Oregon International Ballet Academy

MusicWatch Weekly: A song and a dance

Irish songs, Latinx bienestar, Balkan Brass, Viking musicians, and the return of Federale

As the great Pacific singer, dancer, composer, percussionist, instrument builder, and calligraphist Lou Harrison loved reminding us, “music is basically a song and a dance.” This week’s selections might be all over the genre map–cumbia psicodélica; twisty Balkan brass; rowdy cinematic rock and other local uncategorizables; clarinets and percussion and laptops; songs from Ireland and World War I; a siege catapult’s worth of jazz–but all of it hews to this basic formula. Sing. Dance. Repeat.

You’re probably going to get snowed in with the cats and the chessboard next week, so now’s your chance to clear your throat, lace up your red shoes, and get into some music.

Tonight, tonight, tonight

We already talked about Blue Cranes and the Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble in November’s monthly column, so hopefully you’ve already bought tickets and hired a babysitter. In case you haven’t, this is your reminder that their Siege of Cranes concert, featuring the tight-knit BC quintet and PJCE’s eight-piece horn section, is happening tonight at Holocene. Get on it, Portland.

You could go up to T.C. O’Leary’s on Northeast Alberta to hear Irish folk songs–and even sing along if the mood strikes you–every month. But the special guests on tonight’s Oíche na namhrán (“night of song”) deserve a mention: Uilleann piper Preston Howard Wilde and harpist Elizabeth Nicholson will join regular host Michael Steen-Orr for tonight’s shindig. No doubt the harp in question is the lovely diatonic variety used by Taliesen and Dolphin Midwives, and that’ll be sweet–but it’s those pipes we’re curious about. You’re probably picturing the noisy bagpipes of countless cheap jokes, but these are different; sweeter, gentler, more Irish. Have a listen to Wilde right now and tell me you don’t want to go order up a Jameson’s and sing along.


Good news: the Oregon dance scene is thriving, as evidenced by the 12 performances you’ll find in this week’s column. And here’s another positive development: after an exhaustive national search, Portland’s Regional Arts & Culture Council has appointed a new executive director: Madison Cario, whose career was inspired in part by a contemporary dance performance. Cario, whose first day at RACC will be Jan. 14, 2019, has more than 20 years’ professional experience as an artist, presenter, producer, and arts leader, and we are so, very, very pleased by the news. Welcome, Cario! To learn more, check out RACC’s full release here.

Over the next two weeks, DanceWatch will be taking a much-needed holiday break and will return bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on December 5. But until then, let’s talk about this week’s dance offerings, starting with Perceiving the Constant, Jessica Hightower’s new contemporary work for three dancers.

When I moved to Portland about eight years ago, a big creative surge within the dance community seemed to be ebbing (perhaps as a side effect of the 2008 economic collapse). I never got to meet many well-regarded local dance artists or see their work, despite having heard a lot about it–and them.

Hightower was lucky enough to dance with many of these people and companies: bobbevy, Keely McIntyre, Oslund+Co/Dance, Tere Mathern, and Top Shake Dance, to name a few. When I asked Hightower via email how these artists influenced her work, she said, “Everyone you mentioned has stayed with me to some degree as I make new work. Specifically, Mary Oslund, whose work really honored each dancer’s strengths; she didn’t shy away from movement that might be considered quirky and strange. I carry these ideas with me in each new work I create. She is a huge inspiration to me.”

Perceiving the Constant, which Hightower performs with Dorinda Holler and long-time artistic partner Keely McIntyre, is set to an original score composed by Ash Black Bufflo’s Jay Clarke, and examines the passage of time.

In the early research stages of the work, Hightower asked both her 4-year-old daughter, Ari, and her 95-year-old grandfather about how they experienced time.

“When I talk to Ari about time,” Hightower said, noting that she was paraphrasing her young daughter’s answers, “she will say things like, ‘It will allow me to grow up,’ and ‘I don’t know what it is about, but it’s nothing to worry about.’ She naturally has a very loose sense of how long she sleeps, is at school, has been alive, etcetera. I find her lack of giving time control over her life, from simply being so young, to be both beautiful and heartbreaking.”

