Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

October DanceWatch: Pulse, Parsons, Pearls & more

From the sublime to the spectacular, the steamy to the spooky, dance takes all forms this month.


The dancers of push/Fold. Photo by Jingzi Photography.

Portland’s dance scene is bursting at the seams this October! Whatever folks were creating or holding back over the pandemic is upon us ten-fold. This month, audiences can find dance in its many magnificent forms in traditional theaters and more unusual places like OMSI, the lobby at Portland Center Stage, and the former industrial area of NW Portland, to name a few. The perspectives are numerous, too, with dance companies and choreographers visiting from far and wide, performing decades of vision. The energy and activity are palpable!

Finally debuting after several years of hiatus due to the pandemic, and then a few more fits and starts due again to Covid-19, is Pulse Mountain, a new work by Portland choreographers Muffie Delgado Connelly and Tahni Holt with music by composers Luke Wyland and Maxx Katz and dramaturgy by Kate Bredeson that will run October 6-8 at Building Five, 2516 N.W. 29th Avenue. The piece delves into bodies: land bodies, ancestor bodies, kid bodies, aging bodies, and no bodies. 

Connelly, who has received numerous awards and has presented her choreography nationally, describes her work as a curative strategy for fostering resilience and growth. Her interests lie in decolonizing dance, amplifying the disqualified, erased, silenced, and disappeared, the experience of being biracial, and, in her words, “being a fat, Indigenous mother.”

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Holt is endlessly curious about what lies in the in-between. For her, dancemaking is a way to imagine and question the things that cannot be named and find new meanings for the things that can. Holt has shown her work nationally and internationally. Among other accolades, awards, and residencies, in 2017, she received the Barney Award commission through White Bird dance for her work Sensation/Disorientation.

Bredeson, a director, theatre historian, writer, Professor of Theatre at Reed College, and the dramaturg on Pulse Mountain, interviewed Connelly and Holt on their experience collaborating on the making of Pulse Mountain.

In the interview, Connelly describes making Pulse Mountain as “a shape-shifting, responsive and adaptive work that at every step of the way between January 2020 and until now (and ongoing) became what it needed to be for every season. It wasn’t just Covid. There were many political events, racial revelations, a lot of uncovering of truths that came out in the world, Trump, #metoo, the fires, Kavanaugh, abortion rights, and we were a part of all of this. Pulse Mountain became good at adapting to what we needed it to be, and it has been a life preserver for us. This work didn’t have the privilege of just being a dance piece. There was too much real-life shit going on. And so, whatever it needs to be, that’s what it’s going to be.”

For Holt, “This performance is like how there are all these roots of the flower. Then this flower arrives. It only arrives because of all that planting and watering and sun and composting. Something about this performance feels into all of that, like the mycelium inclusion. I guess that feels a bit futuristic to me about Pulse Mountain. The audience members feel the process of making the work. At least, that’s what I hope.”


Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon

For the pair, it was essential to let go of the idea of crafting a formal piece of choreography and see where it went naturally. The root of understanding dance is based on learning about the people that made it. To read Bredesen’s full interview with Connelly and Holt, click here

Performances This Month!

A duet from Parsons Dance. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

Parsons Dance
Presented by White Bird
October 6-8 pm
Newmark Theatre, 111 SW Broadway, Portland

Founded in 1985 by former Paul Taylor dancer David Parsons and Tony Award-winning lighting designer Howell Binkley, the New York City-based contemporary American dance company, Parsons Dance, known for its athletic prowess, technical skill, and playful wit, will open White Bird Dance’s 25th season will six works choreographed by Parsons from 1982 through 2021. Included are Parson’s signature work, Caught, in which a well-timed strobe light creates the illusion that the solo performer never touches the ground, and The Envelope, a comedic theme and variation dance about a letter that keeps appearing and disappearing to a compilation of overtures by Gioachino Rossini.

Pulse Mountain
Muffie Delgado Connelly, Tahni Holt, Kate Bredeson, Luke Wyland, and Maxx Katz
October 6-8
Building Five, 2516 N.W. 29th Avenue, Portland 

See above. 

