Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival Portland Oregon

Out & About: ACMA Elevated



One of the happier open secrets in the Oregon cultural world is the high-quality incubator of talent that is ACMA, the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy. Part of the Beaverton School District, it’s a rigorous public school for students in grades 6-12 that specializes in pre-professional training in dance, music, theater, visual arts, electronic arts, and creative writing. Its graduates routinely go on to top college programs and, often, professional careers.

ACMA’s advanced dance company, Dance West, will perform its spring program, Walk With Me, Thursday through Sunday, April 26-29, at the school’s Visual and Performing Arts Center, 11375 S.W. Center Street, Beaverton, with special performances Saturday night and Sunday afternoon by the Pacific Youth Choir. If track records mean anything at all, there’s going to be some good dancing and singing going on.

What will the program look like? We can’t say, exactly. But photographer Joe Cantrell was on hand in late January for Elevated, the ACMA dance program’s student choreography concert, with dancers from all levels, and he had his camera in overdrive. The program was inventive and exhilarating. There were solo dances, small-group dances, guest choreography from faculty member Kemba Shannon and ACMA alum Nick Jurica, now a student at The Juilliard School in New York. Some of the action whirled on and around a giant box, in one piece as several dancer/artists painted scenes on it.

We’ve selected eleven of Joe’s photos from that showcase to give you a sense of the verve and style of the school’s dance program and the work its students and teachers do.


Dancers Anna Williams, Olivia Frank, and Courtney Nunn in student choreographer Bridget Derville-Teer’s “Strange.”


Flying high: Jada Lee leaps high above Ariana Davis, Ethan Myers, and Olivia Frank in “Strange.”


Anna Williams and Ian Reeb dance atop a box in “In the Evening,” choreographed by its four student dancers.


“Mountains,” an eruption of movement and paint, featured student choregrapher/dancers (from left) Naomi Weiser, Azelle Chang, and Olivia Frank, with Nicolas Bierwagen wielding the paintbrush.


Denisse Martinez-Perez, Bryan Arauza-Lopez, and Celia Castillo-Torres in faculty choreographer Kemba Shannon’s “Green Garden.”


Swing front, swing back: all awhirl in “Green Garden.”


Reach for the sky: From left, Taylor Masanga, Denisse Martinez-Perez, Maggie Bartell, and Osa Aareskjold in “Green Garden.”


Aishwarya Marathe performing “Tribute to Sheeva.”


Sharp wings, taut line: elbows akimbo in “Chicken Wing Splat,” choregraphed by ACMA alum and Juilliard student Nick Jurica.


Come back! The horizontal stretch in “Chicken Wing Splat.”


Over and out: “Chicken Wing Splat,” and the evening of 10 dances, head for the wings, capping a successful evening.


I spent my first 21 years in Tahlequah, Cherokee County, Oklahoma, assuming that except for a few unfortunate spots, ‘everybody’ was part Cherokee, and son of the soil. Volunteered for Vietnam because that’s what we did. After two stints, hoping to gain insight, perhaps do something constructive, I spent the next 16 years as a photojournalist in Asia, living much like the lower income urban peasants and learning a lot. Moved back to the USA in 1986, tried photojournalism and found that the most important subjects were football and basketball, never mind humankind. In 1992, age 46, I became single dad of my 3-year-old daughter and spent the next two decades working regular jobs, at which I was not very good, to keep a roof over our heads, but we made it. She’s retail sales supervisor for Sony, Los Angeles. Wowee! The VA finally acknowledged that the war had affected me badly and gave me a disability pension. I regard that as a stipend for continuing to serve humanity as I can, to use my abilities to facilitate insight and awareness, so I shoot a lot of volunteer stuff for worthy institutions and do artistic/scientific work from our Cherokee perspective well into many nights. Come along!


One Response

  1. Just want to clarify the Dance West Concert, under the direction of Julane Stites, is WALK WITH ME dedicated to the memory of Haruka Weiser, the former ACMA dancer who was killed two years ago on the campus of the Universtiy of Texas in Austin.

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