karen sherman

DanceWatch Weekly: The beginning of the beginning

As the Time-Based Art Festival gets the dance season underway, take a peek at what lies ahead

Welcome, to a shiny, glittery, brand new season of dance! Listed below are 85 dance performances that will take place throughout Oregon from now through June 2019. The list will grow of course as new performances pop up, so check back often. Spend time with the list, ogle its greatness, click the links, and research at will. There is a lot to choose from and you don’t want to miss a thing!

This week? It’s TBA time as the Portland Institute For Contemporary Art’s annual Time-Based Art Festival turns 16! This 11-day festival of performances, workshops, artist talks, visual art exhibitions, and after-hours parties is inherently interdisciplinary and champions local, national and international artists who reflect and respond to our times. It’s a mind-altering, opinion-changing, heart-opening extravaganza of the senses. Below I have highlighted just the dance-centric TBA events, because that’s what we do here at DanceWatch. For the full schedule of events go to PICA’s website. Enjoy!

Performances this week

Dancers of The Beautiful Street. Photo courtesy of PICA.

The Beautiful Street: 16th Annual TBA Festival Opening Night
Presented by: Portland Institute For Contemporary Art, The Beautiful Street (Katie Janovic), Find A Way (Jesus Rodales), and PDX Ball (Brandon Harrison)
Starring, DJ Gaan and MC Brandon with battle Judges Icon, Shady, and Tracey Wong
Dance Battle Invites: Button, Bradass, Chris Moua, DonnaMation, Tomb, Liz, Protoman, and a wildcard
8 pm September 6
PICA, 15 NE Hancock St.
Workshop: 10:00 am September 8, Hip Hop and Popping with Katie Janovec and Jesus Rodales

TBA’s opening night festivities include a 7-to-smoke, freestyle dance battle, with dancers competing round-by-round, in the styles of breakdance, hip-hop, house, locking, popping, vogue, waacking, and more. The evening also includes performances by Decimus, JuJu Nikz, Lockstatic, Yen Boogie, Daniel Girón, Dae Dae, Alia Lux, with an epic dance party to follow.

The dancers of #Instaballet. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Haag.

#Instaballet at First Friday ArtWalk
Artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
Featuring dancers: Sara Stockwell, Sarah Kosterman, Will Robichaud, and Kenta Taniguchi
5:30 pm September 7
Capitello Wines Barrel Room, 540 Charnelton, Eugene

Reimagining who creates ballets, #Instaballet, directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of Eugene Ballet, gives artistic control to the audience. If you have ever wanted to choreograph a ballet but aren’t a dancer or a choreographer, now is your chance. Head on over to First Friday ArtWalk in Eugene and be a part of the process and make a ballet on the spot. The creative process begins at 5:30 pm and a performance of the final product will happen at 8 pm. This month’s performance will feature Eugene Ballet dancers Reed Souther, Vivien Farrell, and Erin Johnson, and will be facilitated by Antonio Anacan.

If you are interested in learning more about #Instaballet and how it came to be, ArtsWatch’s Eugene correspondent Gary Ferrington wrote about them in 2015 in Crowd-sourced Choreography.

Anthem by Milka Djordjevich. Photo by Gema Galiana.

Anthem (TBA 2018)
Milka Djordjevich
September 7-10
PICA, 15 NE Hancock St.
Workshop: 10 am September 9, Practice Practice with Milka Djordjevich

In this quartet for four women, Los Angeles choreographer Milka Djordjevich questions contemporary dances’ tendencies toward neutrality, authenticity, and the desexualization of the female body. By embracing theatricality, virtuosity, and sass, Djordjevich weaves those together with vernacular dance forms to explore labor, play, and feminine posturing.

Dancers jumatatu m. poe and Jermone Donte Beacham. Photo by Theo Cote.

