Espacio Flamenco

DanceWatch: Jan-bruary is the resilient month

Fertile Ground leads us into the next month of virtual dance

Welcome to the Jan-bruary edition of the dance calendar and the 396th day of 2020. It just keeps gettin’ better,  don’t you think? Somehow, though, through it all, a pandemic and the attempted overthrow of our government, dance artists are still making dances. I am continually amazed at how resilient humans are, even under the harshest conditions. 

Today I am feeling celebratory. Every month that DanceWatch can fill its calendar with dance performances is a minor miracle and a joyous occasion. Art is the mark of civilization. If we are here dancing, then we are thriving. 

This edition of DanceWatch is full to the brim with work that will break your heart open, make you want to smash through your screens and dance with the folks on the other side, transport you, connect you, and generally make you feel good. Enjoy!

January Dance Performances

The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, which features new experimental work in various development stages, opened on January 28 and will run till February 7. Projects are available through Feb. 15 to stream on Fertile Ground’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Curated by a committee for the first time in its 12-year history, the festival, not strictly a dance festival, will feature 31 projects by regional choreographers, theater artists, puppeteers, improvisers, animators, and mixed-media artists.

I was privileged to participate in Fertile Ground’s meet-the-press zoom call, where I met and heard the pitches from every participating show, and I can say with certainty that these shows are a must go! They are powerful and beautiful and are everything you need right now. Luckily all of the performances will be streamed online through the Fertile Ground Facebook and YouTube pages and will be available to view for seven days after, so you won’t miss a thing! And most importantly, they are FREE to watch. 

Artwork for the Fertile Ground production of Allies & Accomplices. Photo courtesy of Echo Theater Company

* Fertile Ground
Allies & Accomplices
Presented by Echo Theater Company
Performers include ETC Pro Lab, Noelle Simone, Tessa May, and Variat Dance Collective with direction by Laura Cannon and Aaron Wheeler-Kay
Opened 7 pm January 29; available to view through Feb. 15
Open and closed captioning available

In these world premieres, five independently created dance works highlight the stories of marginalized and oppressed voices and examine how artistic creation is a political act. They seek to personalize the Black experience and the accompanying fear, help you find your voice through the Black Lives Matter movement, and lead you on a journey to discover your inner Greek goddess. 


Even amidst the chaos in our world right now, artists are getting creative and finding ways to perform for you. September’s performances are a combination of live, live- streamed, and recorded performances. 

In preparation for this month’s live performances that require social distancing, let’s play a few games. Let’s imagine that social distancing is a dance and that you are a performer in this dance. A dance that includes everyone around you. All the world’s a stage, right?

First, find a broom. Hold the broom out to your side, parallel with the floor, with one end about a foot from your center. This is approximately six feet. Two arms length. This is the suggested distance that we are supposed to keep between us to keep us safe from catching and spreading Covid-19. Now, walk around the house moving the broomstick around your body 360 degrees and experience what this measurement actually feels like. Yup, it’s bigger than you think. Watch out for those dishes and that lamp! 

If this doesn’t work for you and you need a different visual, measure six feet out from your center and place objects from your house in a circle around you on the floor. Now feel your feet on the ground, reach your fingertips up to the sky, and spread your arms out on either side of you and turn in place carving out the edges of your space with your fingertips. You can even take this a step further and explore your space beyond the vertical and horizontal tracing all of the areas in between. Now take this imaginary space that you have explored and create a giant bubble with it and put yourself in it. You now live in a bubble at all times! Stay in your bubble!

Next game. Imagine that you have a string attached to your bellybutton that connects your body to others. Imagine that we are all connected to each other, all the time, through this extensive web of strings. Take a moment to feel what this really feels like, to keep other people around you in your consciousness at all times. Imagine being out in the world and stringing yourself to people walking by you or folks standing in line with you at the grocery store or protestors downtown. You CAN be conscious of yourself and others all at the same time. 

Now, get into your gigantic bubble and connect your string to the people around you. Keep your distance but stay connected and go forth into the world. 

These are exercises or dances that dance teachers often give to their youngest students to help them learn body awareness and to keep them from bumping into and injuring each other during class. These awareness tools can keep us safe, create compassion, and connection. And don’t forget your costume, your mask!

Performances keep popping up, so I will be adding them to this list as they come up. Check back often. 

September Dance Performances

The beautiful Portland performer and community activist, Chisao Hata.
Photo courtesy of Chisao Hata.

