Chitra the Girl Prince

DanceWatch Weekly: Welcome to Urban Bush Women

White Bird brings back Urban Bush Women for a movement-based discussion of race, gender, identity, body image, and economics

This week I am excited to introduce you to Hair and Other Stories, a new collaborative work by Brooklyn-based Urban Bush Women (UBW). The piece blends dance, theatre, voice, and visual elements, focusing on hair and specifically African American women’s hair, and Urban Bush Women use it as a platform to discuss race, gender, identity, body image, and economics. The work, presented by White Bird, opens at the Newmark on Thursday, March 1, and runs through March 3.

I am also personally thrilled to introduce Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and UBW to you because Zollar was one of my dance teachers at Florida State University way back in the day. I was also very fortunate to perform in her work Shelter, a dance about the physical and emotional deprivation of homeless people, and to receive a full scholarship to the very first Summer Leadership Institute on undoing racism and creating a new dancer for a new society. Working with Zollar and UBW opened up my point of view to a much broader concept of what dance could be, what a dancer could look like, and to new ideas of how to move and live in the world.

Hair and Other Stories, described by the company as the “urgent dialogue of the 21st century,” actually began its development in 2001 as Hairstories, a work by Zollar and the company at the time, that discussed the cultural significance of black women’s hair through a collection of individual women’s hair stories and humor.

Zollar founded the company in 1984 and has received many awards for her work, including three Bessie Awards and two Doris Duke Awards. These days, she has taken on a different role in the company’s creative process and is the project’s dramaturg. This updated version of Hair and Other Stories has been choreographed by associate artistic directors and company dancers Chanon Judson and Samantha Speis in collaboration with the company dancers, and it’s directed by Raelle Myrick-Hodges with costumes by DeeDee Gomes, projection design by Nick Hussong, and lighting by Xavier Pierce.

Celebrating it’s 34th year, UBW “seeks to bring the untold and under-told histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance.” They do this “from a woman-centered perspective and as members of the African Diaspora community in order to create a more equitable balance of power in the dance world and beyond.”

The company’s core values include: validating the individual; catalyzing for social change; building trust through process; entering community and co-creating stories; celebrating the movement and culture of the African Diaspora; and recognizing that place matters.

In addition to developing a large body of work, creating new works (for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco, University of Maryland, Virginia Commonwealth University and others), touring internationally, and teaching dance at Florida State University, UBW has developed community engagement programs like BOLD (Builders, Organizers, & Leaders through Dance), the Summer Leadership Institute (SLI), and the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center.

In a behind-the-scenes video of Hair and Other Stories, associate artistic director Samantha Speis explains that what we will see in the performance “is our practice. This is what we are doing and you have an hour and 15-20 minutes to be inside of that and experience it and examine some things about yourself. It’s also really about lifting everyone’s humanity because we’ve all been dehumanized by the construct and its about understanding how we all sit inside of it.”

You can also catch a preview of the work in the companies teaser here.

In a video interview for The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage in 2016, Zollar, discusses her evolution as a choreographer and the importance of embracing risk throughout her practice. “Risk,” she says, “exists on the edge of failure…so if you’re not right on that edge of failure…you’re not in a place of risk. Living on that edge and learning from that edge to me is a really exciting place.”

For Dance Magazine earlier this month Zollar opened up about her creative process, and the hardest parts of sustaining a dance company.

“I have a three-idea rule: Whenever I see other performances, I have to come out with three ideas—maybe it’s costumes, lighting, staging. Don’t dismiss anything. If it was a waste of your time, you didn’t enter with the right mind-set.”

Continues…

DanceWatch Weekly: Dance apocalypse

A vast number of dance concerts this weekend will keep you moving

It’s down the rabbit hole and into the land of the Beatles with Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Alice (in wonderland) and Mark Morris’s Pepperland (respectively), and oh, so muchly much more in between. Fifteen performances to be exact. Fifteen, completely different dance shows to choose from in Oregon from now until…next week.

Considering the breadth of dance works being presented this week I thought I would take a moment to offer up a few suggestions from an expert in watching dance, on how to watch dance.