Let ‘im Move You Series Works: A Study and This Is A Success (TBA 2018)
jumatatu m. poe and Jermone Donte Beacham
September 7-9
PICA, 15 NE Hancock St.
Workshop: 10:00 am September 7, Big Body: Experimental J-Sette Performance Workshop
Conversation: 12:30 pm September 9, jumatatu m. poe and Jermone Donte Beacham

In this series of three live performances and an installation, jumatatu m. poe and Jermone Donte Beacham use their research on J-Sette performance (a performance style popular in the southern United States practiced by majorettes and drill teams at historically Black colleges and universities) and teams of queer men who compete in gay clubs and pride festivals, as a jumping off point and lens, to examine a variety of concepts and feelings.

Soft Goods by Karen Sherman. Photo courtesy of PICA.

Soft Goods (TBA 2018)
Karen Sherman
September 8-9
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.
Conversation: 12:30 pm September 7, Karen Sherman and Erin Boberg Doughton

Laying bare the bones of backstage culture, Soft Goods, performed by an ensemble of stage technicians and dancers, is structured as a live load-in and technical rehearsal for a performance that never happens. Equally funny and heartbreaking, “the show illuminates the lonesomeness of theaters, the spectral elegance of a lighting focus, the choreography of labor, and the labor of dance. Soft Goods is a meditation on work, life, loss, and occupational self-obliteration.”

Pushit! [Exercise 1 In Getting Well Soon] by Nic Kay. Photo courtesy of PICA.

Pushit! [Exercise 1 In Getting Well Soon] (TBA 2018)
3:30 pm September 9
5:30 pm September 11
Exact addresses for performances to be announced 24 hours in advance
Conversation: 12:30 pm September 10, NIC Kay

PUSHIT!, is a site-responsive performance by Bronx artist NIC Kay, and “a meditation on emotional labor and the impossibility of the stage as a place of freedom for the Black performer.” The performance requires walking and two hours to travel about three miles. The exact location of the performance will be announced 24 hours in advance. Please contact PICA’s box office at 503-224-PICA with any access or accommodation questions or concerns.

Upcoming Performances

September 13, Workshop: Release-Receive-Become with Nacera Belaza, TBA 2018
September 13-15, Album, Mariana Valencia, TBA 2018
September 14-16, La Nuit, La Traversée, Sur Le Fil, Compagnie Nacera Belaza, TBA 2018
September 16, Emerging Artists Showcase, Espacio Flamenco
September 16, In The Mood: a 1940s musical revue, Presented by Portland’5
September 16, 23, Miranda, Eleven Dance Co.
September 21, 22, Aureum, Produced by Halcyon
September 22, Autumn Moon Festival, Lan Su Chinese Garden
September 22, 29, Some Are Silver, Carlyn Hudson
September 22, Hillsboro ArtFest on the Plaza, City of Hillsboro
September 23, 8th Kelucharan Guna Keertanam/Odissi dance festival, Presented by the Odissi Dance Company
September 26, Bricolage, Performance Works NW Visiting Artist
September 27-29, Carmen + World Premiere, NW Dance Project
September 29-30, Ahmet Luleci, Presented by Ruby Beh
September 30, China In Dance, Presented by American Asian Performing Arts Theatre

October 4-6, Come to your senses, Pilobolus, Presented by White Bird
October 5-6, Shiny Angles in Angular Time, Melinda Ring and Renée Archibald
October 6-13, Napoli, Oregon Ballet Theatre
October 6-7, Hamlet, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
October 9, The New Chinese Acrobats, Eugene
October 11-16, Circa, Presented by White Bird
October 11-20, Bloody Vox: Deadline October, BodyVox
October 12-13, Change(d) Together, The Circus Project
October 12-20, A Spine Tingling Soiree, Wild Rumpus Jazz Co.
October 18-20, Lucy Guerin Inc, Presented by White Bird
October 19, Everything’s Copacetic, The Skylark Tappers
October 20, As You Like It-A Wild West Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
October 20-21, The Man Who Forgot, The Portland Tap Company
October 26, Star Dust, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Eugene
October 26, Flamenco Pacifico, Presented by Berto Boyd

