Dance Weekly: FRONT and ‘Metamorphosis’

A dance newspaper publishes a new edition, and a new ballet company debuts

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks, and things are finally settling down just enough to make space for a new dance company in town, PDX Contemporary Ballet. The company will debut “Metamorphosis” on Friday night at Alberta Abbey in NE Portland.

Also significant this past week was the launch and distribution of FRONT, a Portland-based printed newspaper about contemporary dance started in 2010 by Portland dance artists Tahni Holt, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles, Alyssa Reed-Stuewe and Robert Tyree. FRONT is now edited and designed by Ross, Tyree and Justin Flood.

This issue is different from the others in that there is a special workshop component to the newspaper that helps people physically engage with the written material, and lots of questions are asked in the newspaper that other artists can take into their own work. The cover design is a fold-out poster with beautiful photos of Portland dance artists enveloped in curvy black and white grids.

FRONT invited five leading US-based choreographers to restate a period of artistic creation past into a series of questions now. The result is a publication with the spirit of a toolbox, through the lens of contemporary dance.

Poets, body-based creatives, lateral thinkers, sacred typographers and curious folk—let’s generate.

I was not able to attend the launch party and workshop this past weekend, so instead I sent Robert Tyree a barrage of questions about it, attempting to get a deeper understanding of the workshop, the paper and what FRONT is all about. That conversation is below.

Matt Fabric 2

PDX Contemporary Dance performer Matt Cichon. Photograph by Gregory Bartning.

But first this week’s performances:

PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 5-7
Alberta Abbey, 126 NE Alberta St

PDX Contemporary Ballet, directed by Joanna Hardy, Briley Neugebauer, and Emily Schultz, came to be after the fall of Moxie Contemporary Ballet. The dancers regrouped, forged a partnership with Alberta Abbey and commissioned choreography from some untapped talent in Portland and from outside the city.

The choreographers were tasked with creating a new work for the company based on the concept of metamorphosis/transformation, a choice marking the significance of the dancers recent experiences of falling apart and reorganizing into something new.

The choreographers are Melissa St.Clair (Director of SOAR, a documentary on Kiera Brinkley -Polaris Dancer and her sister Uriah Boyd performer with Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre), Melissa Franzosa (dancer with David Parsons Dance Company), M’liss Quinnly (Polaris Dance Theater) and the collaborative team of Lindsey Matheis (ex-NW Dance Project dancer) and Chris Peddecord (retired professional dancer and dance photographer).

Guest appearance by SubRosa Dance Collective.

PDX Contemporary Ballet performers are Alexandra Schooling, Briley Neugebauer, Abigail Parker, Matthew Cichon, Samantha Schilke, and Sari Hoke.


Dance Weekly: The Butoh Beat

Groovin' Greenhouse, a new FRONT page, La Compagnie Herve Koubi, and an interview with Meshi Chavez on "Being Moved"

This weekend is all about contemporary dance explorations. Groovin’ Greenhouse, the dance sibling of the Fertile Ground festival of new works, continues; the fifth edition of FRONT (a Portland-based dance newspaper curated by Justin Flood, Danielle Ross and Robert Tyree) releases with a party and a workshop; twelve French-Algerian men take the White Bird stage in What The Day Owes To The Night, which I hear is almost sold out; and I will be performing in Being Moved: All that I know Is Nothing, the culminating performance of a nine-week butoh workshop led by choreographer Meshi Chavez.

I became interested in learning butoh and making it a year-long study and writing project after I had reconstructive hip surgery in May. I have been dancing professionally for a long time, and was not willing to call it quits after this surgery. I was interested instead in finding new forms of expression that did not call on the extreme ranges of motion that contemporary dance requires, although I can still do them if need be. I have accumulated a lifetime of body knowledge, and I was interested in finding new ways to use it that didn’t cause me pain and were more sustainable throughout the rest of my life.

I have been circling around the idea of butoh for a while after seeing Meshi and Mizu Desierto perform over the past five years: both are major players in Portland’s butoh scene. I was curious about it and its practitioners, but couldn’t put my finger on what exactly it was or what I was seeing. I could feel the freedom and range in their movement and expressions when I saw them dance, and I wanted that too.

Butoh, in my elementary understanding, was born in Japan from the aftermath of World War II by its founders, Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno, as a way to find a dance form that was not Western and not traditional Japanese but something of its own. It is also not the stereotype of ashen-white makeup, contorted body positions, or brutally slow glacial movement that so many people associate butoh with – rather, it is a way for the body to move or speak for itself through unconscious improvised movement.