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May DanceWatch: From Harlem to the Moon

In the spirit of International Dance Day, a busy month in Oregon ranges from Dance Theatre of Harlem to a circus moon shot, steampunk Shakespeare, flamenco, contemporary and more.


Did you know that Friday, April 29, was International Dance Day? I didn’t until I opened FaceBook yesterday morning. My feed was flooded with beautiful dance photos from friends worldwide wishing everyone a “Happy International Dance Day!” It’s a good thing I’m late writing Dancewatch this month. If I had finished just a day earlier, I would never have been able to share with you this magical holiday. 

If you’d like to carry the day forward, this is how I think you should celebrate it. Get out of bed, drink a beverage of your choice (mine is coffee), turn your favorite music on, and dance until you can’t. Repeat, repeat, repeat, for the rest of your life. Add costumes, add friends, change your venue, change the music, and have fun. 

International Dance Day, a day to celebrate and promote dance worldwide, was created in 1982 by the Dance Committee of the ITI. The ITI, or International Theatre Institute, is a branch of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. The Dance Committee of the ITI supports UNESCO’s mission “to build a culture of peace through eliminating poverty, sustainable development, and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication, and information.” 

April 29 was chosen because it is the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre. Noverre has been credited with being the architect of modern ballet. Born in Paris in 1727 to a Swiss soldier in the service of the French Crown, Noverre chose to dance instead of following a military career. He studied dance with M. Marcel and Louis Dupré, making his debut at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1743.

Portrait of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810) by French painter Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, Louvre Museum, Paris. Wikimedia Commons

After a long career as a performer and ballet master at courts around Europe, including a stint as dancing master for Marie-Antoinette at the Paris Opéra, Noverre became dissatisfied with the outdated norms of ballet and called for reforms. Ballet at the time was a spectacle affair that primarily focused on elaborate costumes and scenery. Noverre preferred a more natural approach to ballet, which he wrote about in his famous manifesto Lettres sur la danse, et sur les ballets (Letters about the dance, and about ballets). Wikipedia translates nicely what Noverre’s Manifestor explored, which you can read more about here. Noverre wanted ballet to embody emotion and passion through free expression, movement, and realistic choreography. What emerged was the hybrid of expression and symbolism that we are accustomed to seeing in ballet today. 

2022 marks the 40th Anniversary of International Dance Day, so the celebration is momentous. This year’s online festivities include an address given by Kang Sue-jin, dancer and artistic director of the Korean National Ballet, and performances from dance companies in Georgia, Cuba, China, Burkina Faso, and Jordan. For more information on the performance, the program is available online here. The performance is an hour long and is available to watch here. Enjoy!

May Dance Performances

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana Dance Company performing in De la Frontera; a new work by José Maldonado and Karen Lugo, with an original score by Jose Luis de la Paz. Photo courtesy of the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts.

De la Frontera
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana Dance Company, directed by Carlota Santana
Presented by Patricia Reser Center for the Arts
7:30 pm May 3
Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, 12625 SW Crescent St., Beaverton


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Hailed by Dance Magazine as “The Keeper of Flamenco,” Manhattan-based Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana Dance Company presents De la Frontera. This new evening-length work, choreographed by José Maldonado and Karen Lugo, with an original score by Jose Luis de la Paz, investigates the human desire for deep connection. Founded in 1983 by Carlota Santana and Roberto Lorca, the company promotes flamenco as a living art form and a vital part of Hispanic heritage.


Portland movement artist, choreographer, dancer, and teacher Sara Parker. Photo by Mako Barmon.

the beast that blooms
Sara Parker Dance 
May 6 – 7 
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave, Portland

The beast that blooms is a multi-disciplinary dance and film work by Portland-based dance artist Sara Parker with a film by Skye Stouber. The dance describes a myriad of ideas including the cyclical nature of life, how opposites give each other meaning, esoteric anatomy, ritual, and storytelling. 

Parker is a movement artist, choreographer, dancer, and teacher with a B.S. in Dance from the University of Oregon and an MFA in Modern Dance from the University of Utah. In addition to chairing the dance program at Portland Community College for five years, she has also taught at AWOL Dance Collective, Oregon Ballet Theater, Conduit Dance Inc, Oregon State University, University of Oregon, and The University of Utah. Currently, she is on faculty at BodyVox Dance, where she choreographs for the Junior Artist Generator (JAG) program and teaches BodyVox Dance Company classes. 


