Eowyn Emerald

ArtsWatch Weekly: hail & farewell

Dance and dancers on the move, jazz in Cathedral Park, women composers, taiko and Bach, Mozart's spicy little sex opera

Last Thursday at Lincoln Performance Hall, the line to pick up tickets for Éowyn Emerald & Dancers’ performance ran across the lobby, down a partial stairwell and up the other side, like a restless snake shifting and stretching in the midday sun. Eventually the crowd slithered into the theater’s 450-plus seats, packing the place with people eager to see the company’s final show of contemporary dance in Portland and give it one last cheer before Emerald & Co. move to Scotland, where they’ve scored enthusiastically reviewed successes during two recent appearances at the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Emerald, on top of the world in Edinburgh for the 2014 Fringe Festival.

As it happens, the first piece I wrote for ArtsWatch, back in January 2012, was about Emerald’s first show in town as a choreographer, at BodyVox, where she’d been dancing with BodyVox-2. Now here I was again, with a lot of other people, to witness her farewell gig in town. An eagerness bubbled in the crowd, a sense that a fresh contemporary voice was moving on to new things, and ought not be let to slip away without a warm farewell.


Dance Weekly: Traveling in place

A BodyVox-Northwest Film Center collaboration on dance films and a new round of Pacific Dance Makers

It’s an eclectic weekend, my favorite kind, and strangely it’s also a great weekend for staying put in one location and letting the entertainment come to you. The weekend includes a slew of dance films from around the globe, seven new dances and a guest appearance by singer-songwriter k.d.lang.

Contact Dance Film Festival
Presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
January 7-9
Bodyvox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave
Northwest Film Center, Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave (inside Portland Art Museum)
Bodyvox Dance Center, 17th and NW Northrup, and the Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium

Teaming up with the Northwest Film Center and long-time collaborator Mitchell Rose, BodyVox artistic director Jamey Hampton is offering six screenings of hand-picked dance films with two showings each night-one at 7 pm and the other at 9 pm. The films will be simultaneously screened at both the BodyVox Dance Center and the Northwest Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium. All films will screen in both locations.

The shows include an evening of films selected by filmmaker Mitchell Rose, a frequent BodyVox collaborator, and another of international films. The feature-length films include “Paul Taylor Creative Domain,” an intimate film focusing on modern dance icon Paul Taylor and his dancers during the creation of a new work called “Rashomon.” The dance explores the recollections of three tragically entangled characters, each believing only in their own memory of events. And the film is about how dances come to be.

Trash Dance Still – Performers and Choreographer Allison Orr Take a Bow. Courtesy of Andrew Garrison.

Trash Dance Still – Performers and Choreographer Allison Orr Take a Bow. Courtesy of Andrew Garrison.

Trash Dance” is a beautifully choreographed dance for garbage trucks and sanitation workers choreographed by Allison Orr. And “Balletlujah” celebrates singer-songwriter k.d. lang through the development of her relationship with Alberta Ballet Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maître as they work together to create a new ballet. On Saturday night at BodyVox, k.d.lang and producer Heather Edwards will introduce both screenings of “Balletlujah.”

Pacific Dance Makers
Produced and curated by Éowyn Emerald
January 8-9
Reed College Performing Arts Building, Massee Performance Lab, SE Botsford Dr
The fourth installment of Pacific Dance Makers, an evening of choreographic works featuring a variety of NorthWest choreographers curated by Portland dancer and choreographer Éowyn Emerald, opens Friday night.

Pacific Dance Makers. Photo by David Krebs.

Pacific Dance Makers. Photo by David Krebs.

This year’s choreographers include Anna Conner and Brandin Steffensen from Seattle and Anne Mueller, Carla Mann, Éowyn Emerald, DarVejon Jones, and Carlyn Hudson from Portland.

Seattle choreographer Anna Conner who debuted an electric and powerful duet in the second Pacific Dance Makers will be returning with a solo, “The Machine,” created in collaboration with Katie Wyeth and Marlys Yvonne and performed by Katie Wyeth. “The Machine” explores humanity as a great machine and humans as the unstoppable, inexhaustible gears.

Seattle dancer/choreographer Brandin Steffensen along with dancers Suzanne Chi, Luke Gutgsell, and Ben Martens will present “Pentamode a Foursome,” a dance generated using five archetypical modes of relationship: active, passive, enhanced, provoked, inhibited.

Anne Mueller, the co-artistic director of The Portland Ballet, will present “Hold, Sway,” a trio based on a list of 12 verbs and rhythm.

