Carla Mann

Northwest Dance Project: Dances with wolves

Northwest Dance Project's Summer Splendors features a wolf and a Woolf and some fine dancing

This weekend, Northwest Dance Project adds three world premieres to its already impressive list of debut performances. Summer Splendors is a set of three new works that look to tap into some of the wild energy that arrives with the warm weather in the bipolar seasons of the Pacific Northwest. The show opens with We Were Wolves by guest choreographer Carla Mann, who teaches dance at Reed and sports an extensive résumé of Portland-dance collaborations, including Imago Theatre, tEEth, and Minh Tran & Company. Next is the remarkable Woolf Papers, from NDP’s artistic director, Sarah Slipper, about a different kind of “wolf” entirely. After the second intermission, the show ends with international performer and choreographer Yin Yui’s Distant Fold.

We Were Wolves starts in the woods, with a floor-to-ceiling projection of children playing outdoors, late shifting to lush images of trees, with a breathy voiceover talking about summer memories of going wild with freedom in the outdoors. It’s by far the most summery piece of the night: the longing buzz of cicadas appeared on the soundtrack throughout the work, and it was easy to imagine the air thickening and warming again like the troubling early heatwave the city just left. The show did what it says on the tin, with dancers one after another becoming more and more lycanthropic in their movements. When they howl, they really howl. I kept imagining what it was like to practice that, and how it had to have brought at least some of the dancers to a new, wild place for a moment to find such throaty sounds.


Dance Weekly: Women make dances

New dancers, new dances, new season, fresh faces and fresh starts.

This weekend promises to explode with warmth, light, beauty, vitality, and rigorous dancing from a multitude of choreographic perspectives. And maybe a little rain mixed in just to balance it all out.

I am talking about the three world premiers by the women choreographers in NW Dance Project’s annual Summer Splendors program, and the debut of The Portland Ballet’s Studio Company, with the school’s Career Track dancers performing alongside ten TPB alumni currently dancing professionally or attending dance training programs across the country. New dancers, new dances, new season, fresh faces and fresh starts.


Dance Weekly: Two by two and ‘Side by Side’

A set of duets by Portland independent choreographers highlights the weekend

Jordan Matter is a New York photographer who captures dancers doing extraordinary physical feats in ordinary everyday places, talking on a phone in a phone booth with one leg dangerously stretched to the max against the wall or leaping across a crosswalk in the middle of a busy intersection. His series of photos is called Dancers Among Us, a title I love because for me it evokes the image of dancers as superhuman creatures with powerful abilities living incognito amongst “regular” folk.

This is a little how I feel about pop-up performance projects here in Portland. All of these creative people come out of the woodwork for a night or two and put on a great show and then disappear again back into the fabric of Portland.

Luke Gutgsell and Elise Knudson.

Luke Gutgsell and Elise Knudson.

In an attempt to draw out these “dancers among us” for a little longer than their scheduled events, I would like to draw your attention to the five choreographers who were chosen by Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance to make new dances for the upcoming show, Side by Side, moving in twos.

But first, here are this weeks performance listings.


Dance weekend: Between the ‘Forest’ and the city

Carla Mann's "Forest," a sizzling Flamenco show, Clare Whistler and Jen Mitas' "a hole in time"

Summer is winding down, and though it’s not quite time to pack it all up and go indoors, this week/weekend shows that we are starting to make the transition. The last three dance offerings of August come from vastly different regions of the dance world—post-modern contemporary dance, Flamenco and site-specific dancing in the trees.

Save the dates: PICA’s TBA  festival runs September 10-20 and will feature four Portland dance artists—Lucy Yim, Suniti Dernovsek, Keyon Gaskin and Luke Gutgsell—as well as the ever-popular Ten Tiny Dances. We’ll talk more about them next week. White Bird starts up the new season with Momix, October 8-10, and then brings the great Twyla Tharp’s 50th anniversary tour to town on October 14. It looks to be a really exciting year.

Jesse Berdine and Estelle Olivares in "Forest" by Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest. Photo by Nick Shepard

Jesse Berdine and Estelle Olivares in “Forest” by Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest. Photo by Nick Shepard

Clare Whistler and Jen Mitas: a hole in time
7 pm August 26
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
This collaborative work between Whistler and Mitas might be a discussion, an action, a score, a happening, a dig, a seminar, a research presentation, a walk, a sharing, an interaction, or a round table—who knows? Whistler is interested in breaking down barriers between disciplines and artists and finding ways to offer insight, feeling and moments of timeless beauty in performance. Mitas is investigating digging and the creation of unproductive holes, both as a performance practice and a site of resistance/disruption/joy in post-industrial economies. It’s an interesting combination and will be fun to see how it’s presented.

Carla Mann and Heidi Duckler Dance Theater/Northwest
5 pm and 6:15 pm August 30
Hoyt Arboretum, 4000 SW Fairview Blvd.
Carla Mann—a long-time Portland choreographer, Reed College dance professor (on sabbatical 2015-16), and the associate director of Heidi Duckler Dance Theater/Northwest, a site-specific dance company that lives part-time in Los Angeles and part-time in Portland—has choreographed the first part of a two-part site specific dance focusing on Portland’s growth and development and its connection to nature and urban growth. The first piece, “Forest,” (with music by Portland jazz band Blue Cranes) will explore Hoyt Arboretum and the surrounding forest, and the second, “Urban,” will take place 7 and 9 pm September 12 at Sustainable Northwest Wood, 2701 SE 14th Ave.

For more information on Mann, check out an article written by Emmaly Wiederholt for Stance on Danceas part of her interview series The Dancing Over 50 Project. “Look at dance broadly. Look at the forms of dance that you haven’t experienced before. If you’re primarily involved in the concert dance world, go out and social dance. Explore the breadth of dance activities that are happening. Let your palette be really open.”

Tinto de Verano
Presented by La Peña Flaminca de Portland
7:30 pm August 30
The Headwaters Theater, 55 NE Farragut St.
Flamenco artists from the Bay Area, France and Portland will gather together at The Headwaters Theater for one very special night of music, singing and dancing. Featured artists are dancers Andrea La Canela and Brenna McDonald, singer Cristo Cortis, and musician Ricardo Diaz. La Peña Flaminca is a Portland organization dedicated to promoting the flamenco arts by organizing monthly gatherings around the art. It  promises to be a passionate and fiery evening.

Want to read more about Oregon dance? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!

Review: NW Dance Project’s splendid ‘Splendors’

The company closes its 10th season on a high note, and looks ahead to a new and bigger home

Summer Splendors is very likely the last program Northwest Dance Project will present in its small light-filled studio on North Shaver Street, and if so the company’s going out in high style: this is one of the most appealing dance programs I’ve seen in months.

Forced out by the frenzied real estate roulette of North Mississippi Avenue (the studio is just around the corner from the hubbub of the Mississippi strip), NDP will move its busy summer schedule to the new glassed-in studios at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall. And the company’s in negotiations to move permanently into a much larger space on Portland’s close-in east side. If all goes smoothly, that space will be converted for studios over the summer, and ready for NDP to begin its 11th season in the fall.

From left: Kilbane, Nieto, Labay in "Tis Is Embracing." Photo: Christopher Peddecord

From left: Kilbane, Nieto, Labay in “This Is Embracing.” Photo: Christopher Peddecord

In the meantime, nab tickets for Summer Splendors if you can. The program opened Friday night and continues through June 15, and not a lot of tickets are available.