mizu desierto

Natalya Kolosowsky plunges into her Soviet past and the deep subconscious

A new movement work recalls Kolosowsky's Soviet childhood and her struggle to dance

Several weeks ago a beautiful image of four female dancers—wearing long, red and white skirts, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a tight-knit circle, facing inward—crossed my Facebook feed. Out from under the back of their skirts onto the floor, came a thick coil of red rope, which also wound around their waists. Facebook has just a few redeeming qualities these days and being able to discover new Portland dance artists on it is definitely one of them.

This striking image, I learned later, is a section from Liber ll, a new work by Shadow Tender, a brand-new, Portland-based project founded and directed by Natalya Kolosowsky, that combines butoh, physical theatre, martial arts, and wearable sculpture. Liber ll, as described in the release, is “a love letter to the terrifying secrets of the {queer} female body,” and premieres April 26-28 at The Headwaters Theatre in Northeast Portland as part of The Butoh College 2019: Performance Series.

This is the original image of “Liber ll” that captured my attention as it came through my Facebook feed. The dancers pictured are Amy Leona Havin, Ariel Bittner, Carly Ostergaard, and Haley Jensen. The photo was taken by Shadow Tender artistic director Natalya Kolosowsky.

I met up with Kolosowsky during a Shadow Tender rehearsal at the The Headwaters’ Waterline studio and later at her cedar-shingled tiny house/studio in Northeast Portland to view and talk about the work and its intersections with her life.

Continues…

The Circus Project stitches together a bigger tent

With this weekend's multimedia show "Change(d) Together," the Circus Project celebrates ten years of bringing circus arts to marginalized communities.

Zoe Stasko is entirely at peace as she winds her body up the black aerial straps suspended from the ceiling. Even as she unravels rapidly downward she emanates centeredness amidst all the momentum. She rolls, twists, and spins in dizzying circles. From below, her creative director, Mizu Desierto, shouts “Find your limit!”. Stasko then holds a dramatic, strenuous pose for an impossible amount of time. She lets her feet find the floor and places her hand over her heart. With a triumphant smile, she finishes a rigorous run through of her newest aerial straps act.

“Yesterday was my first day off in four months,” Stasko says, panting as she makes her way off the rehearsal mat, “but I love it.”

Internationally active aerialist Zoe Stasko returns to her roots with Portland’s the Circus Project in the show “Change(d) Together.” Photo: Isometric Studios.

Zoe Stasko is a jewel in the crown of The Circus Project, an organization that “uses circus arts as a catalyst for personal and collective transformation.” Stasko trained in 2012 as a student in the Circus Project’s Summer Performance Intensive program. She then proceeded to graduate from one of the most prestigious circus schools in the world, Ecole de Cirque de Québec. Now as a professional aerialist, her skills take her from London to Dublin, France to Scandinavia.

But she is back in Portland, ready to debut her new aerial straps act at the Circus Project’s tenth-anniversary celebration: Change(d) Together.

On October 12th and 13th, The Circus Project will convert the Peter Corvallis Warehouse (2204 N. Randolph Ave.), into a “wonderland of trapeze, silks, lyra, ropes, and straps.” The multimedia performance will feature world-class acrobats and aerialists, many who, like Zoe Stasko, got their start in Portland. Students will present stories of individual transformation and Change(d) Together will celebrate the Circus Project’s evolving identity as an organization.

The Circus Project began in 2008, founded by Jenn Cohen, a process psychology therapist and a circus performer herself. The organization’s primary mission was to empower youth experiencing homelessness. After being thrust into the highly disciplined world of circus training, many students transitioned into more stable living situations. The strength, flexibility, self-care, and trust at the core of circus training helped students step on the path to sobriety and higher education.

“Finding strength, stillness, and the courage to train in these ways helps transcend daily conflict and even trauma.” creative director, Mizu Desierto explains, “this training can provide healing in deeper ways than words ever could.”

Continues…

DanceWatch Weekly: Dance doesn’t go away with the first signs of summer

In the old days, dance took a break from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but we need it too much to let it go

Oregon’s dance season just won’t quit and I’m really glad, of course. Every week when I sit down to write DanceWatch, I get a little verklempt thinking about how much the dance scene has grown in Oregon since I moved here eight years ago. And, has it ever!

This week’s dance offerings are a continued measure of that growth and offer a little bit of everything from experimental contemporary dance, to ballet, to Eastern European folk dances, to Bharatnatyam, to dance films, and so much more. Plus, they take place in every venues possible from the outdoors, to indoors, to intimate spaces, and concert halls. You name it, dance is happening there.

So, in this mood of celebration and summer, of course, let’s get out and soak up some dance, and maybe a little sun, too.

