Andrea Parson

May DanceWatch: Questions about the future

Portland dance companies and presenters are still trying to figure out what 2021 will look like

Welcome to the mid-to-late pandemic temperature check of Oregon’s dance community. For the most part, the dancers are still here, but everyone else is in a holding pattern, riding out Oregon’s 4th wave of Covid-19 and waiting for people to get their vaccinations.

Last week I reached out to several Oregon dance companies and presenters via phone and email to see how they were doing. I asked them what returning to “normal” might look like, how it might happen, how they were preparing, and how it’s changing their programming. But before I dive into those conversations, here are three dance performances happening in May!

Performances this month

Pictured are the dancers of BodyVox working virtually with dance photographer Lois Greenfield on her new choreography for the Pearl Dive Project, Photosynthesis, streaming now StreamingVox. Photo courtesy of Jamey Hampton.

Pearl Dive Project 
BodyVox 
Currently streaming: Episode One: Lois Greenfield, Photosynthesis
May 6th Episode Two: Poison Waters, Too 
May 27th Episode Three: Ludovico Einaudi, title TBA 
June 17th Episode Four: Yiyun Li, River like a sea 
July 5th Episode Five: Matt Groening, title TBA  
All episodes are available to stream on-demand on Vimeo.
TalkAbout on StreamingVox, a virtual conversation between BodyVox co-founders and rock musician Jeremy Wilson. 

Born out of the desire to see what kind of choreography non-dancers and other creatives could create, 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. This year’s newly christened choreographers are dance photographer Lois Greenfield, drag performer Poison Waters, Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi, writer Yiyun Li, and cartoonist Matt Groening.

Dancers Wendy Hambidge and Jorge Samuel Faria finding common ground from not so common experiences. You can see Hambidge and Farias work as part of the upcoming Performance Work NW Happy Hour on May 20. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW.

Performance Works NW Happy Hour
Featuring: Wendy Hambidge, Jorge Samuel Faria, Rachel Kessler, and Matt Fielder
5 pm May 20
Virtual
You must register by 3 pm the day of the show to get the Zoom link
ASL interpretation by Jme James Antonick

In this month’s happy hour, Performance Works NW will feature the work of Wendy Hambidge, a Portland dance artist, somatic therapist, and Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner and Teacher, and Brazilian dance artist Jorge Samuel. During a residency in Curitiba, Brazil, the two met up and formed a partnership inspired by their commonalities, differences, and how they engage with their ancestral histories. This collaborative work-in-progress looks back and looks forward and embraces the now. They will present a ten-minute improvisation that they filmed back in 2020 called, Stand Up, Show Up, Own Up.

Also painter Rachel Kessler and Matt Fielder (performer, sculptor, writer, stop-motion animator, fool, and musician) will present a collaboratively made film called,a short remarkable video.

The evening also includes a cocktail demo of the Palm Springs Paloma, a toast, a performance, lively discussion, PWNW-themed Bingo, and prizes, of course!

Abstract Alice
Choreographed and performed by Andrea Parson
Videographer/editor: Stephen Kimbrell
May 24th-May 30th on YouTube 

In this ten-minute dance film, choreographed and performed by NW Dance Project dancer Andrea Parson, images of Alice and the White Rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are woven together with dance, spoken word, masks, and film to answer a question that propels Alice’s adventures down the rabbit hole: Who am I? 

*****

In the ups and downs of the pandemic, this week has been a “down” as much of the state went back under heavy restriction protocols. The exasperation of the leaders of various dance companies, big and small, came through loud and clear, even via email.

“We are caught in a seesaw of Covid recovery/resurgence,” said BodyVox artistic director Jamey Hampton. “Just when we open BodyVox back up for classes, new restrictions come down. It’s been nuts.” 

“We feel fortunate that our dancers were amenable to finding a way to keep working. We never laid them off,” Hampton said. “Instead, we made works specifically for the camera that will outlive all of us…in digital form. These works are archeological representations of how a team of artists chose to cope with the most severe creative challenges of our lifetimes to date.” 

“I would be remiss if I didn’t express the critical importance our supporters have played in our ability to remain creative over the past year,” he said. “We have had virtually zero income from ticket sales. Those who bought season tickets before the pandemic grabbed hold of our necks almost universally chose to donate the balance of their investment. Numerous others have recognized our efforts to remain connected and vital, and have donated funds, streamed our online shows, come to our socially distanced video gallery installation, even attended our drive-ins…I am humbled and inspired by the outpouring of support we have received. Not to mention two critically important PPP loans from the US government.”

Oregon Ballet Theatre artistic director Kevin Irving likened his pandemic experience to racing, out of control, down the rickety train track in the tiny coal car from the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Even though it was a challenging year, Irving is proud that no one in the company got Covid-19, and in several weeks the whole company will be vaccinated. Throughout the pandemic, the company received lots of support from audiences who donated almost all of last season’s tickets back to the company. The company and school have maintained a robust digital presence with classes, talks, and performances and have plans for live performances of some kind in the near future. What comes next for the company will be announced in June. Stay tuned!

For NW Dance Project executive director Scott Lewis, applying for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant was like the “the performing arts version The Hunger Games, as a clever friend of his described it. We “are hopeful that (a) we didn’t mess up and that (b) we receive some funding,” he told me. 

“We are exploring multiple options for a full-fledged company performance with new works in the fall (2021). Not being afraid of “dancing out of the box,” outdoors is a strong possibility. We are also looking at smaller and/or alternative venues and different ‘scales and structures’ with respect to performances since (we believe) it will likely be too early to plan on hundreds of people sitting elbow-to-elbow for 90 minutes in a big room for some time to come.”

