy of Yashaswini Raghuram.

Shivani Joshi and students from her school, Shivaanjani, will perform Kathak as river Ganga. Kathak is from Uttar Pradesh in Northern India and is accompanied by Hindustani music that involves fast footwork, pirouettes, lyrical miming, delicate hand gestures, subtle facial expressions, rhythmic improvisation, and powerful poses that bring the climactic moments to life.

Joshi, who performs and teaches Kathak dance and Hindustani voice, began her classical dance training with Sivgami Vanka and completed her Bharatanatyam Arangetram in 2014. Shivani perused Kathak training with Guru Urmila Nagar and completed her Master’s under Dr. Santosh Vyas. After receiving a scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Shivani studied at the National Institute of Kathak Dance, a subsidiary of Sangeet Natak Academy in New Delhi, under Pandit Rajendra Kumar Gangani. Joshi also has a Master’s in Hindustani vocal music. She has trained under her mother, Dr. Nisha Joshi, and her teachers in India, Ms. Kamal Rani, and Mr. Sukhdev Sagar, in Hindustani vocal music.

Odissi dancer and teacher Dr. Aparupa Chatterjee surrounded by the Odissi Dance Company. Photo by Debojyoti Dhar.

Dr. Aparupa Chatterjee and the Odissi Dance Company will perform as the river Brahmaputra in the Odissi style of Indian Classical Dance. 

Odissi originated in India’s eastern state of Odisha and combines emotional expression with intricate footwork, sculptural poses, and storytelling and is distinctive in its tribhangi pose, which consists of three bends in the body (at the neck, waist, and knee), creating an “S” curve in the body.

Chatterjee has been an award-winning senior Odissi performer and teacher for two decades. She is the founder and artistic director of Odissi Dance Company, one of North America’s first actively touring Odissi dance companies. Dr. Chatterjee has curated multiple dance festivals throughout India and the United States, choreographed unique neo-classical Odissi works, and has launched several successful professional dancers and teachers.

The performance is an excellent opportunity for audiences to see Indian classical dance styles side by side to understand the similarities and differences, learn about the geography of India’s rivers and their accompanying mythology, and appreciate the enormity of Portland’s Indian dance community and their commitment to carrying on their dance traditions. Ganga to Kaveri will be performed at the HECSA Portland Balaji Temple, Grand Auditorium, 6100 SW Raab Road, Portland, on June 17 at 6 pm. 

Performances in June


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Poster for The Sounds of Afrolitical Movement. Photo courtesy of Portland Playhouse.

The Sounds of Afrolitical Movement
May 26-June 18
Portland Playhouse, 602 N Prescott Street, Portland 

Experience The Sounds of Afrolitical Movement, co-created by Ramona Lisa Alexander, Oluyinka Akinjiola (artistic director of Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater), Darrell Grant, and Charles Grant. An immersive show that takes you through past, present, and future resistance, the audience is guided by this diverse ensemble of artists from various practices and protests. Witness the power of protest, the cleansing of baptism, and the stillness of self-reflection through music, dance, and ritual. Take advantage of this unique and transformative experience, running through June 18 at Portland Playhouse.

“Dancers of Lineage,” a new work by Danielle Ross and dancers. Photo by Sarah Marguier.

Created by Danielle Ross in collaboration with Muffie Delgado Connelly, Allie Hankins, Hannah Krafcik, and Emma Lutz-Higgins
June 1-3
Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, 15 NE Hancock, Portland

Inspired by the loss of dance elders during the pandemic and the fragile attempt to maintain a connection through various forms of movement, Lineage, by Portland-based choreographer and performer Danielle Ross, explores how dance, family, and chosen lineages are expressed in our moving bodies. The work, which was made in collaboration with performers Muffie Delgado Connelly, Allie Hankins, Hannah Krafcik, and Emma Lutz-Higgins, sound designer Juniana Lanning, and lighting designer Brian Jennings, plays with how movement is transferred and repeated among performers through looping, transmission, and remembrance structures. The performance approaches lineage as a site of complicated emotions, including grief, trauma, nostalgia, joy, and ambivalence.

NW Dance Project presents two world premieres by Ihsan Rustem and Joseph Hernandez, both set to famous scores by Igor Stravinsky. Photo courtesy of NW Dance Project.

