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DanceWatch: A rich cultural stew

What's happening in Oregon dance now

Welcome to DanceWatch for March, the month that enters like a lion and retreats like a lamb, or so they say. While it’s still cold and dark outside, you can think of this month’s dance offerings like a warm winter stew: hearty, rich, varied, and soul-soothing. And don’t forget that spring is a mere 22 days away!

Let’s start this month’s column with Native American dance. Last fall, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art caught my attention with this statement in its Time-Based Art catalog: “The land now known as Portland rests on the traditional village sites of the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla, and many other Tribes who made their homes along the Columbia (Wimahl) and Willamette (Whilamut) rivers.”

I didn’t know this. Did you? I was struck. I rarely hear about the native tribes of Portland and the surrounding areas and I even more rarely see dance representing these cultures. I feel weird about this. I can’t go back to not knowing. In fact, this information made me want to learn more about Native American dance artists in Oregon and beyond, and recently, I did.

This past Sunday, I attended the Alembic artist performance at Performance Works NorthWest, where choreographer Olivia Camfield, a resident artists and a Muscogee Creek Tribal member from Texas Hill Country, choreographed and performed a powerful contemporary piece about indigenous people reclaiming their narratives. She welcomed everyone with this statement, a reminder to be respectful when we’re visiting someone else’s territory.

“Hensci (hello), estonko (how are you), Olivia Cvhocefkv Tos (my name is Olivia). I come from the Muscogee Creek nation of Oklahoma. Originally we come from the southeastern region of this continent. I would like to acknowledge that I am a visitor here today and in the spirit of reciprocity, I would like to bring medicine and movement prayer to this land and the people of it. These nations include the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tumwater, Watlala Bands of the Chinook, the Tualatin Kalapuya, and many other indigenous nations of the Columbia River valley region. I would like y’all to acknowledge whether you are a settler occupier of this stolen land, an indigenous visitor, or you are of this land and this is your ancestral territory. I would like to ask to come here and be in a good way and walk this land as a caretaker and a medicine giver. I would like y’all to do the same, be here in a way that is respectful and honorable to the people and spirits who have taken care of this land since time immemorial. Mvto (thank you).”


DanceWatch Weekly: A dance that can be whatever it wants to be

Shannon Stewart talks about the 3-year process that her dance "Relatives" has gone through

“Honestly, the real reason for this production is because I wanted to get Shannon Stewart here (in Portland) again,” said Portland choreographer Tahni Holt when we met for coffee last week at Posies Bakery & Cafe in NE Portland. “She’s just a power house. She’s an amazing choreographer, and teacher, and a very dear colleague of mine.”

New Orleans-based Stewart’s Relatives and Holt’s newest work-in-progress, Rubble Bodies, will share the stage this weekend at Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance. The two pieces are in conversation with each other Holt said.

“So many of our ideas—what we think about, and what we are working on—are on similar paths,” Holt says. “We are at similar points in our lives, and we’re similar ages” she continued. “I think that they will be really amazing pieces to see together and hers (Stewart’s) is an incredibly complicated, rigorous piece, that you get a bit lost in the meditation of it and the consistency of it. The dedication she brings to that hour—and the fierceness—is really amazing. I’m very excited to bring that piece to this community. I want this community to show up for it because I think it’s a really important work to see.”


DanceWatch Weekly: Easy breezy

This week's dance line-up is led by students and the returning alumni of The Portland Ballet and Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe

It’s a feel-good, easy breezy weekend of dance here in Portland. The air is sweet, the sun is out, and the roses are in bloom. A welcome respite considering… everything. This weekend I give you permission to step away from your electronic devices and join the living in celebration of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” with dance.

The weekend’s offerings include: Up Close with students and the returning alumni of The Portland Ballet; Wakily, an end-of -the-year performance by the dancers of Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe; and a rendering of the comedic ballet Coppélia, performed live by the Bolshoi Ballet in movie theaters near you.

Me? I’m headed to the forest. The Willamette National Forest to be exact. It’s where Breitenbush Hot Springs is and where I’ll be for four days this week dancing with Portland dance artists Meshi Chavez and Winky Wheeler in their yearly Dance Camp retreat. It’s a chance to find new connections with my dancer self, in a new place, and mix with new people and new ideas. I’m looking forward to this fresh experience and I’ll let you know how it went, in next week’s DanceWatch.

