wobbly dance

PHAME and friends rock out

PHAME Academy and Portland Opera collaborate on original rock opera

Photos by Friderike Heuer

Two summers ago, Portland Opera Manager of Education and Outreach Alexis Hamilton attended an original musical performed by artists from Portland’s PHAME Academy, which serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She hoped the 35-year-old organization might help her make the Portland Opera To Go program more accessible to people with disabilities. But she was so impressed by PHAME’s 2017 production that she imagined a bigger project.

“After I saw that,” Hamilton recalled, “I was really on fire” to collaborate with PHAME.

PHAME dancers in rehearsal.
PHAME “movers” in rehearsal.

That production coincided with the arrival of PHAME’s new executive director, Jenny Stadler, who was looking for ways “to overcome the invisibility” that separated many people with disabilities from the rest of society. One method: give PHAME students opportunities to tell their own stories to the larger public. After Hamilton approached her about collaborating, Stadler woke up with a “middle-of-the-night epiphany: we help them become inclusive, and they teach our students how to create an opera.” 

This weekend and next, 18 months of groundbreaking work by PHAME and Portland Opera staff — and above all the students themselves — culminate in what Stadler calls ‘the biggest project we’ve ever done.” PHAME’s original new rock opera, The Poet’s Shadow, runs for seven performances this weekend and next at Portland Opera’s Hampton Opera Center. 


DanceWatch Weekly: Dance doesn’t go away with the first signs of summer

In the old days, dance took a break from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but we need it too much to let it go

Oregon’s dance season just won’t quit and I’m really glad, of course. Every week when I sit down to write DanceWatch, I get a little verklempt thinking about how much the dance scene has grown in Oregon since I moved here eight years ago. And, has it ever!

This week’s dance offerings are a continued measure of that growth and offer a little bit of everything from experimental contemporary dance, to ballet, to Eastern European folk dances, to Bharatnatyam, to dance films, and so much more. Plus, they take place in every venues possible from the outdoors, to indoors, to intimate spaces, and concert halls. You name it, dance is happening there.

So, in this mood of celebration and summer, of course, let’s get out and soak up some dance, and maybe a little sun, too.


Performances this week

Hannah Davis, Kimberly Nobriga, and Jessica Lind performing in Helen Simoneau’s ‘Departures,’ part of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Closer, May 24 – June 3, 2018 at the BodyVox Dance Center. Photo by Chris Peddecord

Oregon Ballet Theatre, artistic director Kevin Irving
Choreography by Peter Franc, Makino Hayashi, Lisa Kipp, Katherine Monogue, and Helen Simoneau
May 31-June 3
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Avenue
Oregon Ballet Theatre closes out its 2017-2018 season with Closer, an intimate showing at BodyVox Dance Center of new works choreographed by OBT rehearsal director Lisa Kipp, OBT company dancers Katherine Monogue, Makino Hayashi, and Peter Franc, alongside Helen Simoneau’s Departures. Simoneau’s ballet was commissioned by OBT in 2017 as part of OBT’s Choreography XX project to discover new women choreographers in ballet. The works by OBT dancers will be accompanied by commissioned musical compositions from Grammy award-winning remix artist, Andre Allen Anjos (aka RAC). Heather Wiser reviewed Closer for ArtsWatch, which you can read here, and I interviewed Simoneau about her work, her process, and her dance company, which you can read here.

Instaballet in Eugene. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Haag.

Directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of Eugene Ballet Company
5:30 pm June 1
Lane Arts Council’s First Friday ArtWalk, Capitello Wine, 540 Charnelton St, Eugene
This event is FREE
Reimagining who creates ballets, Instaballet, directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of the Eugene Ballet company, gives artistic control to the audience. If you have ever wanted to choreograph a ballet or a musical score but aren’t a dancer, choreographer, or musician, now is your chance. Head on over to Lane Arts Council’s First Friday ArtWalk in Eugene and be a part of the process and make a ballet or musical score on the spot. The creative process begins at 5:30 pm and a performance of the final product will happen at 8 pm. The performance will be accompanied by live music and Eugene Ballet dancers will make themselves available for your creative juices.