In Through Our Critics’ Eyes, Expert tips on how to get the most out of music, movies, art, dance and theater published in The Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Sarah Kaufman lays out a sequence of steps/best practices to follow to better understand dance. In summary Kaufman says…

1. a. Warm up.

Do some metal stretching before heading out to a show. Kaufman recommends studying the dance company, performers, choreography, music, the era or historical figures, beforehand.

1. b. Coffee.

Drink lots of it. Stay awake.

2. Juggle.

Watch the dance as an audience member and let yourself get carried away but also watch it objectively, like an appraiser, “evaluating the individuality and uniqueness of the performance, the artistic quality, its ability to stir emotions, the significance and truthfulness of the whole enterprise.”

3. Scan your senses.

Because seeing dance is a sensory experience it’s helpful to tune in to your physical responses to the performance. Ask yourself questions like how is the music and the sound quality? How does it make me feel? What’s the relationship between the music and movement? Does it make me want to dance? Are the visual elements (sets, costumes, lighting) appealing? If something is unsettling does it serve an artistic purpose — or does it not?

4. Trust your instincts.

“Critics are constantly asking themselves, “Is this any good?” The answer begins in one’s gut.”

5. Repeat steps 1-4.

“The more dance you see, the sharper your eye.”

Enjoy!

Performances this week!

Dancers of Mark Morris Dance Group in Pepperland. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Pepperland
Extremely limited ticket availability
Mark Morris Dance Group, Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm February 21
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
Co-commissioned by Portland dance presenter White Bird, and performing in Portland for one night only, the Mark Morris Dance Group will perform Pepperland (premiere May 2017, Liverpool Royal Court Theatre), an evening-length tribute to the Beatles’ groundbreaking 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Joined by a 7-member chamber music ensemble, the 17-member modern dance company will perform an original score by composer Ethan Iverson interspersed with arrangements of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, With a Little Help From My Friends, A Day in the Life, When I’m Sixty-Four, Within You Without You, and Penny Lane.

Morris’s work, like his company of dancers, is diverse, extremely musical, mixes moods and dance styles, and treats gender roles as interchangeable.

Photo courtesy of Physical Education.

Futility of Preparedness
Physical Education; keyon gaskin, Allie Hankins, Takahiro Yamamoto, and Lu Yim
5 pm February 21 Opening Reception and Performance
Linfield College, James F. Miller Fine Arts Center, Linfield Gallery, 900 SE Baker St.,
McMinnville
Focusing on concepts surrounding the idea of self, “in its immediacy, in the current now, the currents of weather, in what is currently seismic,” Portland performance collective Physical Education “addresses the phenomenology of disaster planning,” and considers “how the language of necessity, survival, and the informed, create meaning in different contexts.” Through workshops and performances Physical Education “will work with different communities to consider how this language functions in relation to speculation, paranoia and the world of information, resources and materials.”

Eugene Ballet in Sympathique. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

Sympathique
Pink Martini and Eugene Ballet Company
7:30 pm February 21, 100 LaSells Stewart Center, Oregon State University, 875 SW 26th St., Corvallis
February 23, 2018 at 7:30 pm, The Elsinore Theatre, 170 High St. SE, Salem
Eugene Ballet Company directed by Toni Pimble presents a two part evening. The first, a ballet by San Francisco choreographer Val Caniparoli called “Tutto Eccetto il Lavandino” or “Everything But The Kitchen Sink;”a contemporary work set to the music of Vivaldi. The second, is a collection of ballets choreographed by Pimble, modern dance choreographer Sarah Ebert, and #instaballet creator Suzanne Haag in collaboration with Pink Martini. to world jazz, pop and classical music.

Pink Martini will not be accompanying Eugene Ballet on the tour.

Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, Oregon.

Chapel Theatre Grand Opening
Corinn DeWaard, Illya Torres-Garner, and Jr Holland
February 21-24
Chapel Theatre, 4107 SE Harrison St., Milwaukie
Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie—owned, run, and managed by Corinn DeWaard (Artistic Director of TriptheDark Dance company), Illya Torres-Garner, and Jr Holland—is finally opening for arts business.This renovated two-story, 4,554 square foot, 1940s church at 4107 SE Harrison Street in Milwaukie, is now available to rent for plays, dance performances, and other community events.
Celebrations include a full week of activities showcasing the art, performance and classes that Chapel Theater offers. Check out Chapel Theatre’s website for the full schedule.

