Marginal Evidence

This weekend contains dance offerings for every palate. The buffet includes Obstacles and Victory Songs, a shared evening between sounds artist Stephanie Lavon Trotter and movement artist Dora Gaskill at Performance Works NW; a 15th anniversary celebration with Polaris Dance Theatre; a collaboration of movement and words between LitCrawl and Pure Surface; and a cross-cultural investigation with Peruvian dance artist Luciana Proaño.

Polaris Dance Theatre, a contemporary dance company directed by Robert Guitron and Sara Anderson, is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a program of 12 dances collected from past repertory to the present. They have aptly titled the program Reclaimed. If you missed last night’s performance you can catch them tonight and again next weekend.

Continues…

It’s all about ballerinas and monsters this week, beginning Thursday with the second weekend run of BodyVox’s semi-annual (it is performed alternately in Portland one year, and then away the next), Halloween-themed show, BloodyVox: Blood Red Is The New Black.

Monsters & Death, Ben Martens monthly showcase at The Headwaters Theatre, opens Friday, this time with a dark twist. And so does INCIPIO, PDX Contemporary Ballet’s new, two-act ballet choreographed by Briley Neugebauer, which combines classical and contemporary dance. Eugene Ballet raises the curtain on Giselle on Friday, too, a version choreographed by artistic director Toni Pimble.

Giselle is one of the creepiest ballets out there, and one of my favorites. It tells the story of a young woman, Giselle, who dies from a broken heart (who does that?) when she finds out her lover, Albrecht, is engaged to another. The Wilis, a group of powerful, supernatural women who enjoy dancing men to death, summon Giselle from her grave and offer to avenge her. Sadly/happily, depending on how you look at it, Giselle’s love for her lover saves him from this terrible fate. One of these days I wish a choreographer would change the ending and let the Wilis have their fun. But until then…Happy Halloween.

Performances this week!

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Dancers Jeff George and Eric Skinner in BodyVox’s GEORGE AND GEORGE. Photo by Ken Salaman.

BloodyVox: Blood Red Is The New Black
BodyVox
October 27-29
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave
Created in 2010, BloodyVox, BodyVox’s “scary” version of a holiday classic, celebrates directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland’s favorite holiday, Halloween. This dance theatre extravaganza touches on all aspects of Halloween, creating an evening that is dark, mysterious, magical, beautiful, ironic, odd, hilarious and absurd. The dance, which is made up on many smaller dances, incorporates the standard Halloween fare of vampires, zombies, ghosts, killer lady spiders, and creepy identical twins alongside elegant technical ballet and modern dance done in the BodyVox style. It’s all about having fun while getting scared.

When I spoke with Hampton and Roland last week about the dance Hampton said, “It’s your standard modern dance fare.” Roland reiterated “Its typical. Anything you might find at the end of a Martha Graham piece or something that’s gone bad.” Hampton finished the conversation off with: “When you think of horror and modern dance, it’s limitless.”

Spectacle Garden 6: Monsters & Death
Curated & produced by Ben Martens
7:30 pm October 28
Music and Dancing at 930.
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St
After a wild ride of performances by some of Portland’s finest experimental artists, all focusing on Monsters & Death of course, the evening will continue into the wee hours of the morning with the musical stylings of Wretched Tween Fantasy, Ben Martens, Savage Nightingale and DJ Banzai. Curator and organizer Ben Martens says, “Bring your costume, come late, just come through, all of our nightmares will come true!!”

Ben Martens, who has been curating monthly performances at The Headwater Theatre for several months now, is a poet, electronic music producer, emcee, mover, organizer and performance artist with an interest in revolution, existentialism, comedy, mindfulness and environmentalism. He studied music and performance at Naropa University and has been studying Butoh with Mizu Desierto since his arrival in Portland in January 2015. He and Desierto are hoping to rev up Portland’s performance community by bringing them together for low-cost, low-ambition, high-energy community showcases. Martens is always looking for future performers, particularly performers of color and diverse ages, in theater, comedy, dance and ensemble work. If you are interested in performing, contact Martens at bensmateria@gmail.com.

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PDX Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Chris Hughes.

INCIPIO
PDX Contemporary Ballet
Choreographed by Briley Neugebauer
October 28-30
N.E.W. Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St
Artistic director Briley Neugebauer accidentally created a new choreographic challenge for herself last year when she and her dancers were looking for a way to add more seating at a performance. They decided to place the chairs all around the stage, inadvertently creating a performance in the round. This, of course, is not a new idea, especially in contemporary dance practices, but it was new to Neugebauer and it suddenly opened up an abundance of new ideas. Neugebauer wants to combine the classical form of ballet and contemporary movement practices and ideas.

