Dance Week Diary

What a kick! Dance that moved us

2018 in Review, Part 4: Dance that turned our thinking inside out and took us places where we'd never been before

Sure, we love big jumps and fast turns, but that’s not what makes the best dancing. The best dancing is the kind that takes us places we’ve never been before, or turns our thinking inside out.

Some of Oregon ArtsWatch’s best dance writing this year did that, too. Collectively, the OAW dance team—the writers covering dance, that is; don’t book us for your holiday party just yet—has decades’ worth of writing, research, and performing experience, as well as the burning desire to produce insightful and inspired coverage of dance in all its forms.



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Lucky us: we had so much to do in 2018 that we can’t revisit it all here. Instead, we’re sampling some of the moments, big and small, that especially moved us this year:

 


Odissi Dance Conpany’s Artistic Director Aparupa Chatterjee with the ODC repertoire: Tanvi Prasad, Divya Srinivasa, Divya chowdhary, Swati yarlagadda, and Ramyani Roy. Photo: Sarathy Jayakumar

Embracing Odissi in the age of Trump

The 2016 U.S. presidential election continued to galvanize artistic action two years after the fact. “Since Donald Trump took office, I have been watching and admiring artists all around the world react to his words and policies and have been wondering how I should respond myself,” Jamuna Chiarini mused. “I think that my choice to step away from my Western dance practices and focus solely on Odissi is my response. The more degraded American culture gets, the less interested I am in being a part of it.”

Chiarini’s piece explored Odissi’s technical and cultural assets and illustrated why it particularly appeals to her in this degraded day and age: “Some dances in the Odissi repertoire aren’t even taught until a dancer reaches 40, because it’s believed that younger dancers don’t yet have the emotional depth and life experience to properly express what the dance is about. Odissi also doesn’t have strict rules on body shape and size as Western dance culture does. What is considered beautiful is much broader in Indian dance culture.”

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Dance Week Diary, Part One: Be moved

We salute National Dance Week by class-hopping across town, beginning at BodyVox for a little Bollywood

You can dance if you want to.

No, seriously: I’m not just singing Men Without Hats lyrics here. You can dance, even if you think you can’t. You don’t have to have experience. You don’t have to be young and pliable. You don’t even need to buy special clothes or shoes (most of the time).

To prove it—and to alert you to National Dance Week, which is happening now and is more worth celebrating than most holidays, in my view, even if you just pop a Quaalude, pull on your yoga pants and rewatch All That Jazz—I took a different dance class in the Portland Metro area for five days running. Full disclosure: I have some dance experience. But I’m also old enough to qualify for an AARP card, and one of my knees has been acting up lately, so I’m not exactly waiting for a phone call from World of Dance.

Laura Haney teaches BeMoved at BodyVox/Photo by Chole Hamilton

Luckily, Portland is wall-to-wall with classes for all ages, skill levels, tastes and degrees of decrepitude; check out Dance Wire PDX’s useful Class Finder to find some that sound appealing. To narrow my choices, I set a few parameters: I’d only take a class that didn’t require the purchase of special shoes (sorry, ballet and tap), that you could drop into (workshops were out), that didn’t require a partner (see you later tango, salsa, ballroom) and that was open to beginners. What follows is a day-by-day diary of what I found.

Part One: BeMoved at BodyVox
What is it? A movement class inspired by a range of social and cultural dance styles
What makes it fun? The thrill of the unknown
Who is it for? People who want a dance-y workout without killing themselves
Who is it not for? Genre purists

The hardest part of Be Moved is finding parking near BodyVox’s Northwest Portland studio, so plan your time accordingly. Former BodyVox company member Laura Haney teaches this class twice weekly to all skill levels, so if you’re not an absolute beginner, you could probably modify the movement to make it more challenging, if that’s what you’re into.

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