PDX Contemporary Ballet

DanceWatch: March hare edition

We are still watching dance online, and that's so much better than the alternative

Welcome to March. It’s almost spring! That means warmer weather, light in the sky, and flowers blooming everywhere. We also have the Coronavirus vaccine to look forward to, which means that maybe we can all commingle in theatres and dance studios once again by next fall, which is excellent! So, many things to look forward to, but dance and dance-related discussions are all still online until then. 

This month offers a mixed bag of performance experiences from new performance experiments from Linda Austin and Allie Hankins to an annual performance share by four different dance groups at AWOL Dance Collective’s performance space to a new film from PDX Contemporary Ballet and conversations with Oregon Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Kevin Irving on the future of classical ballet and its problems with racism and sexism. 

It’s a light month in terms of the number of dance performances, which is nice because I think we are all exhausted and could use some time offline. So go outside and dance, but don’t forget to watch and support the dance community online too. 

Last thought. Here is an excerpt of a poem I recently found by author Laura Kelly Fanucci:

“When this is over,
may we never again
take for granted
A handshake with a stranger
Full shelves at the store
Conversations with neighbors
A crowded theatre
Friday night out
The taste of communion
A routine checkup
The school rush each morning
Coffee with a friend…”

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DanceWatch: Jan-bruary is the resilient month

Fertile Ground leads us into the next month of virtual dance

Welcome to the Jan-bruary edition of the dance calendar and the 396th day of 2020. It just keeps gettin’ better,  don’t you think? Somehow, though, through it all, a pandemic and the attempted overthrow of our government, dance artists are still making dances. I am continually amazed at how resilient humans are, even under the harshest conditions. 

Today I am feeling celebratory. Every month that DanceWatch can fill its calendar with dance performances is a minor miracle and a joyous occasion. Art is the mark of civilization. If we are here dancing, then we are thriving. 

This edition of DanceWatch is full to the brim with work that will break your heart open, make you want to smash through your screens and dance with the folks on the other side, transport you, connect you, and generally make you feel good. Enjoy!

January Dance Performances

The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, which features new experimental work in various development stages, opened on January 28 and will run till February 7. Projects are available through Feb. 15 to stream on Fertile Ground’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Curated by a committee for the first time in its 12-year history, the festival, not strictly a dance festival, will feature 31 projects by regional choreographers, theater artists, puppeteers, improvisers, animators, and mixed-media artists.

I was privileged to participate in Fertile Ground’s meet-the-press zoom call, where I met and heard the pitches from every participating show, and I can say with certainty that these shows are a must go! They are powerful and beautiful and are everything you need right now. Luckily all of the performances will be streamed online through the Fertile Ground Facebook and YouTube pages and will be available to view for seven days after, so you won’t miss a thing! And most importantly, they are FREE to watch. 

Artwork for the Fertile Ground production of Allies & Accomplices. Photo courtesy of Echo Theater Company

* Fertile Ground
Allies & Accomplices
Presented by Echo Theater Company
Performers include ETC Pro Lab, Noelle Simone, Tessa May, and Variat Dance Collective with direction by Laura Cannon and Aaron Wheeler-Kay
Opened 7 pm January 29; available to view through Feb. 15
Open and closed captioning available
Free

In these world premieres, five independently created dance works highlight the stories of marginalized and oppressed voices and examine how artistic creation is a political act. They seek to personalize the Black experience and the accompanying fear, help you find your voice through the Black Lives Matter movement, and lead you on a journey to discover your inner Greek goddess. 

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DanceWatch Monthly: February is all about the love

February in Portland dance is all about love and its many forms (not just Valentine's Day)


It’s February and love is in the air. Dance performances this month, appropriately enough, express love in a wonderful variety of ways. From the familiar romantic love to platonic love. From the love of connecting with community too connecting with oneself. From the love of music to the love of pure movement. From the love of sharing, to the love of technology, to the love of the wild. From the love of experimentation and research to the love of a good book and a good story, to the love of intimacy, and to the love of things big and small. For the love of god. For dance itself and for the gift of emotional expression. 


“To dance is to be out of yourself,” American choreographer Agnes de Mille famously proclaimed. “Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.” 

So, let’s dance, and do it with love.