The work, INCIPIO, which in Latin means “I begin,” is performed in the round, and is set to Jorge Mendez’s “Fragments,” with additional sounds of ambient rain overlaid. A totally appropriate arrangement for this time of year here in Portland.

The process of creating this work was one of self-reflection and self discovery for Neugebauer, she said. Last year she realized that she couldn’t “do it all” and decided to step down as a performer and focus solely on directing the company. At the time she was performing, choreographing, teaching and doing all of the administration work for the company. The decision was difficult, as Neugebauer always identified as a performer and only a performer, and stepping off the stage and out of the limelight at 27 was definitely an adjustment, but a good one, she said.

She also was inspired by the number of dancers who came to her during an audition, expressing the need to get away from the negative, body-shaming rhetoric of the ballet world, and just dance. She decided that she needed to create opportunities for others to dance, and to provide that safe place for them to be whoever they wanted to be as they are.

INCIPIO is part Neugebauer’s personal story and part pure dance.

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Eugene Ballet’s Giselle. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

Giselle
Eugene Ballet Company
Artistic Director, Toni Pimble
October 28-30
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

See above.

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Marginal Evidence by Katherine Longstreth. Photo courtesy of Katherine Longstreth.

Marginal Evidence
A visual installation about the act of choreography
By Katherine Longstreth
October 24-November 5
Reception November 3, 6:00-7:15 pm
Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Performance Lab 128, 3202 SE Woodstock Blvd
Marginal Evidence, a visual installation about the act of choreography created by choreographer Katherine Longstreth, reopens at Reed College in the Performing Arts Building. It was originally installed at the White Box gallery last year around this time. You can read my preview of the exhibit here, and Martha Ullman West’s review of the exhibit, here. There will be a reception and walk through with Longstreth on November 3rd.

Next Week

November 3-12, Reclaimed, Polaris Dance Theatre
November 4-6, Obstacles and Victory Songs, Stephanie Lavon Trotter and Dora Gaskill
November 5-6, All The Marys, Luciana Proaño

Upcoming Performances

November 11-13, Epoch, Jamuna Chiarini and push/FOLD-Samuel Hobbs
November 12-20, the last bell rings for you, Linda Austin Dance
November 17-19, Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, White Bird
November 19, Jazz Throughout the Ages, Wild Rumpus Jazz Co.
November 19-20, 3rd Annual Glow Variety Show, Trauma Healing Project, Eugene
November 25-27, The Enchanted Toyshop, The Portland Ballet Holiday Show
November 26, Nutcracker Remixed, All That! Dance Company, Eugene
December 2-4, N.E.W. Expressive Works Residency Performance, Dana Detweiler, James Healey, Jessica Hightower, and Renee Sills
December 8-10, In Good Company, NW Dance Project
December 8-10, ARCANE COLLECTIVE, Presented by BodyVox
December 9-11, The Book of Esther — A Rock Gospel Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
December 10-26, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 15-17, Complicated Woman, Katie Scherman/2016 Performance Works NW Alembic Resident Artist
December 16-18, The Nutcracker, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
December 18, Gifts, a film by Clare Whistler/2015 Performance Works NW visiting artist
December 19, Dancing with the Stars: Live! – We Came to Dance, AEG Live NW, Eugene
December 22-24, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland

The dance is upon us. This weekend’s dance offering are rich and thick, juicy with meaning, content, promise and variety.

It all begins tonight with BodyVox’s annual spooktacular, BloodyVox: Blood Red is the New Black,  and Wallflower, a newish work by Israeli choreographers Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak that turns moving bodies into visual art.

On Friday, a new iteration of Traces will be revealed. Traces, which debuted last spring, is a trio danced by choreographers Mark Koenigsberg and Sara Naegelin accompanied by retired Oregon Symphony violist, Steve Price. The dance investigates the simple/not so simple idea of two people in relationship to one another moving through space.

Also debuting this weekend is a new work by Amy Leona Havin, director of The Holding Project, a dance based multi-disciplinary company here in Portland. I interviewed Havin back in May on her then dance and film project HAVA | חוה. You can read that full interview here. Havin received a four-month residency at Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center and has created Lines of Pull, a new dance that she made in collaboration with filmmakers Tomás Alfredo Valladares and Dora Jane Schaller, sculptor Maggie Heath, sound artist Valerie Perczek and dancers Lena Traenkenschuh (assistant director and co-choreographer), Abigail Flora Nace and Catherine Raupp. Lines of Pull investigates the passing of time, perception of age, the struggle of identity, and relationships to inherited histories through mediums of video, live dance, soundscape, and set design.