If you are interested in learning more about Instaballet and how it came to be, Eugene ArtsWatch correspondent Gary Ferrington wrote about them in 2015 in Crowd-sourced Choreography.

Dance artist Leralee Whittle. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW.

J (()) Y and Death=Change
Choreography by Leralee Whittle and by Mizu Desierto
June 1-2
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
12-3pm June 3 Leralee Whittle Workshop at Performance Works NW

Dance and video artist Leralee Whittle and Portland based dance-theatre artist Mizu Desierto will share an evening featuring Whittle’s J (()) Y and Desierto’s work-in-progress, Death=Change.

Whittle works in collaboration with musician/composer Paul Spraw, and she combines her history in American, European, and African dance to create instant compositions. She is Inspired by her travels, new spaces, visual elements, and the element of play, and likes to bring, according to her press release, “found spaces into the performance space, where the audience can then experience a giant retro yellow gym, or trip into a strange corner for a humorous impromptu dance.”

Desierto is a 20-year practitioner of Butoh and the co-founder of Portland’s Water in the Desert, a major hub of artistic activity that includes The Headwaters Theatre, Prior Day Farm, and the annual Butoh College. She “explores themes of feminism, queerness, playful social deviance and regenerative land/culture” in her work, as well as the idea of “losing control in favor of liquidity.”

A still from Wobbly Dance’s new film ‘Tidal.’ Photo courtesy of Wobbly Dance.

Tidal-A film
Wobbly Dance
Portland ReelAbilities Film Festival
6:30 pm June 2
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont
This event is FREE.
The new dance film Tidal is a collaboration among Wobbly Dance, cinematographer Ian Lucero, costume designer Jenny Ampersand, and musicians Sweetmeat. It’s “a fantastical film, where breathing masks transform into diving masks, ventilator tubing morphs into costumes, and an ancient diver who calls the ocean home, draws us into his world. We fall, we dream, we dive. We transform from human to jellyfish and everything in between. This film is a continuation of the exploration of Wobbly’s dark, dream-like and sometimes absurd aesthetic. Starring Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson as the Dreamers, Nathan H.G. as the Diver, and Grant Miller as the Forager.”


The Tamburitzans. Photo courtesy of the Tamburitzans.

Passages-The Journey of Our Ancestors
Presented by the Tamburitzans
7:30 pm June 1
Soreng Theatre-Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
7:30 pm June 2
Dolores Winningstad Theatre, 2913, 1111 SW Broadway
Presenting their 81st season, The Tamburitzans, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, celebrate music and folk dances from Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Greece, Spain, Mexico, Cuba, and more, in a two-hour production boasting more than 400 costumes performed by 31 dancers, musicians, and singers.

Aerial Muse Collective. Photo courtesy of Wilsonville Festival of Arts.

Wilsonville Festival of Arts
June 2-3
Town Center Park, Wilsonville, OR
In its 19th year, the Wilsonville Festival of Arts brings visual art, literary arts, live music, dance, theatre, and performance art, outside to the public for free, at Town Center Park.

This year’s festivities includes several dance performance: DanceAbility is a Eugene-based dance company focused on dissolving barriers and connecting people with and without disabilities through dance and movement; Mexica Tiahui Aztec Dance Group is a dance group formed in 1995 by Mexican and Chicano students at Oregon State University to share Mexican culture throughout the Pacific Northwest; and Aerial Muse Collective combines aerial circus, dance, theater, music, and visual art, and will be roaming the festival doing mini-performances throughout. The festival will also provide morning yoga and tai chi for folks who want to move too. For a broader view on the festival offerings outside of dance, check out Bob Hicks’s News & Notes for ArtsWatch.

Padma Shri Shobana’s, ‘Shobana’s Trance.’ Photo courtesy of Shobana.

