March DanceWatch: Alvin Ailey, ‘Secret Stories,’ Kalakendra and more

As the Oregon dance card fills up for a busy month of movement, a performance space goes away and another springs to life.

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We are on the cusp of spring. I am catching whiffs of flowers beginning to bloom, the earthy aroma of wet soil, and the air warming, promising the extraordinary Oregon spring and summers that I look forward to every year. Observing the season’s transition from one to another is a poignant reminder that life is cyclical. Everything, a day, a person, a project, has a beginning and an ending. Everything has its time, and then it comes to a close. This is the natural order of things, as sad as it seems sometimes. And I’m always amazed how when one thing ends, something else begins; you just have to sit back and wait and watch and see how the ending of one thing makes room for or becomes the beginning of something else. It’s fascinating. 

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This month, there are quite a few endings and beginnings to report: 

A few days ago, I sadly received the news that The Headwaters Theater, a cherished theater and rehearsal space in North Portland founded by Mizu Desierto and John Marc Schaelling, is closing its doors. The theater, known for its wild experimental dance and theater inquiry and performances, has been an integral part of the city’s creative community since 2007. The Headwaters has hosted events, workshops, and performances that explore ecological, social, and artistic perspectives. The theater’s mission has been to provide a welcoming space for embodied, cross-cultural exchange.

The reason for the closure is a lack of funding. The theater’s home page states that they “lost a major funder at the start of 2023 and are pursuing new funding strategies to keep from closing Headwaters and Waterline Studio at the end of this year.” Unfortunately, the goal of raising $50,000 was not met.

In an email, the theater announced that it would sell all its equipment, from lighting to the popcorn machine. If you want to say goodbye, pay homage, or purchase anything, head to the Headwaters Theater on February 28 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., or February 29 from 5 pm to 10 p.m.

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Sponsor

Portland Columbia Symphony Adelante Voices of Tomorrow Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

But out of the ashes, another theater has been reborn and beautifully renovated in Northeast Portland by Portland dancer and choreographer Jessica Burton and her partner. It is the Dekum Street Theater, at 814 N.E. Dekum Street. It already houses an artist in residence and a series of dance classes led by a rotating group of dynamic Portland teaching artists. Check out the website for details. 

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Meanwhile, contemporary dancer and choreographer Shaun Keylock announced that the Shaun Keylock Company “will relocate its operations to the newly developed studios of the Classical Ballet Academy, 5516 S.E. Foster Road, in Portland.”

“This move not only gives us access to purpose-built studios made for dance but also establishes our presence within the Foster-Powell neighborhood, creating a vibrant hub for dance history, creativity, and performance,” the company said in a press release. The facility comprises four studios, each outfitted with Marley flooring, mirrors, dressing rooms, and storage for archives and costumes. Additionally, Classical Ballet Academy is in the process of renovating the historic Day Theater — which is connected to their studios, was built in 1915, and was once a thriving location for music and arts — into a 200-seat black box theater exclusively for the performing arts. It will also double as a venue for the Keylock Company.

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Steve Paxton, a pioneering figure in the world of postmodern dance, passed away at his home in Vermont this week at age 85. He was widely regarded as the father of contact improvisation, a dance form that emerged in the 1970s and emphasizes spontaneous movement, physical interaction between dancers, and nonverbal communication through touch and weight-sharing. Paxton was a renowned dancer who worked with José Limón and Merce Cunningham and was a founding member of Judson Dance Theater and the improvisation collective Grand Union. Paxton’s legacy greatly influenced numerous Portland dance artists. If you want to learn more about Paxton’s life and work, you can read about him here in Dance Magazine. 

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Sponsor

Portland Columbia Symphony Adelante Voices of Tomorrow Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

Before delving into exciting upcoming dance offerings such as the return of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the solo performance by Portland Bharanatayam dancer Sweta Ravisankar, or the latest choreographic creations from the Alembic resident artists at Performance Works NW, you must explore the ArtsWatch reviews of dance performances from February.

Jean Zondervan previewed Eugene Ballet’s literature coming to life in “Portrait of Glass” and “Gatsby.” Martha Ullman West reviewed Trey McIntyre’s lush and lavish “Peter Pan” for Oregon Ballet Theatre. Hannah Krafcik reviewed ProLab’s “When We Were Ocean,” which melded dance, videography, music, poetry, and virtual reality. Elizabeth Whelan reviewed Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater’s “Rites of Passage,” which explored life’s transitions and one’s quest for self-actualization through an Afrocentric lens.

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Yours truly will be performing this month in Kalakendra’s fundraising extravaganza featuring an array of Oregon classical Indian and folk dancers. I will perform in a collaborative work between my Odissi teacher, Yashaswini Raghuram, and Bharanatayam teacher, Sweta Ravisankar, demonstrating the similarities and dissimilarities of the two dance forms. Life goes on. See you in the theater!