Marginal Evidence, a visual installation about the act of choreography created by choreographer Katherine Longstreth, reopens Monday at Reed College in the Performing Arts Building. It was originally installed at the White Box gallery last year around this time. You can read my preview of the exhibit here, and Martha Ullman West’s review of the exhibit, here. There will be a reception and walk through with Longstreth on November 3rd.

Performances this week!

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Dancer Anna Marra as Little Miss Tough It in BloodyVox: Blood Red is the New Black. Photo by Jingzi Zhao

BloodyVox: Blood Red Is The New Black
BodyVox
October 20-29
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave

Created in 2010, BloodyVox, BodyVox’s “scary” version of a holiday classic, celebrates directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland’s favorite holiday, Halloween. This dance theatre extravaganza touches on all aspects of Halloween creating an evening that lasts just over an hour that is dark, mysterious, magical, beautiful, ironic, odd, hilarious and absurd. The dance, which is made up of many smaller dances, incorporates the standard Halloween fare of vampires, zombies, ghosts, killer lady spiders, and creepy identical twins alongside elegant technical ballet and modern dance done in the BodyVox style. It’s all about having fun while getting scared.

When I spoke with Hampton and Roland last week about the dance Hampton said, “It’s your standard modern dance fare.” Roland reiterated “Its typical. Anything you might find at the end of a Martha Graham piece or something that’s gone bad.” Hampton finished the conversation off with: “When you think of horror and modern dance, it’s limitless.”

 "Wallflower" by Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak. Courtesy of White Bird

White Bird is showing  Wallflower at PSU’s Lincoln Hall this weekend./Courtesy of White Bird

Wallflower
Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company
Presented by White Bird
October 20-22
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave

Formed in 1992 by former Batsheva dancer Inbal Pinto and actor/theatre director Avshalom Pollak in Tel Aviv, Israel, Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak Dance Company is made up of 12 dancers and actors from around the world, and combines dance, theatre and design.

Wallflower, set in a stark, white space (originally created in 2014 at the Tel-Aviv museum of Art in the sculpture gallery), uses dancers, dressed in multi-colored unitards, to create shapes, scenes and meaning, to a score by Japanese composers, Umitaro Abe, Mayu Gonto, and Hirofumi Nakamura.

In my research online about the company, I found a beautiful sketchbook created by artist Yuval Haker that documents his impressions from a performance he saw of  Wallflower. You can view that notebook here.

I also found a very great video interview with directors Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak on their history, process and interests, that can be seen here. Being able to see and hear an artist speak, adds so much more to their art.

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Traces by Mark Koenigsberg, Sara Naegelin & Steve Price. Photo by Briana Cerezo.

Traces
Mark Koenigsberg, Sara Naegelin & Steve Price
October 21-22
The Little Church, 5138 NE 23rd Ave

Sara Naegelin and Mark Koenigsberg (both long time students of Portland choreographer Gregg Bielemeier) along with violist Steve Price (a long-time violist for the Oregon Symphony), will perform their trio at The Little Church, a clean lined, open, but intimate space on the corner of Northeast Summer and 23rd Avenue. The space is a perfect container for the simple but complex form of the dance.

Naegelin has been dancing in Portland since 2007 and has performed in works by Lucy Yim, Taylor Eggan, Leah Wilmoth and Ellen Bartel, during a brief stint in Austin, Texas. Koenigsberg has been dancing since childhood when he first witnessed Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, but more recently with Celine Bouly in I Am Not Going To Jail.

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Lines of Pull by The Holding Project. Dancer is Abigail Flora Nace. Photo by Tomás Alfredo Valladares.

Lines of Pull
The Holding Project
Directed by Amy Leona Havin
October 21-22
Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center, 8371 N Interstate Avenue

“When did you first feel young? When did you first feel old? Have you ever felt your age? Is anything pulling you? Tell me about your childhood. Do you relate to your generation? Describe your relationship with time.” These are some of the questions that documentary filmmaker Tomás Alfredo Valladares, collaborator of Amy Leona Havin, asked me and several other community member volunteers, including pioneering Portland modern dance maker, Tere Mathern.

These questions and our answers became the material that Havin and her collaborators used to build Lines of Pull. They were curious about time, age, identity, and familial history and what “things” pull or push us in life to shape who we are in this moment.