Shobana’s Trance
Presented by Chinmaya Mission Portland and Rasika
4 pm June 3
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway Ave.
Acclaimed Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer, and film actress Shobana Chandrakumar, also known as Padma Shri Shobana (Padma Shri is a title awarded by the Indian Government for Shobana’s contribution to classical dance), or just Shobana, from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, presents a collage of Indian art forms to tell the stories of Shiva, Vishnu, and Mary Magdalene. The production includes poetry, live music, and Bharatanatyam, and desires to transport the viewer into a primordial, trance-like, state of being.

Photo courtesy of 11: Dance Co.

Planet Earf — A Video Series
11: Dance Co, artistic director Bb DeLano
3 pm June 3
The Loft, 5321 SE 28th Ave.
11: Dance Co is back with a film. Their new film, Planet Earf, funded through a grant from the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), looks at familiar, everyday places and transforms them into stages as a reaction to the gentrification and privatization of previously public spaces.

A panel discussion will follow the screening, led by 11: Dance Co’s Bb DeLano along with the Planet Earf camera crew, and dancers. “If time allows, there will be a wiggle session after.”

11: Dance Co. is a Neo-Fusion dance company (a choreographic style that blends the street and classical worlds of dance) and is directed by Brittany DeLano (Bb for short).

In 2016 I interviewed DeLano and executive director Huy Pham on reimagining the dance company model, working with Emma Portner and what it looks like to challenge perception through choreography. You can read that interview here.

Upcoming Performances

June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 9, Wakily Kúkátónón Showcase, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, Special guest performances by Habiba Addo, Habib Iddrisu, and the Obo Addy Legacy Project
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow, Presented by Fathom Events
June 13, Dance Forum, showcase and reception, American Dance Abroad at BodyVox
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, This Time Tomorrow-Danielle Agami, NW Dance Project
June 15-23, Waters of the World, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Claire Barrera, Shaun Keylock, Sarah Brahim, and Decimus Yarbrough
June 16, Dance Film Double Feature: Standing on Gold and Moving History, hosted by Eric Nordstrom
June 22-23, Bodies of Existence/Dances of Resistance, Company Movimiento, Artistic Director- Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner, Eugene
June 22-23, Ævium: Intimacy with Disappearance, Jayne Lee, Delisa Myles, Mizu Desierto, Breanna Rogers, Ashley Fine, Sedona Ortega, and Studio M13
June 22-23, Recipe: A Reading Test (1983) and Raw Material (1985), Linda Austin
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem
June 29-July 1, Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance
June 29-30, River Daze, Dillon & Wilde + Artists

July 6, #INSTABALLET NO.26, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
July 11-27, [A Swatch of Lavender]: A Self Portrait, keyon gaskin
July 19-21, RELATIVES // apples & pomegranates, Shannon Stewart and Tahni Holt
July 27, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater presents UPRISE, Washington Park Summer Festival

August 2-4, Galaxy Dance Festival, Polaris Dance Theatre
August 3, #INSTABALLET NO.27, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag
August 3-12, Art in the Dark: 10 Laws, A-WOL Dance Collective
August 10-12, JamBallah Northwest
August 12, India Festival, produced by the India Cultural Association of Portland

September 1, #INSTABALLET NO.28, artistic directors Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag

Touretteshero rocks and rolls

Boom Arts hosts a hilarious, stereotype-busting comedian, who joins with Portland disability artists. One last show Saturday night: act now.

This Saturday night, May 12, is the last performance at Southeast Portland’s Echo Theatre of STAND UP, SIT DOWN, ROLL OVER by Touretteshero, a.k.a. Jess Thom – a wickedly smart, scathingly funny comedian from Great Britain. Presented by Boom Arts in a series of performances focused on disability, access and inclusion, Touretteshero’s brilliant performance invites us to rethink our stereotypes of neurological conditions and explores what it means to live with disabilities of all kinds in an environment ignorant at best and hostile at worst to many forms of diversity. You will laugh so hard that there is no time for the tears brimming beneath the surface, tears from realizing the extent of harm caused by prejudice and ableism.

Last night the boundary-breaking folks from Wobbly Dance, who showed their film Waking the Green Sound, and documentary filmmaker Cheryl Green were in attendance as well and provided valuable insights during the post-show discussion. Tonight will showcase another artist tackling forms of illness or disability: Little Clown Big Shoes, plus Lara Klingeman and her show Lara and Levi. I cannot wait to go and see the show.