Primarily focused on their education programs, NW Dance Project continues doing hybrid classes with limited in-person capacity, masks, and social distancing as the Oregon Health Authority guidelines allow, which has been a yoyo kind of experience, Lewis said. “The state/country’s most recent turn is discouraging. The day we can yank the cameras and TVs out of the studio will be a happy one.”

Eugene Ballet, directed by Toni Pimble, also has plans for live performances with full-length Cinderella and Nutcracker scheduled for the fall 2021-22 season. The season will also include a program called Uncommon Women that will feature guest women choreographers and a new work by resident choreographer Suzanne Haag in collaboration with percussionist Pius Cheung. 

One of the most exciting developments for the company during the pandemic has been moving into a brand new, 30,000-square-foot home, custom built just for them in the new Midtown Arts Center in Eugene. Their enviable space, which takes up three floors of the center, features seven studio spaces, two of which are the size of the stages at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. The ceilings are between 11 and 20 feet high, allowing dancers to leap with ease without worrying about hitting the ceiling. There is plenty of storage room on site for pointe shoes, costumes, and scenery. Other amenities include offices for the artistic staff and lounging areas for the dancers, a library, and a wall of mirrors, with small wall-mounted tables and benches for dancers to do their hair and get ready for ballet. The studios have also been outfitted with large, flat screens, speakers, and microphones to continue teaching virtual classes or rehearsals with out-of-town choreographers. 

Another great aspect of the building is that it also houses Chamber Music Amici, Eugene Concert Choir, Eugene Opera, Lane Arts Council, Orchestra NEXT, and Pacific International Choral Festivals. Having all those non-profit groups together in one building will reduce costs for everyone by sharing maintenance and operating costs. At the same time, their co-habitation will promote collaboration on projects.

Robert Guitron, artistic director of Polaris Dance Theatre, hopes this idea of a group of artists sharing space to cut down on costs and create community, collaboration, and less competition between them, is what will come out of the pandemic. There have been many social changes within the dance community, so hopefully, some of those will stick, and the dance environment can be a healthier one, he said. But for right now, Guiton, like other dance school directors, is working hard to keep student enrollment up, virtually and in person, to pay the rent. 

For Linda Austin, artistic director of Performance Works NW, everything still feels up in the air. But luckily for her, her overhead is low, and she has gotten a lot of help through foundations, CARES, PPP, and individual supporters. Financially they are “OK for now,” she said. “It’s very hard to know when/if our earned income, mostly from studio rentals for rehearsal and performance and ticket sales, will return to what it used to be”

Austin is hoping to host a series of live performances over four weekends in July to wrap up the current Alembic artist residency. Each artist will have a weekend of their own and how that happens, whether it’s by livestream, or inside with a small masked group, or outside with a larger masked group, is completely up to the artists and where we are at in the pandemic. 

There are tentative June performances scheduled by outside renters, and Austin herself will possibly show a solo work-in-progress called 3 Miles of Possible. “It’s durational—when complete, it might last several hours,” she said. “It’s meant to be dropped in on, as in a gallery setting. So I am hoping to have completed one mile of the three-mile trajectory and test it out in our space for a few days, with a small audience coming and going as they like. Not sure how we’ll handle the flow of people yet or what the maximum will be. We will also stream it.” Austin is also hoping that a project she has been working on with dance artist Allie Hankins will come to fruition as a live performance in 2022 as well.

“Live streaming as an additional way of involving/reaching audiences may become something we always do, actually,” she said. “This is one of the changes that we have made this year that will likely stick. And though we’ve always had a sliding scale, I would love to be able to keep the scale we’ve been using during the pandemic: $0-$30. We’ll see.”

Austin isn’t sure yet about inviting a new group of Alembic choreographers for next season, suggesting she may reconsider the shape of the program. “Instead, though, for next year we might offer a few space grants—either by invitation, application, or random drawing.” 

For PDX Contemporary Ballet artistic director Briley Neugebauer, “returning to “normal” still feels somewhat distant. “While there have been vaccine rollouts, going back to extreme risk has raised a lot of questions. When will the numbers drop again? Will they go back up? What about the variants and what does all this mean for returning to in-person rehearsals, classes and live performances?”, she expressed. “Will we ever really return back to normal? In many ways, this year feels very similar to last in terms of not knowing what will be possible and, most importantly, what is safe to do.”

“The hope is to return to performing live in the Fall, said Neugebauer. “However, we understand that this might not be realistic,” she continued. “So instead, we will plan for everything (as much as we can). I know planning for everything is not easy, but it seems like the smartest thing to do. We will have plans A-Z at our disposal. Our hope will be to perform live, but if we can’t we will continue making dance films like we have done this year. We actually had such a wonderful time making them this year that we hope to continue making them! Maybe if possible, combining both film and live performance in one season!”

TriptheDark Dance Company and Chapel Theatre artistic director Corinn deTorres, has been laying low since November when she and her husband welcomed a new baby. The time off has been great for her to get used to being a family of four without the regular stressors of everyday life, she said.

TriptheDark Dance Company created a performance subscription series and has produced one video per month since September. A different choreographer choreographed each month in a different movement style. “They’ve been dancing in the theatre, masked, since September and will conclude the season with one last video in May,” she said. “You can still sign up for the TriptheDark season and receive all nine videos at once!”