Pearl Dive Live
BodyVox, artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland 
October 6-15
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Avenue, Portland


Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon

Born from a desire to see what kind of choreography non-dancers and other types of creatives could make, BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland created The Pearl Dive Project. Each year they invite a who’s who of renowned artists to create new work for the company. During the pandemic, BodyVox filmed and screened those results online. These films will be turned back into live performances at the BodyVox Dance Center this year. The chosen choreographers are American dance photographer Lois Greenfield, whose interest lies in “photography’s ability to stop time and reveal what the naked eye cannot see;” drag performer, emcee, and community activist Poison Waters; Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi, who began his career as a classical composer, but later incorporated other styles and genres, such as pop, rock, folk, and world music; award-winning Chinese-born writer and professor Yiyun Li, who The New York Times described as “a beacon for readers in mourning;” and cartoonist, writer, producer, and animator Matt Groening, known most famously for his television series The Simpsons

A still from the dance film I Just Wanna Dance. Photo courtesy of the Portland Dance Film Fest.

Portland Dance Film Fest 
Directed by Kailee McMurran
October 7-9 
Portland Art Museum, Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 Southwest Park Avenue, Portland

Screendance is a powerful vehicle for audiences to experience the human body in motion in new ways by bringing the viewer closer to the dancer and allowing for intimacy and a shared kinesthetic experience. The camera goes to spaces and places you wouldn’t usually be able to go. During the pandemic, dancers and choreographers found new ways of communicating their form, and screen dance reached new heights in terms of technology, creativity, and vision. This dance-centric film festival covers the gamut of movement experiences and will screen 29 films from 12 different countries.

Dancers clowning around in British choreographer Christopher Bruce’s Hush to be performed alongside Christopher Stowell’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux at Oregon Ballet Theatre. Photo courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Midsummer Night’s Dream
Oregon Ballet Theatre, Interim Artistic Director Peter Franc
October 8-16
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street, Portland

Ballet runs the gamut in this shared evening of choreography by three white men. The program begins with a lighthearted portrayal of family life through the antics of an itinerant clown family by British choreographer Christopher Bruce called Hush. The work, performed to the boppy upbeat sounds of Bobby McFerrin & Yo-Yo Ma, is danced in an off-kilter grounded contemporary style.

Next is George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, a technically challenging neoclassical duet to an almost lost forever score by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky. Belatedly written for the Act III of Swan Lake, the music was separated from the rest of the score and subsequently lost, but found again in the Bolshoi Theater archives in 1953 and brought back to life by Balanchine for this duet.

Last is the adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream by former OBT artistic director Christopher Stowell. The ballet is complete with star-crossed lovers, fairies, mischief, and mayhem. It will be performed to German composer Felix Mendelssohn’s score of the same name, which he began to write when he was just 17 years old, and contains entertaining instrumental effects that convey different characters and the sounds they make. The music will be played live by the OBT Orchestra. Described by Grant Butler for The Oregonian in 2011, “there are touches of humor and sight gags, like a cocktail-fueled wedding reception, complete with clumsy waiters and revelers dancing the bunny hop.” A Midsummer Night’s Dream “nicely melds an antique sensibility with contemporary wit and swiftness.”


Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

The dancers of push/Fold. Photo by Jingzi Photography.

Artistic Director Samuel Hobbs

push/FOLD at Portland Center Stage
1:00 pm, October 16
Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th Avenue, Portland

push/FOLD and Portland Symphonic Choir
4 pm, October 23 
Bank of Expensify, 401 SW 5th Avenue, Portland

Time TBA, October 26
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, 1945 SE Water Avenue, Portland

This month push/FOLD dance company can be found performing in the lobby of Portland Center Stage before the matinee of the ripple, the wave that carried me home, at a tribute concert with the Portland Symphonic Choir, and at OMSI’s after-dark spooktacular event closer to Halloween. 

push/FOLD is the vision of composer-choreographer Samuel Hobbs, whose work fuses his background in athletics, dance, music, and Visceral Movement Theory,™ a somatic theory rooted in the anatomy and kinesiology of the organs. In addition to being a choreographer, Hobbs is a licensed manual therapist and a software developer. Hobbs’ abstract choreography, supported by his compositional score, plays with momentum and partnering, creating a moody, immersive landscape. Hobbs is also the founder of Union PDX-Festival of Contemporary Dance, a multi-day festival of dance performances, master classes, workshops, and post-show artist talks, which he created to address the issues of visibility and accessibility in the dance community.