Letters to the Moon
Tempos Contemporary Circus
May 6-8
A-WOL Dance Collective, 513 Northeast Schuyler Street, Portland


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The moon has existed for billions of years, and for some of that time, humans have worshiped it, written about it, sung about it, and used it to record time passing. For seven months, the artists of Tempos Contemporary Circus have individually written letters to the moon. From those, a new collaborative work was born. Combining circus arts, dance, narrative, physical theater, and live music, Tempos Contemporary Circus presents Letters to the Moon.


The dancers of Dance Theatre of Harlem. Photo by Rachel Neville

Higher Ground, Passage, and Balamouk
Dance Theatre of Harlem, artistic director Virginia Johnson
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm May 4

Eighteen dancers take the stage in this lively program featuring three distinctly different choreographic voices. Higher Ground by Dance Theatre of Harlem resident choreographer Robert Garland features music by Stevie Wonder and vibrant choreography that combines Black vernacular dance and classical ballet. Higher Ground celebrates the joys and frustrations of Blackness in America over the last 50 years. 

Passage by Claudia Schreier was created in 2019 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans in America. Schreier may be an unfamiliar name to many ballet audiences, but she is not new to the game. An accomplished artist who has choreographed more than 40 works, she received a Princess Grace Award for Choreography in 2018, and was named Choreographer in Residence at Atlanta Ballet in 2020. 

The third piece in the program is Balamouk, by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Balamouk, in Romanian, translates to ‘house of the insane” and is set to a raucous score by the French band Les Yeux Noir. The ballet is not narrative-based, and is vibrant and full of color and joyful movement. 

Ochoa is an award-winning and sought-after versatile choreographer who has created more than 70 works for dance companies worldwide. If you saw Ballet Hispanico perform in Portland in 2015 on the White Bird dance series, you might have seen her piece Línea Recta, a hybridization of flamenco and modern dance, dressed in red. 


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In 1969, at the height of the civil rights movement, the New York City Ballet soloist and famed protégé of George Balanchine Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem. The company has been a haven for dancers of all colors who craved training, performance experience, and an opportunity to excel in the classical ballet world.


A still from the film YEL, directed by Rima Pipoyan about how humans struggle internally with polarities. This film and many others are part of a film series presented by BodyVox called the CineVox Dance Film Festival. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

CineVox Dance Film Festival 
BodyVox, artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland
May 12-14 
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave, Portland

Always a proponent of any version of dance and film, BodyVox presents three thematic film programs to be screened live at the BodyVox Dance Center. They include an international film festival, a BIPOC film festival, and a full-length Swan Lake choreographed by Alexander Ekman for the Norwegian National Ballet. 


Lauren Kness performs Concerto in F in a performance produced by The Portland Ballet. Photo credit: Blaine Truitt Covert.

The Portland Ballet, artistic director Nancy Davis and executive director Jim Lane
May 13-14
Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park at Market, Portland

The Portland Ballet Presents an evening of dance spanning the decades from the 18th century to now. The performance mixes work by renowned Portland choreographer Gregg Bielemeier (his solo, S.K. Swan, of spinning ties to the music of 3 Leg Torso) with the 19th-century ballet Napoli, choreographed by Danish dancemaker August Bournonville in 1842. Also on the program: 


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Concerto in F, choreographed by John Clifford with music by George Gershwin. It’s a favorite of Portland Ballet’s artistic director, Nancy Davis who performed the ballet in 1976 when she danced for the Los Angeles Ballet, where Clifford was the artistic director. 

Gloria, by Dennis Spaight, the first resident choreographer of Oregon Ballet Theatre. Martha Ullman West described it in an article for Dance Magazine in 1994 as “his expression of agape–spiritual love–and a heartfelt visualization of Vivaldi’s work of the same name.” 

Q is a world premiere by Nick Le-Jurica, former TPB student and director of community outreach and engagement. It’s inspired by classical ballet’s essence and performed to Jordi Savall’s music. Le-Jurica received his BFA in dance at Juilliard in New York City. After graduation, he moved to Salt Lake City, where he danced with the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company and received teaching certifications in dance as education and therapy. 

With is by Portland choreographer Josie Moseley, who has been making work for more than 25 years. Both S.K. Swan and With will be performed by guest dancers of the Shaun Keylock Company.