Carla Mann, long time Portland dancer/choreographer and Professor of Dance at Reed College, presents “Ching,” a film in collaboration with Northwest Dance Project’s Ching Ching Wong revealing Wong’s personal experiences in life and dance.

African American choreographer Dar Vejon Jones will present “Yanvalloux Rendezvous,” a contemporary manifestation of the Haitian creation myth featuring dancers from Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre, whom you can also see next weekend in their own concert, “Ancestry in Motion.”

Éowyn Emerald in collaboration with Portland lighting designer James Mapes will present a quartet exploring narrative through color and light, revealing and uniting.

Carlyn Hudson, the co-founder of SubRosa Dance Collective, will present an excerpt from “Foibles,” a choreographic work exploring the idea of the weakest point. SubRosa will also be performing in The Fertile Ground Festival beginning on June 21.

Coming up

Eowyn Emerald & Dancers the company will be performing January 14-16, reprising their 2014 Edinburg Festival Fringe show.

Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre directed by Oluyinka Akinjiola will present its second evening-length concert, “Ancestry in Motion,” January 15-17.

Forever Tango will be performing at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on January 15 and will feature Dancing with the Stars dancers Anna Trebunskaya and Dmitry Chaplin.

Fertile Ground Festival of New Works will begin January 21, featuring 11 days of new work in theatre, music, and dance. This year’s festival will feature choreography by SubRosa Dance Collective, Portland Bellydance Guild, Polaris Dance Theatre, NW Dance Fusion, Echo Theatre Company Circus Arts and r: ad, a new dance company directed by Alexander Dones.

Éowyn Emerald’s relationship dances

The Portland choreographer gets married on stage to top off her program of dances about relationships

I met Éowyn Emerald two years ago when I interviewed her as one of the three choreographers making new work for BodyVox 2, BodyVox’s second company (which has since folded into the main company).

I wrote that the year before, Emerald’s car was already packed and ready to leave Portland, but then love intervened and she stayed in town. “As much as I’m the feminist my mother raised me to be, I have to admit, I fell in love,” Emerald explained about the change of heart. “He really brings out a better me, and I started believing in myself and my work more as something worthy of being seen. In this past year I have developed some relationships with dancers that I really enjoy and want to keep working with. I’m still antsy to leave some days, but I love this city too, especially on windy days.”
At the time, Emerald wouldn’t tell me who “he” was, but gradually that became apparent and on Friday night all was revealed. Unbeknown to the audience and company dancers, Emerald and Jonathan Krebs had secretly planned to be married onstage at the Greenwood Theatre at Reed College after the performance. “No wedding! This was it. We had no desire to plan a wedding but figured we could get most of our family and friends to opening night of the show, so that’s why we decided to do it this way,” said Krebs in an email.

“It was a secret from everyone,” he wrote. “The dancers didn’t even know. We had a handful of collaborators who helped get key family and friends into the house, and we let a few friends know who had to fly in from out of town, but really no one knew that it was coming. Our lighting designer James Mapes officiated.”

Sadly I was not at this performance, I went Sunday night. If I had known, I would have been there. It isn’t often that dancers get married on stage, if ever. This was special.

Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence then, that the two dances presented in the program focused on relationships. I can’t help but think that Emerald was subconsciously thinking about getting married and working out her personal relationships while choreographing these dances. Within this context, the dances looked different. But, just because I can see these connections does not mean that Emerald intentionally created this concert around that theme.


Dance Weekly: Relationships matter

Northwest Dance Project and Éowyn Emerald top the dance weekend

This week’s dance offerings are about relationships. Old ones, new ones, difficult one, fun ones, inspiring ones and then some. Talking about how we as humans relate to each other and to the things around us, is our favorite topic. There is endless material and endless variations on it. This week’s choreographers will be working out these relationship puzzles right before your very eyes, in real time.

Éowyn Emerald & Dancers

Éowyn Emerald & Dancers. Courtesy of Éowyn Emerald.

Éowyn Emerald & Dancers
October 23, 24, 25
Greenwood Theater at Reed College, 2903 SE Botsford Dr

Led by Portland choreographer Éowyn Emerald, this mighty band of dancers who have traveled from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and back, will present an evening of new work based on the idea that bonds between people are created through shared experiences. “In every group of individuals there are hundreds of stories to tell, yet it is the relationships between them that capture our imaginations over and over again.”

Northwest Dance Project, "New Wow Now." Courtesy of NW Dance Project.

Northwest Dance Project, “New Wow Now.” Courtesy of NW Dance Project.

