With Amorphous, DownRight Productions asks, ‘What If?’

A new Portland presenter arrives on the scene with a mix of performance disciplines and film in various states of completion


The new performance-presenting venture DownRight Productions—co-directed by dancers Anna Marra and Emily Schultz—debuted at Headwaters Theatre February 15-18 with Amorphous, a program designed to showcase local talent working at the intersections of dance, art, music, and film.

It felt like a waltz with possibility: DownRight was willing to book artists who, at the time of their booking, were offering pieces that were finished, partially finished, or still in the idealized stage. And for a show that skewed young (though not inexperienced) and modern, the modest stage in this intimate space provided a fitting platform to play around with creative questions, such as:

What happens if I twist this knob?

There’s a long choreographic tradition of using tech to goose dance: in her solo “Dark Spot,” Kate Rafter switched a handheld light on and off in front of a computer screen, creating inkblot images that splotched across a larger projector screen facing the audience. After dispensing with the light, she moved toward and away from the computer screen, causing portions of her body to emerge and recede on the large screen, to ghostly effect.

In a similar vein, the collaborators of The Past is a Grotesque Animal used tech to tweak their sound. Two dancers, powdered white, butoh-style, slowly approached one another from opposite sides of the stage, trailing skirts made from strips of paper and 35mm film, as two black-clad dancers orbited them, vocalizing into devices attached to their waistbands or into microphones hung from the ceiling around a large, branchlike sculpture. Those sounds appear to have been fed into a computer manned live upstage, and pinged back out to viewers after a bit of electronic manipulation.

Katherine Evans and Matthew Cichon in “What Is It”

What happens when a horse walks into a bar?

The bartender says, “Hey!” and the horse says, “You read my mind!”

This was one of the many deliberately terrible horse-themed jokes at the outset of “Grin and Bear,” as Sara Parker ran circles around Rachel Slater, whose head was obscured by a rubber pullover horsehead mask. The pair engaged in a contact improv-like duet with connection points at their hipbones and foreheads before Slater removed the mask and got some stage time to herself; Parker’s re-entry, in a pullover unicorn mask, brought that, and the piece, to an end. (Parker, a strong and intently focused mover, returned later in yet, I stay, an engrossing solo of her own design.)

What does it mean when you recline on a rock in a forest and someone ties strands of your very long hair to ropes hanging from the trees before menacing you with shears?

I’ll have to get back to you on this one—the Samuel Clayton film preceding a sinewy duet by Katherine Evans and Matthew Cichon in What is It? was still in the preview stage.

That’s just a sample of what Amorphous had on offer. Some pieces landed on firmer footing than others, but most ran short, and the program was varied enough to appeal to a range of interests (while the first half of the program was dedicated primarily to dance, the second half featured a different musical act each night). Marra and Schultz say they’ll apply what they’ve learned from this first outing to a second one—at the moment, that’s slated for some time this fall.

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2 Responses.

  1. Bennnnnn says:

    I love this write up! Thanks so much for giving a paragraph to our multimedia sound piece- it was / is called Babble tho! The past is a grotesque animal was I believe the title of the film that opened the show. Yea- thanks for the support!!!!!!
    Ben martens

  2. gvscarmella says:

    YAY! I love this! I live in Florida..I find it interesting is everyone involved with lion brand in the North? I find the gulf coast pullover wonderful even for the beach over your suit!

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