Dances in February

Week 1: February 1-2

Holy Goats!
Performance Works N
2 pm February 2
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave

Holy Goats! Sunday afternoon improvisations and bagels are back!  This new iteration will be devoted to dance and music by Portland-area and visiting artists. The dancers include Allie Hankins and Caspar Sonnet, Pepper Pepper, Tracy Broyles + Adrian Hutapea + jaime lee christiana, Luke Gutgsell + Kennedy Verrett. The musicians: Catherine Lee, Caspar Sonnet, Dan Sasaki, Annie Gilbert, and Stephanie Lavon Trotter.

Founded in 1999 by Artistic Director Linda Austin and Technical Director Jeff Forbes, Performance Works NorthWest || Linda Austin Dance engages artists and audiences of the Pacific Northwest in the process of experimentation, creation and dialogue around the presentation of contemporary performance. 

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Dance is a global affair this spring, a series of international alliances and cultural collaborations that we can enjoy both in person and from afar.

Merce Cunningham centennial celebrations are in full swing all over the world and will continue throughout the summer. (Cunningham’s actual birthday, April 16, saw dancers in London, L.A., and New York City performing his work in a live stream of Night of 100 Solos). The Bolshoi, meanwhile, continues its live streaming series with that most Russian of ballets, Petrushka, showing this month in local theaters with a Cuban partner, Alfonso Alonzo’s Carmen Suite (see below). Not to be outdone, Eugene’s Ballet Fantastique is offering a live broadcast of its world-premiere work Cleopatra (see below). And BodyVox returns with the Contact Dance Film Festival, featuring shorts and feature-length dance movies created by choreographers from all over the world (see below).

On local stages, you’ll find a full complement of dance styles and traditions, sometimes intersecting in unexpected ways. To wit: our first entry.

International and cultural dance styles

Dormeshia Sumbrey-Edwards. Photo by Eduardo Patino

Tap dancer Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards finds commonalities with kathak dancer Seema Mehta at Interwoven. Photo by Eduardo Patino.

Interwoven: Kathak/Tap, and Sitar
Featuring Seema Mehta, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Josh Feinberg, and Nilan Chaudhuri
May 5
Old Church, 1422 SS 11th St.

In April, White Bird brought us Savion Glover, one of tap’s brightest lights. This month we’re treated to another: the Bessie Award-winning hoofer Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. Like Glover, she’s a veteran of film (Tap, Bamboozled) and Broadway (Black and Blue, Bring in Da’Noise, Bring in Da’ Funk), and her appearance is one of the better kept secrets on the Portland performance calendar.

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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 Weekly: The sun is out, let’s dance

The week in dance includes BodyVox, Ballet Hispanico, Imago, OBT2, PDX Contemporary Ballet and Rainbow Dance Theatre

The sun, the sun, I’m in love with the sun. Its warmth, its brightness and the immediate joy it brings me and hopefully you, too. Don’t you think everything looks different when the sun comes out?

I’ve forgotten about my body under the layers and layers of thick dark fabrics these winter months and especially my skin. I forgot that my skin senses too, and when it’s covered up for so long, I feel like I am suffocating. I want to focus on this tending to the body and its senses this week. Awakening our senses to more fully take in the experience of watching dance is where we’re at.

So, in addition to seeing all of the wonderful dance on my itinerary below, I’m going to move my body, too. Go for a walk, run, cycle, swim, or take one of Heather Wisner’s recommended dance classes from her National Dance Week diary. Get moving. But rest too and feed myself—I’m thinking delicious food, wine, and sweet sweets—and then go see dance. It will be that much better.

Performances this week

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Rainbow Dance Theatre. Photo courtesy of Rainbow Dance Theatre.

Western Oregon University Spring Dance Concert
Featuring work by Rainbow Dance Theatre, faculty members Amy McDonnell, Cynthia Garner and Darryl Thomas and students Alaina Meyers, Andrew De La Paz, Caitlin Rose, Tunya Dhevahpalin and alumnus Kristie Martinez
May 10-12
Western Oregon University, Rice Auditorium 101, 345 Monmouth Ave., Monmouth

The Garden of Earthly Delights, a new work by Rainbow Dance Theatre’s artistic directors Valerie Bergman and Darryl Thomas, explores the 16th century triptych painting of the same name by Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. The work, reveals the unexpected through a close examination of the three-panel painting that depicts the Bosch’s version of the Garden of Eden, hedonistic abandon, and Judgment Day.

