Mariana Valencia

Mariana Valencia’s ‘Album’ comes to the Time-Based Art Festival

Mariana Valencia discusses her performance work, Album, opening today as part of the Time-Based Art Festival

“There are periods of time that are marked by the music that surrounds them,” says choreographer Mariana Valencia. We are discussing her work Album, which opens today as part of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival. For Valencia, two “psychologies of albums” come to bear in the work: music albums and photo albums.

Mariana Valencia, Photo by Ian Douglas

In preparing for our conversation earlier that day, I found myself turning the word “album” over in my mind, letting its peculiarities—its phonetics and multiple meanings—strike at me. “What does an album incite collectively and also individually?” asks Valencia during our conversation, gesturing to the ways in which albums can create context. “Conceptually, that seemed like a nice scaffold or platform to work from.”

When Valencia and I were teenagers, CDs were the most popular conduit for music. Both CDs and records, even to this day, have a certain materiality and substance to their packaging, often with special notes that foreground the music for listeners and with album art that pairs visual ethos with sound.  

In creating her own Album, Valencia taught herself to play a keyboard and wrote four original songs, which rest within the performance alongside other music by Miami Sound Machine, Joan Baez, and The Fugees. “A lot of the notes from my rehearsal books became lyrics, and then those lyrics needed sound to them, and so then I just started tinkering around on the keys,” she says. The fact that her rehearsal notes show up within the work seems to reference the notion of an archive—calling memory into what is happening now.

“I really only know how to play these songs, and don’t know how to play any other songs or read sheet music or anything,” Valencia continues, describing the way that humor and levity tend to show up in this aspect of the work. “If there’s a little glitch, I’m like, ‘Well, this is all of I know of this song, so we’re just going to have to go with it’.”

Like music albums, photo albums are also sites for both convergence and divergence of experience, time, and memory. At face value, photos situated within this type of “album” often portray discrete moments in time. However, photos can also reflect the varied experiences of each individual they reference, “from sharing that room together, from that day, from being that age,” says Valencia.  

“No single history is just that history, its the history of everything that surrounded it,” she adds. In this sense, both the photo and music album are resources for thinking about alternative ways that history, or, in the case of Valencia, herstory, might be archived and remembered. Valencia explained that she uses the term “herstory” so that her work of reshaping the archival process will not be sabotaged by its signifier. Herstory also gestures to the strong matriarchal foundations within Valencia’s own lineage.

“I get a chunk of [time] to live in, and so what is that?” Valencia asks, considering what will be remembered of her after her death.

Noting her identity as lesbian Latina, she adds, “I’m probably not going to be the most archivable,” at least given the archiving of history thus far. “So, how do I empower myself to do that? Or, how do I find power within that kind of marginalization or disempowerment?”—especially during this moment in time that contains herstory. These questions have seeded her work.

“It’s kind of like this lineage of: What is my history, what am I aligning with,” she continues, explaining how her Album involved an examination into the the oral histories that have preceded her and lineages she identifies with: her own family’s immigrant experience, her relationship to the postmodern dance artists, and her identity as “a younger queer to the elder queers of, per say, the aids generation.”

As our conversation drew to a close, Valencia, who was in residence at PICA last April, added that she was looking forward to performing Album for three nights in Portland—the first place she will have done so outside of New York City. “As scripted as it might be, as choreographed as it will be, it will always be different,” she says. Of her time in Portland prior to this Time-Based Arts Festival, she shares, “PICA was the most unique of any of the residencies I’ve had. It was really thoughtful, really fulfilling, and super generative and generous. I happily am coming back.”


Catch Album at the Time-Based Art Festival, taking place at PICA, 15 NE Hancock Street, at 8:30 PM September 13, 14, and 15. The September 14 performance will be ASL interpreted. Tickets are $20 general admission, and $16 for PICA members.

Valencia will also be teaching a workshop as part of the Time-Based Art Festival entitled “See, Hear, Here,” taking place at New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont Street. Entry is $5 – $15 sliding scale.


DanceWatch Weekly: The street dances inside

At the TBA Festival a street dance battle royale erupted

I LOVE watching freestyle street dancers perform/improvise. It’s like all of their pent-up emotional stuff is forcing its way out of their bodies and they are fighting to control it, to redirect it, and shape it into something beautiful and meaningful. I love the risk, the tension, the mystery, the physicality, and the explosive, full-out, emotional expression of it all. I can physically feel what they are feeling and my body is compelled to move and respond to it. For me, watching them dance shifts my own experience as a dancer away from serving others with my art to serving myself. I don’t mean that in a self-absorbed kind of way, I just mean that it reminds me not to lose myself in trying to dance for others but to dance for myself, in a self-fulfilling, spiritual kind of way.

On Thursday, TBA’s opening night festivities included a 7-to-smoke, freestyle dance battle, with eight dancers competing round-by-round, in the styles of breakdance, hip-hop, house, locking, popping, vogue, waacking, and so much more. TBA, or Time-Based Art, is the Portland Institute For Contemporary Art’s (PICA) annual, multidisciplinary performance festival. The battle, called The Beautiful Street, curated by Katie Janovic, Jesus Rodales, and Brandon Harrison, was electric.

