Oregon Cultural Trust

May DanceWatch: A culturally rich month of dance and music

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month brings with it a wealth of cultural dance and music, joined by a rich array of performances from across Oregon’s dance community.


May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month – a month dedicated by the U.S. Congress in 1992 to celebrate and recognize the history, concerns, contributions, and achievements of Asian and Pacific Americans. May was chosen because the first Japanese immigrants began to arrive in the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which Chinese immigrants primarily built, was on May 10, 1869. Nationally it’s a month full of cultural activities, from dance, music, arts, workshops, lectures, and exhibits, and, here in Oregon, we are lucky to have it all! Check out the May DanceWatch listing below so you don’t miss a moment of the revelry.

A new take on Alice and Wonderland by MOMIX. Photo by Sharen Bradford.

Artistic Director: Moses Pendleton
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm, May 3 
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland

Join Connecticut-based illusionist dance company MOMIX as they follow Alice down the rabbit hole in this inventive work based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Illuminating the world unexpectedly, the company transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary with imaginative lighting, fantastical costumes, bizarre props, absurd logic, and the ever-amazing human body.

Pathways dancer Ceren Atalay dancing by the water with cellist Hannah Hillebrand. Photography by Josh Murry-Hawkins.

Pathways Dance Company and Ping & Woof Opera
May 4-6 
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont Street, Portland

Portland-based Pathways Dance Company (co-directed by Kelly Koltiska and Amelia Unsicker Logan) and Ping & Woof Opera unite for a live performance, pairing contemporary modern dance with works by Chopin, Schubert, Debussy, Faure, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, and more! Ping & Woof Opera director and vocalist Jocelyn Claire Thomas, cellist Hannah Hillebrand, and pianist Hannah Brewer come together, imbuing excellence and mastery of their art.

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 & Recreation. Unsicker Logan, a Portland native, received her Master of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of California, Irvine. She has danced with Pacific Festival Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Agnieszka Laska Dancers, and Jamuna Chiarini, to name a few.

Reed College dance students performing. Photo courtesy of Reed College Dance Department.

Reed College Spring Dance Concert
May 5-6
Reed College, Greenwood Theater, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd., Portland
Free and open to the public. Masks required. Space is limited. 
Make your reservation here.


All Classical Radio James Depreist

The Reed dance department presents an evening of dynamic new works by students and faculty member Oluyinka Akinjiola that highlights the dancers’ breadth and depth in tap, ballet, ring shout, Afro-Brazilian, and contemporary dance. 

The dancers of Wild Rumpus Jazz Co. hammin’ it up in rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Wild Rumpus Jazz Co.

Thank You for Being a Friend
Wild Rumpus Jazz Co.
7:30 pm, May 5-13
Polaris Dance Theater, 1820 NW 18th Avenue, Portland

Before closing up shop after a seven-year run, Wild Rumpus Jazz Co., co-founded by Kelsey Adams and Lucy Brush, will perform together one last time in a retrospective of their journey. The compositions are rooted in the American tradition of Jazz dance, which is rooted in African American vernacular dance, giving a humorous jazzy twist to a variety of unlikely subjects such as Frankenstein on a first date, campfire stories, possessed tap shoes, and a game of Clue, to name a few.

OBT dancers Chris Kaiser and Bailey Shaw join the Sultanov Ballet Academy students for a magical night of dance. Image courtesy of the Sultanov Ballet Academy.

Swan Lake
Sultanov Ballet Academy
May 6-7
Lake Oswego High School Auditorium, 2501 Country Club Rd., Lake Oswego

The Sultanov Ballet Academy presents their Spring Showcase, a two-act ballet performance featuring Oregon Ballet Theatre guest artists Chris Kaiser and Bailey Shaw and the Academy students. In Act One, the artists will present a rendition of the second act from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” which tells the enchanting story of Odette and the swans with their graceful movements and emotive expressions. During the second act, audiences will be treated to a showcase of classical and contemporary works that highlight the range and versatility of ballet as an art form. From the grandeur of the classical repertoire to the innovation of modern choreographers, the students will take their audience on a mesmerizing journey through the world of dance.

The Vancouver Jasmine Dance Troupe performing at Lan Su Chinese Garden. Photo courtesy of Lan Su Chinese Garden.