NW Dance Project
June 2-3
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland 

Ending its 20th year with a bang, NW Dance Project presents two world premieres by resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem and associate choreographer Joseph Hernandez. The pair take on two historically significant ballets to the music of Igor Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring and Petrushka, respectively, reimagining them through today’s lens. 

Notorious for the riots that supposedly occurred on its opening night in Paris, The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, premiered at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev for The Ballets Russes, the ballet captured a pagan celebration of spring: A young virgin, The Chosen One, sacrifices herself to the God of Spring by dancing herself to death. Rustem’s version looks at the ballet through the lens of The Chosen One, a fiercely rebellious soul who desires to shape the course of their destiny. 


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Petrushka is a ballet about a love triangle between three puppets brought to life. The music by Stravinsky is full of Russian folk tunes and spirit, which critics have lauded as a perfect fusion of music, ballet, choreography, and history.

Hernandez’s Petrushka takes aim at tradition from a place of criticism but also a place of love. The piece asks, “What remains when we try to separate beloved art pieces from their problematic nature?” “Is this even possible?” Through this piece, Hernandez hopes to uncover a realm of humanity and empathy beneath layers of history, politics, and the machinations of power. Trigger warning: This production references suicide. 

The cohorts of the New Expressive Works 14th residency. Photo courtesy of New Expressive Works.

New Expressive Works 14th Residency Cohort Performance
Choreography by JmeJames Antonick, Kenny Frechette, akela jaffi and grace eucker, and Sara Parker 
June 2-4
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont, Studio 2, Portland, in the WYSE building. (Use building doors located on the south side of the building.)

The New Expressive Works residency performance, founded in 2012 by Oregon Arts Commissioner and Former Portland Creative Laureate Subashini Ganesan-Forbes, features four choreographers who are chosen through an application process and are provided free rehearsal space and a stipend to create new work in a supportive environment, with no strings attached and no expectations of the final product. It has served 58 choreographers and approximately 300 collaborators. This year’s choreographers are JmeJames Antonick, Kenny Frechette, akela jaffi and grace eucker, and Sara Parker. 

You can learn more about the artists, their process, and their work by clicking here

At the end of this season, Oregon Ballet Theater bids farewell to two dancers, Makino Hayashi and Christopher Kaiser. Hayashi is one of four choreographers showing new work in “Made in Portland” about what makes Portland, Portland. Photo courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Made in Portland
Featuring choreography by Rena Butler, Makino Hayashi, Samuel Hobbs, and Hélène Simoneau
Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 8 – 11
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland

What does a ballet made in Portland, Oregon, look like? Is it abundant and green like its natural landscape? Does it highlight the city’s progressive politics and social justice movement, explore its unique food, music, and art culture or veer off into the weird and wild of old Portland? This question was posed to four choreographers – Princess Grace Award winner Rena Butler, Guggenheim Fellow Hélène Simoneau, push/FOLD Founder and Director Samuel Hobbs, and OBT’s own rising star, Makino Hayashi – who will become cultural explorers as they delve into what makes Portland, Portland. 


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Flyaway Productions in “Apparatus of Repair,” the final installment of The Decarceration Trilogy presented by Boom Arts. Photo courtesy of Flyaway Productions.

Apparatus of Repair
Presented by Boom Arts
By Flyaway Productions
Choreographed and directed by Jo Kreiter
June 9-11
Corner of NW 4th and Everett (outdoors), Portland
All performances will include a discussion with local activists working in Restorative Justice.

Apparatus of Repair is the culmination of a series of site-specific aerial dance and public art events addressing the effects of mass incarceration on the United States. Performed by a cast of five female dancers, who transform the internal healing process of restorative justice into a public performance, danced in the air and on the vertical surfaces of buildings.

A dancer from Ballet Folklorico Academia Gabriela. Photo courtesy of Ballet Folklorico Academia Gabriela.

Sembrando Flores
Ballet Folklorico Academia Gabriela 
12:00 pm, June 11
The Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, 12625 SW Crescent Street, Beaverton

The Beaverton-based Ballet Folklorico Academia Gabriela will present Sembrando Flores (Flourishing Flowers), a journey through the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Veracruz. The show will share the story of Mexico’s diversity through traditional dances intertwined with Mexico’s history, beautiful visuals, music, and costumes.