March Dance Performances

Dancers and musicians from the New York City-based Music From The Sole. Photo by Titus Ogilvie Laing.

I Didn’t Come to Stay
Music From The Sole, artistic directors Leonardo Sandoval and Gregory Richardson
Presented by White Bird
February 29-March 2
Newmark Theater, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland

Music From The Sole, a New York City-based dance company that celebrates the Afro-diasporic roots of tap dance and its connection to Afro-Brazilian dance and music, makes its West Coast debut with its latest work, “I Didn’t Come to Stay,” performed by eight dancers and a five-piece band directed by Brazilian choreographer Leonardo Sandovalone, one of Dance Magazine’s 25 To Watch, and composer and multi-instrumentalist Gregory Richardson. Through “I Didn’t Come to Stay,” the company reflects on the issues of racial and cultural identity while showcasing the joy, strength, depth, and virtuosity of Black dance and music.

Poster for Ballet Fantastique's performance of "Cinderella: The Rock Opera."
Photo courtesy of Ballet Fantastique.

Cinderella: The Rock Opera
Ballet Fantastique
February 29-March 3
Soreng Theater, Hult Center, One Eugene Center, Eugene

Sponsor

Portland Playhouse Passing Strange Portland Oregon

The dance floor is hoppin’ as prom weekend arrives in the ’60s. The jukebox pulsates with the infectious rhythms of The Beatles and The Supremes as the rebellious Cindy fearlessly embraces her rock’n’roll spirit in this rock ballet, reimagining the classic fairytale of Cinderella, featuring live music by Shelly James and The Agents of Unity.

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Bharatanatyam and Nattuvangam teacher and performer Sweta Ravisankar will perform "In Love With," a series of her favorite dances presented by Walters Cultural Arts Center in Hillsboro. Photo © Jimson Chalissery, courtesy of Sweta Ravisankar.
Bharatanatyam and Nattuvangam teacher and performer Sweta Ravisankar will perform “In Love With,” a series of her favorite dances presented by Walters Cultural Arts Center in Hillsboro. Photo © Jimson Chalissery, courtesy of Sweta Ravisankar.

In Love With
Sweta Ravisankar 
7:30 p.m. March 1 
Walters Cultural Arts Center, 527 E. Main St., Hillsboro

Sweta Ravisankar, an accomplished performer, teacher, and choreographer of Bharatanatyam and Nattuvangam, is set to present her own choreography and classic works she discovered and fell in love with during the pandemic. As the artistic director of Sarada Kala Nilayam from Portland, she will showcase both traditional and contemporary themes, asking, “What new am I bringing to the stage?”

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Poster for Kalakendra Performing Arts dance concert.
Photo courtesy of Kalakendra.

Nrityotsava
A benefit performance for Kalakendra 
An Evening of Indian Classical and Folk Dances by Regional Dancers
6 p.m. March 9
Lake Oswego High School,  2501 Country Club Road, Lake Oswego

As one of Portland’s most prominent and longest-running presenters of Indian performing arts, Kalakendra features Nrityotsava, an extravaganza of Indian classical dance. Portland-area Indian dance teachers, choreographers, and students will perform several styles of the South Indian dance Bharanatayam, Odissi from the East Indian state of Odisha, Kathak from North India, Kuchipudi from the southeastern coastal state of Andhra Pradesh, Bollywood dance, and more.

Sponsor

Portland Columbia Symphony Adelante Voices of Tomorrow Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

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Eugene Ballet Youth. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.
Eugene Ballet Youth. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

Northwest Dance Festival
Presented by Eugene Ballet Youth, Eugene Ballet Company
7:30 p.m. March 9
Hult Center, One Eugene Center, Eugene

The Eugene Ballet Youth troupe is celebrating its twelfth year by hosting an annual master dance series in Oregon. More than 100 dancers, choreographers, instructors, and artistic directors from around the state will participate in this weekend-long event. The series includes educational and motivational workshops, master classes, and performances. The highlight of the event is the culminating evening dance performance, which features five renowned dance companies from the Northwest. The show will present original choreography and repertoire created by emerging choreographers and aspiring dancers.

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"Revelations," by Alvin Ailey. Photo courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
“Revelations,” by Alvin Ailey. Photo courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Presented by White Bird
March 12-13
Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay Street, Portland

America’s first multicultural modern dance company, formed in 1958 by celebrated choreographer Alvin Ailey, will perform two different programs, both culminating in a performance of “Revelations,” Ailey’s 1960 work that explores joy and grief using African-American spirituals, song sermons, gospel songs, and the blues. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, now directed by Matthew Rushing, Ailey’s associate artistic director, was formed to preserve African-American culture and give opportunities to African-American dancers. Robert Battle, who had directed the company since 2011, resigned in November 2023.