“Our dance explores questions such as whether we’ve forever lost the state of grace depicted by the Garden of Eden,” explained Bergman in the press release. “Can we balance an attraction to the bizarre with a grounded life? Will we stand by silently as our world descends into a kind of hell, rather than spend our days actively reaching for peace?”

The Garden of Earthly Delights is one of many works being presented by faculty, students, and alumni as part of Western Oregon University’s annual Spring Dance Concert.

BodyVox dancer Jillian St. Germain in Rain & Roses. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

Rain & Roses (world premiere)
BodyVox
May 10-19
The North Warehouse, 723 North Tillamook Street, Portland OR 97227
Set in an expansive and atmospheric North Portland Warehouse, BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, along with choreographers and company members Alicia Cutaia, Jeff George, and Daniel Kirk celebrate the end of their 20th season with Rain & Roses; a collage of dance and live music that explores the evolution of human character.

Dance writer Elizabeth Whelan previewed Rain & Roses for Oregon ArtsWatch and gives five reasons why you might want to see the show here.

PDX Contemporary dancer Sari Hoke. Photo by Stephen Jennings.

Compose
PDX Contemporary Ballet and Northwest Piano Trio
May 11-13
New Expressive Works (N.E.W.), 810 SE Belmont
PDX Contemporary Ballet (PDXCB) under the director of choreographer Briley Neugebauer will present two ballets in collaboration with Northwest Piano Trio.

The first is Lara, a newly commissioned score by grammy-nominated musician, singer, and composer Clarice Assad with choreography by Neugebauer inspired by the legend of a great Amazonian warrior known known as Mãe das Águas (“Mother of the Waters”). Her brothers, jealous that she was a better warrior than they, tried to kill her, but she kills them instead. Her father, unaware that she acted in self-defense, tries to kill her as well and throws her into the river where she is transformed into a half-human, half-fish, instead of dying. Neugebauer’s choreography for Lara reflects the mood of the music and touches on the duality and symbolism of Lara’s fate.

The second dance, Swing Shift, is an up-beat, Balanchine-inspired work by Neugebauer, to the musical composition Swing Shift by Portland’s Kenji Bunch. The dance and music are inspired by the New York City nightlife and begins as the workers anticipate 5 o’clock.

The program also includes Frolic, a composition by Oregon composer Zach Gulaboff, to be performed solely by Northwest Piano Trio.

Ballet Fantastique’s Alice in Wonderland. Photo courtesy of Ballet Fantastique.

 

Alice in Wonderland (World Premiere)
Ballet Fantastique and High Step Society
May 11-13
Hult Center, Soreng Theater, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
With brand new choreography by Donna and Hannah Bontrager and live electro-swing music by High Step Society, Ballet Fantastique takes us on Alice’s journey through wonderland crossing genres and and expectations with a steampunk twist.

To Fly Again by Imago’s Jerry Mouawad.

To Fly Again
Imago, Jerry Mouawad
May 11-12
Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8TH AVE (At East Burnside)
ArtsWatch’s Bob Hicks reviewed To Fly Again and says that “Mouawad’s own description, from the show’s press release, perhaps explains the simple mystery of the thing as well as it can be explained: “A zany group of clown musicians and a clan of clay-tossed dancers roam a barren land … The clowns’ thoughts arise and pass like clouds, the dating game appears out of nowhere in clashes of absurdity, while joy and pathos skim their nonsensical wordplay as the clowns search for a suitable place to make camp. Psychedelic and existential humor pervades; the clowns are constantly interrupted by a clan of dusty dancers who live in a world beyond speech. Tater, the most vulnerable of the clowns, yearns to fly again. Questions open up to further questioning, and talk of sadness is eclipsed by looking at the stars.”

California Flamenco dance Erika Lopez performing as part of Feria de Portland 2018.

Feria de Portland 2018
Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
5 pm May 12
AudioCinema, 226 SE Madison Street
From 5 pm to midnight, on Saturday, at the AudioCinema under the east side of the Hawthorne Bridge, under the warm glow of string lights and fragrant flowers, you can experience the pulse and heat of flamenco music and dance, and the flavors of Spanish food.

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