Lines of Pull was created in a four-month residency given to Havin at Disjecta Contemporary Arts Center in North Portland. The work has become a living, moving installation that involves a falling wall, ropes and waxed fabric sculptures all created by visual artist Maggie Heath that hint at humanity and history and home. The dance includes video footage of the community members answering questions, and music by sound artist Valerie Perczek (Indira Valey), which fills the spaces and supports the movement. The movement created by Havin and the dancers was created in response to the words and ideas expressed in the videos, as well as to their own answers to the same questions. Lines of Pull is an evening-length meditation/art installation/dance performance that beautifully and thoughtfully investigates our connections to time and to each other.

Rockin’ Road to Dublin
RMS Productions, Eugene
8 pm October 22
Hult Center for Performing Arts, Silva Concert Hall, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
Choreographer/dancer Scott Doherty (of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance) has united with veteran Celtic rocker Chris Smith (American Rogues), to create a new production fusing classic Irish dancing with Rock-n-Roll. This production will not disappoint Irish dancing fans as it still contains the leaping, twirling, and rapid-fire footwork that Irish dancing is so famous, it’s just updated for a modern audience.

Marginal Evidence
A visual installation about the act of choreography
By Katherine Longstreth
October 24-November 5
Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Performance Lab 128, 3202 SE Woodstock Blvd

See info above.

Next Week

October 28-30, INCIPIO, PDX Contemporary Ballet
October 28, Spectacle Garden 6: Monsters & Death, Ben Martens
October 28-30, Giselle, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene

Upcoming Performances

November 3-12, Reclaimed, Polaris Dance Theatre
November 4-6, Obstacles and Victory Songs, Stephanie Lavon Trotter and Dora Gaskill
November 5-6, All The Marys, Luciana Proaño
November 6, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live!, Hult Presents, Eugene
November 11-13, Epoch, Jamuna Chiarini and push/FOLD-Samuel Hobbs
November 12-20, the last bell rings for you, Linda Austin Dance
November 17-19, Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, White Bird
November 19-20, 3rd Annual Glow Variety Show, Trauma Healing Project, Eugene
November 25-27, Gift Box (Anne Mueller) & The Enchanted Toyshop (John Clifford), The Portland Ballet Holiday Show
November 26, Nutcracker Remixed, All That! Dance Company, Eugene
December 2-4, N.E.W. Expressive Works Residency Performance, Dana Detweiler, James Healey, Jessica Hightower, and Renee Sills
December 8-10, In Good Company, NW Dance Project
December 8-10, ARCANE COLLECTIVE, Presented by BodyVox
December 9-11, The Book of Esther — A Rock Gospel Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
December 10-26, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 15-17, Complicated Woman, Katie Scherman/2016 Performance Works NW Alembic Resident Artist
December 16-18, The Nutcracker, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
December 18, Gifts, a film by Clare Whistler/2015 Performance Works NW visiting artist
December 19, Dancing with the Stars: Live! – We Came to Dance, AEG Live NW, Eugene
December 22-24, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland

Marginal Evidence: the art of dance

Choreographer and dancer Katherine Longstreth''s installation at White Box Gallery investigates her past and the ways dance gets made

Marginal Evidence, an installation at White Box Gallery created by choreographer Katherine Longstreth, is just as engaging as her work for the stage.

Which surprised the hell out of me. The work is billed as “an interactive experience of dance-making” and “an excavation of process.” Fortunately, since I’m not much interested in process, and I’m not all that keen on audience participation, either, Marginal Evidence turned out to be much more about Longstreth herself, what she was thinking and making at the start of her life as an artist, wife and mother, in New York City, in the mid-1990s.

Taking note of the evidence ...

Taking note of the evidence …

I accepted Longstreth’s invitation to tour the three rooms of the show last week, but not her offer to guide me through it.  She was available to answer questions, which I certainly had, and to make sure that I saw everything there was to see, and literally and figuratively pushed every button.  I was pretty obedient, though I did decline to get down on my hands and knees and crawl into a little play tent replica of her New York kitchen to watch video of her then three-year-old daughter dancing around and performing her mother’s characteristic arm movements. The music was, of all things, from Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.  I could see the video perfectly well from a standing position, and I’m bound to say I was charmed by it.

Visitors to Marginal Evidence are handed a map of the space when they enter. You start by looking at an arrangement of digitized pages from Longstreth’s notebooks on the wall to the left of the entry to the first room. The information they contain—Longstreth’s notes for a piece titled Slipknot has been quantified, lists of words (cowboy, fantasy, home, hat and the like) counted and assessed according to something called the Gunning Fog Index. That, it turns out, measures the readability of English writing (think one-syllable words rather than three) and is likely in part responsible for the decline of decent style in such newspapers as the New York Times, never mind.