Echo Theater Company PDX
9-10pm September 1

Under the full moon, in an undisclosed location somewhere in Portland (The event address will be emailed the day of the show), Echo Theatre, Portland’s zany, forward thinking, acrobatics, aerial dance, and physical theater company, will present, Luminaries, an hour long performance of music, dance, and storytelling. The event features Japanese-American performing artist and community organizer Chisao Hata, triple threat Bevin Victoria, Korean-American actor, writer and director Heath Houghton, and theatre and television actor Tessa May. Topping off the evening will be performances by the renowned Echo Theatre Company Education Director Wendy Cohen and Director of Operations and Community Engagement Aaron Wheeler Kay, who specializes in acrobatics, aerial dance, and physical theater.


DanceWatch Monthly: February is all about the love

February in Portland dance is all about love and its many forms (not just Valentine's Day)

It’s February and love is in the air. Dance performances this month, appropriately enough, express love in a wonderful variety of ways. From the familiar romantic love to platonic love. From the love of connecting with community too connecting with oneself. From the love of music to the love of pure movement. From the love of sharing, to the love of technology, to the love of the wild. From the love of experimentation and research to the love of a good book and a good story, to the love of intimacy, and to the love of things big and small. For the love of god. For dance itself and for the gift of emotional expression. 

“To dance is to be out of yourself,” American choreographer Agnes de Mille famously proclaimed. “Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.” 

So, let’s dance, and do it with love.

Dances in February

Week 1: February 1-2

Holy Goats!
Performance Works N
2 pm February 2
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave

Holy Goats! Sunday afternoon improvisations and bagels are back!  This new iteration will be devoted to dance and music by Portland-area and visiting artists. The dancers include Allie Hankins and Caspar Sonnet, Pepper Pepper, Tracy Broyles + Adrian Hutapea + jaime lee christiana, Luke Gutgsell + Kennedy Verrett. The musicians: Catherine Lee, Caspar Sonnet, Dan Sasaki, Annie Gilbert, and Stephanie Lavon Trotter.

Founded in 1999 by Artistic Director Linda Austin and Technical Director Jeff Forbes, Performance Works NorthWest || Linda Austin Dance engages artists and audiences of the Pacific Northwest in the process of experimentation, creation and dialogue around the presentation of contemporary performance. 


DanceWatch Weekly: Dance Lights Up December’s Darkness

The week's DanceWatch covers a month of dance from "Wolf Tales" to a trio of Nutcrackers and so much more.

Happy holidays, happy solstice, happy Hanukkah, happy Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas, and happy New Year. I’m saying all that now because THIS DanceWatch Weekly will be the last one of 2018. I know, I’m sad too, but don’t worry: DanceWatch will return again in 2019 with a look at the musical The Lion King, featuring choreography by Garth Fagan. It opens in Eugene January 9.

Before we go our separate ways to enjoy our seasonal celebrations, let’s take a moment to reflect.

This was a busy year for dance in Oregon and for DanceWatch, as well as for ArtsWatch’s incredible team of dance writers: Martha Ullman West, Bob Hicks, Barry Johnson, Heather Wisner, Nim Wunnan, Gary Ferrington, and Elizabeth Whelan, who tried hard to cover it all. As one of the relatively rare sources of dance writing in the U.S., ArtsWatch is a valuable platform; I’m grateful for it, and for the company of such talented writers. If you would like to read ArtsWatch’s coverage of dance in 2018, begin here and click through.

December, dark and magical, brings festive dance performances of all kinds, beginning with NW Dance Project’s Wolf Tales, a remix of fables and fairy tales choreographed by the company dancers: expect lots of surprising twists and turns. Wolf Tales runs December 6-8 and features NW Dance Project executive director Scott Lewis’s world-famous warm wassail served up in the lobby after each show.

This 2016 photo of Linda Austin Dance performing “The last bell rings for you” serves as a prompt at the December 9 STREWN fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NorthWest.

On December 9, for one night only, Performance Works NorthWest will present Strewn, a party to celebrate 18 years of experimental dance and performance held in the Performance Works NorthWest space, to keep the space affordable for artists, and to help sustain programming such as the Alembic artist residencies, various co-productions, and Linda Austin Dance. Two performances, at 7 and 9pm, feature seven outstanding multi-discipline performances by an amazing lineup of Portland artists. The performances are inspired by archival photos of past PWNW performances, and the evening will include a raffle, refreshments, and a karaoke after-party at 9pm.