When she spoke with her grandfather, his response was, “When you get to be my age, you start living in the past.” “Obviously not the experience every 95-year-old has,” Hightower said, “but I found the very different conversations I had with both of them were rich sources of movement inspiration.”

Hightower’s complex choreography is based in ballet technique, overlaid with detailed gestures; the movement is arranged in trios, duets, and solos. “As a dancer/choreographer, I wanted to create a highly physical work that wove in the feeling of fragility that all of our lives have, and the quick pace at which they pass,” she said. “For me it’s the very crux of existence.”

Asked how she turned abstract ideas like time and aging into movement, she said, “I often start with a simple hand or arm gesture–my work is very hand-detail oriented–that I feel reflects the specific idea I am looking to develop, and then a phrase will grow from there. Specifically, I worked with ideas of time feeling slow, or wanting it to feel slow, and having one dancer walking very slowly, seemingly unaware of the other two, who were circling around them in a frenzy of movement. I would get into the studio on my own, and ask my body, ‘OK, how would you move if you felt you were living in the past/living just from memories?’ Solo and phrase work was developed this way, and then expanded into duets and trios. Each of my dancers and myself are in different decades in our lives, which, through discussions as a group, unearthed some beautiful concepts to work with. As a 34-year-old, I still feel like I have some control over time. I certainly know on some level I don’t, but for survival’s sake, I cling to that.”

Perceiving the Constant opens Friday, November 16 at New Expressive Works. At press time, Friday’s show was nearly sold out, but there were tickets available for the Saturday and Sunday shows.

Performances this week

Dance students at Willamette University. Photo courtesy of Michele Ainza.

Future Voices
Willamette University Theatre Department
November 15-17
Willamette University, Pelton Theatre, 289 12th St. SE, Salem
Michele Ainza, the newly appointed artistic director of dance at Willamette University, presents work showcasing the next generation of choreographers from Willamette and Chemeketa Community College. The program also includes work by Willamette University alumnus Genevieve Gahagan and Western Oregon University adjunct professor Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner. Among the evening’s themes are the body as narrative, the passage of time, and aspirations for (and doubts about) the future.

Ainza is a dance and somatics educator and the artistic director of Michele Ainza Dance (MAD), a Portland-based contemporary dance troupe that focuses on the deconstruction and abstraction of social and political issues through idiosyncratic movement material. Ainza has taught at Lewis and Clark College, Linfield College, Fresno City College and Mexico’s University of Veracruz.

Polaris Dance Theatre dancer Xena Guitron. Photo by BMAC Photography.

ELa FaLa Collective and Polaris Dance Theatre
November 16-17
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave.
The two-act concert ¿LISTEN? features work by Polaris Dance Theatre artistic director Robert Guitron and Brazilian choreographer Barbara Lima, artistic director of the new Portland-based ELa FaLa Collective. Lima, whose work aims to bridge art, technology, culture, education, and science, will present a solo that expresses her frustrations and deep sadness as well as her power as a woman fighting to survive during this tumultuous time. Guitron presents a multimedia commentary on the political landscape and calls for kindness, unity and love; he will invite the audience to join the dancers on stage in the final moments of the dance.

Dancers Keely McIntyre, Dorinda Holler, and Jessica Hightower in “Perceiving The Constant” by Jessica Hightower. Photo by Meghann Mary Gilligan.

Perceiving The Constant
Jessica Hightower
November 16-18
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont
See above.

“Miranda” by 11: Dance Co. Photo courtesy of 11: Dance Co.

Reed Arts Week: Sensation
November 15-18
Reed College Performing Arts Building, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.

In the Sensation-themed Reed Arts Week, viewers are encouraged to experience art not just through sight, but through all their senses. Both student and professional artists will appropriate the Reed College campus as stage for dance, poetry readings, theatrical and performance works, live music, and visual art.

The two-day program includes work by olfactory artist Maki Ueda; poet Marty McConnell; fashion designer Eda Yorulmazoglu; animator Eric Dyer; artist Stephanie Gervais; poet Esther Belin; photographer Parker Day; 11:Dance Co.; photographer DJ Meisner; and musical performers Marquii and DJ Manny Petty. Below are some of the weekend’s dance/movement highlights.