Photo courtesy of Tahni Holt.

A Body Full
Tahni Holt and Luke Wyland, hosted by Russo Lee Gallery
6:30 pm February 22
Russo Lee Gallery, 805 NW 21st Ave.
Post-performance conversation moderated by Meagan Atiyeh of the Oregon Arts Commission
A BODY FULL, is a performative response by Portland dance artist Tahni Holt and composer Luke Wyland to Elizabeth Malaska’s Heavenly Bodies show at the Russo Lee Gallery-a gallery that showcases work of artists from the Pacific Northwest region.

In Paul Maziar’s interview with Malaska for ArtsWatch she says, “The body that’s in this new series of work, one could call it a non-beautiful body. They’re beautiful to me, but not in the way that we’re taught: skinny, young. We’re taught to have expectations of the centralized female figure, so when this figure doesn’t fulfill those expectations, I want to force an all-new way of relating. A different rubric for understanding the valorization of that figure. Putting something into an image is a valorization of it, especially paintings in a gallery. That’s art with a capital A. It carries a lot of weight and I’m very cognizant of that. I have an agenda.”

Wayne Bund in Strong Female Protagonist . Photo courtesy of Risk/Reward and PNCA.

Strong Female Protagonist
Created and performed by Wayne Bund
Presented in association with Risk/Reward and PNCA
February 23-March 4
PNCA Mediatheque, 511 NW Broadway
Multidisciplinary artist, and first grade teacher Wayne Bund presents, Strong Female Protagonist, a queer solo performance piece that uses comedy, theater, music, dance and drag to illuminate the power of femininity and sass.

Part autobiography, part ‘80s nostalgia, part drag fantasy, Bund’s solo follows little Wayne on his quest to become a drag queen called Feyonce. “He struggles with self-doubt about where his inspiration comes from and is taken to an appropriation fantasy. He is judged by Judith Butler, his ego, and his mother, until he lets go of his dreams and finds a new lineage.”

Alembic Artist Catherine Egan, Suzanne Chi, and GRINDGROUP. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW.

Alembic Resident Showcase
Performance Works NorthWest presents; Catherine Egan, Suzanne Chi, and GRINDGROUP
February 23-25
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave. Portland
Post-show talk with the artists facilitated by Tahni Holt after the Saturday show
After working in the Performance Works NW studio for the past year, the 2017 Alembic Resident Artists Catherine Egan, Suzanne Chi, and GRINDGROUP are ready to reveal their work. Chosen Alembic Residents are awarded 80-100 hours of studio time to be used within a 10-month period.

Egan’s civilized is an exploration of ice as a visual medium and the sound of language as an abstraction of communication. “civilized”was created in collaboration with movement artist Celine Bouly and instrumentalist Doug Theriault.

An Incidental Host/ the passenger may in fact be the pilot by long-time Portland dance artist Suzanne Chi, focuses the lens inward using the microscopic world as inspiration, investigating the motility of bacteria and protozoa while questioning the role these organisms have on the development of human personality.

(p→p) presented by Portland based contemporary multi-media art group GRINDGROUP is an exploration of what is possible for p. “If p is possible, then it is necessary that p is possible. Also, if p is necessary, then it is necessary that p is necessary. and if it ought to be that p, then it is permitted that p seems appropriate, but we should probably not include that p, because in doing so we are saying that if p is the case, p ought to be permitted.”

PDX Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Stephen Jennings.

Configure
PDX Contemporary Ballet, Artistic Director Briley Neugebauer
February 23-25
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont
Inspired by the clay sculptural works of Michele Collier and the music of Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi, PDX Contemporary Ballets’ artistic director and choreographer Briley Neugebauer shapes her choreography like Collier’s clay, revealing the the body’s raw material, and proposing new perspectives on beauty.

What Neugebauer loves about Collier’s work, she said in the press release is “that you can still see her original material–the clay. Many of her figures appear as if they are emerging from the clay and trying to break free of the slab that is part of them. Others look as if they have embraced the fact that they are partially formed, waiting for what is to come.”

