tere mathern

Conduit’s “Dance+” starts tonight and runs through July 28.

I’ve been a fan of Conduit, the downtown Portland non-profit dance studio, from the beginning in 1995, when several key choreographers in the local scene started it as a sort of cooperative. It’s changed over the years, but it’s always struggled to keep its head above water, financially speaking, relying on a small and intermittent dribble of grants, fundraising concerts, income from classes and rentals. Mary Oslund and Tere Mathern kept it going for many years, and I consider their efforts in service to the dance community and the culture as a whole nothing short of heroic. Having a centrally located place for dance classes, workshops and performances is incredibly important.

These days, Mathern keeps it going (with help from a small band of stalwart volunteers), and she’s started to make some headway—I’ve noticed more activity, both in the studio and on various social media. (Weirdly, these days a steady stream of Facebook posts is a sign of health!) And tonight Conduit is presenting Dance+, an ambitious two-weekend, two-program dance concert festival, a better sign of a robust constitution even than Twitter.

bobbevy rehearses for “Dance+”/photo by Gordon Wilson

Mathern says that the idea behind Dance+ is an old one: Dance has nearly always been about collaborations, in one way or another, often with music, of course, but also with the visual arts and text. Dance+ explicitly acknowledges this collaborative nature. Even more than that, she says, it demonstrates how central dance has become to the various hybrid performance formats and strategies that contemporary artists are creating and employing, combining such things as video, music, interactive media, theater, words, technology, music and dance. Maybe think of it as post-disciplinary performance?