Northwest Dance Theatre

December DanceWatch: Rhyming couplets rule!

December dance around the state and especially Portland has its fair share of Nutcrackers and yet more

‘Twas the month of December and all through the state, 

Not a dancer was sleeping. They hardly could wait!

Dance shoes of all kinds were readied with care,

In hopes that big audiences soon would be there.

Choreographers were restless and pacing all night,

With visions of slip-ups creating a fright.

While ArtsWatch’s writers got set to review,

The dancers lined up and awaited their cue.

With music beginning and growing intense,

The curtain rose softly, without a pretense. 

The dancers all flew from the wings with a flash,

They tore up the stage and gave it a thrash!

The dancers’ excitement gave rise to new hope, 

That in this new year, we may cheerfully cope.

With so much to see we can say without fear,

Happy winter to all, and a Happy New Year!

Dance Performances in December

Week 1: December 1-8

The Cirque Dreams Holidaze, spectacle! Photo courtesy of Cirque Dreams Holidaze.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze
6:30 pm December 1
Hult Center, Soreng Theater, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

In this larger than life, Las Vegas-meets-musical theatre-meets- nutcracker-spectacle-blowout, Cirque Dreams Holidaze celebrates Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s all in one! 

The performance features over 300 costumes and 20 acts. Singers, dancers, and circus artists bring holiday characters to life and waltz the night away to seasonal favorites like Deck The Halls, Winter Wonderland, and Jingle Bell Rock.

Dora Gaskill and Stephanie Lavon Trotter in, Split Chorus, shared concert.
Photo courtesy of Dora Gaskill and Stephanie Lavon Trotter.

Split Chorus
Dora Gaskill and Stephanie Lavon Trotter
Performance Works NW Alembic Co-Production
December 6-7
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave

Sharing an evening of new work are interdisciplinary performance artist and lighting designer Dora Gaskill and vocal performance artist and composer Stephanie Lavon Trotter.

Gaskill presents, Graphical Optical Black Out (GOBO), a work that utilizes theatrical lighting, anatomy, and dance to play with perception. 

Trotter presents, Nothing’s really easy about the end of the world, an opera in process, in collaboration with trombonist and vocalist Annie Gilbert. The composition ritualizes the mundane using electro-acoustic voice, movement and video, to situate us in the chaos and comforts of a dying planet.

Lewis and Clark College dancers working it out.
Photo courtesy of Lewis and Clark College.

Dance Extravaganza
Presented by Lewis and Clark College
December 6-7
Lewis and Clark College, Fir Acres Theatre Main Stage, 0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Road MSC 54 

Dance Extravaganza features an eclectic mix of new choreography from Lewis and Clark College dance students, alumni, BodyVox Artistic Director Jamey Hampton, and Portland Hip Hop artist Mariecella Devine. 

Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher Sridharini Sridharan.
Photo courtesy of Sridharini Sridharan.

Melattur Margam Bharatanatyam
Artistic Director: Sridharini Sridharan
Performed by students of Kala Shiksha
Hosted by HECSA Portland Balaji Temple
3pm December 7
PCC Rock Creek Campus, 17705 NW Springville

Comprised of nine pieces in the Melattur style of Bharathanaityam, this margam (or program) accompanied by a live orchestra, is choreographed and directed by international Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher Sridharini Sridharan. Sridharan, originally from Chennai, is a student of Guru Srimati Revathi Ramachandran and is formally trained in Nattuvangam and carnatic music, and has a diploma in Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music. In 2016 Sridharan founded her own school in Portland called Kala Shiksha.

The traditionally ordered program includes 25 dancers and begins with a Mallari, an invocation dance, and concludes with a mangalam which calls for the blessings of the audience. The dances are in a conversation between the dancer’s ankle bells (Padha Paatas) and the accompanying percussion instrument (the Mridangam) and strike a perfect balance between the mind, body, and soul with the purpose of leading us to moksha, liberation or enlightenment. 

Oregon Ballet Theatre in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photo courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
Oregon Ballet Theatre, artistic director, Kevin Irving
December 7-26
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street

To Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, little Marie parties hard, fights with her brother because he broke her new toy, sees a tree grow to the size of a building, fights off rats and travels to the Land of Sweets where she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy, witnesses dancing delicacies from around the world, and takes off in the end to places unknown with the Nutcracker Prince.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker was first performed on February 2, 1954, an adaptation of an earlier version that Balanchine had danced back in Russia. It is now synonymous with the holiday season here in America and is performed by ballet companies nationwide, including OBT’s large-scale version.