Here are details on Saturday night’s final performance:


Touretteshero (United Kingdom)

May 12 at 7:30pm
Echo Theater, 1515 S.E. 37th Ave., Portland


  • All events are “Relaxed”: move or make sound as you need to
  • Wheelchair-accessible venue
  • ASL interpretation provided
  • Scent-free: we request that those attending refrain from using scented body care products
  • Boom Arts, Echo Theater, and Disability Art & Culture Project are committed to creating fully inclusive environments for all attendees. Please contact the Boom Arts team with any additional requests at info@boomarts.org.

And here’s a photo gallery from Friday night’s Touretteshero performance and discussions afterwards:


“Touretteshero” Jess Thom in “Stand Up, Sit Down, Roll Over” Friday night at Boom Arts. Photo: Friderike Heuer


DanceWatch Weekly: BodyVox celebrates a milestone

The company that Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland started turns 20, plus Physical Education stages a festival and Wobbly presents a new film

This week in Portland dance, BodyVox Dance Company celebrates its 20th anniversary with the opening of Lexicon, an electronically infused collection of dances and films; Physical Education hosts a three-day performance festival called Say When that includes performances by local and international artists working in performance, sound, sculpture, video, and virtual reality; and Wobbly Dance and cinematographer Ian Lucero unveil their new film Tidal, an exploration of the relationship between the rhythm of mechanized breath and the rhythm of the oceans in a fantastical underwater world.

BodyVox’s Carmina Burana. Photos by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Twenty years ago BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland landed on the name BodyVox (a combination of body and voice) for their Portland-based dance company after trying out such alternatives as CODA (Contemporary Oregon Dance) and Hamroll, a combination of Hampton and Roland that “rolled right off the tongue and into the compost,” Roland said, laughing, when I interviewed her and Hampton several weeks ago.

This playful, collaborative nature between the two seems to be the secret to their success as artistic partners, their longevity in the business, and the general mood and mission of the company and the work it produces. For Roland and Hampton it has always been important that the work be driven by beauty and collaboration, not ego. “That is why I believe we’ve been able to make close to 20 shows in 20 years” Hampton said, “… because we don’t get hung up on the show being about us. It’s us being about the work.”

BodyVox co-artistic director Ashley Roland in Carmina Burana. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Lexicon is highly collaborative. The collaborators include lighting designer James Mapes; long-time BodyVox filmmaker Mitchell Rose; Italian avant-garde composer Ludovico Einaudi, known for his scores for the films Doctor Zhivago (2002) and Sotto Falso Nome (2004); The Boxtrolls animator Mike Smith; and programmer Wade Olsen, known for the FoxTrax, a hockey puck tracking software that is used during televised games. Lexicon is about re-examining and expanding what is possible in live performance by marrying dance and technology. The dancers use infrared sensors, live video graphic generation, motion capture, and virtual reality.

Roland and Hampton originally met at a Pilobolus workshop in 1983. Hampton danced with Pilobolus for five years after college, and later they performed together in MOMIX where Roland and Hampton were both founding members. The pair later co-founded ISO Dance, which stands for “I’m so optimistic,” with Daniel Ezralow and Morleigh Steinberg. Around 1994 Hampton quit dancing and moved home to Portland to work for his family’s lumber company with Roland joining him later.

Alicia Cutaia and Brent Luebbert in the new BodyVox film Night Shine./ Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

“I moved back here (Portland) because my body was broken from all those years of touring, and I needed to rest and recover,” Hampton said. “I started working for our family lumber business because I felt like eventually I would have to know what was going on with that. So I stopped dancing for almost two years and just did yoga and rock climbing and working out.”

Twenty years is a long time, and in that 20 years BodyVox, Roland and Hampton have been written about too many times to count, which is a good thing. So instead of going over that ground myself, I thought I would share with you a couple of my favorite interviews/reviews by other writers, and a list of interesting things that jumped out at me in our interview together. If you have the time and love reading about dance, which I hope you do, you can peruse the collection of writing on the company’s press page on their website.