“Now that it’s spring, we’re looking forward to some outdoor events and making plans for our (hopefully indoor) 2021-22 season starting this fall. We spent many, many hours preparing to apply for the Shuttered Venues federal grant only to realize we weren’t eligible, so we’re just sort of holding on, embracing the quiet, until we can welcome you all inside the theatre once again.”

For Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre artistic director Oluyinka Akinjiola, the company’s work continues to center on Black Lives and issues of racial justice. The company has continued, she said, “to stay present, find new ways to cope, stay connected and heal.”

In February, the company created At the Dinner Table, a dance film that examines how we set the table for a better future and for a better us. “We are done asking for a seat at the table; we are building our own,” the film’s description read. “We acknowledge the ancestors that helped pave the way, the lives lost which sparked movements, and the mess that meets us at the door. Using an Afrofuturistic perspective, we want to know how you will show up, what you will give, and if we will ever sit down together.”

Now the company is working on a new dance film called Who We Carry, about the emotional, physical and mental labor that each of us bears daily, generationally, and communally as we process grief. The company is trying to finish filming before June 6, the due date for Akinjiola’s new baby. 

When I talked with White Bird co-founders Paul King and Walter Jaffe, they didn’t feel like there was much to say, but there was. For King, Covid was just one of the many problems affecting downtown Portland where the theaters are that White Bird rents for performances. The other is houselessness, “which is not really being addressed enough, and the vandalism and destruction,” King said. There has also been a “cultural shift to going to places like Beaverton Town Center or Washington Square Mall where the parking is free, there’s security, the restaurants are open, and the shops are open,” he continued. “There isn’t any tension or worry about being in those places.”

In March 2022 the new Patricia Reiser Arts Center in Beaverton will open that houses a 550 seat theatre and conveniently has a stop on the Max line. “Portland has lost its mojo for sure,” he said. “And people are finding other ways to serve their needs.”  

White Bird has dates reserved in the theatres for 2021-2022, but is in competition with larger commercial productions who sometimes have priority and can bump them from the schedule. In talking to artists worldwide, King knows that given some notice, they could be ready to perform, so releasing the dates just doesn’t work for them just in case that’s actually possible. “If somehow it does open up, we can rev up and just do a partial season or a non-subscription season, or who knows…,” he said.

For White Bird, their future feels uncertain. “We’re really not sure what the future looks like for us. If we were to continue a programming aspect of White Bird would it be what it was before, would it morph, would it become a festival, or artist of color only? We don’t know. We just do not know if we will be able to continue,” King continued. “I heard a phrase today on NPR that in Germany they are calling these companies and non-profit organizations that don’t have revenue and are receiving money from the government to stay afloat zombie organizations or companies. We’re kind of in that mode right now. We’re still in force majeure. We can’t make our own decisions, we can’t plan, we never thought it would be this long, and we don’t know how much longer we can hold up.”

DanceWatch: Pandemic downs and ups

Everyone's course through this year of isolation has been different—and sometimes it leads to growth

At the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns last March, it was exciting to have EVERYTHING go online. Dance classes, performances, lectures, and community conversations were suddenly available at the touch of a button. 

In the past, as a dance artist, I’d felt like I was never in the right place at the right time to get what I needed to succeed in my dance career. It felt like I was living in the wrong place, wasn’t studying with and being seen by the right teachers, and was missing out on auditions and opportunities. I felt like I was always out of step. FOMO (fear of missing out) was real for me. This was significantly exacerbated when I decided to have a baby, which took me right out of the game. But not anymore, thanks to Covid-19. (I feel yucky saying that.) Because suddenly everything I ever wanted was online. 

But, as you all know now, it’s hard to go at it alone in our tiny houses month after month. As you also know, trying to get time and space alone to be creative in a house with other people is REALLY HARD.

I tried connecting to what was available online. Still, it couldn’t keep my attention, and the sheer volume of choices became overwhelming. 

Continues…

DanceWatch Monthly: Marquee TV leaps into the void

A new streaming channel for the performing arts joins local live stage performances this month

Have you heard of Marquee TV? It’s the new Netflix for the dance, opera, and theatre that you can stream in HD onto just about any electronic device. It is now possible to see an abundance of beautifully filmed, full-length productions by some of the biggest choreographic names in contemporary dance, ballet, and dance film-productions. You wouldn’t normally have access to unless you were a frequent traveler to Europe and Russia, and they are not available anywhere else on the web. Subscriptions are reasonably priced, too: You can either pay either pay $8.99 monthly or $89.99 a year to have access to all of the channel’s content. 

Marquee TV  has categories for Contemporary Dance, Ballet, British Choreographers, American Choreographers, works from the Royal Ballet, works from The Bolshoi Ballet, Dance Films, Unique Fusion works, Hip Hop inspired dances, Ballet documentaries, Behind the Scenes films, Opera and Theatre. There are works by Crystal Pite, Herve Koubi, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Akram Khan, Alexander Ekman, and Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, to name just a few, of course. And there are pieces by such American choreographers as Mark Morris, Bill T. Jones, Alonzo King of Lines Ballet, and Seattle choreographer Catherine Cabeen. 

There are also choreographers and works available on the site that we here in Portland are familiar with thanks to White Bird—I’m thinking Crystal Pite’s Betroffenheit, and French-based Compagnie Hervé KOUBI.

Betroffenheit by Crystal Pite. Photo by Michael Slobodian.

It is important to the Marquee TV co-founders Marc Kirschner and Kathleya Afanador that the channel not be an archive, a repository, or library for older works, but a living representation of the best performing arts that are being produced today. “It is a curated, constantly refreshed source for those who love the arts,” Afanador said during a series of emails and phone calls I had with the pair. 