Choreographer Franco Nieto presents the world premiere of “Outsider,” a comedic and energetic take on how to reconcile being an outsider. Photo courtesy of Open Space.

Choreography by Franco Nieto, in collaboration with Open Space Artists and NØIR
June 15-17
Open Space Creative Container, Oregon Contemporary 8731 N. Interstate Ave., Portland

Open Space presents Outsider, the latest world premiere by artistic director Franco Nieto in collaboration with Open Space Artists and Portland street dancer NØIR. Nieto’s highly physical choreography explores the concept of otherness and zeroes in on our collective raw emotions. In collaboration with Open Space’s company artists, Nieto speaks to the human experience with a playful sense of humor. The work asks the question, what does it feel like to be left out? How can one define their individuality within a community? How can we connect when we are left out?

Ganga to Kaveri choreographers left to right: Shivani Joshi, Anuradha Ganesh, Sivagami Vanka, Dr. Aparupa Chatterjee, and Sweta Ravisankar. Photo courtesy of Yashaswini Raghuram.

Ganga to Kaveri
Produced and Curated by Utsav Music’s Mr. Churchill Pandian, Music by Praveen D Rao, and Presented by Yashaswini Raghuram with her Guru Aparupa Chatterjee as a coordinator.
6 pm, June 17
HESCA Portland Balaji Temple, Grand Auditorium, 6100 SW Raab Road, Portland


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Ganga to Kaveri is a dance production produced and curated by Utsav Music’s Churchill Pandian, a freelance journalist and cultural conceptualizer, curator, producer, director, and impresario for Indian Classical Fine Arts, with music by Praveen D Rao, and presented by Yashaswini Raghuram (with her Guru Aparupa Chatterjee as a coordinator), gathers Portland’s vast Classical Indian Dance community to bring the rivers of India and their stories to life.

The Oregon International Ballet Academy’s “Swan Lake” choreographed by artistic director Xuan Cheng. Photo courtesy of The Oregon International Ballet Academy.

Stages of Beauty
The Oregon International Ballet Academy
Choreography and production by Ye Li and Xuan Cheng 
June 22-23
The Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, 12625 SW Crescent Street, Beaverton

The Oregon International Ballet Academy (OIBA) will present Stages of Beauty, including a new work, Player, by executive director Ye Li . The work explores the different stages of growth and how our choices are interconnected, beginning with with OIBA’s youngest dancers, who showcase the playfulness of childhood and the games of chance and choice that children engage in. The work then gradually cycles through dances with increasingly older children, showing how the decisions we make and the paths we take in our lives play out in a myriad of ways. Player culminates with the stunning movements of guest actress Sarah Smith and soloists from OBT.

To complement this new work, more than forty-seven OIBA students and ten top-level student soloists will perform the full second act of Swan Lake, choreographed by artistic director Xuan Cheng, recently appointed Ballet Mistress of the world-renowned Hong Kong Ballet. Guest dancers include Oregon Ballet Theatre principal Brian Simcoe, Nicholas Sakai, Isichel Perez Rivero, Medea Cullumbine-Robertson, Isaac Lee, and guest actress Sarah Smith. 

Imposter/Switch” curators Kennedy Verrett, left, and Marissa Rae Niederhauser. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW.

Imposter/Switch #3
Curators: Marissa Rae Niederhauser and Kennedy Verrett
Participating artists: Ciela, Fernanda D’Agostino, Erin Boberg Doughton, Annika Mossberg, Daysmel Muniz (aka Dice), and Paul Susi
8:00 pm, June 24 
Performance Works Northwest, 4625 SE 67th Ave, Portland

In its third 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 Ciela, Fernanda D’Agostino, Erin Boberg Doughton, Annika Mossberg, Daysmel Muniz (aka Dice), and Paul Susi.


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The evening will also include a special video performance by Imposter/Switch #2 artist, painter Linnea Solveig (who contracted Covid the day before the show) will share a video of her musical composition.

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

Portland Belly dancer Emilie Lauren and member of Raqs Ayana Dance Collective. Photo by Casey Campbell Photography.

JamBallah NW
June 29 – July 2
Lewis and Clark College, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Rd, Portland

This four-day festival celebrates Middle Eastern dance and its American Fusion versions, featuring performances by regional, national, and international dance artists. The annual festival also includes a variety of classes for all levels, lectures, and an artisan vendor fair.

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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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