AANHPI Heritage Month: Celebrate Our Stories
May 6-28
Lan Su Chinese Garden, 220 NW 2nd Avenue, Suite 1050, Portland
May 6, FREE ADMISSION DAY – in partnership with Oregon Rises Above Hate
May 7, 13, 20, and 27, Cultural Immersion Days – highlighting different AANHPI cultures
May 6 – 28, Threading Together – a unique exhibit showcasing traditional AANHPI attire

Gather at Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland for a month-long celebration of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage. Over 20 Oregon-based cultural organizations, performers, and artists will be represented in the garden’s festivities, highlighting the stories, the culture, and the expressions of the AANHPI communities. Check the calendar for the schedule of activities.


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Eugene-based Ballet Fantastique presents a reimagining of the legend of Robin Hood with new resonance, power, and voices. Photo courtesy of Ballet Fantastique.

Robin Hood & Maid Marian
Presented by Ballet Fantastique 
May 11-14
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Silva Concert Hall, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

Ballet Fantastique’s mother-daughter creative team, Donna Marisa and Hannah Bontrager, present “Robin Hood & Maid Marian,” a reimagining of the legend of Robin Hood with new resonance, power, and voices. The ballet features a full-length commissioned score by LA-based Liza Carbé with JP Durand, known for their work with Entertainment Tonight and Paramount movies and TV, played live by Nottingham. The performance features fight choreography by Lord of the Rings Guest Fight Choreographer Michelle Ladd Williams; guest artist Raymond Silos of Cirque du Soleil; an international cast of dancers; and Fredrick Davis, a former principal dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem whose story was the subject of the PBS documentary, “From the Streets to the Stage: A Black Man in a ‘White’ Art.”

“The Message” is featured in the Nature is Dancing program as part of BodyVox’s CineVox Dance Film Festival, a film created by Oregon Ballet Theater artist Makino Hayashi and the Artists Climate Collective. Photo by Skye Stouber.

CineVox Dance Film Festival
Presented by BodyVox
May 11-13 
BodyVox, 1201 NW 17th Avenue, Portland

A passionate advocate and producer of dance and film, BodyVox presents four thematic film programs that explore the vast possibilities of the relationship between these two art forms. The programs are: Nature is Dancing, collaborations between humans and nature; The Human Condition, which explores the essence of the human spirit; Tales of Two Choreographers, which showcases the work of choreographers and dancers Hans van Manen and Sir Robert Cohan; and Grounds That Shout!, a documentary project curated by Reggie Wilson featuring eight choreographers and dance groups performing at three historic churches in Philadelphia.

The Sebé Kan Youth African Dance Company returns to the stage after three years with a performance featuring special guest choreographers and musicians. Image courtesy of Sebé Kan Youth African Dance Company.

“The Return” featuring the Sebé Kan Youth African Dance Company
7 pm, May 12
Grant High School Auditorium, 2245 NE 36th Avenue, Portland

Returning for their first evening-length show since before the pandemic, Derrell Sekou Soumah Walker’s Sebé Kan Youth African Dance Company will be joined by several world renowned artists in West African music, song, and dance. Among the special guests joining Sebé Kan are Magatte Fall, three-time Grammy Award winner and credited drummer/composer for “Black Panther;” Kara Mack, Hollywood choreographer and founder of Africa in America; percussionists Jelani Blunt and Foluso Mimy; balafon player Naby Camara; and vocalist and dancer Lesina Martin. The music and dance will have the audience on their feet and moving to the powerful and beautiful traditional West African rhythms performed by talented young Portland artists.

The Portland Ballet presents a mixed program of current and classic dances. Photo courtesy of The Portland Ballet.

The Portland Ballet
May 12-13
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave, Portland

The Portland Ballet School Curriculum and Career Track program students will perform a blend of modern and traditional pieces in the upcoming Current/Classic program. Included is the world premiere of Tom Gold’s “Carnival of the Animals,” excerpts from “Paquita” (which tells the story of a young Romani girl in Spain who saves and falls in love with a French officer, only to discover later that she is actually of noble birth and that the officer is her cousin), and a new contemporary work called “Innominate,” choreographed by freelance dance artist and TPB director of community engagement Nick Le-Jurica.