A-WOL Dance Collective. Photo courtesy of A-WOL Dance Collective.

Left of Center
A-WOL Dance Collective (Aerial Without Limits)
February 23-March 4
A-WOL Dance Center, 513 NE Schuyler St.
Celebrating their 15-year anniversary season in their spacious 5,000-square-foot warehouse home, A-WOL Dance Collective, a 13-member company that combines aerial arts and dance, will create an immersive experience in the round with a haunting soundscape and Victorian-era costumes weaving together “a fantastical tale suspended between reverie and reality…enveloped in a dream state free of the limitations of the waking world.”

JamBallah NW Friday night showcase at the Artists Repertory Theatre in Portland, Ore. (photo by Casey Campbell Photography)

Allegro Dance Company Winter Fundraiser
Hosted by Allegro PDX
7:30 pm February 24
Peninsula Odd Fellows Lodge, 4834 N Lombard St.
Join Allegro Dance Company in an all-ages benefit performance for the company, featuring two new group pieces by the Allegro Dance Company, and duets and solos by Ashley Lopez, Heather Powers, Morgan Fay, Talia, Laura Blake, Rachel Smith, Bevin Victoria, Elise, Emilie Lauren, and Anna Maniaci. The performance will also include Inclusion Fusion Arts formerly Happy Hips Adapted Movement & Dance, students of Ashley López and Emilie Lauren,

The evening will include raffles and such prizes as free dance classes, workshops (JamBallah NW), chocolate, wine, art pieces, studio time, dance accessories, vintage swag, and more! And of course all proceeds go to helping Allegro Dance Company survive another year.

The brainchild of internationally renowned belly dancer Ashley López, Allegro Dance Company is an experimental fusion dance collective that draws on the artistry of each company member as well as the dance styles of many cultural dances.

“Chitra: The Girl Prince”: dancing, adventure, and an ancient tale. Photo: David Kinder

Chitra: The Girl Prince
NW Children’s Theatre, Co-directed by Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon
February 24-March 3
Mainstage, NW Children’s Theatre, 1819 NW Everett St.
In this retelling of a fourth century tale from the Mahabharata, co-directors Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon along with a collaborative team of theater artists, musicians, and dancers from India and Portland’s Bengali-American community, tell the story of a warrior princess who struggles to stay true to herself while balancing her responsibility to her people and true love’s call.

Alice (in wonderland)
Choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 24-March 4
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St.
Follow Alice and a zany cast of characters down the rabbit hole into the unknown in Septime Webre’s 2012 retelling of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. This large scale production, which marries tradition with modernism with the help of ballet and acrobatics, boasts an original score from composer/violinist Matthew Pierce, to be played by the OBT orchestra, costumes by designer Liz Vandal, and sets by James Kronzer. The production includes a cast of 100 dancers, 50 of whom are children from The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre.

Dancer Sweta Ravisankar. Photo courtey of Sweta Ravisankar.

Shivarpanam
Performance by Sweta Ravisankar
5:30 pm February 25
Portland Shiridi Sai Baba Temple – Hindu Educational & Cultural Society of America, 2110 NW Aloclek Dr, Hillsboro
Sweta Ravisankar, a Bharatanatyam and Nattuvangam performer, teacher, and choreographer, from Mumbai, India will present a collection of dances based on Lord Shiva, the hindu god of destruction.
Ravisankar is pursuing her Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology at OHSU, holds a Master’s Degree in Bharatanatyam and Biology, maintains dance schools (Sarada Kala Nilayam) in San Jose, California, and Hillsboro, Oregon, and travels the world performing.

For those who don’t know, Bharatanatyam is the name of a style of South Indian classical dance. Nattuvangam is the rhythmic instrument played in the background of Bharatanatyam performances and is made of two metal cymbals—one of iron and the other of brass.

Photo courtesy of Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater.

Rejoice! at AWMC Regional Finals
Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater, Artistic Director Oluyinka Akinjiola
6:30 pm February 26
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
Catch Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre performing at the August Wilson Red Door Project Monologue competition.

The August Wilson Red Door Project is about changing the racial ecology of Portland through the arts.

Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater is a dance and music ensemble directed by Oluyinka Akinjiola that looks at tradition through a contemporary lens. Connecting the past to the present-from African roots to modern day Jazz and House to current political issues of police brutality through new choreography by Michael Galen, Jamie Minkus, and Oluyinka Akinjiola.

 

Kinky Boots photo courtesy of the internet.

Kinky Boots
Presented by Broadway in Eugene
February 27-March 1
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Silva Hall, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Inspired by a true story, Kinky Boots follows Charlie Price, an aspiring young businessman who is forced to give up his dreams in order to save his late father’s shoe factory from the brink of bankruptcy. He finds unexpected inspiration in the form of Lola, an entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos. As Charlie and Lola work together to turn the factory around, the pair find that they have more in common than they thought possible. Changing your perspective can change the world.

Upcoming Performances

March
March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 2-4, Zorro: The Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 3-4, Voices: A Choreographers’ Showcase, Hosted by PDX Dance Collective
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, HEDDA, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April
April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 7, Reaching Back to Our Roots: Annual Gala Fundraiser, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 9, Noontime Showcase: Jefferson Dancers, Presented by Portland’5
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-21, In layers, choreography by Jana Kristi Zahler
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May
May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 11-13, Alice in Wonderland, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, The Holding Project, directed by Amy Leona Havin
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem

 

DanceWatch Weekly: Intersecting with India 2

The week ahead in dance along with some reflections inspired by 17 Indian dance groups

Since Saturday night, I have been riding on a blissful cloud of happy after seeing 17 Indian dance groups from the Northwest and beyond perform as part of Nritsovava, a fundraiser for Kalakendra. The Portland-based organization founded in 1987, that promotes the performing arts from across the Indian subcontinent through classical dance and music performances.

The dancers—adorned in bright, shiny golds, glittering jewels and effulgent smiles— brought to life the stories of Lord Krishna, the goddess Saraswati, Shiva, the Mahabharata and so much more. This epic, four-hour dance concert represented an enormous swath of dance styles from across India. It was a feast for the senses, and included samosas and tea at intermission. You might think that a four-hour dance concert was a bit long, but it wasn’t. I was truly sad when it was over. But I’m a big fan.

Since the concert, my brain has been abuzz with many thoughts about contrasting cultures, the role and importance of dance in society, women, beauty, and bodies, to name a few. Some of my bigger observations are queries I’ve decided to list below. Feel free to respond to any of them in the comments section below, but please be polite.

  • If you were to look at a map and chart trade routes, migration patterns, and colonizations, you would clearly be able to see similarities between the different cultures of the world. This makes the white nationalist idea (which has become central in the policies of the Trump administration) of a “pure” American culture pure baloney. Culturally, America is rooted in Puritan traditions, African American culture, American Indian culture, and then it has incorporated traditions of all the immigrant groups that have moved here. We are a global culture with distinct regional flavors. This is also true in India and was evident this weekend in a performance of a dance from Goa. Goa, on the West Coast of India, was colonized by the Portuguese 450 years ago and the dance and costumes look distinctly Spanish. The women wore long, ruffled skirts and red flower earring, and the men wore formal looking black dress pants, white button down shirts, and black fedoras.
  • Why are visual art, music, and theater much more understood and supported than dance in America? Why in America does art seem like an outsider activity? This is not the same in India. Is this because of America’s Puritan roots? This discomfort with the body in American culture runs deep, and it’s disturbing to me. Why is American culture so removed from the arts?
  • Why is the American standard of beauty so narrowly defined, especially for dancers? I much prefer to see a variety of bodies and ages on stage. This is a much more inclusive idea that focuses on a person’s talents and not their genetics. Thankfully, it’s a big, broad, beautiful world out there with a lot of variety, and beauty everywhere, so we aren’t stuck looking at one thing.
  • It was a true pleasure to see so many different dance groups sharing the same stage. This is something I wish Portland’s contemporary dance community would do more of.
  • The Northwest has an incredible talent pool of Indian dancers in all styles. I would like to see concerts featuring these dancers produced outside of the Indian community by non Indians. White Bird perhaps?
  • Often times community performance events can be loosey goosey and of lower quality, but this performance was none of that. The choreography and dancers were spot on. It was exceptional.
  • The theatre, Evans Auditorium, which seated 400, was full and not everyone was Indian.
  • I think it’s important to go see dance and experience cultural events that you aren’t familiar with. It helps develop empathy and so much more.