Enjoy!

Performances this week

Hannah Davis, Kimberly Nobriga, and Jessica Lind performing in Helen Simoneau’s ‘Departures,’ part of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Closer, May 24 – June 3, 2018 at the BodyVox Dance Center. Photo by Chris Peddecord

Closer
Oregon Ballet Theatre, artistic director Kevin Irving
Choreography by Peter Franc, Makino Hayashi, Lisa Kipp, Katherine Monogue, and Helen Simoneau
May 31-June 3
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Avenue
Oregon Ballet Theatre closes out its 2017-2018 season with Closer, an intimate showing at BodyVox Dance Center of new works choreographed by OBT rehearsal director Lisa Kipp, OBT company dancers Katherine Monogue, Makino Hayashi, and Peter Franc, alongside Helen Simoneau’s Departures. Simoneau’s ballet was commissioned by OBT in 2017 as part of OBT’s Choreography XX project to discover new women choreographers in ballet. The works by OBT dancers will be accompanied by commissioned musical compositions from Grammy award-winning remix artist, Andre Allen Anjos (aka RAC). Heather Wiser reviewed Closer for ArtsWatch, which you can read here, and I interviewed Simoneau about her work, her process, and her dance company, which you can read here.

Instaballet in Eugene. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Haag.

#INSTABALLET NO.25
Directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of Eugene Ballet Company
5:30 pm June 1
Lane Arts Council’s First Friday ArtWalk, Capitello Wine, 540 Charnelton St, Eugene
This event is FREE
Reimagining who creates ballets, Instaballet, directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of the Eugene Ballet company, gives artistic control to the audience. If you have ever wanted to choreograph a ballet or a musical score but aren’t a dancer, choreographer, or musician, now is your chance. Head on over to Lane Arts Council’s First Friday ArtWalk in Eugene and be a part of the process and make a ballet or musical score on the spot. The creative process begins at 5:30 pm and a performance of the final product will happen at 8 pm. The performance will be accompanied by live music and Eugene Ballet dancers will make themselves available for your creative juices.

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

Dance artist Leralee Whittle. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW.

J (()) Y and Death=Change
Choreography by Leralee Whittle and by Mizu Desierto
June 1-2
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
12-3pm June 3 Leralee Whittle Workshop at Performance Works NW

Dance and video artist Leralee Whittle and Portland based dance-theatre artist Mizu Desierto will share an evening featuring Whittle’s J (()) Y and Desierto’s work-in-progress, Death=Change.

Whittle works in collaboration with musician/composer Paul Spraw, and she combines her history in American, European, and African dance to create instant compositions. She is Inspired by her travels, new spaces, visual elements, and the element of play, and likes to bring, according to her press release, “found spaces into the performance space, where the audience can then experience a giant retro yellow gym, or trip into a strange corner for a humorous impromptu dance.”

Desierto is a 20-year practitioner of Butoh and the co-founder of Portland’s Water in the Desert, a major hub of artistic activity that includes The Headwaters Theatre, Prior Day Farm, and the annual Butoh College. She “explores themes of feminism, queerness, playful social deviance and regenerative land/culture” in her work, as well as the idea of “losing control in favor of liquidity.”

A still from Wobbly Dance’s new film ‘Tidal.’ Photo courtesy of Wobbly Dance.

Tidal-A film
Wobbly Dance
Portland ReelAbilities Film Festival
6:30 pm June 2
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont
This event is FREE.
The new dance film Tidal is a collaboration among Wobbly Dance, cinematographer Ian Lucero, costume designer Jenny Ampersand, and musicians Sweetmeat. It’s “a fantastical film, where breathing masks transform into diving masks, ventilator tubing morphs into costumes, and an ancient diver who calls the ocean home, draws us into his world. We fall, we dream, we dive. We transform from human to jellyfish and everything in between. This film is a continuation of the exploration of Wobbly’s dark, dream-like and sometimes absurd aesthetic. Starring Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson as the Dreamers, Nathan H.G. as the Diver, and Grant Miller as the Forager.”

 

The Tamburitzans. Photo courtesy of the Tamburitzans.

Passages-The Journey of Our Ancestors
Presented by the Tamburitzans
7:30 pm June 1
Soreng Theatre-Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
7:30 pm June 2
Dolores Winningstad Theatre, 2913, 1111 SW Broadway
Presenting their 81st season, The Tamburitzans, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, celebrate music and folk dances from Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Greece, Spain, Mexico, Cuba, and more, in a two-hour production boasting more than 400 costumes performed by 31 dancers, musicians, and singers.

Aerial Muse Collective. Photo courtesy of Wilsonville Festival of Arts.