The evening began with a freestyle battle in the middle of PICA’s new warehouse space, which allowed the dancers to warm up as the audience filtered in. It also gave the judges—Icon, Shady, and Tracey Wong—a chance to pick the eighth competitor. That lucky dancer was Alfred Trinidad. The other competitors of the evening were: Button, Bradass, Chris Moua, DonnaMation, Tomb, Liz, and Protoman.

Before the competition officially began, MC Brandon and DJ Gaan led the audience through a history lesson of hip hop/street dance styles with performances by Portland dancers Decimus (house), JuJu Nikz (wacking), Lockstatic (locking), Yen Boogie (popping), Daniel Girón (vogue fem), Deadshot (krump), and Alia Lux (dancehall).

Deadshot’s (or Dae Dae Middleton) performance of krumping was particularly moving to me, a genuine, unbridled expression of anger. That’s an emotion we rarely get to see in contemporary dance performances, and definitely not often in public life, especially not from people of color and women, who are rarely allowed to express it at all without major repercussions. Serena Williams’ historic week at the U.S. Women’s Open is a perfect example. Deadshot’s performance stirred the audience so much that towards the end of his dance, friends of his rushed the staged and finished out the song with him.

K.R.U.M.P. is an acronym for Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise, and was pioneered in the early 2000’s by Tight Eyez/Ceasare Willis with a community of dancers in the South Central Los Angeles neighborhoods of Compton and Watts. The movement is frenetic and fast-paced and is equally informed by hip-hop, African dance, pantomime, and martial arts. “Krumpitude? It’s the power of the warrior unleashed,” said Tight Eyez in an interview for the film Rize, a documentary film about the Los Angeles subcultures of clowning and krumping made by David LaChapelle in 2005. The dance was a way for kids to escape gang life, to release anger, frustration, and aggression in a positive, non-violent way.

The winner of The Beautiful Street, hands down, was Robin Rojas, aka Protoman. His movement style seemed to encompass just about everything in the book. He was cool and calm, kept his cards close to the vest and surprised us all with new moves at every turn. He would begin slowly and unassumingly and then unwind, picking up speed and completely blow his opponent out of the water with something crazy and unexpected at the end of each round. He was the master of tension and surprise. I believe we witnessed greatness that night.

It was an epic night with so many unforgettable moments. All of the dancers offered themselves up completely to the dance. The audience, who circled tightly around the dancers vying to see every step, was totally and completely engaged. To be able to improvise and do it as well as these dancers did under such pressure, is an incredible feat, and I am in awe.

Performances this week

Mariana Valencia in her solo, Album. Photo by Ian Douglas courtesy of PICA.

Album (TBA:16)
Mariana Valencia
September 13-15
PICA, 15 NE Hancock St.
This solo performance, by Brooklyn-based dance artist Mariana Valencia, functions as an album—a picture album, a song album, an autobiographical album, a herstorical album conveying the herstory that Valencia would like to be remembered by. Through text, song, and dance, Valencia weaves a comical, poetic, and eloquent work that touches on many, many, subjects including her love of rice, vampires, and “The Lesbian dilema,” to name just a few.

Dance artist Nacera Belaza. Photo courtesy of thePortland Institute For Contemporary Art.

La Nuit, La Traversée, Sur Le Fil ( TBA:16)
Compagnie Nacera Belaza
September 14-16
Dolores Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
September 13, Workshop: Release-Receive-Become with Nacera Belaza, (TBA:16)
This solo triptych (translated as, “The Night, The Crossing, and The Wire”) by Algerian/French choreographer Nacera Belaza, reveals the evolution of the works themselves. It is Belaza’s hope that the audience will view the dance performance like they are viewing three different paintings by a single artist in a gallery, and over time the viewers’ gaze will become honed and the inner workings of the artist’s mind will be revealed. Here Belaza talks about her process and who she is as an artist.

Joan Wang dancing, Bulerias. Photo by Mr. Lara.

Emerging Artists Showcase
Espacio Flamenco
6:30 pm September 16
Imago Theater, 17 SE 8th Ave.
Everyone needs an opportunity sometime, and that time is now! Espacio Flamenco, Portland’s premier flamenco producer, will showcase emerging dancers, singers, and guitarists in the flamenco tradition in a series of solos, duets, and ensemble pieces developed by Espacio Flamenco. As part of the flamenco tradition audience members clap along and shout out words of encouragement to the performers as they perform. This is called jaleos. So, if you attend a flamenco event, don’t forget to bring your jaleos! Olé!

Dancers of In The Mood. Photo courtesy of Portland’5 Centers for the Arts.

In The Mood: a 1940s musical revue
Choreography by Alex Sanchez
Presented by Portland’5
September 16
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
Between 1930 and 1950, America entered the Great Depression and World War II began and ended. Music, like always, offered solace and escape and acted as an anthem for soldiers everywhere. In The Mood, is a musical review that aspires to promote this significant period of American history through the era’s most popular music. The evening will include the String of Pearls Orchestra and choreography for the In The Mood dancers and singers by Broadway veteran, Alex Sanchez.

Miranda by Eleven Dance Co. Photo by Jake Kaempf.

Eleven Dance Co.
Choreography by Bb DeLano made in collaboration with the company dancers
September 16 and 23
Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 SW Capitol Hwy
“If the disintegration of everything is inevitable, is there any hope?” This is the question that 11 Dance Co. poses in their new three-act, full-length production, Miranda. Combining urban and classical dance forms, Miranda will be performed in a gallery setting with the audience moving from “exhibit” to “exhibit.”