Week 2: December 9-15

Dancers of the Inclusive Arts Vibe Dance Company. Photo courtesy of the Disability Art and Culture Project.

Do Good Showcase
Hosted by Disability Art and Culture Project
6:30 pm December 10
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont 

Dancers of the Inclusive Arts Vibe Dance Company will perform to raise funds for the Disability Art and Culture Project, CymaSpace, Friends of Noise, Portland Street Art Alliance, and Vibe.  There are pre-and post-show activities and live DJ in the lobby! The event is FREE and a donation to participating nonprofits is recommended. ASL interpretation, live audio captioning, and audio description will be provided. 

Inclusive Arts Vibe Dance Company, founded in 2005 by Kathy Coleman (current director), Erik Ferguson (co-artistic director of Wobbly Dance), and Jody Ramey, is a mixed-ability, mixed-age dance company that aims to further the artistic expression of people with apparent and non-apparent disabilities, by providing dance, choreography and performance as an artistic outlet.

NW Dance Project dancers Noelle Kayser and William Couture. Photos by Michael Slobodian

Winter Wonders
NW Dance Project
December 12-14
Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave

Celebrating its 16th anniversary, NW Dance Project presents its annual holiday extravaganza and warm wassail for all! Five NW Dance Project dancers have joined forces to conceive, create, and produce an evening of new, contemporary dance works. Interspersed throughout, will be short whimsical interludes created by Resident Choreographer, Ihsan Rustem for the company’s 10 dancers and the Young Creatives student performing group.

Inspired by fairytales of yesteryear, fables, snowy scenes, and winter wonders, this holiday mashup includes, but is not limited to, appearances by The Snow Queen, The Grinch and his dog Max, and many more madcap characters.

ZooZoo
Imago Theatre, Carol Triffle and Jerry Mouawad
December 13-January 5
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th

ZooZoo is back! This longtime, audience favorite magnifies the quirkiness in our everyday life with an expert composition of elaborate costumes, masks, dance, music, physical comedy, and anthropomorphic humor. ZooZoo features a zany cast of characters like playful polar bears, firefly eyes, hippos with insomnia, arrogant anteaters, introverted frogs, acrobatic worms, self touting accordions, and tricky penguins, in this carnival of the absurd. 

Founded in 1979 by Carol Triffle and Jerry Mouawad, Imago presents original productions using masks and elaborate costumes making the humans disappear and the imaginative creatures appear.

Ballet Fantastique dancers in, Babes in Toyland.
Photo by Bob Williams.

Babes in Toyland
Ballet Fantastique
December 13-15
Hult Center, Soreng Theater, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

It’s Christmastime in Candyland with Ballet Fantastique! Babes in Toyland, which debuted in 2018, is a contemporary ballet danced to Duke Ellington’s jazzy rendition of The Nutcracker Suite, played live by the Swing Shift Orchestra. This retro-glam ballet, choreographed and produced by the mother-daughter artistic team of Donna Marisa and Hannah Bontrager, is a reimagining of the original Babes in Toyland operetta that Victor Herbert composed as a Christmas-themed fairy-tale mashup; it debuted in 1903.

Reed College dancers taking flight. Photo courtesy of Reed College Dance Department.

Winter Dance Concert
Reed College Dance Department
December 14-15
Reed College, Greenwood Theatre, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd

The end of the semester is here and with it the result of many hours of hard work by Reed dance majors. This performance features choreography by students and faculty-get a glimpse of future Portland dancers and dance makers.

Northwest Dance Theatre’s Nutcracker and Mouse King, dueling it out.
Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert

A Nutcracker Tea
Northwest Dance Theatre
Artistic Directors June Taylor-Dixon and Gretta Murray-Marchek
December 14-22
Sylvania Campus, PCC Sylvania’s Performing Arts Center, 12000 SE, SW 49th Ave

An abridged Nutcracker, this version follows Clara and her prince through the Snow Kingdom and the Land of Sweets, showcasing beautifully crafted sets and costumes with choreography by June Taylor-Dixon and Gretta Murray-Marchek.

NWDT is a youth ballet company in its twenty-seventh season.

The Bolshoi Ballet’s Evgenia Obraztsova as Marie, and Vladislov Lantrtov as the Nutcracker-Prince, in The Nutcracker. Photo by Damir Yusopov.

The Nutcracker
The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events
12:55 pm December 15
Check local theater listings for more information

Broadcast all the way from Moscow to a movie theater near you, the Bolshoi Ballet will perform Yuri Grigorovich’s 1966 version of The Nutcracker (after E.T.A. Hoffmann and Marius Petipa). 