11: Dance Co
Choreography by Bb DeLano in collaboration with company dancers
8:30 pm November 15
Performing Arts Building, Performance Lab, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
Workshop with 11:Dance Co 7:30 pm November 18, Performing Arts Building, Dance Studio, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.

If the disintegration of everything is inevitable, is there any hope? This is the question that 11: Dance Co. poses in its new work, Miranda. 11: Dance Co. is a multi-disciplinary dance company that fuses urban and classical movement. It presents experimental, sometimes dark, often satirical performance art that explores how contemporary culture influences the human condition

Working 1
Reed College Dance Troupe
Created and produced by Morgan Meister and Hannah Jensvold
5 pm November 17
Performing Arts Building, Performance Lab, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd

This three-part work, which draws from improvisational prompts and the Gaga technique created by former Batsheva Dance Company artistic director Ohad Naharin, encourages both viewers and dancers to rely on senses other than sight to understand dance.

Abigail Amit
2 pm November 18
Performing Arts Building, Black Box Rehearsal Room, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
A transcendent performance piece incorporating audio/visual work and tap dancing.

Same As It Ever Was
Reed Dance 335
3 pm November 18
Performing Arts Building Atrium, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.
In this movement-based exploration of the senses, student dancers guide viewers around Reed’s campus to past protest sites. Prior to the tour, viewers should meet the dancers in the Performing Arts Building Atrium.

Dancers of Automal. Photo by Bill Starr.

Guest artists with Lili St Anne
Produced by The Old Church
8 pm November 17
The Old Church Concert Hall, 1422 SW 11th Ave.

Portland dance company Automal, directed by choreographer Kate Rafter, will perform new, original dance works to several songs by Portland folk-rock band Lili St Anne. Automal is a small, project-based company specializing in dance, physical and site-specific immersive theater, and multimedia.

Oregon International Ballet Academy students rehearsing for “The Nutcracker.” Photo courtesy of Oregon International Ballet Academy.

The Nutcracker
Oregon International Ballet Academy and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony
Choreography by Xuan Cheng and Ye Li after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
7:30 pm November 17
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park

Oregon International Ballet Academy, directed by Oregon Ballet Theatre principal dancer Xuan Cheng and her husband, former OBT soloist Ye Li, present its first full-length Nutcracker in collaboration with the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. The production, adapted from Lev Ivanov’s and Marius Petipa’s original Nutcracker. features 50 student performers and parents as well as professional guest artists from OBT.

Flamenco dancer Emilio Ochando. Photo courtesy of Emilio Ochando.

Emilio Ochando
Hosted by Portland Flamenco Events
6:30 pm November 17, Harvest Wine Bar, 14559 Westlake Dr.
6:30 pm November 18, Oregon Ballet Theatre, 0720 SW Bancroft St.

Madrid-based flamenco dancer Emilio Ochando–who has performed with Ballet Nacional de España and Nuevo Ballet Español–will share Clásica Tradición, a work in progress featuring original music by flamenco fusion group Los Makarines. Ochando will discuss his creative process after the performance, followed by an informal Q & A session with viewers.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by John Clifford, performed by The Portland Ballet. Photo courtesy of The Portland Ballet.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Choreography John Clifford
The Portland Ballet and The PSU Orchestra, directed by Ken Selden
November 23-25
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park

In this streamlined adaptation of Shakespeare’s popular comedy, choreographed by Balanchine protégé John Clifford, fairies feud, mischief is made, and a royal wedding is celebrated. In this holiday weekend spectacular, 80 student dancers from The Portland Ballet will populate Shakespeare’s enchanted forest; guest artists Josh Murry-Hawkins, Skye Stouber, and Seth Parker join in, accompanied by the PSU Orchestra and two PSU student opera singers. Ken Selden conducts the Mendelssohn score. Fun fact: the cast includes three sets of identical twins.

Choreographer Ameila Unsicker. Photo credit: Crystal Amaya

Presented by RAW: natural born artists
7 pm November 28
Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave.