New Now Wow!
NW Dance project
October 22-24
Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave
Freshly back from a tour to Mongolia, NW Dance Project presents three new dances (two world premiers), by European choreographers Jirí Pokorný, Felix Landerer and NW Dance Project Resident Choreographer, Ihsan Rustem. New works representing contemporary choreography now, in what promises to be a wow kind of evening.

Former Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer and writer Gavin Larsen, sat in on rehearsals and spoke with company dancer Ching Ching Wong and wrote about her experience for Arts Watch.

Fallen Fruit’s A Day in Paradise

apples & pomegranates by Tahni Holt
Presented by Portland Art Museum and Caldera
1 & 3 pm October 24
Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave
The long-time Portland choreographer and director of Flock, Tahni Holt, will perform a solo as part of Fallen Fruit’s A Day in Paradise along with artists Natalie Ball, Bruce Conkle, Bill Cravis, Horatio Law, Aaron Lish, Marne Lucas, Jess Perlitz, and DeAngelo Raines.

We turn to the press release: Building on “the mythological idea of Eve eating the apple in the Garden of Eden, Holt will perform a solo that walks the line between rejected female stereotypes and embodied expression, wrestling with motherhood, sensationalism, emotionality, sexuality, and image/time-bound body, and the body in the present moment.”

Fallen Fruit is an artist collective based in Los Angeles led by artists David Allen Burns and Austin Young who “create site-specific projects using fruit to examine concepts of place, history, and issues of representation often addressing questions of public space.” For Portland, that fruit is the apple, and Fallen Fruit will use it as a metaphor to “explore concepts of place and history in the context of complexities unique to Portland.”

A Day in Paradise is one of many events scheduled for Fallen Fruit of Portland. Please check Portland Art Museum’s website for schedule details.

Kieraqmil Brinkley and Uriah Boyd in SOAR. Courtesy Kieraqmil Brinkley and Uriah Boyd .

Kieraqmil Brinkley and Uriah Boyd in SOAR. Courtesy Kieraqmil Brinkley and Uriah Boyd .

A documentary film directed by Susan Hess Logeais
7:30 pm October 22
Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd
Q & A with director Susan Hess Logeais and producers Kieraqmil Brinkley and Uriah Boyd to follow the screening.
SOAR is a documentary film directed and produced by Susan Hess Logeais, former ballerina and model, that explores the relationship between dancing sisters Kiera Brinkley, a quadruple amputee and dancer/choreographer with Polaris Dance Theatre, and her younger sister Uriah Boyd, who is a dancer/choreographer with Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theatre, as they adapt to life with and without each other.

Shaping Sound; Dance Reimagined
7:30 pm October 28th
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1111 SW Broadway Ave

Stars from  “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With The Stars” will fill the Schnitz for one night with a dance performance mashup of styles and musical genres with “all the right moves.”  Well known choreographer and dancer Travis Wall with co-creators Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson will be joined by a cast of 14. All of your favorite TV dance stars under one roof…such a deal!

Marginal Evidence (an interactive experience of dance-making)
Katherine Longstreth
October 1 – November 14
White Box, 24 NW 1st Ave
Marginal Evidence is a visual art installation about the intimate act of choreography. Dance is ephemeral and when it is gone, what is left? How do we know it existed? What is the evidence left behind? Using the approach of a forensic investigator, Longstreth reveals the private process of dance making and exposes the inner life of archival materials. You can read the full preview here.

A roaring kickoff to the Second Dance Season

Pacific Dance Makers' grab-bag at BodyVox gets the city's dance scene back in the groove

Portland’s dance renaissance just keeps on kickin’.

True, nobody knows exactly what’s in store for Oregon Ballet Theatre, which is under new leadership and still undergoing organizational and financial difficulties.

Hamilton in "Friends." Photo: David Krebs

Hamilton in “Friends.” Photo: David Krebs

But White Bird’s contemporary dance series is about to take off again after a holiday break, with the Australian Phillip Adams BalletLab (Adult content! Contains nudity!) at Lincoln Hall January 23-25. A passel of dance is barreling down the road in the city’s annual Fertile Ground festival of new works, much of it in Polaris Dance Theatre’s “Groovin’ Greenhouse” series. Northwest Dance Project performer Lindsey Matheis is about to open two weekends’ worth of “(a)merging,” her continuing series of short works by rising young choreographers, starting January 17. Butoh artist Meshi Chavez and his students have just completed a series of performances at The Headwaters. Conduit continues to crackle with classes, workshops and performances. Northwest Dance Project is preparing an early-April show featuring some of the best work from its first decade. OBT is featuring choreographic star Christopher Wheeldon, along with the return of retired company star Artur Sultanov to partner about-to-retire star Alison Roper, on its February 22-March 1 program.