On March 12, performances include: “Following the Subtle Current Upstream,” a dance by Alonzo King that delves into the deep connections between Western and Eastern classical forms; “Ode,” choreographed by former Ailey dancer Jamar Roberts, a meditation on the contrast between life’s beauty and the tragedy of gun violence; and “Revelations,” created by Ailey in 1960, and which explores themes of joy and sorrow using African-American spirituals, song sermons, gospel songs, and the blues.

Sponsor

Portland Center Stage at the Armory Coriolanus Portland Oregon

On March 13, the program will feature the following performances: “Dancing Spirit” by Ronald K. Brown is a tribute to Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison, embodying her elegance, vision, dignity, generosity, and profound influence; “Me, Myself and You” is a dreamlike duet by former Ailey dancer Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish, conjuring the memory of love and passion as a woman ponders whether to let go or forge ahead; “Solo” by Hans van Manen presents a tour de force explosion of virtuosity, wit, musicality, and movement as a single dance is performed by three dancers, each bringing their unique interpretation to the stage; and Ailey’s 1960 “Revelations.”

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Photo of Shen Yun dancers.
Photo courtesy of Shen Yun.

Shen Yun
Presented by Oregon Falun Dafa Association
March 14-17
Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay Street, Portland

The Shen Yun performing arts troupe, which was formed in New York City in 2006 in response to the Chinese Cultural Revolution by practitioners of the right-wing religious movement Falun Gong, explores Chinese culture through dance, music, and storytelling. This large-scale touring production, which has run afoul of the Chinese government by criticizing it, features folk dances from China’s many different regions. The orchestra combines Western and ancient Chinese instruments and singers performing in bel canto style. 

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Poster for "Dancing with the Stars" live performance at the Hult Center in Eugene.
Photo courtesy of Dancing with the Stars.

Dancing with the Stars: Live! – 2024 Tour
8 p.m. March 15
Hult Center, One Eugene Way, Eugene

Experience exciting ballroom dancing in this new production showcasing popular Dancing with the Stars professionals alongside special guest stars. The night promises a memorable experience, with performances in various dance styles, exceptional talent, TV magic, and nonstop entertainment.

Sponsor

Portland Opera Puccini in Concert Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon

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Poster for Heidi Duckler Dance NW's "Mother Other" festival of workshops,  movement classes, writing workshop, pop-up market and performances at the Las Adelitas community in Portland's Cully neighborhood.
Photo courtesy of Heidi Duckler.

Mother/Other @ Las Adelitas
Heidi Duckler Dance Northwest
March 18-24
Las Adelitas, 6723 N.E. Killingsworth St., Portland
Free

Named after the women warriors of the Mexican Revolution, Las Adelitas is an affordable housing development in Portland’s Cully neighborhood and the site of a free week-long festival produced by Heidi Duckler Dance Northwest. Honoring Women’s History Month, the festival includes free movement classes, a writing workshop, a pop-up market with local vendors, and a site-specific dance performance that intertwines art, culture, and community to offer residents of Las Adelitas and all Portlanders a platform for community-building and learning for all ages.

Check the website for details on workshop topics and times. No previous experience is required.

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Poster for NW Dance Project's program "Secret Stories."
Photo courtesy of NW Dance Project.

Secret Stories
NW Dance Project
March 29-30
Newmark Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway, Portland

Continuing NW Dance Project’s 20th Anniversary season celebration, “Secret Stories” features a vibrant and dynamic new work by Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, a dance theater piece by New York-based choreographer Nicole von Arx, and a quartet by NW Dance Project associate choreographer Joseph Hernandez, capturing an array of themes such as love, grief, hope, global warming, and the confluence of oppressive systems. More information on the works is available on the company website.

Sponsor

Chamber Music Northwest Imani Winds and BodyVox Beautiful Everything The Reser Beaverton Oregon

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Poster for "Alembic Artists in Performance" at Performance Works NW.
Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance.

Alembic Artists Performance
JmeJames Antonick, Patsy Morris, Katherine Longstreth, Emma Lutz-Higgins
March 28-31
Performance Works NW, 4625 S.E. 67th Ave., Portland
Sunday’s performance will be live-streamed

In residence at Performance Works NW since June 2023, the Alembic Artists are ready to share their ongoing creative endeavors with the public. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Performance Works NW-supported residency. It features artists JmeJames Antonick, Patsy Morris, Katherine Longstreth, and Emma Lutz-HIggins, whose work touches an array of subjects from healing practices of the body to examining dance’s role in our culture and the feelings of isolation and desire. 

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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
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