For one night only, Portland choreographers Amelia Unsicker and Alexander Dones will each perform at a showcase featuring 50 Portland artists of all kinds, as part of RAW, an international organization that fashion designer Heidi Luerra developed in 2009 in Los Angeles to showcase emerging artists. Both Unsicker and Dones are Portland natives, and have extensive experience performing, choreographing, teaching, and advocating for the arts.

Dance Films

Bolshoi Ballet dancers in “Don Quixote.” Photo courtesy of Pathe Live.

Don Quixote
Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
12:55 pm December 2
Click here for movie locations
Bolshoi principal dancers Ekaterina Krysanova and Semyon Chudin star in Cervantes’ classic tale of Don Quixote’s quest to find his ideal woman, Dulcinea. Accompanied by the Léon Minkus score, a colorful cast of characters, including toreadors, flamenco dancers, gypsies, and tree nymphs, help bring to the story to life.

The dancers of “Suspira.” Photo by Alessio Bolzoni/Amazon Studios/courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino with choreography by Damien Jalet
Released October 26
Click here for movie times and locations
In Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 cult classic, a young American dancer arrives in 1970s Berlin to audition for the world-renowned Helena Markos Dance Company and discovers that it’s run by a coven of witches. Choreographed by Belgian-French freelance choreographer Damien Jalet, this supernatural horror film stars Dakota Johnson as dancer Susie Bannion and Tilda Swinton as dance instructor Madame Blanc. Former Portland dancer Olivia Ancona (The Portland Ballet, NW Dance Project) makes an appearance as Marketa. The tale is haunted by dance legends Martha Graham, Mary Wigman, and Pina Bausch and “unleashes its witchy power through modern dance,” according to Gia Kourlas of The New York Times.

Misty Copeland in “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Walt Disney Pictures
Featuring Misty Copeland, Sergei Polunin, and Lil Buck
Opened in theaters November 2
Click here for movie times and locations
Warning: this is not a dance-centric film and it is not The Nutcracker as you know it. But it does feature choreography by Royal Ballet resident choreographer Liam Scarlett. and spectacular dancing by American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland (here dubbed Ballerina Princess), Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin (as the Cavalier), and street dancer Lil Buck as the Mouse King. Loosely based on Marius Petipa’s The Nutcracker Ballet (which, in turn, is based on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King), this is a Narnia-meets-Harry Potter-meets-Alice in Wonderland-style fantasy adventure tale. Morgan Freeman is Drosselmeyer, Helen Mirren is Mother Ginger, and young actress Mackenzie Foy is Clara, who travels to the so-called Fourth Realm to retrieve a key that will unlock a box containing a precious gift and restore harmony to an unstable land.

Upcoming Performances

December 6-8, Winter Performance, NW Dance Project
December 8, So You Think You Can Dance Live! 2018, Eugene
December 8-25, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 9, Strewn, a fundraising party celebrating 18 years of Performance Works NW
December 14-16, Babes in Toyland (World Premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
December 16, Fiesta Flamenca Navideña, presented by Espacio Flamenco
December 21-23, The Nutcracker, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
December 23, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live

January 2019
January 9-20, The Lion King, Eugene
January 20, La Bayadère, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
January 24-February 3, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin Greenhouse
January 24-February 2, The Cutting Room, BodyVox
January 26, Nrityotsava 2019 , Indian Classical & Folk Dance Event, Hosted by Kalakendra
January 31-February 2, Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art, presented by White Bird

February 9-10, Romeo and Juliet, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
February 13, Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, presented by White Bird
February 15-16, Two of a Kind: A Shared Evening of Dance, Beth Whelan and Trevor Wilde
February 16-23, Cinderella, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 20, Beijing Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
February 21-24, Anicca/Impermanence, Minh Tran & Company
February 22-24, Alembic Resident Artists Performance, Performance Works NW
February 28-March 2, Compagnie Hervé Koubi, presented by White Bird
February 29-March 2, Trip The Light Fantastic, NW Dance Project