Other attractions this month include Robin Lane’s holiday spectacular, held December 14-16 at the Alberta Rose Theatre and brimming with musical, acrobatic, and theatrical glory. DO JUMP physical theatre and 3 LEG TORSO perform; Pepe Raphael (of Pepe & the Bottle Blondes) and Jenny Conlee-Drizos (of the Decemberists) make guest appearances. Milagro/Miracle Theatre Group’s Posada Milagro is a Latino Christmas celebration that includes crafts, Spanish storytelling, piñatas, food, and folkloric dance and music performances by Ballet Papalotl and Son Huitzilín; it’s held at the company’s home theater on Stark Street December 16. Espacio Flamenco celebrates the holiday flamenco style with Fiesta Navideña. Held December 16 at the Alberta Abbey, the event features performances of traditional holiday songs and dances by Espacio Flamenco students and the Espacio Flamenco Company.

Ballet Fantastique’s “Babes in Toyland” premieres December 8. Photo courtesy of Ballet Fantastique.

In Eugene, the Emmy Award-winning television dance competition series So You Think You Can Dance Live! 2018 comes to the Hult Center on December 8, featuring winning performers and choreography from the show’s 15th season. Babes in Toyland, a world premiere by Ballet Fantastique, runs December 14-16 at the Hult Center as well, and will be danced to Duke Ellington’s rendition of The Nutcracker Suite, played live by the Swing Shift Orchestra. The ballet, choreographed and produced by the mother-daughter artistic team of Donna Marisa and Hannah Bontrager, is a reimagining of the original Babes in Toyland operetta that Victor Herbert composed as a Christmas-themed fairy-tale mashup; it debuted in 1903.

As for Nutcrackers, there are three: Oregon Ballet Theatre performs George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker December 8-26, the majority with live music live by the OBT orchestra. Eugene Ballet’s The Nutcracker, choreographed by artistic director Toni Pimble and accompanied live by Orchestra Next, runs December 21-23. And the Bolshoi Ballet performs Yuri Grigorovich’s The Nutcracker (after E.T.A. Hoffmann and Marius Petipa) live from Moscow in movie theaters near you on December 23.

BodyVox’s Junior Artist Generator (JAG) Company performs December 14-15. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

Student performances, which tend to be less expensive and shorter (great for the younger set) include The Reed College Winter Dance Concert, featuring student and faculty choreography; it runs December 8-9. Steps PDX Youth Program dancers perform excerpts from The Nutcracker, Land of the Sweets, featuring choreography by artistic director Kathryn Harden, ballet Mistress Olivia Ornelas, and instructors Lauren Smith and Jesus Rodales; the show is held December 15. And BodyVox’s pre-professional dance group, the Junior Artist Generator (JAG) Company, performs works by BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland as well as pieces by a who’s who of up-and-coming Portland choreographers December 14-15.

That’s a wrap. We’ll bring you more Oregon dance events in the new year.

DanceWatch Weekly: The street dances inside

At the TBA Festival a street dance battle royale erupted

I LOVE watching freestyle street dancers perform/improvise. It’s like all of their pent-up emotional stuff is forcing its way out of their bodies and they are fighting to control it, to redirect it, and shape it into something beautiful and meaningful. I love the risk, the tension, the mystery, the physicality, and the explosive, full-out, emotional expression of it all. I can physically feel what they are feeling and my body is compelled to move and respond to it. For me, watching them dance shifts my own experience as a dancer away from serving others with my art to serving myself. I don’t mean that in a self-absorbed kind of way, I just mean that it reminds me not to lose myself in trying to dance for others but to dance for myself, in a self-fulfilling, spiritual kind of way.

On Thursday, TBA’s opening night festivities included a 7-to-smoke, freestyle dance battle, with eight dancers competing round-by-round, in the styles of breakdance, hip-hop, house, locking, popping, vogue, waacking, and so much more. TBA, or Time-Based Art, is the Portland Institute For Contemporary Art’s (PICA) annual, multidisciplinary performance festival. The battle, called The Beautiful Street, curated by Katie Janovic, Jesus Rodales, and Brandon Harrison, was electric.

The evening began with a freestyle battle in the middle of PICA’s new warehouse space, which allowed the dancers to warm up as the audience filtered in. It also gave the judges—Icon, Shady, and Tracey Wong—a chance to pick the eighth competitor. That lucky dancer was Alfred Trinidad. The other competitors of the evening were: Button, Bradass, Chris Moua, DonnaMation, Tomb, Liz, and Protoman.

Before the competition officially began, MC Brandon and DJ Gaan led the audience through a history lesson of hip hop/street dance styles with performances by Portland dancers Decimus (house), JuJu Nikz (wacking), Lockstatic (locking), Yen Boogie (popping), Daniel Girón (vogue fem), Deadshot (krump), and Alia Lux (dancehall).