And dancer and producer Eowyn Emerald’s Pacific Dance Makers has just finished two sold-out nights at BodyVox Dance Center of fresh works by eight dancemakers, two of them in collaboration with filmmakers. Enthusiasm was high at Friday’s opening-night show, which was so sold-out that a line of people squatted on pillows in front of the front row, their legs carefully tucked away so they wouldn’t accidentally trip the dancers.

The choreographers’ pedigree was high, too. Included were pieces by Anne Mueller, the former OBT favorite and interim artistic director after Christopher Stowell left the company; Jim McGinn of TopShakeDance; Tracey Durbin, partnering with filmmaker Janet McIntyre; Emerald, with animator Anouck Iyer; Seattle’s Elia Mrak; Samuel Hobbs; Chase Hamilton; and Eric Skinner of BodyVox and skinner/kirk Dance Ensemble.

Among the grab-bag were several pieces of considerable charm, and one big, ambitious work – Durbin and McIntyre’s “Ebb & Flow” ­– that lowered the emotional boom, demanding that the night be taken seriously and poetically.

Hamilton’s “Friends,” a duet that he danced with Zoë Nelson to a Steve Miller Band song, was quick and friendly and appealing. Emerald’s “Vessellessev” was a fluid duet for BodyVox’s Holly Shaw and Josh Murry, a little dark with Iyer’s grayish projected animations and the occasional big shadow-play behind the screen.


Svetlova (front) and Shaw in Skinner's untitled work. Photo: David Krebs.

Svetlova (front) and Shaw in Skinner’s untitled work. Photo: David Krebs.

Mueller’s “Variation in a Vacuum I,” set to a Chopin nocturne, was a solo for Katarina Svetlova, returning to the stage after a long layoff, and interesting both for Mueller’s continuing progress as a choreographer and the opportunity to see Svetlova dance again. Mueller and Svetlova danced together at OBT in the James Canfield years, and Svetlova then spent several years dancing in Germany before retiring and moving back home. She’s still in her early to mid 30s, and now that she’s stepping back out (she’ll perform again with skinner/kirk in April) she could have several good years left. “Variation” pairs Mueller’s penchant for quirky comedy (Svetlova enters the stage haggard and sleepy, in a robe and a pair of comic-book oversized fluffy slippers) with more serious stuff. Svetlova’s always had star power, and it’s still there. Part of it’s technique and part is pure presence. Like OBT’s Roper, who also danced with Mueller and Svetlova in the Canfield-era OBT, she’s balanced somewhere between grace and power, standing out from the crowd, not pretty like a princess but compelling and formidable. Roper’s regal. Svetlova’s fierce; poised to eat up a stage. Skinner’s untitled new piece also features Svetlova, dancing with Shaw, and it’s quite successful: beautifully shaped and sensitive to the strengths of both dancers. Skinner is familiar with Shaw through BodyVox, and they seem to understand each other intuitively. He, too, is a onetime OBT dancer from the old days (are you beginning to see a pattern here?) and his familiarity with ballet  technique helps him stretch Svetlova back into some classical territory, but in a contemporary context.

I’ve admired McGinn’s long works, which tend to have underlying narratives, and I especially like him as a performer: his concentration is riveting. Here, he presented two excerpts from “Float,” which debuted in November at Conduit, and which I didn’t see. Maybe it’s because they were only excerpts from a longer work, but Friday’s dark-toned performances by four dancers left me unmoved and a little confused. The ideas seemed to run out before the dancing did. Nor did Mrak’s “Erica,” a solo for dancer Erica Badgeley, grab me. The dance began promisingly, with Badgeley poised and expectant in a loose Greek-goddess dress, a smile on her face and an hourglass by her side. But the ideas seemed thin. Sometimes she rolled around on the stage like an Olympian lolling in a grove. More often, she ran, athletically, in large circles, apparently seeking a way out. With no music, the soundtrack was her labored breathing. And she ran, and ran, and ran, until finally she discovered an exit stage left, and just kept running until she disappeared.