In this version, our heroine’s name is Marie instead of Clara, Drosselmeyer turns into a wizard, the Nutcracker-Prince fight mice not rats, Marie and Nutcracker Prince sail in a magic boat through the Christmas tree kingdom not the land of sweets, Marie vanquishes the mice with a lighted candle instead of her shoe, and in the end, Marie wakes only to realize that it was all just a dream. 

Photo by Michael Miyahara. Poster design by Anthony Tzakis.

Fiesta Flamenca Navideña
Espacio Flamenco Portland
7pm December 15
Aladdin Theater, 3017 SE Milwaukie Ave

Espacio Flamenco Portland presents Fiesta Navideña, a celebration honoring the holidays, Flamenco style. The evening will include performances by Espacio Flamenco Coro Navideño, Flamenco Kids, the Flamenco Guitar class, and the Espacio Flamenco Company.

Week 3: December 16-22

Celebrate the Season 
DOJUMP, 3 Leg Torso, Joan Szymko, and more!
7:30 pm December 20
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St

DO JUMP! and 3 Leg Torso present a seasonal mashup of theatricality, acrobatics, aerial dance, comedy, beauty, virtuosity and wit that includes comic and singer Pepe Raphael, juggler Charlie Brown, and original music composed by Courtney Von Drehle, Béla R. Balogh, Ralph Huntley and Joan Szymko.

Pictured: Troupe Vertigo. Photo courtesy of Oregon Symphony.

Cirque Nutcracker
Presented by Oregon Symphony
December 21
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway

Los Angeles-based theatrical circus company Troupe Vertigo, founded in 2009 by Aloysia Gavre (Cirque du Soleil) and her husband Rex Camphuis (Pickle Family Circus), join forces with the Oregon Symphony to bring a unique hybrid of cirque, dance, and acrobatics to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker.

The Nightmare Before Christmas
Steps PDX, directed by Kathryn Harden,
2 pm and 7 pm December 21
World Trade Center Portland, 121 Southwest Salmon Street

The dancers of Steps PDX embody the pumpkin headed scarecrow Jack Skellington and all of the zany ghoulish characters on an adventure to bring Christmas to Halloween Town in this show based on the Tim Burton film of the same name. 

The choreography is provided by artistic director Kathryn Harden, ballet mistress Olivia Ornelas, and the artistic staff—Tj Yale, Alexander Dones, Lauren Smith and Adrianna Audoma.

Eugene Ballet’s The Nutcracker by artistic director Toni Pimble.
Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

The Nutcracker
Eugene Ballet, Toni Pimble 
December 20-22
Hult Center, Soreng Theater, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

Already on tour across Oregon and Idaho, Eugene Ballet’s The Nutcracker, will return to Eugene for just four performances. 

In this version, played lived by Orchestra Next lead by Brian McWhorter, The Nutcracker becomes a story of young love. In Clara’s dream, the nutcracker transforms into Hans, a young man who works for Drosselmeyer, instead of a prince. The couple takes off on their journey in hot air balloons instead of a horse and sleigh and encounter more culturally sensitive dances that borrow from the folk dances of each country represented. 

Week 4: December 23-31

Dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre waltzing it out with the Oregon Symphony. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Symphony.

A Viennese New Year
Presented by Oregon Symphony with guests from Oregon Ballet Theatre
7:30 pm December 30
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway

Transport yourself to the imperial palaces of Austria and live out your fairytale dreams as the Oregon Symphony celebrates the golden age of Viennese music with operatic melodies and Strauss waltzes, while dancers from Oregon Ballet Theatre give visual form to the sounds. 

Upcoming Performances

January 
January 16-18, She’s Here: A One Woman Show, Andrea Parson and Susan Banyas
January 16-25, a world, a world, Linda Austin Dance
January 26, Cirque Flip Fabrique, Presented by Portland’5
January 26, Giselle, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events
January 30-February 9, Fertile Ground Festival of New Works

February 
February 2, Holy Goats!, Performance Works NW
February 5-9, Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor, White Bird
February 8-9, Alice in Wonderland, Eugene Ballet
February 12, Grupo Corpo, White Bird
February 14-15, BodyVox Artist in Residence Darvejon Jones Dance Ensemble
February 15-23, The Sleeping Beauty, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 21-23, ORIGIN: Humble Beginnings, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 22, Interplay, Eugene Ballet and The University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
February 23, Swan Lake, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events
February 27-29, Cirque Alfonse, White Bird
February 29, BodyVox on Tour in Medford, Oregon

