Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe

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

DanceWatch Weekly: My vacation to Japan

You can go to Japan, or you can go to Butoh College here at home and catch Stephen Petronio, too

I have just returned from a week in Japan, and I am in an elated, exhausted, jet lagged, watery, impermanent state of being neither here nor there. My mind is still navigating Japan, but I am physically back in the beautiful, blossoming spring of Portland.

In Japan it’s also spring, and everywhere you look there are cherry trees in full bloom with cascading pink flowers and countless people posing for photos under them. This past weekend in Arashiyama, a district on the outskirts of Kyoto, spring appreciations/celebrations were in full swing. The Hozu River, which runs from the mountains down into Kyoto, is lined with cherry trees. Large families with young girls dressed in colorful kimonos were strolling in the warm air along the banks, taking pictures under the trees, shopping, eating ice cream, and socializing into the wee hours of the evening. It was idyllic.

I don’t think I have ever experienced, appreciated, or even noticed spring in quite this way before. The slowed down pace, the appreciation of the trees, of nature, of seasons, the color of the blossoms, the attention to family and tradition; it was all so beautiful and put me in a gooey, honey-like, euphoric state.

In Tokyo I was extremely lucky to get a last-minute ticket to see a tea ceremony, dance, and music performance by Kyoto’s renowned Geiko/Geisha and Maiko (Geisha in training) called Miyako Odori, a spring dance performance that has been performed annually since 1872. The geisha are consummate performers and hostesses who dedicate their lives to perfecting the performing arts. Becoming a geisha was the first respectable profession for women in Japan and should never be confused with prostitution.

Miyako Odori. Photo courtesy of Goin’ Japanesque!

The hour-long performance was a compilation of six dances celebrating Japan’s seasons while introducing us to famous places and beautiful locations throughout Kyoto—like the mountains, streams, and temples. There were 60 performers in all, live music and singing, lavishly designed sets and lighting, and gorgeous colorful silk kimonos for days. The movements were delicate, graceful, exacting, with not a finger out of place. The experience made me fall in love with ritual all over again and understand its importance in daily life.

In contrast to this elaborate classical experience was a Butoh class I took in Kyoto with choreographer Ima Tenko. Tenko directs her own, three-person company called Butoh Company Kiraza and was a member of Byakkosha, an acclaimed Butoh company that ran for 14 years and broke up in 1994. Tenko’s company performs every Thursday to a small audience of eight or nine; sadly I was not able to see them perform. But, I did take class with her in her studio that she rents in a Korean section of Kyoto that used to be mens’ garment factory before the war. Referring to time periods in relation to the war is common in Japan. Posted on the inside of the door to her studio is a poster of ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, performing The Rite of Spring.

Butoh dancer Ima Tenko performing Hisoku. Photo courtesy of Ima Tenko.

Even though she and I had language barrier issues, I still felt like I fully understood what she was saying. Movement speaks volumes, you know. It was almost like I could hear her speaking in English in my head even though she wasn’t. I found that her warm up exercises were familiar as they were based on modern and postmodern dance, and her themes of humans in nature are universal. We even did a sumo exercise, practiced the Butoh walks, which are based in Noh Theatre, and on the way Japanese people walk, and we scrunched up our faces and shuffled around like bent old ladies at the end of class to fully understand the experience of authentic movement embodiment.

I thought as a Westerner that going to Japan to take Butoh would be a completely unfamiliar experience, but it wasn’t. Even though I live 5,000 miles away, and I am not a regular Butoh practitioner, I still felt a connection with Tenko’s movement history because of the modern dance lineages that we are both tied into from our training that connect us all world wide. It was pretty cool.

And with that I offer you this week’s performances, some of which are Butoh based.