“Marquee TV is actually a combination of two teams,” Kirschner said. “Our New York team, led by Kathleya and myself, came from TenduTV, which was the earliest digital outlet/distributor of dance programming. Our London team is mainly comprised of BBC veterans and is led by our third co-founder, Simon Walker, who was a lead architect of Arts Council England’s digital strategy.”

“We’ve designed the Marquee platform to be something that adds to the live arts ecosystem, not something that exists outside of it or competes with it,” Afanador said. “So part of the curation strategy is really about building ongoing partnerships with the arts organizations and positioning Marquee as a digital extension of the great work they’re already doing.  

For Marc, he consider venues like White Bird to be their spirit animals or guides as to what Marquee TV should screen.

Marquee is piloting a “digital membership” program with some arts organizations. That will give their members and patrons access to their content on Marquee, Afanador said.

“Our acquisition strategy is very much focused on staying current, Afanador said.

ALICE by Christopher Wheeldon for The Royal Ballet. Photo by Johan Persson.

Although the channel will have and will acquire great classics, it is committed to showcasing the new work being created and the diverse artists voices that are out there right now, Afanador said. “We look at what’s being written about and reviewed; what productions are going to be touring; what choreographers are getting commissioned and who’s setting work on various companies around the world.” 

There is an assumption that seeing performances live is the ultimate experience, and that digital experiences will drive people away from the theatre, but I would argue, now that I’ve experienced Marquee TV, that that’s not true. What you get is an intimate experience with choreographers and their work on your own timeline. You can get up for snacks and go to the bathroom as many times as you want without disturbing anyone. 

“It’s about risk management.” Kirschner said, “People don’t want to have a bad experience. Given how much tickets are, people want to know they will enjoy it.”

Kirschner said they surveyed four thousand people in the US and found that younger audiences want familiarity with an artist and their work and will watch what they can see online and go to the theatre as well. 

In Europe, digital is a part of every arts organizations mission, Kirschner explained. The goal is to reach a variety of communities through digital media, to create the biggest impact, and to draw people into the theaters to see the work live. 

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Sutra. Photo courtesy of Marquee TV.

Now I did have one issue with watching Marquee TV on my own TV, which Marc explained is an Apple one. Because I have a first generation Apple TV I can’t get to the Apple TV App Store to get the Marquee TV App. But I can easily watch through AirPlay and get an upgraded Apple TV which I’ve been wanting to get anyways. 

“We are expanding our reach as we speak—we’re about to launch on a major cable app platform, and we have a few more similar deals in the pipeline. From a device perspective, the only problematic ones are LG and Samsung TVs. However, both of those manufacturers have begun supporting AirPlay on their higher-end models, so that barrier is coming down for us. Plus, now that many streaming middleware providers (Roku, Amazon Fire, AndroidTV) are embedding their systems directly into newer generations of Smart TVs, we’re rapidly reaching a point where Marquee will be accessible to any new device that supports streaming.”

So get those snacks, get cozy, and get watching your favorite choreographers or discover new ones, on Marquee TV. You can find all the details on the website.

Dance Performances in January 2020

Week 1: January 1-5

ZooZoo

Imago Theatre, Carol Triffle and Jerry Mouawad
January 1-5
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th

ZooZoo is back! This longtime, audience favorite magnifies the quirkiness in our everyday life with an expert composition of elaborate costumes, masks, dance, music, physical comedy, and anthropomorphic humor. ZooZoo features a zany cast of characters like playful polar bears, firefly eyes, hippos with insomnia, arrogant anteaters, introverted frogs, acrobatic worms, self touting accordions, and tricky penguins, in this carnival of the absurd. 

Founded in 1979 by Carol Triffle and Jerry Mouawad, Imago presents original productions using masks and elaborate costumes making the humans disappear and the imaginative creatures appear.

Week 2: January 6-12

Might I suggest, Marquee TV?

Week 3: January 13-19

Dancer Andrea Parson in She’s Here: A One Woman Show. Photo courtesy of Andrea Parson.

She’s Here: A One Woman Show
Andrea Parson and Susan Banyas
January 16-18
CoHo Productions, 2257 NW Raleigh Street

Choreographed and performed by veteran NW Dance Project dancer and Princess Grace Award winner Andrea Parson, She’s Here: A One Woman Show investigates the spiritual roots of one woman through dance and storytelling. Directed by Portland writer and performance artist Susan Banyas, this evening-length work weaves personal stories, oral history, and myth to trace spirituality, magic and witchery in Parson’s Sicilian lineage. 

a world, a world by Linda Austin. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis

a world, a world
Choreographed by Linda Austin in collaboration with the performers: Austin, claire barrera, Muffie Delgado Connelly, Nancy Ellis, Hannah Krafcik, Danielle Ross, and Noelle Stiles
Presented by Performance Works NorthWest 
January 16-25
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave

Performed for an intimate audience of 30, a world, a world, drops the viewer into the same, saturated, arena-like environment that the dancers themselves inhabit. The work offers an immersive experience that is an amalgamation of movement, sound, image, and language.

An American in Paris
Presented by Broadway in Eugene
January 17-18
The Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Silva Concert Hall, 1 Eugene Way, Eugene

Post-war Paris is full of romance and youthful optimism as World War ll veteran Jerry Mulligan begins to make plans for a new life as a painter. But things get complicated when he meets a young Parisian shop girl with secrets. In this musical, the power of love is rediscovered through gravity-defying choreography and soaring Gershwin melodies that include, but are not limited to, I Got Rhythm, Liza, S Wonderful, But Not for Me, and Stairway to Paradise.

