Winky Wheeler

DanceWatch Weekly: Dance Camp at Breitenbush

DanceWatch rejuvenates itself in the wilderness

I have a lot of questions these days about dance. What is it really? What does it mean? What is its purpose? What is its value? Is one expression of dance more valuable than another? As a dancer myself, how do I feel about leaving behind the traditional, mainstream, American value systems in dance? How do I feel about never taking ballet again and finding other ways of moving, expressing, and staying in shape that feed me and make me feel good about myself instead of depleted and defeated? Can I be happy in other dance worlds? Will I feel a loss? Will I be OK with that loss? Is it really a loss or just a perceived loss?

From this place of curiosity (if not perplexity), I decided to go to Dance Camp at Breitenbush Hot Springs with Portland dance artists Meshi Chavez and Winky Wheeler. Chavez and Wheeler facilitate weekly Portland dances that could be called ecstatic dance but really incorporate many more ideas from other movement modalities and philosophies. Chavez is also a Butoh dancer and I have participated in his Being Moved workshop and weekly Butoh classes, so I knew that Dance Camp would be a safe space for me to be vulnerable and to ask the questions troubling me.

Dance Camp was at Breitenbush. If you don’t know, Breitenbush is a hot springs on 154 acres in the Willamette National Forest, about 100 miles from Portland. Its main lodge, built in the 1930s, is the center of activity and houses a large dance studio (with a disco ball), a dining room that serves vegetarian food only, two libraries, and a lobby with a piano that someone is almost always playing. Breitenbush also has a steam sauna and numerous soaking pools that are full of naturally hot water from the earth that sit around 107 degrees. Clothing is optional when bathing. Breitenbush is also completely off the grid, utilizing its own hydroelectric power system and natural springs for power and heat. Campers can sleep in the main lodge, cabins or tents.

On my drive to Breitenbush, somewhere between Detroit Lake and Breitenbush, my cell service dropped out. It was a magical moment, an electric moment. A point of no return. It was the beginning of four days with no wifi, no cell service, no communication with the outside world. Bliss.

Dance Camp with Chavez and Wheeler was four days short. It began at dinner time on Thursday and ended with lunch on Sunday. For four days we ate and danced, ate and danced, ate and danced, and danced some more. And, of course, soaked many times over in the hot springs.

Continues…