March
March 5-7, Rennie Harris Funkedified, White Bird
March 7, Bootleggers Ball, BodyVox
March 6-8, Dragon and The Night Queen, Ballet Fantastique
March 13-15, Alembic Resident Artists Performance: Sarah Brahim, Maggie Heath, and Cat Ross, Performance Works NW
March 26-April 5, NINETEEN * TWENTY (world premiere), BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest
March 29, Romeo and Juliet, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events

April 
April 2-4, Camille A. Brown and Dancers, White Bird
April 4-5, Heaven and Earth, Eugene Ballet
April 9-12, Beautiful Decay, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 15, ChangMu Dance Company, White Bird
April (dates TBA): Linda Austin & Allie Hankins ║ The Traveler & the Thief
April 19, Jewels, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events
April 23, Drum Tao 2020
April 23-25, The Rite Of Spring, NW Dance Project
April 25-28, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre
April 30-May 2, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox

May
May 1-2, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox
May 3: Holy Goats!Plus, Performance Works NW
May 8-9, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 8-10, Luna Mistica, Ballet Fantastique
May 12-13, Dance Theatre of Harlem, White Bird
May 15 – 17, Junior Artist Generator, BodyVox
May 22-24, ARISE: What Dance Could Be, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 28-31, Portland Tap Dance Festival, Portland Tap Alliance

 June
June 5-13, The Americans 2.0, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 11-13, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
June 12-14, Up Close, The Portland Ballet

DanceWatch Weekly: Dancing magic, wonderment and joy

Oregon Ballet Theatre's 'Nutcracker' opens this week alongside NW Dance Project's 'Bolero + Billie'

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some magic, wonderment, and joy in my life right now, and thankfully this weekend’s dance performances deliver just that.

BodyVox’s 20th anniversary celebration continues with Lexicon, a new collection of dances that marries technology and dance and also includes audience participation.

Jamuna Chiarini

NW Dance Project gets into the spirit with a double bill of Bolero and Billie. Bolero, choreographed by NW Dance Project resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem in 2016, is a reimagined, contemporary version of Ravel’s Bolero that ArtsWatcher Bob Hicks called a “bright and witty new Boléro, which he’s rescued from the graveyard of pop-culture banality and restored affectionately to its pedestal of seductively oddball expressionism.” If you’re interested in reading about Rustem’s artistic process, you can read my 2016 interview with him here. Billie, choreographed by the company dancers to the music of American jazz musician and singer-songwriter Billie Holiday, is a series of 13 vignettes that highlight love and interpersonal relationships.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker also opens this week at Oregon Ballet Theatre, along with a variety of other Nutcrackers that offer variations in ticket price and length of production; something for everyone’s budget and attention span. Longtime Oregon Ballet Theatre soloist Candace Bouchard will retire at the end of the run and will perform her favorite role Dewdrop on closing night. Don’t miss her final performance, and keep a look out for Heather Wisner’s interview with her for ArtsWatch.

At Reed College this weekend, dance majors and community dancers will perform new works by dance faculty members Carla Mann, Oluyinka Akinjiola, and Victoria Fortuna in Reed College’s annual winter concert.

Enjoy!

Performances this week

Photo by Steve Cherry, Polara Studio courtesy of BodyVox.

Lexicon
BodyVox
December 7-16
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
BodyVox celebrates its 20th anniversary with the premiere of Lexicon, a new work by BodyVox directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland in collaboration with Italian avant-garde composer Ludovico Einaudi. Lexicon creates a new performance experience by marrying dance and technology and by having the dancers interact with infrared sensors, live video graphic generation, motion capture, virtual reality, and more, live on stage.

NW Dance Project in Bolero by Ihsan Rustem. Photo by Chris Peddecord.

Bolero + Billie
NW Dance Project
December 7-9
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.
See above.

Photo courtesy of Rainbow Dance Theatre.

The Nutcracker with Chamber Ballet of Corvallis
Choreography by Shelly Svobody with guest artists from Rainbow Dance Theatre
December 8-9
Corvallis High School, 1400 NW Buchanan Ave., Corvallis
This full-scale Nutcracker production under the artistic guidance of Shelly Svoboda will feature guest artists from Rainbow Dance Theatre, a dance company directed by former Pilobolus dancer Darryl Thomas and former Merce Cunningham dancer Valerie Bergman based in Monmouth, Oregon, at Western Oregon University. Rainbow Dance Theatre explores dance on multi-levels incorporating virtuosic concert dance, world-dance forms, aerial choreography, and technology creating interactive sets that use fiber optics and electro-luminescent technology.

Reed College dance students. Photo by Gordon Wilson.

Winter Dance Concert
Reed College Performing Arts
7 pm December 9
Greenwood Theatre, Reed College, 3202 SE Woodstock Blvd.
See above.

