Jessica Lang Dance

Jessica Lang Dance: Classically modern

White Bird gave us a good survey of the work of forward-leaning ballet choreographer Jessica Lang this weekend

This weekend, Jessica Lang Dance, which Lang founded in 2011, visited Portland for the first time. A Juilliard graduate, Lang is a former member of Twyla Tharp’s company, THARP!, and is widely recognized as one of the most talented choreographers of her generation. Though she’s still in the prime of her career, Lang’s CV is stuffed with accomplishments and awards, including her 2014 Bessie Award and her Arison Award in 2017. Outside of her work for JLD, her choreography has been performed by prominent companies around the world, from original compositions for American Ballet Theater and the National Ballet of Japan, to her work on the production of Aida directed by Francesca Zambello for the San Francisco and Washington National opera companies.

As a company, JLD has also accomplished an impressive amount in less than a decade. The mission “to enrich and inspire global audiences by immersing them in the beauty of movement and music” takes them around the world for more than 50 annual performances at some of the most prestigious venues in the performing arts world. As part of that mission, Lang developed the LANGuage program to provide high-quality educational activities in relationship to their programming, both at home in New York with a focus on the Queens community and in cities around the world when they tour.

Jessica Lang Dance visited Portland with a set of six dances, including “The Calling.”/Courtesy of White Bird

The program for this performance was an excellent opportunity to survey the range of Lang’s choreography and the strengths of the company. Like Lang’s career, the show covered a lot of ground in a short time. The six separate pieces represent original compositions by Lang from 2006 to 2017, demonstrating the span of motifs and themes that have defined Lang’s choreography since before JLD up to some of her most current work developed specifically for the company.

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DanceWatch Weekly: Jessica Lang and Jesús Carmona

Two White Bird concerts and a South Asian American cultural festival highlight the week in dance

Two White Bird shows—New York-based Jessica Lang Dance Company and Compañia Jesús Carmona from Barcelona—bookend this week’s performance schedule. Both choreographers defy categorization, and their hybrid choreographies draw heavily on lighting and visual elements to craft their story.

Jessica Lang, artistic director of Jessica Lang Dance, decided six months into dancing for Twyla Tharp that she wanted something else. She realized that there was a discrepancy between the variety that her dance education, which had culminated at Julliard provided, and her real life as a professional dancer— “you don’t keep changing what you’re doing,” she said in an interview with Liz Johnston for Dallas’s D Magazine in 2013. “You keep repeating what you’re doing. And I am not a repetitive person in that respect…”

After Tharp’s tour came to a natural end after a year and a half (because you don’t quit a Tharp tour six months in), Lang entered her choreography into Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s first choreographic competition, and she was one of two winners. The other was Robert Battle, now the artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

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