Deadshot’s (or Dae Dae Middleton) performance of krumping was particularly moving to me, a genuine, unbridled expression of anger. That’s an emotion we rarely get to see in contemporary dance performances, and definitely not often in public life, especially not from people of color and women, who are rarely allowed to express it at all without major repercussions. Serena Williams’ historic week at the U.S. Women’s Open is a perfect example. Deadshot’s performance stirred the audience so much that towards the end of his dance, friends of his rushed the staged and finished out the song with him.

K.R.U.M.P. is an acronym for Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise, and was pioneered in the early 2000’s by Tight Eyez/Ceasare Willis with a community of dancers in the South Central Los Angeles neighborhoods of Compton and Watts. The movement is frenetic and fast-paced and is equally informed by hip-hop, African dance, pantomime, and martial arts. “Krumpitude? It’s the power of the warrior unleashed,” said Tight Eyez in an interview for the film Rize, a documentary film about the Los Angeles subcultures of clowning and krumping made by David LaChapelle in 2005. The dance was a way for kids to escape gang life, to release anger, frustration, and aggression in a positive, non-violent way.

The winner of The Beautiful Street, hands down, was Robin Rojas, aka Protoman. His movement style seemed to encompass just about everything in the book. He was cool and calm, kept his cards close to the vest and surprised us all with new moves at every turn. He would begin slowly and unassumingly and then unwind, picking up speed and completely blow his opponent out of the water with something crazy and unexpected at the end of each round. He was the master of tension and surprise. I believe we witnessed greatness that night.

It was an epic night with so many unforgettable moments. All of the dancers offered themselves up completely to the dance. The audience, who circled tightly around the dancers vying to see every step, was totally and completely engaged. To be able to improvise and do it as well as these dancers did under such pressure, is an incredible feat, and I am in awe.

Performances this week

Mariana Valencia in her solo, Album. Photo by Ian Douglas courtesy of PICA.

Album (TBA:16)
Mariana Valencia
September 13-15
PICA, 15 NE Hancock St.
This solo performance, by Brooklyn-based dance artist Mariana Valencia, functions as an album—a picture album, a song album, an autobiographical album, a herstorical album conveying the herstory that Valencia would like to be remembered by. Through text, song, and dance, Valencia weaves a comical, poetic, and eloquent work that touches on many, many, subjects including her love of rice, vampires, and “The Lesbian dilema,” to name just a few.

Dance artist Nacera Belaza. Photo courtesy of thePortland Institute For Contemporary Art.

La Nuit, La Traversée, Sur Le Fil ( TBA:16)
Compagnie Nacera Belaza
September 14-16
Dolores Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
September 13, Workshop: Release-Receive-Become with Nacera Belaza, (TBA:16)
This solo triptych (translated as, “The Night, The Crossing, and The Wire”) by Algerian/French choreographer Nacera Belaza, reveals the evolution of the works themselves. It is Belaza’s hope that the audience will view the dance performance like they are viewing three different paintings by a single artist in a gallery, and over time the viewers’ gaze will become honed and the inner workings of the artist’s mind will be revealed. Here Belaza talks about her process and who she is as an artist.

Joan Wang dancing, Bulerias. Photo by Mr. Lara.

Emerging Artists Showcase
Espacio Flamenco
6:30 pm September 16
Imago Theater, 17 SE 8th Ave.
Everyone needs an opportunity sometime, and that time is now! Espacio Flamenco, Portland’s premier flamenco producer, will showcase emerging dancers, singers, and guitarists in the flamenco tradition in a series of solos, duets, and ensemble pieces developed by Espacio Flamenco. As part of the flamenco tradition audience members clap along and shout out words of encouragement to the performers as they perform. This is called jaleos. So, if you attend a flamenco event, don’t forget to bring your jaleos! Olé!

Dancers of In The Mood. Photo courtesy of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts.

In The Mood: a 1940s musical revue
Choreography by Alex Sanchez
Presented by Portland’5
September 16
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
Between 1930 and 1950, America entered the Great Depression and World War II began and ended. Music, like always, offered solace and escape and acted as an anthem for soldiers everywhere. In The Mood, is a musical review that aspires to promote this significant period of American history through the era’s most popular music. The evening will include the String of Pearls Orchestra and choreography for the In The Mood dancers and singers by Broadway veteran, Alex Sanchez.

Miranda by Eleven Dance Co. Photo by Jake Kaempf.

Eleven Dance Co.
Choreography by Bb DeLano made in collaboration with the company dancers
September 16 and 23
Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Hwy
“If the disintegration of everything is inevitable, is there any hope?” This is the question that 11 Dance Co. poses in their new three-act, full-length production, Miranda. Combining urban and classical dance forms, Miranda will be performed in a gallery setting with the audience moving from “exhibit” to “exhibit.”