March 1-3, The Odyssey, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Materialize, PDX Contemporary Ballet
March 7-9, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, presented by White Bird
March 8-10, Interplay, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
March 9, Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company, Walters Cultural Arts Center
March 10, The Sleeping Beauty, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
March 14-21, Ordinary Devotions, Linda Austin
March 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April 4-6, Parsons Dance, Presented by White Bird
April 4-13, The Pearl Dive Project, BodyVox
April 7, The Golden Age, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
April 9-10, Savion Glover, presented by White Bird
April 11-14, Director’s Choice, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 12-14, Shen Yun, Presented by the Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 24, Philadanco, presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Spring Performance, NW Dance Project

May 9-11, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox and NW Film Center
May 10-12, Shaun Keylock Company
May 10-12, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, Cleopatra (World Premiere), Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 17-19, Undone, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 19, Carmen Suite / Petrushka, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
May 26, Derek Hough: Live! The Tour, Eugene

June 7-15, The Americans, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 7-9, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 13-15, Summer Performances, NW Dance Project

DanceWatch: Xuan Cheng and Ye Li’s ballet academy.

This week a performance by the students of a new Beaverton ballet school and a busy schedule of concerts

Did you know that Xuan Cheng (a Principal Dancer with Oregon Ballet Theatre) and her husband Ye Li (a soloist with OBT from 2011-2015) co-direct their own ballet school in Beaverton? They do! It’s called Oregon International Ballet Academy (OIBA) and they are performing this weekend, one classical work and one brand new contemporary ballet choreographed by Li.

Jamuna Chiarini

I just discovered their school this week in a last-minute search online before writing this week’s DanceWatch. It’s one thing to be a performer, but it’s a whole other ball of wax when performing artists, who have spend the majority of their careers bringing other people’s artistic vision to life, venture out on their own, creating work in their own voices. Watching a rehearsal video of Li’s new work sparked my curiosity, and I had to learn more. Cheng, Li, and I met briefly for coffee during Xuan’s lunch break from OBT, and we talked about their dance life, their history together, the new school, and the new work.

The OIBA students will be performing the Second Act of Swan Lake, staged by Cheng and adapted from Lev Ivanov’s choreography, and a world premiere by Li called Black and White at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall this Saturday night. They will be joined by 18 student musicians from the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, directed by Raúl Gómez, with costumes designed by Annika Schindler, a costume fabricator for LAIKA. Cheng and OBT Principal Dancer Brian Simcoe will be guest performing as well, courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre. The set design for Black and White includes a series of different-sized black and white boxes that the dancers engage with rhythmically, and the costumes have been created to evoke a sense of time, which is the constant, and the elegance of Victorian times.

Artistic Director Xuan Cheng working with her students at Oregon International Ballet Academy. Photo by Yi Yin.

Cheng and Li joined OBT in 2011 when they were hired by Christopher Stowell after one audition. They loved Portland right away and were very happy to call it home. Prior to OBT, they both danced for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and Cheng danced for La La La Human Steps. They both danced for GuangZhou Ballet in China straight out of ballet school—she became a principal dancer with the company and he a soloist.

Between the two of them there is a lifetime of experience of training and dancing ballet’s classics, as well as the works of many well-known contemporary choreographers, including William Forsythe, Nacho Duato, Ohad Naharin, Jirí Kylián, Mats Ek, Mauro Bigonzetti, Christian Spuck, Christopher Stowell, and Nicolo Fonte.

When they first came to Portland, the Chinese community was very excited and proud to see Chinese dancers performing with Oregon Ballet Theatre and asked if they would teach their children. At that point they were still focused on their performing careers with OBT and weren’t able to devote the time they would like to teaching. But as time passed, Cheng started volunteering and creating small pieces for different community shows. She found that there was a big need for them and was drawn to teaching. She and Li both felt strongly that it was important to pass on their experience to the next generation and decided to open a school.

They opened Oregon International Ballet Academy in 2015, and it now has approximately 50 students. Cheng is still performing full time with OBT and teaches ballet classes in the evening, and Li retired from performing in 2015 to run the school full time.

Young dancers at the Oregon International Ballet Academy. Photo by Yi Yin.