Oregon Cultural Trust

“The Little Mermaid,” the newest ballet by artistic director Toni Pimble, makes its premiere at Eugene Ballet this month. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

The Little Mermaid 
Eugene Ballet With live music by OrchestraNEXT 
May 20-21
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Silva Concert Hall, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

Journey to the bottom of the sea with The Little Mermaid, Eugene Ballet’s newest ballet by artistic director Toni Pimple. Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale comes to life with live music by Orchestra Next, fantastical costumes, stunning visuals, and captivating dancing.

The Taiwan Acrobatic Troupe represents the creative and diverse ethnic culture of Taiwan in their production of Taiwan Reminiscence. Photo courtesy of The Taiwan Acrobatic Troupe.

Taiwan Reminiscence (A Celebration of Taiwanese American Heritage Week)
Presented by the Taiwan Acrobatic Troupe and the Taiwanese Association of Greater Portland 
6:30 pm May 21
The Reser, 12625 SW Crescent Street, Beaverton

Inspired by the creative and diverse ethnic culture of Taiwan, Taiwan Reminiscence fuses traditional acrobatics with dance, drama, and folk arts in a two-part, 80-minute program that incorporates Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, Indigenous music, and an array of natural Taiwanese scenery to describe the Tawainese’s nostalgic journey away from home. 

The classical dances of India will be presented on May 25. Image courtesy of Sitara Lones/Circle Community Dance & Wellness.

Kathak Legacy – An Evening of Classical Indian Dance
Presented by Sitara Lones/Circle Community Dance & Wellness
7:30 pm, May 25
Portland Community College, Performing Arts Center, SW 49th Ave., Portland

Sitara Lones, a Portland-based, Afghani-born Kathak dancer, and founder/director of Circle Community Dance, presents Kathak Legacy-An Evening of Classical Indian Dance. Lones and Circle’s mission is to foster dance curiosity, promote cultural awareness, and improve community access to diverse dance experiences. The program features torchbearers from three major Kathak lineages (gharanas); Vidushi Mamta Maharaj (Lucknow gharana), daughter of the late Pt. Birju Maharaj, Ragini Maharaj (Lucknow gharana), granddaughter of the late Pt. Birju Maharaj and daughter of Deepak Maharaj, Durgesh Gangani (Jaipur Gharana), grandson of the late Pandit Sundarlal Gangani and son of Pandit Jagdish Gangani, and Vishal Krishna (Benaras Gharana), grandson of the late “Kathak Queen” Sitara Devi and great-nephew of the late Pt Gopi Krishna.

Kathak, a classical dance form from Uttar Pradesh in Northern India, is one of the eight major forms of Indian classical dance. It is believed to have originated from traveling bards known as Kathakars or storytellers who communicated stories from the great epics and ancient mythology through dance, songs, and music. Accompanied by Hindustani music, Kathak involves fast footwork, pirouettes, lyrical miming, delicate hand gestures, subtle facial expressions, rhythmic improvisation, and powerful poses that bring the climactic moments to life.


Oregon Cultural Trust

Performers with Revelers Aerial Works flying high in their new production, “The Electric Diamond Heist.” Photo courtesy of Revelers Aerial Works.

Revelers Aerial Works: The Electric Diamond Heist
Presented by Revelers Aerial Works
May 25-27
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Soreng Theater, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

In “The Electric Diamond Heist,” a teenager searching for their estranged sister becomes caught in a battle between two groups of thieves in the streets of 1980s America. The factions fight over a rare and valuable jewel, resulting in a high-stakes showdown. The Eugene-based Revelers Aerial Works takes a classic heist story to new heights, showcasing aerial feats, an 80s soundtrack, captivating circus performances, stunning acrobatics, and dazzling special effects. 

“Stories of the Pacific” features Polynesian culture, history, and legends through music and dance. Photo courtesy of Teva Oriata Polynesian Dance Troupe.

Stories of the Pacific
Teva Oriata Polynesian Dance Troupe
2:00 pm, May 27
The Reser, 12625 SW Crescent Street, Beaverton

Join the Oregon-based Teva Oriata Polynesian Dance Troupe for “Stories of the Pacific,” a showcase of Polynesian culture, history, and legends through music and dance performed by students of all ages. The production features a kaleidoscope of colorful costumes, rhythmic sounds, and passionate performances as the performance travels across Tahiti, Hawai’i, Samoa, and Aotearoa. 


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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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