Photo by Steve Cherry, Polara Studio courtesy of BodyVox.

In describing BodyVox’s movement and choreographic style in a review of Fifteen, a two-part celebration of the company’s 15th anniversary in 2013 that included 22 pieces, ArtsWatch’s senior editor Bob Hicks describes the company as “something of an anomaly in the dance world, quirky and contemporary but outside the mainstream of both the traditional and experimental wings.” He continued: “With a deep affection for circus, mime, vaudeville, and silent film in addition to training in ballet and contemporary-dance techniques, it’s really movement theater–less dancerly than many companies but usually more dancerly than Momix, Pilobolus, and ISO Dance, the companies that artistic directors Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton worked in before creating BodyVox.” You can read the full review here.

In 2013 Roland and Hampton were interviewed by Portland Interview Magazine in an intimate reflection on BodyVox’s first 15 years and the couple’s 30 year collaborative history together. You can read that interview here.

In 2014 Hampton was interviewed by Emmaly Wiederhold and photographed by Gregory Bartning for their book Beauty Is Experience, Dancing 50 And Beyond, a beautiful and moving collection of stories and photos of dancers still dancing past the age of 50. In his interview with Wiederhold Hampton talks about finding dance at Dartmouth College with dance teacher Alison Chase, dancing for Pilobolus, burning out at age 40, rebuilding himself, measuring success, and considering the “end.” You can read that full interview here.

Interesting bits from my interview with Roland and Hampton

1. Hampton grew up in Portland. Roland grew up in Connecticut.
2. BodyVox was the first Portland dance company to be commissioned and produced by White Bird, The Big Room in 1998.
3. Jamey was 43 when he and Ashley started BodyVox. He is now 63, and he and Ashley continue to perform with the company.
4. The company’s first home was at the old home of PCVA, Portland Center for the Visual Arts, 117 NW Fifth Avenue, which featured so many notable visual artists (Agnes Martin, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Lynda Benglis, Sol LeWitt and Andy Warhol), site-specific installations (Donald Judd, Christo and Robert Irwin), and performance (Allan Kaprow, Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer).
5. Ashley gave birth to her first baby in the second year of the company. That baby is graduating from high school this year. Their second child is in 6th grade. Both kids have made appearances in several of the companies dances and films and have gone everywhere with the company.
7. At one point all the women dancers in the company had babies, and Ashley hired someone to watch the kids during rehearsals.
8. The original company members were Eric Skinner, Daniel Kirk, Robert Guitron, Cristina Patricelli-Betts, Eric Oglesby, Jamey Hampton, and Ashley Roland.
9. The company’s second home was over the Bridgeport Brewery where they were for ten years.
10. The company moved into the BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave., in 2008.

At the end of our interview Roland said, “Our mission is to enlighten people, to inspire people of all ages. With that in mind WE have to be inspired. So we’re are always looking for those things that give us inspiration. I love the root of the word inspiration: it’s having the spirit within.”

Performances this week

Lexicon (world premiere)
November 30-December 16
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
See above.

TRANSCENDENTAEROBICOURAGE with Allie Hankins. Photo courtesy of Physical Education.

SAY WHEN -a mini festival
Hosted by Physical Education; keyon gaskin, Allie Hankins, Lu Yim and Takahiro Yamamoto.
December 1-3
All events FREE and ADA accessible
See below for the full schedule.
“PE’s vision is to offer audiences, artists of all mediums, and curious individuals immersive modes through which to engage with multi-disciplinary art practices and performance. PE acknowledges and scrutinizes the perceived illegibility and messiness of the performing body. PE organizes and hosts READING GROUPS, ARTIST SHARES, curated PERFORMANCES, AEROBICS classes, and straight-up sweat-it-out DANCE PARTIES.”

Allie Hankins and DJ Allan Wilson
5-6pm December 1
Flock Dance Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave. Studio 4
“Traditionally, TRANSCENDENTAEROBICOURAGE is a movement/embodiment event. We breathe, vocalize, bounce, sweat, push, rest, DANCE, and work as individuals & as a group in actions that help us access the pleasure of effort. This special Say When edition of TRANSCENDENTAEROBICOURAGE will focus on sensation and perception.”