November 2-4, A Midsummer Night at the Savoy, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre
November 4, civilized-Happy Hour, Catherine Egan
November 9-11, Cloth, PDX Contemporary Ballet
November 11, La Sylphide, Bolshoi Ballet in cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
November 13-14, The Hip Hop Nutcracker, Jennifer Weber
November 14, Tangueros del Sur, Presented by White Bird
November 16-18, Perceiving The Constant, Jessica Hightower
November 23-25, A Midsummer Night’s Dream with PSU Orchestra, The Portland Ballet

December 2, Don Quixote, Bolshoi Ballet in cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
December 6-8, Winter Performance, NW Dance Project
December 8, So You Think You Can Dance Live! 2018, Eugene
December 8-25, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 14-16, Babes in Toyland (World Premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
December 21-23, The Nutcracker, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
December 23, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live

January 2019
January 9-20, The Lion King, Eugene
January 20, La Bayadère, Bolshoi Ballet in cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
January 24-February 2, The Cutting Room, BodyVox
January 31-February 2, Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art, Presented by White Bird

February 9-10, Romeo and Juliet, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
February 13, Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, Presented by White Bird
February 16-23, Cinderella, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 20, Beijing Dance Theater, Presented by White Bird
February 28-March 2, Compagnie Hervé Koubi, Presented by White Bird
February 29-March 2, Trip The Light Fantastic, NW Dance Project

March 1-3, The Odyssey, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Materialize, PDX Contemporary Ballet
March 7-9, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Presented by White Bird
March 8-10, Interplay, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
March 9, Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company, Walters Cultural Arts Center
March 10, The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet in cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
March 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April 4-6, Parsons Dance, Presented by White Bird
April 4-13, The Pearl Dive Project, BodyVox
April 7, The Golden Age, Bolshoi Ballet in cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
April 9-10, Savion Glover, Presented by White Bird
April 11-14, Director’s Choice, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 24, Philadanco, Presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Spring Performance, NW Dance Project

May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (World Premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene

June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Performances, NW Dance Project

We have reached the exciting meta conclusion of TBA:13. Fortunately, Nim Wunnan and Andrea Stolowitz were on hand to dig into two of the last performances, Karen Sherman’s “One with Others” and Ivana Müller’s “We Are Still Watching.”


Cardboard props, a collection of overhead projectors, and handmade wooden contraptions sprawled across BodyVox’s wide stage for the audience to contemplate before Karen Sherman’s “One With Others” started. Perhaps they were to prime thoughts of “what did I sign up for,” easy to think at TBA, where you can usually hit another show that night if the first one didn’t do it for you.

Karen Sherman's "One With Others"/Photo by Jeffrey Wells courtesy PICA

Karen Sherman’s “One With Others”/Photo by Jeffrey Wells courtesy PICA

Sherman and her dancers answered this question as their first act on stage. Instead of any kind of introduction, they walked straight to the central, office-grade projector and presented the audience with an ELUA (End-User License Agreement), outlining the terms they agreed to by reading the document. The three dancers perched carefully, needlessly adjusting the transparency and checking on us, the End Users, to make sure that we read all the way to the lines at the bottom. These lines declared that reading them constituted signing—and dating—the document. It was easy to tell when viewers got there by tracking the laughter through the seats.

Reading between the ironic lines, the document told me that we were in for a large portion of self-reference, possibly some send-ups of office culture, official contracts, or other things that take themselves too seriously, and an alternation between dry language and exciting stage devices. Laid out like that it sounds fairly third-year-in-art-school. However, something about the attitude of the final lines of the opening document and the laughs they got suggested that things would get more complex than that. They did, and it got interesting.

The show included monologues, live and dubbed musical performance, self-referential improv, “pure dance” with and without mixers, a recording of a critique of the performance itself, anecdotes about previous performances and practices, and precarious operations involving homemade props. In less capable hands, all that could easily turn to mud. The individual passages were performed thoughtfully with care and talent, but the pacing was perhaps the deftest trick of the show.