Wilsonville Festival of Arts
June 2-3
Town Center Park, Wilsonville, OR
In its 19th year, the Wilsonville Festival of Arts brings visual art, literary arts, live music, dance, theatre, and performance art, outside to the public for free, at Town Center Park.

This year’s festivities includes several dance performance: DanceAbility is a Eugene-based dance company focused on dissolving barriers and connecting people with and without disabilities through dance and movement; Mexica Tiahui Aztec Dance Group is a dance group formed in 1995 by Mexican and Chicano students at Oregon State University to share Mexican culture throughout the Pacific Northwest; and Aerial Muse Collective combines aerial circus, dance, theater, music, and visual art, and will be roaming the festival doing mini-performances throughout. The festival will also provide morning yoga and tai chi for folks who want to move too. For a broader view on the festival offerings outside of dance, check out Bob Hicks’s News & Notes for ArtsWatch.

Padma Shri Shobana’s, ‘Shobana’s Trance.’ Photo courtesy of Shobana.

Shobana’s Trance
Presented by Chinmaya Mission Portland and Rasika
4 pm June 3
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway Ave.
Acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer, and film actress Shobana Chandrakumar, also known as Padma Shri Shobana (Padma Shri is a title awarded by the Indian Government for Shobana’s contribution to classical dance), or just Shobana, from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, presents a collage of Indian art forms to tell the stories of Shiva, Vishnu, and Mary Magdalene. The production includes poetry, live music, and Bharatanatyam, and desires to transport the viewer into a primordial, trance-like, state of being.

Photo courtesy of 11: Dance Co.

Planet Earf — A Video Series
11: Dance Co, artistic director Bb DeLano
3 pm June 3
The Loft, 5321 SE 28th Ave.
11: Dance Co is back with a film. Their new film, Planet Earf, funded through a grant from the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), looks at familiar, everyday places and transforms them into stages as a reaction to the gentrification and privatization of previously public spaces.

A panel discussion will follow the screening, led by 11: Dance Co’s Bb DeLano along with the Planet Earf camera crew, and dancers. “If time allows, there will be a wiggle session after.”

11: Dance Co. is a Neo-Fusion dance company (a choreographic style that blends the street and classical worlds of dance) and is directed by Brittany DeLano (Bb for short).

In 2016 I interviewed DeLano and executive director Huy Pham on reimagining the dance company model, working with Emma Portner and what it looks like to challenge perception through choreography. You can read that interview here.

Upcoming Performances

June
June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 9, Wakily Kúkátónón Showcase, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, Special guest performances by Habiba Addo, Habib Iddrisu, and the Obo Addy Legacy Project
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow, Presented by Fathom Events
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
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 19-21, RELATIVES // apples & pomegranates, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August
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
September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag

DanceWatch Weekly: Nine-dance week

The week in dance from Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" to OBT's Man/Woman and far, far beyond

There are nine dance performances this week beginning with the Original Bad Unkl Sistas (a performing duo made up of Anastazia Aranaga and Mizu Desierto, at the Headwaters Theatre) and ending with Degenerate Art Ensemble (from Seattle next Wednesday, also appearing at the Headwaters). Both are part of the Butoh College Performance Series: The Future is Female (and trans and queer and in celebration of all ages, all bodies, all genders, all colors), curated by Water in the Desert artistic director Mizu Desierto. In between, we have a full range of seven dance offerings from smaller, experimental works, to large scale, time-tested, historical dances that have been seen by audiences around the world. There is something for everyone. Check below for details and enjoy!

Performances this week

The Original Bad Unkl Sistas Anastazia Aranaga and Mizu Desierto. Photo courtesy of Mizu Desierto.

Original Bad Unkl Sistas
Anastazia Aranaga and Mizu Desierto
Presented by Water in the Desert
8 pm April 18
Butoh College student performance/offering
7 pm April 22
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #4
This improvised duet by Portland dance-theatre artist, co-founder and artistic director of Water in the Desert, Mizu Desierto, alongside long-time collaborator, founder and artistic director of Bad Unkl Sista, Anastazia Aranaga, will follow a minimal structure, take imaginative pathways, and will be full of surprises. This performance is part of Butoh College 2018. Desierto and Aranaga will also offer a workshop titled Original//Freedom which “will be full of unknowns, delicate presence, deep stillness, rampant chaos, visceral intimacy & care.”

Emily Parker and Christopher Kaiser performing Nicolo Fonte’s “Left Unsaid,” one of five ballets presented in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s MAN/WOMAN, April 12 – 24, 2018 at the Newmark Theatre. Photo by James McGrew

Man/Woman
Oregon Ballet Theatre, Artistic Director Kevin Irving
Choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, and Jiří Kylián
April 19-21
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
Curated by Oregon Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Kevin Irving, this program of five ballets juxtaposes all-female ballets against all-male ballets exploring gender stereotypes.