SAY WHEN-Day 2-Performances + VR + Dancing
Performances by sidony o’neal, Seanna Musgrave, coast 2c,
and Nadia Granados (Mexico City)
9 pm December 2
S1, 7320 NE Sandy Blvd.

SAY WHEN-Day 3-Performances + SPA
Performances by Hannah Piper Burns, Linda Austin, and Jin Camou
5pm December 3
High + Low Gallery, 936 SE 34th Ave.

Tidal by Wobbly Dance. Photo courtesy of Wobbly.

Tidal-the first cut
Wobbly Dance
Collaborators; cinematographer Ian Lucero, costume designer Jenny Ampersand and musicians Sweetmeat. Additional animation was created by Kurtis Hough. Make-up by Sumi Wu and Jenny Ampersand. Photography by Kamala Kingsley.
2 pm and 7:30 pm December 2
Q&A following the 2pm showing
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut #9
Both screenings will be Audio Described and ASL Interpreted.

In collaboration with cinematographer Ian Lucero, costume designer Jenny Ampersand and musicians Sweetmeat, this one day showing of Tidal-work in progress, will screen next to Wobbily Dance’s “Waking the Green Sound: a dance film for the trees” and a short film by Cheryl Green called “In My Home.”

Tidal is “a fantastical film, where breathing masks transform into diving masks, ventilator tubing morphs into costumes, and an ancient diver who calls the ocean home, draws us into his world. We fall, we dream, we dive. We transform from human to jellyfish and everything in between. This film is a continuation of the exploration of Wobbly’s dark, dream-like and sometimes absurd aesthetic. Starring Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson as the Dreamers, Nathan H.G. as the Diver, and Grant Miller as the Forager.”

Upcoming Performances

December 7-9, Bolero + Billie, Ihsan Rustem, NW Dance Project
December 8-9, The Nutcracker with Chamber Ballet of Corvallis, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
December 9, Winter Dance Concert, Reed College Performing Arts
December 9-24, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 13-17, a world, a world (work-in-progress), Linda Austin Dance, PWNW
December 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Crystal Jiko, Tere Mathern, Madison Page, Wolfbird Dance
December 17, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
December 17, Fiesta Navideña, Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
December 22-24, The Nutcracker with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene


January 12, Love Heals All Wounds, Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz, Presented by Portland’5 Center for the Arts
January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
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

March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
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, World Premiere’s by Sarah Slipper and Cayetano Soto, 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 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
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 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, a dance for film by 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


Dance weekend: Telling our stories

'Waking the Green Sound', Dancing Over 50, Automal, Khecari, 'Breathing Under Water', Pure Surface

I am writing this week’s dance listing from the beautiful garden isle of Kauai; I am here on vacation with my family. I mention this because here on this ancient island, dance is the keeper of the culture and traditions of the native people. Without it, there would be no way to fully tell their stories. I often struggle with trying to make sense of what I am seeing in contemporary dance, but in this context, it is much clearer to me. Dance is simply a physical embodiment of our past, present and future. Without it we cannot tell the stories of our people.

Wobbly Dance's "Waking the Green Trees"

Wobbly Dance’s “Waking the Green Trees”

Waking the Green Sound: a dance film for the trees
Wobbly Dance
11 am -9 pm September 3, screenings every half hour starting at 11 am
Artists reception, 5–9 pm
Cameo, 2809 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Out of a desire to connect with nature on a deeper level, co-artistic directors of Wobbly Dance, Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson, created a fantasy film world in which the performers transform and move dreamlike between uniquely different worlds.  The original music score was composed by experimental musicians Sweetmeat, and other guest artists include Grant Miller, cinematographer Ian Lucero, and photographer Kamala Kingsley.

Wobbly Dance is a Portland based dance company that focuses on broadening the definition of art and beauty by presenting performing artists with and without disabilities.

Earlier this year, Art Watches Brett Campbell interviewed Arakelyan and Ferguson about Waking the Green Sound.