The irony mixed with grace and ambiguity and avoided mugging. The props set up physical games for the performers to play, while the self-referential passages outlined what sorts of things could pass through the fourth wall (backhanded compliments from previous audiences, arguments at dance practice, lonely self doubt of the performers, comments on the dancers’ bodies, etc). The barrage of forms and contexts worked well to prevent the more abstract aspects of the performance from reading simply as illustrations of the texts. The show was full of fun, but rarely without a sense of something more pensive below—just the right amount of bitters in the cocktail.

The dialogue between dance and text created a space that recognized and played with the strangeness of people dealing with each other, people watching other people operate in the displacement of a stage, and people trying to make something together. As dance extends language in such a conversation, the devices extended the dance. Some appeared flimsy or goofy at first, but in the world built on stage they served necessary, bizarre purposes.

Sherman piloted the most elaborate of them through a tooth-scratchingly-raw operation. While she used a large cantilevered wooden armature to precariously hang a rubber glove full of a dark liquid over dancer Joanna Furnans free hand (the other was bound in a wooden press), dancer Jeffrey Wells slit the glove with a scalpel and siphoned the liquid through one of the other devices (which looked a little like a wooden version of Helper from the Venture Brothers). Later that device served as a stand-in for a fourth member of the troupe in an ad-libbed argument about how one of them was always asking another one for a ride home from rehearsal. The beauty of the show was how much sense that made once things came to that point, and how difficult it would be to explain why.



Ivana Muller's "We Are Still Watching"/Photo Sanne Peper courtesy PICA

Ivana Muller’s “We Are Still Watching”/Photo Sanne Peper courtesy PICA

Walking into the Coho Theatre at four in the afternoon on a rainy Sunday in Portland towards the end of the TBA festival, I was not sure what to expect from Ivana Müller’s “We Are Still Watching, “billed as “a play in which the idea of ‘spectacle’ slowly shifts to where we least expect it”. Since we needed to have reserved our tickets in advance, there was none of that last-minute ticket scrambling frenzy that usually accompanies final TBA events. There was a feeling of calm intimacy in the Coho lobby, maybe something akin to having been invited to a private party.

Once we did enter the theater we were given a piece of paper with a seat number on it and told to sit there. The chairs were set up to follow the perimeter of the stage allowing for one row of seating in which we could all see each other.

We all waited patiently until the the stage manager came out and read aloud a list of seat numbers telling those people to reach under their seats to get their script. And with this, the reading commenced. The characters in the script are people very much like ourselves, people who’ve come to the Ivana Müller event and don’t know what to make of it. We are asked to read characters who are trying to make sense of what the event is while we ourselves are trying to make sense of the event.

As we all read aloud together, followed the prompts, gave other audience members our scripts as per the instructions, something interesting began to happen; we were getting to know each other and the characters. In the script there’s the girl who came looking to meet someone, the guy who came because this is supposed to be an important event, the person who had nothing else to do today, and even the ornery audience member who wanted to know what this piece was about. As we played these characters we were also creating an event together as ourselves, deciding how to decide what to do and how to keep the momentum going, and whether or not to keep participating in this exercise.

The high point of the show came towards the end, where a percussive chanting is called for in the script. We were still somewhat self-conscious but all followed the directions, participated, and slowly created an event and a play where what was happening was becoming more and more unscripted. Without any actors, playwrights, or directors present the chanting took on a life of its own; something that was wholly ours. We became both the participants and the creators and at that moment, with the theater vibrating as the chanting continued, there was indeed a true breakdown of order and we were no longer simply watching, we were doing.

If there is a political or social message in this piece it is that we all have the voice, the agency to be both a performer and creator in the political and social world. Our destiny and indeed the destiny of the world is in our hands and we are our own agency of change. So the question, are we still watching or are we participating is in fact an extremely important one and this piece asks us to consider participating.