When we met, Cheng said that teaching and running a school was satisfying. “It’s different than dancing,” she said “I feel like my life is actually very balanced. Before, I only knew ballet, ballet, ballet. Ballet is everything in my whole life. And as a dancer it’s always me, me, me, me. So during teaching it’s actually made me a better dancer. I’m also learning from the kids, too.”

She says she is treasuring her time dancing in the studio much more these days now that she has a thousand other things to focus on when she leaves at the end of the day. “It’s made my life more full and not so one sided,” she said.

When I asked about how the two of them work together, Cheng said, “It’s very challenging but we help each other. Our whole life since we met, we’re dancing together, we are always helping each other. We help each other grow and become a better person, we’re honest with each other. Sometimes we have to really say it, touch the pain. In Chinese we have a saying, it’s like the good medicine is the bitterest.” They have known each other since 1998, were each other’s first love, and married two years ago.

Ballet students at the Oregon International Ballet Academy. Photo by Yi Yin.

They want to teach their students the connections between the ballet steps and the stage, and teach the why of it all. They want to teach them curiosity and to become active participants in the process. They want more for their students than just performing and smiling and looking pretty on stage. They want to involve the students in the creative process.

The new work by Li, Black and White, is based on an idea that came from his mother. “My mom always said when a baby is born, we are like a white paper, white colors, you put a color on there. Black is a bad thing you did. You punched the cat. You did a bad thing, You put the black color on your paper. You hug somebody, you make somebody happy, then you add another color. So basically that’s your life. So the idea is at the end, we’re going to have a lot of colorful stuff, a lot of painting on the white paper. No matter what kind of stuff you do, when you look back, those colors are what you did, or your memories.”

Li’s new work features live music with compositions by David Long, ERA, Samuel Barber, Ezio Bosso, Raul Gomez-Rojas, and Li himself, who originally wanted to be a violinist. His mother wanted him to be a dancer.

The performance also holds a few surprises, especially in reference to Li’s mother’s metaphor.

Performances this week

Diva Practice (Solo) at the Risk/Reward Festival 2017.  Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

Diva Practice (Solo)
Pepper Pepper
November 2-November 5
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St.
November 2 Post-Show Q+A talk back with Pepper Pepper
November 2-3 performances have ASL Interpretation

Diva Practice (Solo), is the last leg in a three-part cycle created by multidisciplinary artist Pepper Pepper who works in performance, drag, theatre, and dance.

“Diva Practice is a research project about drag and contemporary performance as a solo, duet, and ensemble,” Pepper says. “Diva Practice is a performance about queens dancing in the face of uncertainty, because being fabulous takes practice.”

I asked Pepper in an email interview what uncertainty queens have to face. Pepper said that “uncertainty is a political, choreographic, and emotional narrative throughout the show.” Using “improvisation and video interactivity” it places the character in uncertain situations where choice, impulse, and intention combine to illustrate her “practice.”

The making of Diva Practice (Solo), happened through a series of residencies, performances, and a tour through Oregon, Louisiana, Maine, Texas, and Georgia that “make accomplices of the audience and initiate conversation around gender, power, and vulnerability.”

“The diva practice research tour allowed me to experiment and practice with live audiences across the US,” Pepper said. “In a way, the practice became performing the show as a live rehearsal. This informs the ethos of the show, which is radical acceptance and discernment. The tour was also a way for me to see drag and diva worship in many different states which influenced my choreography and frame of mind.”

I interviewed Pepper back in 2016 close to the debut of D.I.V.A. Practice in Pepper Pepper explains D.I.V.A. Practice.

Polaris Dance Theatre dancers in Avalanche. Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre.

Polaris Dance Theatre, artistic director Robert Guitron
November 2-10
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave.

Creating an arch between Prince, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen in this dance/music tribute, Polaris artistic director Robert Guitron plays with themes that were central to these artists—gender identity, diversity, sexuality, racism, spirituality, and fashion—in an evening work for thirteen dancers.

PDX Contemporary Ballet dancers attempting to read while dancing in Converge. Don’t try this at home. Photo courtesy of Briley Neugebauer.

PDX Contemporary Ballet, directed by Briley Neugebauer
November 3-5
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St.