Week 4: January 20-26

a world, a world by Linda Austin continues through the 25th.

Berto Boyd and the artists of Flamenco Pacifico. Photo courtesy of Berto Boyd.

Flamenco Pacifico
Presented by Berto Boyd
7:30 pm January 24 
The Old Church Concert Hall, 1422 SW 11th Ave 

In the spirit of convivencia (“coexistence” in Spanish), Flamenco Pacifico’s acclaimed guitarist and composer Berto Boyd integrates Brazilian samba and American jazz with traditional Spanish flamenco in this one-night-only performance. Boyd, with guitarist/singer Grant Ruiz, percussionist Terry Longshore, and bassist Randy Tico, will accompany dancers Elena Villa and Melissa Cruz.

An artist of Flip Fabrique’s Blizzard enjoying the snow. Photo courtesy of Flip Fabrique.

Blizzard
Flip Fabrique
8:00 pm January 25
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Silva Hall, 1 Eugene Way
&
Presented by Portland’5
7:00 pm January 26
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street, Portland

Canadian circus company, Flip Fabrique, started by a group of friends in 2011, appropriately takes on the extreme experience of winter as a canvas for storytelling, through circus arts, creating arresting visual poetry. Blizzard, captures the magic of winter and invites you to lose yourself in the wonderment and joy of movement. 

Olga Smirnova as Giselle and Artemy Belyakov as Albrecht in Alexei Ratmansky’s reconstructed “Giselle” at the Bolshoi Ballet. Photo by Damir Yusupov/Bolshoi Theater

Giselle
The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events
12:55 pm January 26

This romantic ballet in two acts follows the peasant girl Giselle as she learns that her aristocratic lover (Albrecht) is promised to another. After going mad and dying from a broken heart, she returns from the dead as a vengeful spirit (a Wili) and she and her tribe of Wilis, force Albrecht to dance to his death.

In this brand-new production by Alexei Ratmansky for the Bolshoi Ballet, former director of the Bolshoi Ballet (2004-09) and now the artist in residence with American Ballet Theater, gives Giselle a refresh. 

To create this new version of Giselle, Ratmansky drew from several historic sources that include notations made in the 1860’s by the French ballet master Henri Justamant that were a combination of written notes and miniature drawings of the choreography, and notes scribbled on musical scores that he found in various Russian archives. The ballet, according to a review by Marina Harss for Dance Tabs, “is both familiar and new. Watching it on opening night and on the following evening, with different casts, was like seeing a faded painting regain its colors,” she said. 

Debuting in Moscow on November 21, 2019, this screening was captured live from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow.

Week 5: January 27-February 2

Fertile Ground Festival of New Work and Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 31-February 8
Check the Groovin’ Greenhouse and Fertile Ground websites for locations and times

The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works and its dance-centric arm, Groovin’ Greenhouse (hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre), unfold in venues around town for 9-days. The performances feature new work in various stages of development, from the fully staged to workshops, in theater, comedy, dance and film, and everything else in between.

Groovin’ Greenhouse will be performed at Polaris Dance Theatre’s home theatre located at 1826 NW 18th. The choreographers and companies being presented there are: Polaris Dance Company, ELa FaLa Collective, Mark Koenigsberg and Sara Naegelin, Polaris Junior Company and NEO Youth Company, ELXR Dance Company, and Central Catholic Dance. Check the Groovin’ Greenhouse schedule for dates and times.

Independent Fertile Grounds dance productions

Interplay
Echo Theater Company 
January 31- February 9
Echo Theatre Company, 1515 SE 37th Avenue

Featuring dance, video, music, physical theatre, aerial expression, Shibari (Japanese rope bondage), and more, this mixed repetoire highlights the work of traditionally marginalized communities and will be sex and size positive. Each weekend will feature a different group of artists presenting 10-20 minute vignettes. To view these works is to explore what arises when several performance disciplines unite to produce an original piece of work.

Weekend A: Heavy Is The Head that Wears the Crown: Mental Health Memoirs of the Black Woman by Noelle Simone, Bad Grrls of Bellydance by Sasshole, self-titled Rip/Pull Effect, and We Belong Here by Echo Theater Company.

Weekend B: CITRINE by Joni Renee Whitworth, The Book of J by Sara Fay Goldman and Marc Schreiner, Textured by Flo Buddenbaum, Summer Olsson and Aurora Rupert, and We Belong Here by Echo Theater Company.

Junction
AWOL Dance Collective, push/FOLD, and Tempos Contemporary Circus 
January 31-February 2
A-WOL Performance Warehouse, 513 Northeast Schuyler StreetPortland

Performing together for the first time are aerial dance company A-WOL Dance Collective, contemporary dance company push/FOLD, and contemporary circus company Tempos Contemporary Circus. For this performance, each company was tasked worked with the concept of connectivity as their choreographic theme-the state or extent of being connected or interconnected

AWOL Dance Collective, ​is a non-profit arts organization with their own performance warehouse space in NE Portland that embodies the idea of “aerial without limits,”and believes that the arts build community and enhance the quality of life and in its various forms, fosters creativity, empowers individuals and brings people together.

push/FOLD, is the vision of composer-choreographer Samuel Hobbs, whose work fuses the power of his athletics and dance career with his professional practice in Osteopathic medicine. With a minimalistic visual design and Hobbs’ original sound scores, push/FOLD features momentum-based choreography and sculpturesque partnering that craft immersive moodscapes and virtuosic dance performance.