NW Dance Project, dress rehearsal, “Bolero,” Ihsan Rustem. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

NW Dance Project, Artistic Director Sarah Slipper
October 14-15
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland

Premiering in NW Dance Project’s 19th season is a dramatic work by artistic director Sarah Slipper titled Down the Garden Path. Through the guise of a struggling family, this dance highlights humans’ inability to communicate with each other. Returning is resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem’s Bolero, a work he choreographed in 2016 that ArtsWatcher Bob Hicks called a “bright and witty new Boléro, which he’s rescued from the graveyard of pop-culture banality and restored affectionately to its pedestal of seductively oddball expressionism.” Also back again is Italian choreographer Luca Veggetti’s Ensemble for Somnambulists, an eerie, haunting quartet set to an original score by Paolo Aralla, that, according to Marty Hughley, who reviewed the dance in 2007 for The Oregonian, sounded “like amplified clocks and water drops.” The movement, he continued, was “full of curious rotations of the pelvis and almost robotic isolations of limbs,” with “eerie calm and snapping velocity.” 


Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon

Portland dance artist Linda Austin performing in her new solo, 3 miles of possible. Photo by Jeff Forbes

3 miles of possible (the second mile)
Linda Austin Dance
Performance Works NW || 4625 SE 67th Ave., Portland
5:30-7, October 15 
ASL Interpreted

Dance and performance artist Linda Austin presents the second mile of her new durational solo, 3 miles of possible. The first mile was presented in Fall 2021. She explores what’s possible in a world of fluctuating personal, material, political, and artistic contingencies. Within the work, Austin travels along spatial paths, animating objects, text, sound compositions, and choreography, touching upon ideas of utopian longings, possible world theory, and modal logic.

The performance will last about one and a half hours, and audiences can come and go, change seats as they like, and enjoy refreshments in the backyard. The entire three miles will be performed on Summer Solstice 2023.

Austin is an award-winning dancer, choreographer, performance artist, and writer who founded Performance Works NW in 1999 with technical director Jeff Forbes. PWNW is a studio theater in SE Portland that engages artists and audiences in experimentation, creation, and dialogue around contemporary performance. Austin’s work, which she has been making since 1983, is both improvisational and highly choreographed. It contains interesting and unusual visual elements, is humorous and poetic, and purposefully disrupts what is considered dancerly. 

The dancers of Dallas Black Dance Theatre. Photo by Brian Guilliau

Dallas Black Dance Theatre
Artistic Director Melissa M. Young
Presented by White Bird
October 20-22
Portland State University, Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Avenue, Portland

The 70-minute program, with one intermission, includes choreographic work by Elisa Monte and David Brown, Tommie-Waheed Evans, Jamal Story, and Darrell Grand Moultrie. The dances explore various ideas – the natural flow of relationships; bodies uniting in protest through faith; narcissism; and a celebration of the resilient human spirit. 

Founded in 1976 by Ann M. Williams, and now under the artistic leadership of Artistic Director Melissa M. Young, Dallas Black Dance Theatre is the oldest continuously operating professional dance company in Dallas, Texas. The company comprises 14 professional, full-time dancers performing a broad repertory of modern, ballet, jazz, and ethnic works, including choreography by Alvin Ailey, Ulysses Dove, Talley Beatty, Christopher Huggins, Elisa Monte, Milton Myers, David Parsons, and Darryl B. Sneed, among others.


Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon

Ballet Fantastique’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Photo by Bob Williams.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Ballet Fantastique, Artistic Director Donna Marisa Bontrager, and Executive Director Hannah Bontrager
October 20-23
Hult Center, Soreng Theater, 1 Eugene Way, Eugene

Rock and roll meets Colonial America in this comedic dance theatre adaptation of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Poor Ichabod Crane faces his desires and fears and the relentless Headless Horseman, accompanied by live music by Dréos and Gerry Rempel Ensemble.

*Note 10/23/22 performance features recorded music of the custom Ballet Fantastique Sleepy Hollow score; live music is available for all other performances.  Complimentary subscriber exchanges are available; please contact the Hult Center Box Office.

After Hours: Trapped, Bound, Possessed
A-WOL Dance Collective
October 21-22
Alberta Rose Theatre: 3000 NE Alberta Street, Portland

In this steamy, late-night, make-you-blush kind of show, A-WOL Dance Collective will blend dance and aerial work, performing feats of haunting physicality on the ground and in the air, creating a spooky atmosphere of magic and wonderment.


November 4, Ramya Raman and Janaki Rangarajan, Walters Cultural Arts Center 
November 17-19, Radical System Art, Presented by White Bird
November 17-20, Union PDX-Festival:22, Presented by push/FOLD


Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon

December 10-24, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 16-18, In Good Company, NW Dance Project

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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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Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon
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Portland Columbia Symphony Realm of Nature Beaverton and Gresham Oregon
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Northwest Dance Project Sarah Slipper Newmark Theatre Portland Oregon
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