"Ebb & Flow." Photo: David Krebs

“Ebb & Flow.” Photo: David Krebs

Durbin and McIntyre’s “Ebb & Flow” was the heavyweight of the evening, danced by a fine ensemble (Anna Hooper, Heather Jackson, Alexandra Maricich, Northwest Dance Project’s Franco Nieto, Claire Olberding, Rachel Slater, Emily Zarov) and marrying dance and film fluidly, with each supporting the other: at one point the dancers sit down onstage, backs to the audience, and watch the film, too, absorbed in images of themselves underwater, sinking and swimming. The images are autobiographical for McIntyre, who chose this project to explore her anger over her mother’s death at age 45, and her own journey through rebellion toward a reluctant acceptance and a kind of grace. “I always thought I’d remember the sound of my mother’s voice,” the film’s narrator laments. “But it’s gone.” The piece begins in jarring dissonance, and includes, in the filmmaker’s words, “a sense of drowning with a sense of dreaming. … this is my attempt to crack open past memories and release something raw, probing, and brave.” While McIntyre clearly takes the lead here, Durbin does an excellent job of partnering and translating the tale into movement. McIntyre’s been down a similar path before, collaborating with choreographer Josie Moseley (and dancers Skinner and Daniel Kirk) on “Flying Over Emptiness,” a lovely and moving work about choreographer Mary Oswald and her battle with a debilitating illness. And her film work, which has ranged from pieces about binge-drinking teenage girls to a profile of “Dead Man Walking” nun Sister Helen Prejean, almost always has a tough bent, coupled with a tenderness aimed at understanding. “Ebb & Flow” has an earnestness that amounts to fearlessness: It’s unabashedly ABOUT something, and it lets its nerves run raw. In its naked embrace of genuine emotion, if not in its movement vocabulary, it’s reminiscent of Martha Graham, and of the everyday-heroic images of the painter Thomas Hart Benton, and even of the novels of John Steinbeck and Sinclair Lewis. It doesn’t veil itself. It grabs its truth by the neck. Yet it’s also, finally, sweet.

Hobbs’s “Early,” a duet for himself and Jessica Evans, was the program closer, and except for having to deal with the reverberations of “Ebb & Flow,” which immediately preceded it, it was an ideal choice. It’s the most poetic piece of the evening, a fluid and lovely collaboration that moves in circles and circles of intimacy. Set to Hobbs’s own music, it begins with him seated and still while Evans, lying down, moves one leg in a slow windmill sweep. She takes her time, until gradually they are both on their feet and moving together in something that seems simply “about” the  beauty of bodies in synchronized movement. It’s a charming piece, really, its mood like a modern-day Haydn. It’ll be repeated next weekend on the “(a)merging” program at Northwest Dance Project. If you missed it here, you can catch it there.


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Eowyn Emerald and Jonathan Krebs in Emerald's contemporary pas de deux "hexe ist." Photo montage: Tim Summers

Every now and again I glance beyond my two left feet and realize with pleasure that Portland’s in the middle of a dance renaissance. It’s not as if anyone’s getting rich in the process. And it’s not as if, at least at this point, the rest of the world is beating a path to the city’s sprung floor. Still, the evidence is real and compelling.

Between the vibrant poles of Oregon Ballet Theatre at one end and White Bird Dance at the other are such flourishing outfits as Northwest Dance Project, BodyVox, Conduit and tEEth, as well as individual choreographers and dancers as varied as Tere Mathern, Gregg Bielemeier, Josie Moseley, Rachel Tess, Linda Austin, and Katherine Longstreth.

And new performers just keep flowing into the city, or cropping up from its own development programs. These days, if you’re a dance follower, you can spend some very busy nights keeping up with what’s going down. You can even, if you really want to, take sides: ballet vs. contemporary, structured vs. improvisational, athletic vs. intellectual, chamber vs. electronic vs. rock ’n’ roll.

So it was only a little bit of a surprise on Saturday evening when I showed up at the BodyVox Dance Center for the first of two performances of new works by dancer/choreographer Eowyn Emerald and discovered a packed house.

Apparently the abundance of the opening-show crowd was just a test run.

“The 8 o’clock show was sold out even more than the 6 o’clock,” dancer and concert co-producer Rachel Slater told me later. “It was standing room only.” That means, by rough count, that something on the order of 340 people chose this small show as their destination on a busy Saturday night.

BodyVox’s move three years ago from rented digs on the upper floor of a working brewery to its own new space in a renovated former Wells Fargo carriage house and stable on Northwest Northrup Street has played a significant supporting role in Portland’s dance revival. It’s not only given a much better showcase for BodyVox’s own programs, it’s also provided a fine space for independent companies looking for a good spot to put on their own shows.