Eugene Ballet’s new steampunk-inspired Taming of the Shrew choreographed by artistic director Toni Pimble. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

Taming of the Shrew
Eugene Ballet, artistic director Toni Pimble
May 14 – 15, 2022
Hult Center, Silva Concert Hall, 1 Eugene Way, Eugene

Was William Shakespeare a woman? Some think so, based on the authenticity of his female characters, which would have been difficult for a male writer to replicate in the 16th century. There were also many more heroines than heroes doing things like bucking betrothals, disguising themselves as men, and leading armies. So it’s possible: We’ll never really know for sure, but it’s fun to surmise. In Eugene Ballet’s new reimagined version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, artistic director Toni Pimble does just that and more. Fitted with brand new steampunk-inspired costumes designed by Pimble, three large set pieces built by metal sculptor Joe Mross, and music by a little-known 19th-century female composer Louise Farrenc played live by Orchestra Next, it tells a new tale. 


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Unit Souzou artistic director Michelle Fujii performing in “Constant State of Otherness.” Photo courtesy of Unit Souzou.

Constant State of Otherness
Unit Souzou, artistic directors Michelle Fujii and Toru Watanabe
Presented by Risk/Reward
May 20-22
Portland Opera, 211 SE Caruthers St, Portland

Inspired by experiences of isolation and displacement that come from not having a sense of home, six performers guide the audience on a four-part journey that combines taiko (Japanese drums), folk dance, song, and personal narratives to reveal the complexities and nuances of identity. 


The multigenerational dancers experimenting with children’s games as a means of deep inquiry. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis

Grammar of the Imagination
Conceived and directed by claire barrera
An Alembic Co-Production at Performance Works NW
May 20-22
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave, Portland

In this evening-length work, activist, social worker, and dance artist claire barrera examines how play can help radically reimagine new social norms. The intergenerational cast explores children’s games as a means of deep inquiry into how power, discipline, care, and transformation arise in interpersonal dynamics. The featured cast of performers includes youth Jordyn Kubernick, Nila Kwa, Paloma Barrera Rodriguez, and adults Linda Austin, Allie Hankins, and ArtsWatch contributor Hannah Krafcik. 



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Bharatha Natyam dancer and author Jayanthi Raman. Photo courtesy of Rasika.

Jayanthi Raman’s Margam: The Divine Path
Jayanthi Raman
Presented by Rasika
6:30 pm May 21
Dolores Winningstad Theatre, Antoinette Hatfield Hall, 1111 SW Broadway Ave., Portland

Combining live music, poetry by Oregon Poet Laureate Emeritus Paulann Petersen, and fourteen dancers, Portland Bharatanatyam choreographer, and author Jayanthi Raman will showcase the breadth and beauty of the classical Indian dance form Bharanatayam. Following the concert, Raman will release her third book, Bharatha Natyam: Dance of India. The book’s forward has been written by long-time Portland contemporary choreographer and Reed College Professor of Dance Carla Mann. 


Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Steven Pisano.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet, artistic directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm May 25
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland

New York’s fiercely dynamic Complexions Contemporary Ballet, co-directed by former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, presents two vivid works via White Bird: WOKE and LOVE ROCKS. LOVE ROCKS is ballet meets rock and roll, with energetic and impassioned dancing to the music of Lenny Kravitz. WOKE is a socially conscious work created in 2018 that examines the essence of “wokeness,” a dance that will have taken on greater meaning since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2019. WOKE is set to a remix of music by Kendrick Lamar, Logic, Drake, Diplo, and others. 

Complexions Contemporary Ballet is 28 years old and prides itself on being based in ballet but not limited to it. The company expands its movement vocabulary into every genre, proposing an alternate view of classical ballet. 



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precious cargo (days of old), a new work by The Holding Project, artistic director Amy Leona Havin. Photo by Amy Leona Havin of dancers Whitney Wilhardt, Heather Hindes, and Carly Nicole Ostergaard.

precious cargo (days of old)
The Holding Project, artistic director Amy Leona Havin
May 26-29
Shaking the Tree Theatre, 823 SE Grant Street, Portland

In her sixth evening-length work, Amy Leona Havin – Israeli-born, Portland-based choreographer, filmmaker, artistic director of The Holding Project, and a regular contributor to ArtsWatch – takes us on a nostalgic journey along the Pacific coastline. The pathos-driven work, performed in the round, explores the urgency of life, changing landscapes, and each individual’s negotiation with time and space. Featured performers include Heather Hindes, Carly Nicole Ostergaard, Elle Sevi, and Whitney Wilhardt. 

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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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