Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble

DanceWatch Weekly: Intersecting with India

A busy week of dance in Portland is loaded with cross-cultural intersections

I have ALWAYS been interested in the intersection and cross-pollination of cultures. As someone who grew up in Berkeley, California, in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s (hippie to hip hop), and within the Hare Krishna movement (a Gaudiya Vaishnava Hindu religious organization), I live at this intersection. I am the embodiment of that idea.

I may look like a typical, Caucasian, American woman, but I’m not. I went to protest marches in a stroller before I could walk. I was named after a very important sacred river in India. I can sing and recite songs and prayers in Sanskrit. I know how to wear a sari. I believe in reincarnation and Karma. I have always been a strict vegetarian (no meat, fish, or eggs), and I almost allowed my marriage to be arranged (though I found love on my own). And the first dance class I ever took was a Bharatanatyam (classical South Indian dance) class taught by a white American ballerina. These experiences have afforded me the ability to understand many perspectives, to move between worlds, to see beauty in things outside of my own experiences, and to sometimes/often, feel like an outsider.

This week’s dance performances intersect, cross boundaries, share elements, and they speak of new experiences, shared experiences, multicultural experiences, human experiences, that stretch our brains and go to the edge.

Nritya Suhrid. Photo courtesy of Kalakendra.

On Saturday, 17 Indian dance groups from Portland and beyond, made up of students and professionals, will converge on Lewis & Clark College’s Evans Auditorium to perform in Nrityotsava, a fundraiser for Kalakendra—a Portland-based organization founded in 1987, that promotes the performing arts from across the Indian subcontinent through classical dance and music performances. The dance styles presented on Saturday will include Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Odissi, Bharatha Nrithyam, Rajasthani dance, Goan dance, Haryanvi folk, and Garba. It’s going to be an Indian dance feast to end all feasts.

Natya leela Academy. Photo courtesy of Kalakendra.

I spoke with Gidu Sriram, one of the Kalakendra board members, about the importance of an organization like this, especially considering our current political climate and our government’s perspective on immigrants. We spoke via email, and this is what he wrote:

“Indian classical music and dance is one of the richest if not the richest in the world and it dates back to over 2000 years ago. We believe that it is not only our duty to preserve our art but also showcase it to the American audience who may not be aware of it and to present it to the Indian Americans who would be sorely missing it being so far away from their homeland.”

Most of us came to the States to either pursue higher studies or a better standard of living and we were trading our rich culture in this pursuit. Organizations like Kalakendra fill a void by bringing highly talented artists to perform in the United States. In this process, it also brings us pride as we see Americans getting exposed to this art, some of whom have become ardent lovers of Indian classical music and dance.

In the current political environment, it definitely brings diversity and educates Americans to become aware of the rich talent in people from other parts of the world and to not judge people simply by their ethnicity.”

California dancers. Photo courtesy of Kalakendra.

Nrityotsava is being coordinated by Mini Jairaj, a community organizer and accomplished dancer, singer, and musician. Jairaj began taking dance lessons from her father, the late renowned Sri. T Radhakrishnan, at the age of three. He was a master in Kathakali and Kerala Natanam, dance forms from the tropical state of Kerala in South India.

She has also trained in Bharatanatyam from Kalakshetra Vilasini and in Mohiniyattam from Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty amma and her daughter Smt. Sridevi Rajan. She learned Ottamthullal Dance (a Kerala temple art form) from her father and later from master Kalamandalam Prabhakaran. She is currently studying Kuchipudi (a dance form of Andhra Pradesh) from Smt. Anuradha Ganesh, the director of Nartana school of Kuchipudi here in Portland. She is trained in Carnatic music under Sri. Mahadeva Iyer, Sri. Natesan Master and Sri. Kalyana Sundaram Bhagavathar, and has been singing for Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi arangetrams (an onstage debut for students of Indian classical dance and music) for many years.

Folk Jhalak. Photo courtesy of Kalakendra.

I have admired Jairaj from afar for several years now because of her tireless commitment to organizing community events, her ability to perform so many different styles of Indian dance, and her desire for continued learning. Jairaj of course is not alone. She is part of a large community of talented individuals from all over India, also living in the Portland area, who are deeply committed to creating community and keeping their home cultures alive while living here in America.

I hope to see you all at Lewis & Clark on Saturday where you can experience much more and be part of something much bigger. I’ll be there.

Performances this week

The Light of Progress-Portland Winter Light Festival
February 1-3
Flamebuoyant Productions, Circus Luminescence, BodyVox, Éowyn Emerald & Dancers, and Rainbow Dance Theatre
World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon Street
Across town, in venues far and wide, Portland Winter Light Festival will attempt to draw Portlanders out of their homes into the night, in the dead of winter, to be together in celebration of Winter, art and technology. The festival will feature live performances by BodyVox, Circus Luminescence, Flamebuoyant Productions, Éowyn Emerald & Dancers, and Rainbow Dance Theatre. A little bit of movement energy to keep you warm.

Reed College Dance Thesis Showing: Greetings and Elaborations
Olivia Hasencamp, Mackenzie Schuller, and Rika Yotsumoto
February 1-3
Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Massee Performance Lab PAB 128, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd
Reed Dance thesis candidates Olivia Hasencamp, Mackenzie Schuller, and Rika Yotsumoto integrate their experiences with choreographers Bouchra Ouizguen (Morocco), Ohad Naharin (Israel), Wim Vandekeybus (Belgium), and Bailarines Toda La Vida (Argentina), into new works focusing on intimacy, collaboration, and the subconscious mind.

Oregon Bird sketches—open rehearsal
Agnieszka Laska Dancers
7 pm February 1
Polish Hall, 3832 N Interstate
Celebrating its 15th anniversary, Agnieszka Laska Dancers, directed by Polish contemporary choreographer Agnieszka Laska, in collaboration with composer Jack Gabel, will present new choreography to choral works by Henryk Górecki, Oregon Bird Sketches by Gabel, and cabaret songs of Zygmunt Konieczny to name a few. Full concert April 14-15.

The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE
Presented by BodyVox
February 1-10
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
Highlighting their Portland dance legacy, Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk present an evening of two restaged works, Here and there, now and then, Semita, and a world premiere duet. The three works, performed by Brian Nelson, Chase Hamilton, Skye Stouber, Skinner and Kirk, reflect complex relationships, aging, perception, and loss. Dance writer Heather Wisner takes a closer look at the works and its choreographers in her preview Skinner/Kirk Dance Company hits rewind and fast-forward for ArtsWatch.

The Shore of Endless Worlds
A solo by Nathan Montgomery
7:30 pm February 2
The Headwaters, 55 NE Farragut St. #4
In his solo, The Shore of Endless Worlds, Butoh performer Nathan Montgomery reveals that his dance is “an energetic and formal pattern stitched through space and time…a deep inner world…a presentation of the wholly unique individual…a gift of one soul sprouting something beautiful from the dark soil of the human experience.”

Nrityotsava 2018: An evening of Indian Classical & Folk Dances
Presented by Kalakendra
4:30 pm February 3
Evans Auditorium, Lewis and Clark College, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Road
See above.

Chitra: The Girl Prince
NW Children’s Theatre, Co-directed by Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon
February 3-25
Mainstage, NW Children’s Theatre, 1819 NW Everett St.
In this retelling of a fourth century tale from the Mahabharata, co-directors Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon along with a collaborative team of theater artists, musicians, and dancers from India and Portland’s Bengali-American community, tell the story of a warrior princess who struggles to stay true to herself while balancing her responsibility to her people and true love’s call.

The Lady Of The Camellias
Choreography by John Neumeier with music by Frédéric Chopin
Performed by the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
12:55 pm February 4
Playing at Lloyd Center 10 with IMAX, Century 16 Eastport, Clackamas Town Center, and Liberty Theatre.
In a live broadcast all the way from Moscow to a movie theatre near you, the Bolshoi Ballet performs The Lady Of The Camellias, live, for one performance only.

The ballet, choreographed by John Neumeier in 1978 for the Stuttgart Ballet, is based on the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas fils, and depicts Parisian life in the 19th century. The story tells the tale of a doomed love affair between a sick and dying courtesan, Marguerite Gautier, and her lover Armand. The ballet takes place during an auction after Marguerite’s death, and develops into a series of memories recalled from the points of view from Armand’s, his father’s, and Marguerite’s.

Upcoming Performances

February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 3-25, Chitra The Girl Prince, NW Children’s Theatre, Co-directed by Sarah Jane Hardy and Anita Menon
February 8, Fall in Love with Flamenco, Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
February 15-18, a·mor·phous, DownRight Productions
February 15, Faculty Dance Concert featuring guest artist Vincent Mantsoe, Hosted by University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
February 16-March 4, Left of Center, A-WOL Dance Collective
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 18, Chapel Theatre Open House, Chapel Theatre
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
February 25, Shivarpanam, performance by Sweta Ravisankar
February 26, Rejoice! at AWMC Regional Finals, Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theater
February 27-March 1, Kinky Boots, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene

March 2-4, Zorro: The Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 3-4, Voices: A Choreographers’ Showcase, Hosted by PDX Dance Collective
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, HEDDA, 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 7, Reaching Back to Our Roots: Annual Gala Fundraiser, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 9, Noontime Showcase: Jefferson Dancers, Presented by Portland’5
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 11-13, Alice in Wonderland, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, The Holding Project
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


Skinner/Kirk Dance Company hits rewind and fast-forward

In their upcoming concert Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk pause to revisit their pasts and ponder an uncertain future


The big questions we begin asking ourselves in middle age—about identity, achievement, love, loss, and how to reconcile the passage of time—color an upcoming concert by dance company Skinner/Kirk.

Founded in 1998 by Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk, the company has produced work as the pair’s day job—dancing with BodyVox—allowed. But Skinner recently retired from BodyVox, where he and Kirk were founding dancers, and is considering his next moves, and both men have paused to revisit their pasts and ponder an uncertain future.

This new show, which runs February 1-10 at BodyVox, features an all-male cast that includes Brian Nelson, Chase Hamilton, and Skye Stouber, and it offers a world premiere and two restaged works, both of which, Semita and Here and There, Now and Then, were originally commissioned by White Bird. During the creation process of Semita, Kirk began to spend more time with his dying father, which pulled him away from the project: the dance palpably reflects that feeling of being unmoored. It opens with a figure floating in space, lit by lighting designer Mark LaPierre.


DanceWatch Weekly: Cirque city

As we note the passing of Trisha Brown, we have a lengthy menu of dance options this week, heavy on circus

On Saturday, March 18, Trisha Brown, the American postmodern choreographer and native West Coaster (Aberdeen, Washington), passed on from this earthly realm. She was one of the founders of the Judson Dance Theatre in New York, and her movement inventions and research helped shape generations of modern dancers and audiences worldwide.

Wendy Perron who danced for Brown in the 1970s wrote a beautiful piece on Brown this week for Dance Magazine. So did Alastair Macaulay for the New York Times. I recommend reading them both. This is the perfect time to settle into a deep study of Brown, if you don’t know her and her work already, and let the internet and all of its resources take you.

Performances this week

Gravity of Center ( Extended Promo ) from Quixotic on Vimeo.

Gravity of Center
Quixotic Cirque Nouveau
8 pm March 23
Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark St
This Kansas City Performing arts collective, known for seamlessly integrating technology, live music, contemporary dance, and cirque arts, brings us Gravity of Center, a multi-sensory performance that explores the tension between finding balance between gravity and lightness.

Quixotic, born in 2004, has toured nationally and internationally, and appeared at the Global 2012 TED conference In Edinburgh Scotland.

Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble. Photo by Christopher Peddecord

Burn It Backwards
Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble
Presented by BodyVox
March 23-April1
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave
Burn It Backwards is a new work from BodyVox Dance company founders Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk that combines five male dancers—Kirk, Skinner, James Healey, Chase Hamilton and Brent Luebbert, with the music of the late Portland singer, songwriter and musician Elliott Smith.

The work explores relationships: the bodies relationship to itself; to other dancers’ bodies; to the space around the body; and to the world at large. And it also looks into such concepts as ostracism and optimism through patterning, geometric shapes and physicality.

Photo courtesy of Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus.

Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus goes inside the body
Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus
March 24-April 1
Echo Theater, 1515 SE 37th Ave
Sir Cupcake, a gender-bending circus performer, is stranded in the future and his magic time-traveling pocket-watch had been sabotaged. His internal organs have been all mixed up and his heart has gone missing. The Queer Circus must travel inside Sir Cupcake’s body and put his organs back together and find his missing heart, in this performance/adventure featuring rope artist Kiebpoli “Black Acrobat” Calnek, from San Francisco, DieAna Dae and Box of Clowns, contortion by Meg Russell, and duo acrobatics by Ari and Ben, and more!

Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus celebrates queer and trans identities with storytelling and performances by queer and transgender people and their allies. The Saturday March 25 performance will be ASL interpreted and Audio Described (headsets provided). Echo Theater is wheelchair accessible and has a gender neutral bathroom.

Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound. Photo courtesy of Travis Wall.

After the Curtain
Travis Wall’s Shaping Sound
Presented by Portland’5
7:30 pm March 24
The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway Ave
After the Curtain, a contemporary dance production created by Travis Wall, the runner-up on So You Think You Can Dance Season 2, along with co-creators Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson, tells the story of a man fighting to find his creative voice after the death of a loved one.

The creation of the company was documented on the reality television series All The Right Moves on the Oxygen channel. You can view a clip of that show here.

Travis Wall will be performing in the shows throughout the tour, and will be joined in various cities by the co-founders Kyle Robinson and Nick Lazzarini.

Alembic Double Bill: Claire Barrera and Noelle Stiles. Photos by Chelsea Petrakis.

Alembic Double Bill: Claire Barrera and Noelle Stiles
Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
March 24-25
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave
Performance Works NW presents Fifth Sun by Claire Barrera, which finds that all times are present at once, and This one is, by Noelle Stiles, which explores family intimacy, generational cycles of misogyny, and perseverance. These works were developed during the 2016 Alembic Artist Residency at Performance Works NW.

Barrera is an artist, activist, educator and writer. Her work can be found in the upcoming anthology of the zine, When Language Runs Dry, with Meredith Butner, and will be performing in an installation The Corresponding Distance, with Maya Dalinsky.

Stiles is an independent dance artist, graphic designer, and consultant. Her work has been seen at the Time-Based Art Festival, On The Boards, PWNW, and Dance New Amsterdam. She was co-instigator for the dance publication FRONT, with Tahni Holt, Danielle Ross, and Robert Tyree.


Dance Weekly: Race and ballet

A documentary about the great Misty Copeland reminds us that race problems extend to ballet

Screening Thursday night at the Hollywood Theatre is the movie “A Ballerina’s Tale—The Incredible Rise of Misty Copeland” directed by Nelson George, part of the Portland Black Film Festival in partnership with Oregon Ballet Theatre. The film will be introduced by Oregon Ballet Theatre artistic director Kevin Irving and OBT dancer Jordan Kindell. I interviewed Kindell back in the summer as part of a boys in ballet article I wrote for Artslandia.

Misty Copeland is the first African-American woman to be promoted to the rank of principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre in New York City. But for some, she might only be known for her inspiring and powerful commercials and advertisements for the fitness clothing line Under Armour. In her most popular commercial, Copeland flies across the screen, a strong, chiseled beautiful body in motion. In the accompanying voiceover, a young girl reads a rejection letter from a ballet school. The letter says she has the wrong body type for ballet and at thirteen is too old to be considered. Copeland dancing puts the lie to it: We understand that the rejection is based on the girl’s race.


Misty Copeland, Principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre. Photo courtesy of “A Ballerina’s Tale.”

I get choked up every time I watch this commercial. Like so many dancers everywhere I can relate—too old, not the right body type, not quite “right”—and I feel charged and empowered by the company’s message: “I will what I want.” I secretly hope (not so secret now) that if I wear Under Armor clothing, I too will have the courage of my convictions, just like Copeland. Oh, and look and dance like her, too!