In this collaborative project, PDX Contemporary Ballet, which thrives on experimentation in ballet, has combined spoken word and contemporary ballet choreography to expand the storytelling power of both by pairing Portland choreographers with Portland writers.

The pairings are: BodyVox dancer/choreographer Alicia Cutaia and Fox and Beggar Theater Director Nat Allister; ballet dancer/choreographer Micah Chermak and poet Milly Wallace; Briley Neugebauer (artistic director of PDX Contemporary Ballet) and playwright Claire Willett; and Neugebauer and poet Lorelei O’Connor.

Due to a generous donation, PDX Contemporary Ballet is offering $5 and $10 tickets on opening night.

A moment from Linda Austin’s solo Big Real from 2004. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW.

A fundraiser performance presented by Performance Works NW
7:30 pm and 9:30 pm November 4
Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance, 4625 SE 67th Ave.

Celebrating 17 years of engaging artists and audiences in “the process of experimentation, creation and dialog around the presentation of contemporary performance,” Performance Works NW directed by dance artist Linda Austin and lighting designer Jeff Forbes present Iconic, a fundraiser performance of 18 short works by community of artists inspired by photographic prompts highlighting memorable PWNW performance from 2000-2017.

The evening promises revelry and refreshments, and all proceeds go to supporting the awesome PWNW programming.

EARLY SHOW: 7:30pm
Linda Austin and the Boris & Natasha Dancers (Michael Chambers, Tom DeBeauchamp, Ben Martens), Gregg Bielemeier, Catherine Egan, Allie Hankins, Linda K. Johnson, Meg McHutchison, Kelly Rauer & claire barrera, edward sharp, and Lu Yim & keyon gaskin

LATE SHOW: 9:30pm
Tracy Broyles, Jeff Donaldson-Forbes, Maggie Heath, Seth Nehil, John Niekrasz, Stephanie Lavon Trotter, Leah Wilmoth with Alanna Hoyman-Browe & Simone Wood, Takahiro Yamamoto & Roland Dahwen Wu, and James Yeary.

Dancers Xuan Cheng and Brian Simcoe. Photo by Yi Yin.

Swan Lake Act 2 and Black and White (world premiere)
Oregon International Ballet Academy, directed by Xuan Cheng and Ye Li
Swan Lake Act II, Stage by Xuan Cheng after Lev Ivanov, World Premiere: Black and White, Contemporary Ballet Choreography by Ye Li
Featuring Xuan Cheng and Brian Simcoe, guest dancers from Oregon Ballet Theater,
OIBA students, and live music by members of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and Music Director Raúl Gómez
7:30 pm November 4
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.

See above.

Performances Next Week

November 9-12, When We, Allie Hankins & Rachael Dichter, a PWNW Alembic Co-Production
November 11, A-WOL Dance Collective 15th Anniversary Celebration
November 15, The Hip Hop Nutcracker Featuring MC Kurtis Blow, Decadancetheatre
November 15, Horizon3 in collaboration with RAW PORTLAND, Brynn Hofer, Gerard Regot, and Melanie Verna

Upcoming Performances

November 16-18, L-E-V, presented by White Bird
November 18, Mood Factory, Hosted by Dan Reed Miller and Ben Martens
November 24-26, The Enchanted Toyshop by John Clifford, Tourbillon by Anne Mueller, performed by the PSU Orchestra and The Portland Ballet
November 26, The Taming Of The Shrew, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
November 30-December 9, Lexicon (world premiere), BodyVox

December 7-9, Bolero + Billie, Ihsan Rustem, NW Dance Project
December 8-9, The Nutcracker with Chamber Ballet of Corvallis, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
December 9-24, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 13-17, a world, a world (work-in-progress), Linda Austin Dance, PWNW
December 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Crystal Jiko, Tere Mathern, Madison Page, Wolfbird Dance
December 17, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
December 22-24, The Nutcracker with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene


January 12, Love Heals All Wounds, Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz, Presented by Portland’5 Center for the Arts
January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre

March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, World Premiere’s by Sarah Slipper and Cayetano Soto, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem