Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre

A Portland pandemic dance survey

Local dance companies and choreographers are adapting to the new normal

During the past couple of months I have been checking in regularly with some of the folks that make up Oregon’s dance community to see how things are going. The good news is that Oregon’s dancers are still dancing. You definitely can’t keep a dancer from dancing under any circumstances. It’s who they are and it’s what they do. Plus, dancers are already used to working under harsh conditions and with minimal resources anyway. The bad news is that their situation doesn’t look like it’s getting better any time soon.

The multitalented Katherine Disenhof soaring through the air.
Photo by Jason Hill.

Almost immediately following the lockdown, the international dance community jumped online and began connecting with each other and audiences through dance classes, performances, and discussions via Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Here in Portland, Katherine Disenhof a dancer with NW Dance Project, who has since left the company and moved back home to the Bay Area, created Dancing Alone Together, an online hub where dancers could go to find online dance classes and events during this time of “social distancing.” 

As of today, you can pretty much find every independent dance teacher and dance studio online, teaching daily classes, of all kinds, including Oregon dance studios and companies. 

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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 takes some unexpected twists and turns this week. It bounces off the wall at Night Lights: Windows 11, a meta multimedia experience.  It pairs ballet stars with Hollywood royalty in Disney’s phantasmagorical new vision of The Nutcracker, and Shakespeare with the Harlem Renaissance in A Midsummer Night at the Savoy. You can walk around it, cocktail in hand, at civilized-Happy Hour, or catch its infectious joy from happy-footed toddlers at FLOOR’s grand opening party. A little strange? Yes, in a good way.

Performances this week

“Windows 11” by Beth Whelan and Roesing Ape. Photo by Beth Whelan.

Night Lights: Windows 11
Beth Whelan and Roesing Ape
6:00 pm-8:00 pm November 1
Live performances at 6:30 pm and 7:20 pm
Regional Arts & Culture Council, 411 NW Park Ave, on the corner of NW Glisan St and NW Park Ave
FREE
As part of the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s outdoor public art series Night Lights, movement artist Beth Whelan and multidisciplinary artist Roesing Ape present Windows 11, which juxtaposes live dance performance with pre-recorded dance performance filmed in front of RACC’s building. The dance on film, projected on RACC’s north wall, will occasionally align with the live dance, all set to Ape’s recorded musical collage of noise art, banjo, and guitar.

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
Opens 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 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.

A Midsummer Night at the Savoy” by Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre. Photo courtesy of Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre.

A Midsummer Night at the Savoy
Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre
7:30 pm November 2-3, 5:00 pm, November 4
Portland Playhouse, 602 NE Prescott St.
Set in Harlem’s historic Savoy Ballroom, but using A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the dramatic framework, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre weaves together four contemporary choreographers’ work into one piece that highlights the massive contributions African-American artists have made to the American cultural landscape. Actor Kevin Jones narrates as Langston Hughes.

Tongue Dance Project dancers Lauren Smith and Adrianna Audoma. Photo by Elliot C. Petenbrink.

FLOOR Center for Dance Grand Opening!
Stephanie Gilliland, owner and artistic director of Tongue Dance Project
9:00 am – 9:00 pm November 3
Cathedral Park Place, 6635 N. Baltimore Ave. #271
Please RSVP by emailing floorcenterfordance@gmail.com
FREE classes and performance by Tongue Dance Project in the evening
Celebrate the grand opening of Portland’s newest dance studio, FLOOR Center for Dance, owned by artist/arts educator Stephanie Gilliland. The party includes a full day of FREE dance classes for kids and adults, and a family-friendly open house from 6:00 – 9:00 pm, with an auction, raffle, refreshments and a performance by Gilliland’s company, Tongue Dance Project.

“civilized” by Catherine Egan features Celine Bouly (left) and Egan.
Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

civilized-Happy Hour
Catherine Egan
PWNW Alembic Co-Production
4:00-10:00 pm November 3
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Guests are invited to attend anytime during the performance
From 4:00-10:00 pm, viewers can come and go as they like from this performance installation, a visual and sonic exploration on the temporal nature of ice. Created by Portland choreographer Catherine Egan, with music from composer Doug Theriault, the piece uses ice as a metaphor to explore changing dynamics. Egan performs with Celine Bouly and special guest Kyle Delamarter of Imago Theatre.

Upcoming Performances

November
November 8-17, Future Voices, Willamette University Theatre Department, Artistic Director Michele Ainza
November 9, ¿LISTEN?, ELa FaLa Collective and Polaris Dance Theatre
November 9-11, Cloth, PDX Contemporary Ballet
November 11, Unfolding, a dance film premiere by Muddy Feet Contemporary Dance, SubRosa Dance Collective, and director Dylan Wilbur
November 11, La Sylphide, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema-Live from Moscow, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
November 13-14, The Hip Hop Nutcracker, Jennifer Weber
November 14, Tangueros del Sur, Presented by White Bird
November 16-18, Perceiving The Constant, Jessica Hightower
November 17, The Nutcracker, Oregon International Ballet Academy, Choreography by Xuan Cheng / Ye Li after Marius Petipa / Lev Ivanov
November 23-25, A Midsummer Night’s Dream with PSU Orchestra, The Portland Ballet

December
December 2, Don Quixote, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events, BY Experience, and Pathe Live
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 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 31-February 2, Shay Kuebler/Radical System Art, Presented by White Bird

February
February 9-10, Romeo and Juliet, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
February 13, Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, Presented by White Bird
February 16-23, Cinderella, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 20, Beijing Dance Theater, Presented by White Bird
February 28-March 2, Compagnie Hervé Koubi, Presented by White Bird
February 29-March 2, Trip The Light Fantastic, NW Dance Project

March
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 29-31, New Expressive Works Residency Performance

April
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 13-14, The Firebird, Eugene Ballet, Eugene
April 24, Philadanco, Presented by White Bird
April 25-27, Spring Performance, NW Dance Project

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

Diversity dances: Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater

Oluyinka Akinjiola's troupe mixes a social justice message with choreography drawing on the joyous movement of the African diaspora

In what place in America could it be more necessary to express the black and brown perspective than right here in our organic-kale-kombucha-Subaru-loving, second-generation hippie town of Portland, also known as the city with the fifth highest percentage of white residents in America’s top 40 metropolitan areas?

When Oluyinka Akinjiola relocated back to Portland from Rochester, New York, the artistic director of Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater joined the 6.3% of Portland residents who identify as Black or African-American, according to the World Population Review. “At the time I did not see dance in Portland that reflected an experience I shared, or even people that looked like me on stage,” Akinjiola remarked in an email exchange. “My only option was to create a path for myself as a choreographer and performer.”

Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater performed this weekend at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center/Photo courtesy of Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater

And create her own path she did. After securing two platforms (Subashini Ganesan’s New Expressive Works Residency Program and Linda Austin’s Alembic Co-Production series) in Portland to present her vision of creating space for people of color within the arts community,
she created Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater—one of the city’s very few predominantly black contemporary dance companies. Diversity in the company has always been a priority Akinjiola emphasizes through casting and choreography. To her, being in a creative environment with other people of color is vital to raising the awareness of the general population.

Over the weekend the company presented new works by Akinjiola, Michael Galen, and Jamie Minkus at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center in a three-show run. The evening’s program, entitled UPRISE, featured work inspired by the despair that followed President Trump’s election, and, consequently the need for a collective uprising. The roots of UPRISE come from Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by American political activist and author Angela Davis, published in 2016. For Akinjiola, the book’s most important message was the need to bring diverse groups of people together: “That speaks to my soul being that my goal for Rejoice! is to remain a diverse company and represent the histories and perspectives of black and brown communities within the Americas.”

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