Which brings me to Portland dance this week which includes more opportunities to stretch yourself. No pun intended. The skinner|kirk Dance Ensemble blazes through their second weekend; Chitra: The Girl Prince, co-directed by Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon, continues at Northwest Children’s Theatre; and an evening of flamenco, Fall in Love with Flamenco, will be hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland.

Continues…

‘Chitra’: tale as old as time

NW Children's Theatre's enchanting "Chitra: The Girl Prince" spins a 5,000-year-old, up-to-date tale of dance and legendary adventure

You may not have heard of Northwest Children’s Theater’s latest, Chitra: The Girl Prince, but the tale has been around a long time – as the narrators, the gods Madan (Heath Hyun Houghton) and Vasant (Sudipta Majumdar), explain during the setup. “This story is like 5,000 years old,” says Madan.

The title character’s full name is Chitrangadha – which was the name of the dance-drama written in 1892 by Rabindranath Tagore, based on the ancient legend. It came to NWCT through the passion of Artistic Director Sarah Jane Hardy and her co-director and co-choreographer for this play, Anita Menon. They worked closely with first-time playwright Avantika Shankar, who adapted the ancient tale for NWCT audiences.

“Chitra: The Girl Prince”: dancing, adventure, and an ancient tale. Photo: David Kinder

While the time and place of the play and its origins are far away from Portland, the story – about a young woman torn between love and success – resonates today, when girls and women still find themselves choosing between traditional expectations and their own ambitions and desires.

Continues…

DanceWatch Weekly: Intersecting with India

A busy week of dance in Portland is loaded with cross-cultural intersections

I have ALWAYS been interested in the intersection and cross-pollination of cultures. As someone who grew up in Berkeley, California, in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s (hippie to hip hop), and within the Hare Krishna movement (a Gaudiya Vaishnava Hindu religious organization), I live at this intersection. I am the embodiment of that idea.

I may look like a typical, Caucasian, American woman, but I’m not. I went to protest marches in a stroller before I could walk. I was named after a very important sacred river in India. I can sing and recite songs and prayers in Sanskrit. I know how to wear a sari. I believe in reincarnation and Karma. I have always been a strict vegetarian (no meat, fish, or eggs), and I almost allowed my marriage to be arranged (though I found love on my own). And the first dance class I ever took was a Bharatanatyam (classical South Indian dance) class taught by a white American ballerina. These experiences have afforded me the ability to understand many perspectives, to move between worlds, to see beauty in things outside of my own experiences, and to sometimes/often, feel like an outsider.

This week’s dance performances intersect, cross boundaries, share elements, and they speak of new experiences, shared experiences, multicultural experiences, human experiences, that stretch our brains and go to the edge.

Nritya Suhrid. Photo courtesy of Kalakendra.

On Saturday, 17 Indian dance groups from Portland and beyond, made up of students and professionals, will converge on Lewis & Clark College’s Evans Auditorium to perform in Nrityotsava, a fundraiser for Kalakendra—a Portland-based organization founded in 1987, that promotes the performing arts from across the Indian subcontinent through classical dance and music performances. The dance styles presented on Saturday will include Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Bharatha Nrithyam, Rajasthani dance, Goan dance, Haryanvi folk, and Garba. It’s going to be an Indian dance feast to end all feasts.

Natya leela Academy. Photo courtesy of Kalakendra.

I spoke with Gidu Sriram, one of the Kalakendra board members, about the importance of an organization like this, especially considering our current political climate and our government’s perspective on immigrants. We spoke via email, and this is what he wrote:

“Indian classical music and dance is one of the richest if not the richest in the world and it dates back to over 2000 years ago. We believe that it is not only our duty to preserve our art but also showcase it to the American audience who may not be aware of it and to present it to the Indian Americans who would be sorely missing it being so far away from their homeland.”