Tempos Contemporary Circus is an ensemble that combines dance, music, acrobatics, and physical theater to explore the connection between the vulnerability in ourselves and within our community.

Left: Subashini Ganesan (Photo by Intisar Abioto); right: Yashaswini Raghuram.

Listening to Silence
Collaborative choreography and performance by Subashini Ganesan and Yashaswini Raghuram
January 31-February 2
New Expressive Works, 819 SE Belmont Suite 2, located In the WYSE Building. (Use the building doors located on the South side of the building.)

In her new work, “Listening to Silence,” Portland-based Bharatanatyam dancer Subashini Ganesan, alongside Portland-based Bharanatayam/Odissi dancer Yashaswini Raghuram, explores the undefinable nature of silence through the writings of Rainer Maria Rilke, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and the Rig Veda poem, Nasadiya Suktam (10.129), which considers the origin of the universe and creation. The duet also examines contemporariness in relation to tradition, through construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of the Bharatanatyam vocabulary and rhythm.

Ganesan is the Creative Laureate of Portland, the executive director of New Expressive Works, and was recently awarded the White Bird 2019 Community Engagement Award.

Raghuram is a professional Bharatanatyam and Odissi dancer and teacher, and performs internationally as the principal dancer and the assistant director of the Odissi Dance Company. 

***

Upcoming Performances

February 
January 31-February 8, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work and Groovin’ Greenhouse
February 2, Holy Goats!, Performance Works NW
February 5-9, Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor, White Bird
February 8-9, Alice in Wonderland, Eugene Ballet
February 10, Fall in Love with Flamenco, Hosted by Espacio Flamenco
February 12, Grupo Corpo, Presented by White Bird
February 14-15, Darvejon Jones Dance Ensemble, BodyVox Artist in Residence
February 14-16, Been Ready, Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater
February 15-23, The Sleeping Beauty, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 21-22, Ten Tiny Dances/Corvallis
February 21-23, ORIGIN: Humble Beginnings, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 22, Interplay, Eugene Ballet and The University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
February 22, Nrityotsava 2020, A Benefit Program for Kalakendra
February 23, Swan Lake, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events
February 27-29, Cirque Alfonse, White Bird
February 28-March 7, Attention Everyone!, Presented by A-WOL Dance Collective
February 29, BodyVox on Tour in Medford, Oregon
February 29, Bal Utsav 2020, Hosted by Nartana Kuchipudi

March
March 5-7, Rennie Harris Funkedified, White Bird
March 7, Bootleggers Ball, BodyVox
March 6-8, Dragon and The Night Queen, Ballet Fantastique
March 13-15, Alembic Resident Artists Performance: Sarah Brahim, Maggie Heath, and Cat Ross, Performance Works NW
March 20-22, Since the First Sunrise/COMING HOME, Tracy Broyles
March 26-April 5, NINETEEN * TWENTY (world premiere), BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest
March 29, Romeo and Juliet, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events

April 
April 2-4, Camille A. Brown and Dancers, White Bird
April 4-5, Heaven and Earth, Eugene Ballet
April 9-12, Beautiful Decay, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 15, ChangMu Dance Company, White Bird
April (dates TBA): Linda Austin & Allie Hankins ║ The Traveler & the Thief
April 19, A Taste of Dance, Chapel Theatre
April 19, Jewels, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events
April 23, Drum Tao 2020
April 23-25, The Rite Of Spring, NW Dance Project
April 25-28, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre
April 30-May 2, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox

May
May 1-2, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox
May 3: Holy Goats!Plus, Performance Works NW
May 8-9, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 8-10, Luna Mistica, Ballet Fantastique
May 12-13, Dance Theatre of Harlem, White Bird
May 15 – 17, Junior Artist Generator, BodyVox
May 22-24, ARISE: What Dance Could Be, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 29-31, Portland Tap Dance Festival, Portland Tap Alliance

 June
June 5-13, The Americans 2.0, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 11-13, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
June 12-14, Up Close, The Portland Ballet


The unkindness of strangers

James Canfield's distillation of "A Streetcar Named Desire" highlights NW Dance Project's premieres, with Sarah Slipper's dance of love

The funk and sweat and desperate seediness of New Orleans are so thick in the air above James Canfield’s new dance Sketches of Connotation that you can almost smell them rising from the stage of Lincoln Performance Hall. It’s an intoxicating aroma.

Sketches, Canfield’s distilled evocation of Tennessee Williams’ beautiful nightmare of a play A Streetcar Named Desire, is the anchor of NW Dance Project’s fifteenth-season-ending Summer Premieres program, which opened Thursday and continues Friday and Saturday nights, and it’s a gorgeous, exquisitely crafted piece of dance theater, the work of a choreographer who’s stayed true to his longtime vision of dance as a reflection of popular culture and who now, as a veteran artist, seems fully in control of his considerable imaginative skills.

William Couture, Anthony Pucci, Colleen Loverde, Kody Jauron, Katherine Loverde, and Franco Nieto in the world premiere of James Canfield’s Sketches of Connotation. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

NDP’s program of three premieres also includes company artistic director Sarah Slipper’s Save Me the Plums, a sweet and often funny dance of love and loss performed beautifully by Andrea Parson and Franco Nieto; and Felix Landerer’s angsty All’s Been Said, in which a dancer in a polar-bear mask declaims about magicians and climate change.

Continues…

Wolf Tales: Howl about it?

NW Dance Project goes deep into the mythological woods with a loose and lightly fractured show of tales choreographed by the dancers

Hey, there, Little Red Riding Hood. What’s goin’ down in the neighborhood?