Last week I interviewed Irving about whether or not classical ballet can catch up with contemporary values and be something that future generations will want to support. “We’re not the entire conversation,” he said. “We can only be a contribution to the conversation, incomplete, but hopefully insightful and maybe even revelatory in some ways.” You can read our entire conversation here and Heather Wisner review of Man/Woman here.

Continues…

Profiles & Conversations 2017

From poets to painters to dancers to actors to musicians, 21 tales from ArtsWatch on the people who make the art and why they do it

Art is a whole lot of things, but at its core it’s about people, and how they see life, and how they make a life, and how they get along or struggle with the mysteries of existence. That includes, of course, the artists themselves, whose stories and skills are central to the premise. In 2017 ArtsWatch’s writers have sat down with a lot of artists – painters, actors, dancers and choreographers, poets, music-makers – and listened as they spun out their tales.

We’ve been able to tell their stories because of support from you and people like you. Oregon ArtsWatch is a nonprofit cultural journalism organization, and your gifts help pay for the stories we produce. It’s easy to become a member and make a donation. Just click on the “donate today” button below:

Here are 21 stories from 2017 about Oregon artists and artists who’ve come here to do their work:

 


 

Erik Skinner. Photo: Michael Shay

Eric Skinner’s happy landing

Jan. 18: “On the afternoon that Snowpocalypse struck Portland, Eric Skinner walked into the lobby at BodyVox Dance Center after a morning in the studio and settled easily onto one of the long couches in the corner. As always he looked trim and taut: small but strong and tough, with a body fat index down somewhere around absolute zero. If anyone looks like a dancer, Skinner does. Even in repose he seems all about movement: you get the sense he might spring up suddenly like a Jumping Jack on those long lean muscles and bounce somewhere, anywhere, just for the sake of bouncing.” In January, after 30 years on Portland stages, Skinner was getting ready to retire from BodyVox – but not from dance, he told Bob Hicks.

 


 

Les Watanabe in ‘Sojourn’ by Donald McKayle, Inner City Repertory Company. Photographed by Martha Swope in New York. 1972. Photo courtesy of Les Watanabe

Les Watanabe on Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovich, Donald McKayle and his life in dance

Jan. 20: In a wide-ranging Q&A interview, Jamuna Chiarini hears a lot of modern-dance history from Watanabe, who was in the thick of it and now teaches at Western Oregon University:

“During Alvin Ailey’s CBS rehearsals, Lar Lubovitch was teaching in the next studio. I ran into him at the drinking fountain. While living in L.A., I had read articles about him in Dance Magazine. So while he was stooped over drinking, I exclaimed, ‘Lar Lubovitch! I’ve read all about you!’

“At that point he stood up facing me wiping his mouth and looking incredulous like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I then asked, ‘Do you ever have auditions? I would love to dance with you.’

“’Are you dancing now?’ he asked.

“’Yes, with Alvin Ailey next door, but it is only for five weeks.’

“’Where do you take class?’ Lar asked. ‘At Maggie Black’s,’ I answered. ‘Good. Let’s meet at her first class. Then you can rush back to rehearsal. See you next week.’”

Continues…

DanceWatch Weekly: Embracing the matriarch

Mizu Desierto says good-bye to the matriarch of her family and channels her final teaching, plus PWNW Alembic and Kalakendra

Portland dance this weekend is a magical convergence of female energy, wisdom, spirituality, discussions of death and dying, creation, and letting go of it all. On Friday, three powerful choreographer/performers who defy definition—Mizu Desierto from Portland, and Haruko Crow Nishimura and Joshua Kohl, co-artistic directors of Degenerate Art Ensemble from Seattle—will share an evening. The works are based in Butoh but expand beyond, utilizing dance, theatre, live sound, and video to address and meditate on a variety of human states and experiences.

Jamuna Chiarini

This week I interviewed Desierto, a dance/theatre artist with a 20-year practice in Butoh and the co-founder of Portland’s Water in the Desert, a major hub of artistic activity that includes The Headwaters Theatre, Prior Day Farm, and the annual Butoh College. Desierto, who has been a major contributor to the Portland dance and art scene in many ways for many years, will present her solo Matriarch, a dance/film collaboration with composer Lisa DeGrace and video designer Stephen Miller. Matriarch examines death and dying, lineages, and bees—specifically queen bees.

My email interview with Desierto about what inspired the work and how she created it, begins below after this week’s performance listing.

Continues…