Performances this week

The Portland Ballet, studio dress rehearsal,15th anniversary alumni show. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Up Close
The Portland Ballet
June 8-10
The Portland Ballet Studio Theatre, 6250 SW Capitol Hwy
In an intimate studio setting, The Portland Ballet’s Career Track Program students will perform alongside nine returning TPB alumni who are now dancing in professional companies and college programs across the country.

The program includes new ballets by TPB faculty member Michelle Davis and alumna Carolina MacDonald (currently dancing with Nevada Ballet), as well as works by retired New York City Ballet Principal Dancer and Répétiteur for The George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins Trust, Philip Neal, and a duet by the renowned ballet artist Christopher D’Amboise.

D’Amboise’s duet, Pandora’s Box, will be performed by Lauren Lane and Michael McGonegal, the daughter and future son-in-law of Portland Ballet’s artistic directors Nancy Davis and Jim Lane. The pair dances for Saint Louis Ballet, where the duet was originally set in 2014, and will be married this summer.

Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe. Photo courtesy of Kúkátónón.

Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, with special guest performances by Habiba Addo, Habib Iddrisu, and the Obo Addy Legacy Project
6:30 pm June 9
Jefferson High School Auditorium, 5210 N. Kerby
Wakily (wah-kee-lee ) in the West African language of Sousou, means to never give up, push through, persevere and triumph.

Kúkátónón’s young dancers and drummers will end the year with a performance inspired by the meaning of Wakily, featuring West African dance and drumming, a special ballet presentation, and guest performances by Habiba Addo (Ghanaian storytelling and vocals), Habib Iddrisu (Ghanaian drumming), and Obo Addy Legacy Project (Ghanaian drumming and dancing).

Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe is a Portland children’s dance company founded by Rolia Manyongai-Jones in 1983, and now directed by Dana Shephard. It focuses on inspiring confidence among the troupe’s dancers and broadening awareness of African and African-American cultural traditions throughout Oregon. The company offers tuition-free African dancing, drumming, and classical ballet lessons on a weekly basis, taught by professional music and dance instructors.

Bolshoi Ballet in Coppélia. Photo courtesy of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow, Presented by Fathom Events
Choreography by Sergei Vikharev after Marius Petipa and Enrico Cecchetti
Performed by the Bolshoi Principals, Soloists and Corps de Ballet
12:55 pm June 10
Click here for participating theatres and locations

The story goes that Franz, the fianceé of Swanhilda, has eyes for another. The girl that he admires is Coppélia. What he doesn’t realize is that Coppélia is actually a life-size doll created by the inventor, Dr. Coppélius. Swanhilda and her friends go to Dr. Coppélius’s house to tell this Coppélia to get lost and discover that she is actually a doll. Mayhem ensues, things get broken, Dr. Coppélius returns, and they all run off except for Swanhilda who gets left behind and hides. While in hiding, Swanhilda watches as Dr. Coppélius tries to drug Franz in an attempt take his soul and put it into his beloved Coppélia, to bring her to life. Of course, Swanhilda leaps out from her hiding place, saves Franz, they forgive each other, get married, and live happily ever after. The End.

Oh, and Dr. Coppélius’s anger over broken property is placated with a big bag of money.

Upcoming Performances

June 13, Dance Forum, showcase and reception, American Dance Abroad at BodyVox
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, This Time Tomorrow-Danielle Agami, NW Dance Project
June 15-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Claire Barrera, Shaun Keylock, Sarah Brahim, and Decimus Yarbrough
June 16, Dance Film Double Feature: Standing on Gold and Moving History, hosted by Eric Nordstrom
June 22-23, Bodies of Existence/Dances of Resistance, Company Movimiento, Artistic Director- Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner, Eugene
June 22-23, Ævium: Intimacy with Disappearance, Jayne Lee, Delisa Myles, Mizu Desierto, Breanna Rogers, Ashley Fine, Sedona Ortega, and Studio M13
June 22-23, Recipe: A Reading Test (1983) and Raw Material (1985), Linda Austin
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem
June 29-July 1, Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance
June 29-30, River Daze, Dillon & Wilde + Artists

July 6, #INSTABALLET NO.26, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
July 11-27, [A Swatch of Lavender]: A Self Portrait, keyon gaskin
July 14, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
July 19-21, RELATIVES // apples & pomegranates, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag