Dance review: skinner/kirk take the old with the new

Dancers and dances age, but they don't stay in one place

One new work, two old works, five men, and ten years between then and now, old work and new.

That’s the formula for skinner|kirk Dance Ensemble’s concert at BodyVox (through February 10). The pairing of old and new work isn’t its only consideration of the passing of time: The concert also explores the passage of time for its creators. The company was co-founded in 1998 by Daniel Kirk and Eric Skinner, and both have had extensive careers in performance (notably with Oregon Ballet Theatre and Milwaukee Ballet). They were both founding dancers of BodyVox, where Kirk continues to dance, and they started skinner/kirk to present their own work. Reflection on that lived experience is at the heart of this concert.

The first piece, 54/27 (the ages of the dancers involved) paired Skinner with a much younger dancer, Chase Hamilton. The work begins in unassuming simplicity. A modest spotlight outlines the emptiness of the space. Moving calmly, the men take their time easing into movement, starting with simple walking. These walking patterns lay the groundwork for the evening’s one new work, allowing the audience to acclimate to the dancers’ bodies and demeanor, without the fluff of performance and gaudy dance moves to distract from their humanity. After a few minutes, they invite more motion into their bodies, sustaining by the powerful presence the two had already established.

Chase Hamilton, left, and Eric Skinner in the world premiere of Skinner’s “54/27” for the skinner/kirk Dance Ensemble at BodyVox/Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert

Intensity grew, in part due to composers Verdi and Charpentier’s baroque crescendos, that undergirded the grounded movement. The choreography and execution maintained a calm that kept the work centered and relatable. Skinner and Hamilton demonstrated that their physical movements need not override their emotional presence throughout the work by allowing the two to exist in a complementary fashion. At times, the delicacy with which Skinner attended to his movements recalled the many years of training he has spent becoming innately attuned to his body as a seasoned dancer. Simultaneously, Hamilton’s spritely energy and eagerness of focus highlighted his youth and tenacity. For a work that focuses on the juxtaposition of age, the duet was one of equals. Counterbalancing one another, they sewed movements together in a way that made 54/27 a work fully dependent on trust and respect.


DanceWatch Weekly: Spring Break dancing

Just because school's out doesn't mean the dancers aren't dancing

It’s spring break here in Portland, and I am living vicariously through all of you with a margarita in hand who have spent the week on a soft, warm, tropical beach somewhere. Yes, it’s finally happened: I have Rain Fatigue. We had one sunny day on Monday, and I was bouncing around like a puppy.

But, all of this relaxing and vacationing does not mean that Portland dancers are on a break too, by no means, because, you know, dancers never rest. Right? Well sometimes they do, but not this week, rain fatigue or not.

Skinner/Kirk’s Burn It Backwards repeats for a second weekend. Martha Ullman West reviewed for ArtsWatch (“What the company is dancing about this year is the many ways men relate to each other, or fail to, and also about American social and political norms”) and I previewed for the Oregonian, and Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus goes inside the body continues as well.

In Conversation—photography and performance with dance artist Tracy Broyles along with musicians Adrian Hutapea and Lisa De Grace plays one night only at Blue Sky Gallery, and “Duality: Dance Ballet of India” by bharatnatyam choreographer Jayanthi Raman has a one-night stand as well.

On Saturday I will be hosting a free, informal showing of choreography by three Portland choreographers—Jana Zahler, WolfBird Dance (a Portland dance company directed by Selina Dipronio and Raven Jones) and myself. I have remounted my The Kitchen Sink, which debuted in November, with two new dancers, and we are headed to the Bay Area next week to perform in the Dance Up Close/East Bay festival, alongside Bay Area choreographer Abigail Hosein’s (ahdanco) and Tanya Chianese (ka.nei.see|collective). If you are interested in seeing dance in all of its developmental stages, this is the evening for you.

Closing out the weekend will be Shen Yun, a large scale dance production created in response to the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its destruction of ancient Chinese culture billed as “5000 years of chinese music and dance in one night.” The dancing, colors, costumes, lighting and virtual transport to another era are a perfect way to welcome spring.

Performances happening this week

Skinner/Kirk. Photo by Christopher Peddecord

Burn It Backwards
Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble
Presented by BodyVox
March 30-April1
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave
Add Martha review
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 31-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.

The Kitchen Sink  by Jamuna Chiarini. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

Informal showing of new work
Jamuna Chiarini, Jana Zahler and WolfBird Dance
6 pm April 1
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave

See above.

“Velvet” by Lauren Semivan at Blue Sky Gallery.

In Conversation- photography and performance
7 pm April 1
Blue Sky /Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts. 122 NW 8th Ave
In response and reflection to Lauren Semivan’s current photography exhibition at Blue Sky Gallery, Portland dance artist Tracy Broyles, musician Adrian Hutapea and musician Lisa De Grace will come together and recreate live, images and sensations from the photographs.

The 20-minute performance will be repeated six times over the course of 90 minutes, and the audience is invited to come and go as they like.

Duality: Dance Ballet of India
Presented by Rasika, Jayanthi Raman
4 pm April 1
Portland bharatnatyam choreographer Jayanthi Raman tells the story of Lalitha Ram, a young girl who moves from South India to Portland, Oregon, and finds herself straddling dual cultures. The performance will be supported by a visiting dancers from India and with the music of maestro U. Rajesh, featuring the voice of Bollywood singer Hariharan and percussionists Selvaganesh and S.V. Ramani.

Shen Yun
Presented by Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 4-5
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street
Shen Yun, or “the beauty of divine beings dancing,” is a production created in response to the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its destruction of ancient Chinese culture. Shen Yun was created in 2006 by a group of artists and Falun Dafa practitioners in New York City as a means to revive Chinese culture through dance, music and storytelling. Because Shen Yun does not abide by the Chinese Communist Party rules, the company has been harassed from its inception. Documentation of those experiences by the company are shared on their website under the heading “Challenges we face.”

Performances next week

April 6, Moving History: Portland Contemporary Dance Past and Present, Eric Nordstrom
April 6-8, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, Presented by White Bird
April 7-29, Butoh College Performance Series, Hosted by Water in the Desert
April 8-9, A Festival of Dance, NW Dance Theatre, choreography by Laura Haney, Maria Tucker, Leonid Shagalov, M’liss Stephenson and Erin Zintek.
April 8-9, The Snow Queen, Eugene Ballet Company
April 9, Spiral-a dance film by Amit Zinman, Portland Underground Film Festival
April 10, Noontime Showcase OBT2, Presented by Portland’5

Upcoming Performances

April 15, Episode III, dance film by Jin Camou and Julia Calabrese
April 15, Synesthesia, BodyVox, TEDx Portland
April 15, Bridge the Gap, Presented by Sepiatonic
April 13-22, Terra, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 14-16, New work by Jin Camou, Performance Works NW Alembic Co-Production
April 21-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre
April 22-23, Annual School Performance, The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre, choreography by George Balanchine, Nicolo Fonte, Alison Roper and Anthony Jones
April 25-26, Che Malambo, Presented by White Bird
April 27-29, Contact Dance Film Festival, Presented by BodyVox and NW Film Center
April 28-29, Appalachian Spring Break, Scotty Heron and Brendan Connelly, Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
May 4-7, Taka Yamamoto, Produced by Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
May 5, Spring Dance Concert, The Reed College Dance Department
May 5-7, In Close Proximity, The Tempos Contemporary Circus
May 5-7, Inclusive Arts Vibe Annual Performance, Disability Arts and Culture Project
May 10, Martha Graham Dance Company, Presented by White Bird
May 26-28, N.E.W. Residency performance, Dora Gaskill, Jessica Kelley, Stephanie Schaaf, and Michael Galen
May 26 – 27, Spring Concert – Tribute to the Ballet Russes, Featuring work by Michel Fokine, Tom Gold, George Balanchine, and Lane Hunter, The Portland Ballet
June 2-4, Interum Echos, PDX Contemporary Ballet
June 8-10, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
July 15, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans

ArtsWatch Weekly: Play it, Sam

On the 88th day the pianos will play, all over town. Plus: The Japanese Garden reopens, Brett Campbell's music tips, new theater & dance

Wednesday, in case you haven’t been counting, will be the 88th day of 2017.

A piano, as you probably know, has 88 keys.

And that seems like an excellent excuse to throw a big piano party, which is exactly what Portland Piano International is doing with its minimalistically named Piano Day. Portland’s Piano Day, PPI declares, is the first in the United States. The celebration first struck a chord in Germany two years ago when pianist Nils Frahm proclaimed March 29 as Piano Day, and it’s crescendoed rapidly to Japan, Slovenia, Australia, the Netherlands, Israel, Canada, France, and elsewhere.

Dooley Wilson at the keyboard, playing “As Time Goes By” in the 1942 Warner Bros. movie “Casablanca.”

So what’s happening? Piano playing. Lots of it, by lots of pianists (no, not Francis Scott Key or Alicia Keys), in lots of styles, from noon to 10 p.m. in four locations: Portland City Hall downtown, All Classical Portland radio headquarters in the Portland Opera building at the east end of the Tilikum Crossing bridge, Alberta Abbey in Northeast Portland, and TriMet’s Oregon Zoo MAX Station. Listening’s free, but the pianists are also taking donations for PPI and educational programs, and a little payback is a good thing. Play it, Sam.


DanceWatch Weekly: Scanning a new year in Portland dance

The year's first DanceWatch starts with Éowyn Emerald and Dancers and a quick look at the next six dance months

Happy New Year dance fans and welcome to 2017!

Don’t get too comfortable hibernating in your winter dens because there is a lot to see, and you should see it.

Not only is the upcoming season already packed with dance works from local and international artists—including the premiere of Sensation/Disorientation by Tahni Holt, Urban Meadow by BodyVox, and  Fertile Ground’s Groovin’ Greenhouse hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre in three weeks—but a whole new group of Portland dance artists have just been awarded grants through the Regional Arts and Culture Council and PICA’s Precipice Fund, so watch out for those, too.

Éowyn Emerald & Dancers. Photo by David Krebs

The new year starts with a weekend of performances by Éowyn Emerald & Dancers. Portland choreographer Emerald takes her company to perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe every year and will be performing her latest Fringe festival concert at Reed College’s Greenwood Theatre.

The company, comprised of Éowyn Emerald, Mari Kai Juras, Josh Murry and Joel Walker,
will perform seven contemporary dance works that express a wide range of emotions while picking apart the complexities of human relationships. An apt performance to start the new year.

Oh, and Sunday the 8th is Free Dance Day at BodyVox, which means all dance classes are free, and you can even catch a glimpse of dance company Skinner/Kirk in rehearsal at the end of the day.

I have also put together Portland’s dance calendar from January to June for your planning convenience. If you see a performance missing from the list, just give me a holler at and I will add it.

Performances this week!

Éowyn Emerald & Dancers-Fringe Coda
January 6-7
Greenwood Theatre at Reed College, 2903 Botsford Drive

See above.

Upcoming Performances

January 14-15, Increspature, Disorder Dance Company
January 18-22, Sensation/Disorientation, Tahni Holt Dance, Presented by White Bird
January 19-21, Urban Meadow, BodyVox
January 19-29, Groovin’ Greenhouse/Fertile Ground, Presented by Polaris Dance Theatre
January 20-22, Rent, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
January 20-29, Ignite, Oluyinka Akinjiola and Subashini Ganesan
January 24-25, BalletBoyz, Presented by White Bird
January 28, Nrityotsava-Indian Classical and Folk Dances, Presented by Kalakendra