Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company

DanceWatch: A rich cultural stew

What's happening in Oregon dance now

Welcome to DanceWatch for March, the month that enters like a lion and retreats like a lamb, or so they say. While it’s still cold and dark outside, you can think of this month’s dance offerings like a warm winter stew: hearty, rich, varied, and soul-soothing. And don’t forget that spring is a mere 22 days away!

Let’s start this month’s column with Native American dance. Last fall, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art caught my attention with this statement in its Time-Based Art catalog: “The land now known as Portland rests on the traditional village sites of the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla, and many other Tribes who made their homes along the Columbia (Wimahl) and Willamette (Whilamut) rivers.”

I didn’t know this. Did you? I was struck. I rarely hear about the native tribes of Portland and the surrounding areas and I even more rarely see dance representing these cultures. I feel weird about this. I can’t go back to not knowing. In fact, this information made me want to learn more about Native American dance artists in Oregon and beyond, and recently, I did.

This past Sunday, I attended the Alembic artist performance at Performance Works NorthWest, where choreographer Olivia Camfield, a resident artists and a Muscogee Creek Tribal member from Texas Hill Country, choreographed and performed a powerful contemporary piece about indigenous people reclaiming their narratives. She welcomed everyone with this statement, a reminder to be respectful when we’re visiting someone else’s territory.

“Hensci (hello), estonko (how are you), Olivia Cvhocefkv Tos (my name is Olivia). I come from the Muscogee Creek nation of Oklahoma. Originally we come from the southeastern region of this continent. I would like to acknowledge that I am a visitor here today and in the spirit of reciprocity, I would like to bring medicine and movement prayer to this land and the people of it. These nations include the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tumwater, Watlala Bands of the Chinook, the Tualatin Kalapuya, and many other indigenous nations of the Columbia River valley region. I would like y’all to acknowledge whether you are a settler occupier of this stolen land, an indigenous visitor, or you are of this land and this is your ancestral territory. I would like to ask to come here and be in a good way and walk this land as a caretaker and a medicine giver. I would like y’all to do the same, be here in a way that is respectful and honorable to the people and spirits who have taken care of this land since time immemorial. Mvto (thank you).”

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DanceWatch: a month of movement

A guide to August's dance performances in Oregon, gathered in one easy place to check all month long

Maybe this isn’t common knowledge, but warm weather is best for dancers. It cuts down on the time we have to warm up to dance and makes our muscles ooey gooey and stretchy, which is perfect for dancing. I love warm weather so much that I chose to major in dance at Florida State University instead of SUNY Purchase in upstate New York. My flexibility increased tenfold over my four years of dancing in the humid Florida heat.

I also love the slowed-down, molasses like pace of summer. It’s a season that is telling me to rest. So I will. And DanceWatch will, too! Both DanceWatch and I will be taking the month of August off and will see you back here bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in September.

Before I go, check out this month’s dance offerings. It’s a little like circling the globe and sampling a bit of each country’s culture from your own city streets. You can even catch me dancing Odissi (classical Indian dance from Odisha) with my dance teacher Yashaswini Raghuram and my classmates at the India Festival at Pioneer Square on August 12. I hope it’s nice and warm!

August performances

Mary Bodine of the Warm Springs tribe rehearsing with the Painted Sky Northstar Dance Company. Photo courtesy of Northstar Dance Company.

Party on the Plaza: Northstar Dance Company
Hult Center for the Performing Arts
5:30 pm August 2
Hult Center Plaza, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

Northstar Dance Company combines Intertribal Native dances and contemporary dance forms to bring awareness to and honor Native American culture, past and present. The performance will take place outside at the Hult Center Plaza.

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