Wolf Tales, the droll and sweetly macabre new program from NW Dance Project that ends its brief run at Lincoln Performance Hall on Saturday night, is something of a case of mistaken self-identity. Nobody seems to know who anybody is at any particular time, even and perhaps especially themselves, since the characters in this mythic wood seem to be going through some downright werewolfian transformations. Joseph Campbell might call what’s happening a Hero’s Journey, but no need to get all hoity-toity about it: Let’s just call it a collection of fractured fairy tales.

A passel of Hoods: William Couture, Franco Nieto, Kody Jauron, Anthony Pucci, and Kevin Pajarillaga in Andrea Parson’s “Little Red Riding Hood.” Photo: Brian Truitt Covert

This is the slot in NDP’s season that’s usually turned over to the dancers to create, and in this case, rather than making a series of independent short pieces, they’ve stitched the thing together to create a narrative arc. A lot of dance companies do dancer-created shows, either on their seasons or as side projects, and good or bad, it’s usually an interesting and revealing sort of program to see. What might the dancers do on their own? Who has interesting choreographic ideas? How might it differ from the company’s usual style?

On those counts, Wolf Tales delivers a pretty high payoff. I wouldn’t call it high art. I would call it a kick in the pants. The show has a looseness, a frivolity, that doesn’t always show up in the company’s more earnest works. Freed from being the vessels of someone else’s choreographic imagination, it seems, dancers just want to have fun. And if the show could be a little tighter, the fun’s infectious.

Katherine Disenhof in Kody Jauron’s “Snow White,” with Andrea Parson in the shadows. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Each of the five linked pieces is based on a well-known folk tale adapted and choreographed by one of the dancers. Company veteran Andrea Parson sets the table with a Little Red Riding Hood inhabited by multiple Reds, multiple Wolves, a fair amount of howling, and a soundtrack built around Li’l Red Riding Hood, Laura Gibson’s catchily pensive 2012 cover that skips the leering and captures the yearning in Sam the Sham and the Pharaoh’s 1966 hit. Colleen Loverde prowls the stage as a sort of neo-Grimm narrator, introducing characters and bringing home the evening’s theme: Things are not as they seem.

Snow White follows, in nicely turned choreography by Kody Jauron that features Parson as a wind-up mechanical toy of a heroine, Katherine Disenhof as a manipulating witch, and, of course, a shiny red apple.

Colleen Loverde in Anthony Pucci’s “Chicken Little.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Then it’s off to Anthony Pucci’s high-camp, farcical Chicken Little, in which Disenhof, Loverde, Parson, and Franco Nieto (as the cool-operator, Snidely Whiplash-style manipulator) squawk about the stage like, well, chickens with their heads cut off at the possibility of a natural (or unnatural) disaster. It segues into Nieto’s The Three Little Pigs, a piece built on bricks and huffs and puffs and yearning and desire: can a young pig and a young wolf find true love and happiness, or will society keep them forever apart? There are echoes here of that infamous wall in The Fantasticks.

Jauron returns to choreograph the rousing and satisfying finale, The Ugly Ducking, which brings the entire company onstage and, browbeaten duckling slowly revealed in all his swanlike glory, completes the transformation. Goodness, Little Red Riding Hood, how did we get from there to here?

Katherine Disenhof, William Couture, Andrea Parson and Kevin Pararillaga in Kody Jauron’s “Ugly Duckling.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

After some retirements and movings-on and a couple of additions, NW Dance Project’s company has emerged as a tight-knit, talented group of eight – Jauron, Parson, Nieto, Loverde, Disenhof, Pucci, William Couture, and Kevin Pararillaga – who know each other’s styles and possibilities and work easily together. They’ve emerged, you might say, from something similar but not quite the same.

Some lovely design work helps pull the whole thing together: costumes by Alexa Stark, a silken-white forest of mystical trees conceived by the choreographers and executed by production manager Thyra Hartshorn, and some spectacular lighting by Jeff Forbes that shifts seamlessly with the seasons and moods.

In the meantime, there’s one final performance of Wolf Tales. If you make it there on Saturday night, you’ll probably laugh. Who knows? You might even howl.

*

NW Dance Project’s Wolf Tales concludes with a performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at Lincoln Performance Hall on the Portland State University campus. Ticket information here.

Colleen Loverde in Anthony Pucci’s “Chicken Little.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Comedy tussles with drama in NDP’s ‘Room 4,’ ‘Carmen’

Physical humor animates premiere and revival in the dance company's 15th season opener

The premise of Sarah Slipper’s new dance Room 4, which opened Thursday in the Newmark Theatre and is continuing its premiere production through Saturday night, is quirky and appealing, in a how’s-she-going-to-do-that? way: to cross the cryptic playwright Harold Pinter with the over-the-top comedy troupe Monty Python, translate both into the world of dance, and see what happens.

From left: Disenhof, Couture, Parson, and Nieto in the premiere of NW Dance Project artistic director Sarah Slipper’s “Room 4.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

In a way, it seems an impossible challenge. Pinter and Python are almost opposites of the British theater, Pinter with his minimalist pauses and impenetrable meanings, Python with its absurdist maximalist glee. Pinter can be humorous, but in a dank and baleful way. Python stares into the abyss and finds it an uproariously funny place, a droll minefield of jokiness. Yet both also share an ingrained suspicion of human nature and institutions, both rely on cleanliness and sharpness for their theatrical effects, and both are bent on upsetting the apple cart of convention. It’s here, in Pinter’s evasive precision, Python’s oddball physicality, and their shared jaundice, that Slipper and her Northwest Dance Project performers find a common vein. Cleanliness is next to godliness, not that either Pinter or Python holds a lot of truck with the Big Guy.

Room 4 is performed by four dancers, each named simply and cryptically by a color: William Couture (Mr. Brown), Katherine Disenhof (Ms. Green), Franco Nieto (Mr. Grey) and Andrea Parson (Ms. Blue). They are in an office, that enduring 20th and 21st century symbol of hell on earth, with desks and no windows, and are struggling for supremacy in quest of a rumored promotion for one of them to the much-desired “outer office,” which includes a window that actually opens. There’ll be a twist, and that’s really all you need to know about the plot. The dancers move in concert to text recorded by a quartet of actors and consisting of a string of repeated office-hell phrases: “Why bother?”; “We’re all in this together.”

One of Slipper’s great strengths as a choreographer is her knowledge of what her dancers’ bodies can do and her ability to shape their motions in surprising ways. The four dancers in Room 4 move fluidly yet somehow also haltingly together, reaching, bumping, stacking, stretching against one another and the desks onstage, creating a bumptious action that at once goes all over the place and nowhere at all. And in spite of the forced conformity of the office atmosphere, the dancers’ individual personalities find their space, from Nieto’s swagger to Disenhof’s sly sass. The piece begins with a paper bag stuck over one of the office workers’ heads, and the whole thing’s carried out in a blind and empty routine that seems to want to be both comic and harrowing. The miming’s terrific – stylized large-gesture movement that surely owes something to Monty Python’s exaggerated physical storytelling, although in one of the funniest sequences the modus operandi seems closer to the Three Stooges.

The color-coded costumes are by Alexa Stark, the excellent lighting by Jeff Forbes, and the suitably foreboding found-sound score by Owen Belton. In the end, the unstable balance between comedy and drama tips toward the dramatic, which lands the comedy a square one on the jaw. That would be Pinter, winning over Python in a TKO.

*

The company in Ihsan Rustem’s “Carmen.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

The humor comes out to play more clearly in the second, longer portion of the program, the return of resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem’s Carmen, which is updated to the 1950s, complete with rockabilly impressions and a concentration on hair: a beauty shop for the woman dancers, a barber shop for the men. This Carmen was a delight when it premiered in 2017, and it’s a delight now: Rustem’s taken a story almost as familiar as the tale of Santa’s visits down the chimney, and made it his own. This program marks the beginning of NDP’s 15th season and reflects a natural evolution. The company began with a commitment to perform only original works, and has done them by the dozens. It’s an adventurous mission, by its nature something of an unpredictable joy ride. Some of the dances, of course, stand out from the pack, and the company has gradually begun to build a repertory of such pieces that it keeps and repeats. Now, all of NDP’s dances are original, but not all of them are new.

Three of the four main dancers from 2017 return to their roles here: Andrea Parson as the cool-temperature, nouveau-riche seductress Carmen; Franco Nieto as DJ (for Don José), who falls intemperately for Carmen’s charms; and Lindsey McGill as the sweet but forlorn Micaëla, who was engaged to DJ until Carmen slinked into town. A late injury sidelined Elijah Labay, who is replaced quite swimmingly by Anthony Pucci as Eli, the sideburned, swiveling new guy in town, who plays Carmen’s game possibly better than she does herself.

Nieto hoists Parson in “Carmen.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Rustem knows how to shape a narrative beautifully, creating something of a contemporary riff on the classic story ballet, and his wit is always present but never overpowering. Once again the dancing is crisp and superb, with the Wolf Pack women’s corps of Disenhof, Samantha Campbell, Colleen Loverde, and Julia Radick matching the men’s corps of Kevin Pajarillaga, Couture, Kody Jauron, and the slyly named “Hair Dryer” like socks to a hop.

As Jamuna Chiarini reported a few days ago, four long-time company members are leaving after this production. Labay and Radick, who recently married, are moving to his native Quebec. McGill is going home to Texas, and Campbell wants to move into arts administration. All four will be missed. Newcomers Loverde and Pajarillaga are stepping in, and look to be good additions.

*

Northwest Dance Project’s Room 4 and Carmen have their final performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, in the Newmark Theatre of Portand’5 Centers for the Arts. Ticket information here.

 

 

DramaWatch Weekly: story dance

Dancer Andrea Parson teams with story shaper Susan Banyas to tell tales at CoHo Summerfest; Chekhov rides again; a twist on "Shrew"

“I’ve always been interested in theater,” says Andrea Parson, “but I’ve always been on the outskirts of it, because I’m a ‘dancer,’ not an ‘actor.’”
You can practically hear the air quotes as she speaks, conscious of the arts-discipline silos that so often shape the perceptions others have of artists but not the visions they have of themselves. Then again, the emphasis hardly is misplaced: Parson well and truly is a dancer. Winner of the highly prestigious Princess Grace Award for Dance in 2010, she’s been a frequently featured company member with NW Dance Project for several years. But she hasn’t been content to stay at home in the “dancer” silo.

Andrea Parson, telling stories. Photo: Fuschia Lin

A few years ago, for instance, she studied clowning, in a workshop taught by CoHo Productions’ producing artistic director Philip Cuomo. Now, she’s bringing a show of her own to CoHo’s Summerfest 2018. Finding Soul: a Constellation of Stories is a dance-theater hybrid co-directed by Parson and Susan Banyas, featuring Parson, Megan Dawn and Stephanie Schaaf, each performing an amalgam of movement and text, image-making and emotional expression, personal memory and family history.

Continues…