Most of us came to the States to either pursue higher studies or a better standard of living and we were trading our rich culture in this pursuit. Organizations like Kalakendra fill a void by bringing highly talented artists to perform in the United States. In this process, it also brings us pride as we see Americans getting exposed to this art, some of whom have become ardent lovers of Indian classical music and dance.

In the current political environment, it definitely brings diversity and educates Americans to become aware of the rich talent in people from other parts of the world and to not judge people simply by their ethnicity.”

California dancers. Photo courtesy of Kalakendra.

Nrityotsava is being coordinated by Mini Jairaj, a community organizer and accomplished dancer, singer, and musician. Jairaj began taking dance lessons from her father, the late renowned Sri. T Radhakrishnan, at the age of three. He was a master in Kathakali and Kerala Natanam, dance forms from the tropical state of Kerala in South India.

She has also trained in Bharatanatyam from Kalakshetra Vilasini and in Mohiniyattam from Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty amma and her daughter Smt. Sridevi Rajan. She learned Ottamthullal Dance (a Kerala temple art form) from her father and later from master Kalamandalam Prabhakaran. She is currently studying Kuchipudi (a dance form of Andhra Pradesh) from Smt. Anuradha Ganesh, the director of Nartana school of Kuchipudi here in Portland. She is trained in Carnatic music under Sri. Mahadeva Iyer, Sri. Natesan Master and Sri. Kalyana Sundaram Bhagavathar, and has been singing for Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi arangetrams (an onstage debut for students of Indian classical dance and music) for many years.

Folk Jhalak. Photo courtesy of Kalakendra.

I have admired Jairaj from afar for several years now because of her tireless commitment to organizing community events, her ability to perform so many different styles of Indian dance, and her desire for continued learning. Jairaj of course is not alone. She is part of a large community of talented individuals from all over India, also living in the Portland area, who are deeply committed to creating community and keeping their home cultures alive while living here in America.

I hope to see you all at Lewis & Clark on Saturday where you can experience much more and be part of something much bigger. I’ll be there.

Performances this week

The Light of Progress-Portland Winter Light Festival
February 1-3
Flamebuoyant Productions, Circus Luminescence, BodyVox, Éowyn Emerald & Dancers, and Rainbow Dance Theatre
World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon Street
Across town, in venues far and wide, Portland Winter Light Festival will attempt to draw Portlanders out of their homes into the night, in the dead of winter, to be together in celebration of Winter, art and technology. The festival will feature live performances by BodyVox, Circus Luminescence, Flamebuoyant Productions, Éowyn Emerald & Dancers, and Rainbow Dance Theatre. A little bit of movement energy to keep you warm.

Reed College Dance Thesis Showing: Greetings and Elaborations
Olivia Hasencamp, Mackenzie Schuller, and Rika Yotsumoto
February 1-3
Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Massee Performance Lab PAB 128, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd
Reed Dance thesis candidates Olivia Hasencamp, Mackenzie Schuller, and Rika Yotsumoto integrate their experiences with choreographers Bouchra Ouizguen (Morocco), Ohad Naharin (Israel), Wim Vandekeybus (Belgium), and Bailarines Toda La Vida (Argentina), into new works focusing on intimacy, collaboration, and the subconscious mind.

Oregon Bird sketches—open rehearsal
Agnieszka Laska Dancers
7 pm February 1
Polish Hall, 3832 N Interstate
Celebrating its 15th anniversary, Agnieszka Laska Dancers, directed by Polish contemporary choreographer Agnieszka Laska, in collaboration with composer Jack Gabel, will present new choreography to choral works by Henryk Górecki, Oregon Bird Sketches by Gabel, and cabaret songs of Zygmunt Konieczny to name a few. Full concert April 14-15.

The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE
Presented by BodyVox
February 1-10
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
Highlighting their Portland dance legacy, Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk present an evening of two restaged works, Here and there, now and then, Semita, and a world premiere duet. The three works, performed by Brian Nelson, Chase Hamilton, Skye Stouber, Skinner and Kirk, reflect complex relationships, aging, perception, and loss. Dance writer Heather Wisner takes a closer look at the works and its choreographers in her preview Skinner/Kirk Dance Company hits rewind and fast-forward for ArtsWatch.

