nim wunnan

What a kick! Dance that moved us

2018 in Review, Part 4: Dance that turned our thinking inside out and took us places where we'd never been before

Sure, we love big jumps and fast turns, but that’s not what makes the best dancing. The best dancing is the kind that takes us places we’ve never been before, or turns our thinking inside out.

Some of Oregon ArtsWatch’s best dance writing this year did that, too. Collectively, the OAW dance team—the writers covering dance, that is; don’t book us for your holiday party just yet—has decades’ worth of writing, research, and performing experience, as well as the burning desire to produce insightful and inspired coverage of dance in all its forms.

Like ArtsWatch? Help us out.

We couldn’t bring you the stories we bring without your support, which is what keeps us going. Oregon ArtsWatch is a nonprofit journalism publication, with no pay wall: Everything we publish is free for the reading. We can offer this public service thanks to generous gifts from foundations, public cultural organizations, and you, our readers. As the year draws to a close, please help us keep the stories coming. It’s easy:

Lucky us: we had so much to do in 2018 that we can’t revisit it all here. Instead, we’re sampling some of the moments, big and small, that especially moved us this year:


Odissi Dance Conpany’s Artistic Director Aparupa Chatterjee with the ODC repertoire: Tanvi Prasad, Divya Srinivasa, Divya chowdhary, Swati yarlagadda, and Ramyani Roy. Photo: Sarathy Jayakumar

Embracing Odissi in the age of Trump

The 2016 U.S. presidential election continued to galvanize artistic action two years after the fact. “Since Donald Trump took office, I have been watching and admiring artists all around the world react to his words and policies and have been wondering how I should respond myself,” Jamuna Chiarini mused. “I think that my choice to step away from my Western dance practices and focus solely on Odissi is my response. The more degraded American culture gets, the less interested I am in being a part of it.”

Chiarini’s piece explored Odissi’s technical and cultural assets and illustrated why it particularly appeals to her in this degraded day and age: “Some dances in the Odissi repertoire aren’t even taught until a dancer reaches 40, because it’s believed that younger dancers don’t yet have the emotional depth and life experience to properly express what the dance is about. Odissi also doesn’t have strict rules on body shape and size as Western dance culture does. What is considered beautiful is much broader in Indian dance culture.”


Goats, towers, and one dance increasing in size

Ten Tiny Dances breaks records and maybe cheats a little

“Awkward,” Keith Hennessy and Empress Jupiter, TBA:12/Nim Wunnan


Emerging twice a year, Ten Tiny Dances could easily pass for some sort of some sort of art-equinox ritual. If you’re unfamiliar, Ten Tiny Dances is the flash-fiction of dance — ten short performances by ten acts, confined to a 4’ x 4’ stage, one performed after another.

In the right hands (or under the right feet) constraints so tight can become a secret recipe, and they turn into a gimmick with the wrong ones. That magic can pivot on the potential futility of limitation. Before each act on Saturday night at TBA, you could feel the audience wagering whether that futility would transform into a special flavor of freedom or weigh heavily on the performance until its short life was extinguished.

Two of the most notable moments of transformation came from the performers being pushed—or pushing themselves—into even tighter corners than the tiny stage did. In each case, it sent them all the way around the cycle again to the point where they ended up using the entire audience, which felt a little like cheating, but no one cared given the fun they were having.