Candace Bouchard as “The Sugarplum Fairy” and Peter Franc as her “Cavalier” in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s 2015 production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,  Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 9-24
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St.
To Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, little Marie parties hard, fights with her brother because he broke her new toy, sees a tree grow to the size of a building, fights off rats and travels to the Land of Sweets where she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy, witnesses dancing delicacies from around the world, and takes off in the end to places unknown with the Nutcracker Prince.

Photo courtesy of NorthWest Dance Theatre.

A Nutcracker Tea
NorthWest Dance Theatre
Artistic Directors June Taylor-Dixon
December 9-17
PCC Sylvania Performing Arts Center, 12000 SW 49th Ave
Complimentary tea will be served
An abridged Nutcracker, this version follows Clara and her prince through the Snow Kingdom and the Land of Sweets, showcasing beautifully crafted sets and costumes with choreography by June Taylor-Dixon.

NWDT is a youth ballet company in its twenty-seventh season.

Upcoming Performances

Continues…

Dance Weekly: Divine dancing in various guises

All the dance you can possibly think of is happening right here, right now, this weekend.

Just because the weather has gotten dark again and the rain is back does not mean you get to crawl under the covers and stay there for the duration. There are important dance works being performed this weekend and you need to see them. They will NOT be projected on the underside of your blankets. This weekend offers 11 possible ways to connect with and view dance, with a little something for everyone.

Continues…

A double dash of Dennis Spaight

OBT2 and Northwest Dance Theatre are reviving works by the late, great Portland choreographer

For lighting designer Peter West, a frequent collaborator with Dennis Spaight in the last years of the choreographer’s life,  “the door into [his] work was his musicality: his astonishing ability to compose lines of movement that complemented, expanded and illuminated music. And likewise his choices of music illuminated his movement phrases. His range was exceptional: Gershwin, Ellington, Vivaldi, Schubert, Copland, Debussy, Rimsky-Korsakoff, Schumann – and even silence.”

West, commenting on a Feb. 7, 2013 ArtsWatch story, Remembering Dennis Spaight, 20 Years Later, had it right.

The young dancers of OBT2 rehearsing Spaight's "Crayola." Photo: Friderike Heuer

Rehearsing Spaight’s “Crayola”: Emma-Anne Bauman (front), Kimberly Nobriga (middle-left) and Paige Wilkey (middle-right); Siri Ell-Lewis (back-left) and Emily Parker. Photo: Friderike Heuer

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s founding associate artistic director and resident choreographer died more than two decades ago, but this spring, Spaight’s spirit and his talent are very much alive in the bodies of two groups of young dancers, Northwest Dance Theatre and OBT’s newly formed OBT2.  The ballets they are performing are quite different, but both bear the unmistakable stamp of an artist whose sensitivity to the human condition was just as acute as his ear for music.

NDT performs excerpts from Gloria on a mixed program Saturday and Sunday at Portland Community College Sylvania’s Performing Arts Center. Set to Antonio Vivaldi’s “Gloria Mass,” the ballet pays eloquent tribute to Spaight’s mother’s Catholic faith. Like the music, the dance is both celebratory and sad, the choreographer’s vocabulary a demanding mix of classical technique and modern expressiveness.  “Dance is my religion,” Spaight once told me, and this ballet, last seen in its entirety when OBT danced it in the fall of 1993 on an all-Spaight commemorative program that included Scheherazade and Rhapsody in Blue, is a richly beautiful manifestation of that creed.

When he listed “even silence” as part of Spaight’s musical range, West, who has redone the lighting for NDT’s production of Gloria, was surely referring to Crayola, which OBT’s youngest dancers will perform starting April 16 when the company concludes its 25th anniversary season at the Newmark with a repertory program titled Impact.

It is the impact of the dancers’ point shoes on the floor of the stage that provides the accompaniment for a work that is not about dancing crayons, but about incorporating American Sign Language into the classical vocabulary and turning a social occasion—in this instance young ladies at a teaparty—into a dance.  Crayola, which Spaight made for Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1979, is not, as Gloria is, a major work. But it does show that very early in his sadly curtailed career, he had full command of his craft and a light touch with it. An excellent vehicle for young dancers (it contains some exuberant movement involving chairs), Crayola, I was told by Alison Roper last fall, is fun to dance.  It is certainly fun to watch. Both ballets were staged by Spaight Trust repetiteur Carol Shults with loving care, judicious adjustments, and unimpeachable dedication to the choreographer’s intent.

*

Schedule and ticket details for Northwest Dance Theatre’s performances are here.

Schedule and ticket details for Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Impact are here.