The Shore of Endless Worlds
A solo by Nathan Montgomery
7:30 pm February 2
The Headwaters, 55 NE Farragut St. #4
In his solo, The Shore of Endless Worlds, Butoh performer Nathan Montgomery reveals that his dance is “an energetic and formal pattern stitched through space and time…a deep inner world…a presentation of the wholly unique individual…a gift of one soul sprouting something beautiful from the dark soil of the human experience.”

Nrityotsava 2018: An evening of Indian Classical & Folk Dances
Presented by Kalakendra
4:30 pm February 3
Evans Auditorium, Lewis and Clark College, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Road
See above.

Chitra: The Girl Prince
NW Children’s Theatre, Co-directed by Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon
February 3-25
Mainstage, NW Children’s Theatre, 1819 NW Everett St.
In this retelling of a fourth century tale from the Mahabharata, co-directors Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon along with a collaborative team of theater artists, musicians, and dancers from India and Portland’s Bengali-American community, tell the story of a warrior princess who struggles to stay true to herself while balancing her responsibility to her people and true love’s call.

The Lady Of The Camellias
Choreography by John Neumeier with music by Frédéric Chopin
Performed by the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
12:55 pm February 4
Playing at Lloyd Center 10 with IMAX, Century 16 Eastport, Clackamas Town Center, and Liberty Theatre.
In a live broadcast all the way from Moscow to a movie theatre near you, the Bolshoi Ballet performs The Lady Of The Camellias, live, for one performance only.

The ballet, choreographed by John Neumeier in 1978 for the Stuttgart Ballet, is based on the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas fils, and depicts Parisian life in the 19th century. The story tells the tale of a doomed love affair between a sick and dying courtesan, Marguerite Gautier, and her lover Armand. The ballet takes place during an auction after Marguerite’s death, and develops into a series of memories recalled from the points of view from Armand’s, his father’s, and Marguerite’s.

Upcoming Performances

February
February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 3-25, Chitra The Girl Prince, NW Children’s Theatre, Co-directed by Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon
February 8, Fall in Love with Flamenco, Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
February 15-18, a·mor·phous, DownRight Productions
February 15, Faculty Dance Concert featuring guest artist Vincent Mantsoe, Hosted by University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
February 16-March 4, Left of Center, A-WOL Dance Collective
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 18, Chapel Theatre Open House, Chapel Theatre
February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 25, Shivarpanam, performance by Sweta Ravisankar
February 26, Rejoice! at AWMC Regional Finals, Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater
February 27-March 1, Kinky Boots, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene

March
March 2-4, Zorro: The Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 3-4, Voices: A Choreographers’ Showcase, Hosted by PDX Dance Collective
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, HEDDA, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April
April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 7, Reaching Back to Our Roots: Annual Gala Fundraiser, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 9, Noontime Showcase: Jefferson Dancers, Presented by Portland’5
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May
May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 11-13, Alice in Wonderland, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, The Holding Project
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem

 

Well, Fertile Ground happened, and while I offered a few prognostications, for the first time in many years I didn’t get out to see those shows. Can you please use the comments to tell me, and more importantly each other, what you loved? With a festival that’s so egalitarian by nature, community opinions should hold the most sway anyway.

Now then:

The word around ArtsWatch via our reviewer TJ Acena is that Magellanica, which recreates the feeling of its setting, Antarctica, with a glacially paced 5+ hour runtime, is “worth it.”  I believe it. If I had to pick a group of people to get marooned in the Antarctic wilderness with, I’d actually consider Artists Rep’s company of actors. They’re versatile and compassionate, and they can make fire.

Alisha Menon is the Girl Prince in Northwest Children’s Theatre’s “Chitra.” Photo: David Kinder

Corrib’s all-age-appropriate Lifeboat closes at Northwest Children’s Theater this weekend, making way for Chitra, The Girl Prince, NWCT’s second major collaboration with Indian dance expert Anita Menon (the first being 2015’s Jungle Book). Nice to see Ken Yoshikawa pop up in a kids’ production and what looks like a romantic lead. His earnestness will not be lost on all ages.

What else?

Continues…