Kate Rafter's Automal

Kate Rafter’s Automal

Automal@RAW Portland BOLD
6 pm September 3
Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St.
In 2009 fledgling fashion designer Heidi Luerra created RAW in an attempt to put her name out in the world, connect with other artists, and provide a platform to promote artists of different mediums on and offline.

Every month RAW pops up in a different city as a one-night-only, circus-like event, spotlighting the local talent in that particular city. This month that city is Portland and the dance company featured is Automal. Directed by Kate Rafter, Automal will perform three pieces, The Agony of Saint Moth, Tír fo Thuinn (Land Under the Waves) excerpt, and a new work by guest choreographer Matt Cichon.

The Dancing Over 50 Project Benefit
Stance on Dance, Emmaly Wiederholt
7:30 pm September 4
Bodyvox, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
The Dance Over 50 Project curated by Stance on Dance blogger Emmaly Wiederhold in collaboration with photographer Gregory Bartning “aims to challenge popular perceptions around dance as a youth-oriented pursuit, to educate young people about what it means to pursue an art over a lifetime, to inspire other people over the age of 50 to kick off their shoes and take to the dance floor, to remind people that there is grace and beauty in a body of any age, and to pay homage to these older dancers who are leading by example.”

The dance artists covered in the interviews span the entire West Coast from Los Angeles to Seattle and include some great Portland dance artists: Linda Austin, Tere Mathern, Gregg Bielemeier, Jamey Hampton and Mike Barber.

Wiederholt is hosting a fundraising party to support the publication of these stories in a bound, printed book, to share with the world.


Chicago-based Khecari/Photo by William Frederking

Chicago-based Khecari/Photo by William Frederking


Orders from the Horse: Works in Progress
7:30 pm September 4
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St.
A Chicago-based contemporary dance company directed by Julia Rae Antonick and Jonathan Meyer, Khecari will present a works in progress showing of their new piece, Orders from the Horse. The dance focuses on the idea of surrender in improvisation while performing. “Performers negotiate a landscape pocked with dips, rises, and eddies; falling in, through, or past each other’s wake as they move.” Sound score by Joe St. Charles, with lighting by Rachel Levy and Jonathan Meyer.

On Saturday, September 5, Khecari will teach a workshop in Somatics in Dance Improvisation from 11 am-2 pm at The Headwaters Theater.

Breathing Under Water
Directed by Shannon Mockli
September 4-5
Studio 2 @Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont, Studio 2
Shannon Mockli, Associate Professor of Dance at University of Oregon, brings us choreography and film from fellow artists in Eugene, inspired by the concepts of submergence and breath.

Featured choreographers, performers and filmmakers include Mockli, Margo Van Ummersen, Sarah Ebert, Katie Scherman, Jessica Zoller, Kim Ames, Avante Grady, Meg Orion, Dakota Bouher, Mariah Melson, Brad Garner and Mary Fitzgerald.

Olive Durif is in this month's Pure Surface.

Olive Durif is in this month’s Pure Surface.

Pure Surface
Olivia Durif, James Gendron, Chaz Stobbs
6 pm September 6
Valentine’s, 232 SW Ankeny St.
Curated by Stacey Tran and Danielle Ross, Pure Surface is a performance series interested in encouraging cross-disciplinary practice and performance by bringing together movement, text and film in the spirit of improvised collaboration. Each month a new group of artists is brought together in the intimate, open-air setting of Valentine’s and performance is made. This month’s artists are movement artist Olivia Durif, writer James Gendron and filmmaker Chaz Stobbs.

Back to Nature: Wobbly Dance’s “Waking the Green Sound”

Portland dance company explores new territories in debut film project.

Wobbly Dance co-founders Erik Ferguson and Yulia Arakelyan spent years trying to create and perform dance. But until recently, their hometown of Portland offered few opportunities for wheelchair-using dancers like them.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in mainstream contemporary dance, especially contact dance,” says Ferguson, “and [we know that] if you’re serious about being a performer or artist, you need to be practicing many times a week. If we had waited around for the next disability event or workshop, we wouldn’t be where we are right now,” says. “In both the disability and dance worlds, we’re on the fringes. We have to make our own opportunities happen.”