I learn from this that Longstreth is an unusually verbally oriented choreographer, who writes reams about what she plans to do in the studio, and more reams after she does it. “You have to get up to make a dance,” she tells herself in one of the notes, and wonders why she rents studio space when she spends so much time writing. For Slipknot she wrote 13,348 words. That’s interesting: as a writer I count words, too, but I’m itching to get into the second room, where video of her working alone in a small studio with a splintery floor is projected on all four walls, because what I really want is to see Longstreth move her long, lean body in a dance.

marginally ...

marginally …

But first, because Longstreth wants me to see the video at the beginning of the loop, and it’s not there yet, she shows me a sonogram, a device she used in Narrative Medicine, part of a concert she gave jointly with her graduate school friend Christy Funsch in 2013 at  Zoomtopia; and, on the floor of this first room, a small square of black marley.  The non-slip flooring, borrowed from Oregon Ballet Theatre, bears footprints made by Longstreth, dancing a phrase that’s in the video, made twenty years ago.  The footprints are marked with crime scene labels  that spell out five, six, seven, eight in Roman numerals, one of many examples of Longstreth’s sly wit in this installation as well as her choreography. This is forensic evidence of a dance being done, and possibly a comment on Puritanical attitudes toward the art form itself.

And finally we’re standing in the middle of the room with the video, taken with a camera given Longstreth by her father in 1995. Slipknot did get made, and was performed in Toronto among other places, and is a “western” dance that pays homage to her time as a graduate student at Arizona State University, and, subconsciously at least, to Daniel Nagrin, who was one of her teachers. Nagrin’s strong, fluid, elegant movement style is recognizable in the work of Bonnie Merrill and to some degree in Gregg Bielemeier’s, although Bielemeier never studied with him directly. At any rate, I love watching this primitive video, which is accompanied by music composed for this installation by Loren Chasse, best known in Portland for his work with Jim McGinn’s Top Shake Dance.

The video is definitely about process, as Longstreth tries out a floor roll, stands up, thinks about it, tries it again, looks at times frustrated and bored, then tries it again and gets it right.  It’s lonely work, and she conveys that with her body language as well as the dancing. I realize that it’s the nonverbal process that interests me — show me, don’t tell me — and I want to watch this again, but it’s time to move on.

We return to the first room, where real as opposed to digitized pages from her notebooks are mounted on the wall, with magnifying glasses strategically placed to make them easier to read.  An invitation to her wedding is up there too, because she got married while she was making Slipknot and there are cancelled checks that show how much rent she paid for the studio (not much, in today’s terms).  Notes to herself read, “Invite Marcia Siegel,” one of New York’s prominent, highly respected critics in 1996, who now writes from her home outside Boston, and “sew costume.” This is the kind of material dance historians (another hat I wear) would kill for, and it both informs and amuses me.

In the third room, I look at what appear to be holographic photos of Longstreth (actually called lenticulars) that switch back and forth between an image of her moving and one of a fish hook, which is the shape of movement she wants, and one of her in advanced pregnancy that switches between an image of her uncovered abdomen and a second, in which she’s wearing a hoopskirt.  This reminds me of a dance performed by Nancy Matschek at Portland State years ago, who was also pregnant and wearing, moreover, a hoopskirt.

that creates the dance.

that creates the dance.

All of Longstreth’s dances, she tells me, are primarily image-based; the idea and the image come first, and then she looks for music to support the dance, which, she says, “scaffolds the imagery.” This is a little like Balanchine’s statement that “music is the floor we dance on,” but for him the music always came first. And then, Longstreth forces me to look through a viewmaster at her friend dancing a bit of a solo that’s not Slipknot, which I hate doing even more than I loathe seeing dance on YouTube (it’s a useful reference tool, but it’s not live performance), and that is exactly the point Longstreth is making. “My secret desire,” she tells me, “is to whet the appetite for live dance.”

In that we are in perfect agreement. Marginal Evidence turns out to be an interesting, aesthetically pleasing experience on many levels, and I recommend it. But what gave me delight was Longstreth’s promise to dance again soon.

*

  • Marginal Evidence continues noon to 6 pm Tuesdays-Saturdays through November 14 at White Box, at the University of Oregon in Portland’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts, 24 N.W. First Avenue.
  • A panel discussion moderated by White Box director Criss Moss that includes paleontologist Theodore Fremd; artist Sara Huston; and Mark Johnson, a Criminalist with the Portland Police Bureau; will be at 3 p.m.  Saturday, November 7.
  • Plans are in the works for a panel discussion by dance artists on Saturday, November 14, personnel and time tbd.