Ferguson & Arakelyan.

Ferguson & Arakelyan.

Wobbly did just that by creating a space for dance that suited the needs and abilities of disabled artists. “I’m OK with being a little marginalized and doing my work,” Ferguson says. “There are tons of people more athletic than I am who are making inroads into the mainstream. That’s not us. We’re off to the side, and we embrace that.”

Now approaching the beginning of its second decade, the company has created a series of increasingly ambitious dance works, some with Portland choreographer Mizu Desierto, including 2010’s Dreaming/Waking, 2012’s Underneath, and last year’s You Too Are Made of Stars. 

This month, Wobbly and its collaborators are demonstrating how accessibility helps spark artistic innovation. With guest artist Grant Miller, cinematographer Ian Lucero, plus original music by Sweetmeat and photography by Kamala Kingsley, the company’s Waking the Green Sound: a dance film for the trees for the first time incorporates film as well as dance into a Wobbly project. And it sent them into another kind of new space: outdoors.

wobbly waking the green trees

“We had just finished a residency where we had done a performance that was very durational and strenuous,” Ferguson remembers. “It had really heavy costuming, and stretched the limits of breathing and certain aspects of our physicality. After that, Yulia was looking for a way to control the time duration, and for the freedom to go back and refine things without dangerous physical exertion.”

IMG_8145-1-2Arakelyan found the solution after participating in a long-distance collaborative project involving dancers in three different cities. “As part of our process, the three of us kept a daily dance diary for one month. Each day, I filmed, edited and posted a dance video to our YouTube channel. I was using a really old camera … on a really old and slow computer, but I loved it,” she recalls.

Using film allowed Wobbly to direct the audience’s attention to the wheelchair-using performers’ smaller, subtler movements that might otherwise be missed by viewers seated at the typical distance in most venues. It also helped Wobbly escape the boundaries of the theater itself — an important factor, given the subject matter they wanted to explore.

IMG_8462-1“We’ve been working for 10 years with the aesthetic of [the postwar Japanese dance form] butoh, which is suffused with natural imagery, full of the essence of big natural forces, storms and toxic things and large animals — things that create extreme sensations,” explains Ferguson, who’s recently been reading the work of disability scholars on the way different bodies and mobility devices can limit access to nature. “For a long time, we’ve been bringing nature indoors, so we finally went outside to work with nature! We can shoot on location outside, and include the grass, the trees, the elements.”

With fellow disabled performer Grant Miller, they’ve created what Ferguson calls “a lot of lush, still-life natural imagery. I come up with all these images, but can’t tell where it’s going to go,” he says. That’s where Arakelyan’s traditional dance training takes over. “Erik and I work so differently; I start with music, or explorations of the body moving, where Erik approaches it from imagery,” she says. “We complement each other.”

Another collaborator, Portland filmmaker Ian Lucero, helped them flesh out shots and scenes. “We went to him with all this imagery, and he never once lost patience and said ‘How do you expect me to put this to film?’” Ferguson laughs. “We spent basically a week of shooting six hours a day.”

Waking the Green Sound: a dance film for the trees PREVIEW from Ian Lucero on Vimeo.

The film eschews a traditional narrative in favor of three scenes, including a mad tea party, wild bodies, and a ritual shrine scene involving frankincense and dry ice. But the primary subjects throughout are the dancers.

IMG_8072-1“From a choreographer’s point of view,” Arakelyan notes, “the more body diversity there is, the more opportunity for creativity and uniqueness.” Ferguson also views the new project as a way to transform challenges and differences into artistic opportunity. “I love disabled people,” he says. “The diversity of the disabled form never ceases to excite me. This film gave us the opportunity to create a unique environment where other people can see the unearthly beauty of disabled bodies, a world where people can share my fascination with this diversity.”

Waking the Green Sound: a dance film for the trees premieres May 22-24 at Portland’s Headwaters Theatre. Tickets are $10-15 through Box Office Tickets. An earlier version of this story appeared in Artslandia.

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