ArtsWatch Weekly: bellying up to the barre

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

So a terrific dancer walks into a barre and decides to write down what she sees and feels and does. Six years after Gavin Larsen retired from Oregon Ballet Theatre as a principal dancer and mainstay of the company’s halcyon years, dance followers in Portland still marvel at the memory of her energy and grace onstage. She was “a superb, elegantly balanced, dramatically engaged dancer,” as I wrote about her 2009 performance in Josie Moseley’s Hold My Hand at Conduit.

You could pretty much say that about her writing, too: after all, writing is its own form of performance. Larsen has forged a new career as a writer and a teacher since leaving OBT, publishing in publications as diverse as Dance Magazine and The Threepenny Review. She’s contributed to Oregon ArtsWatch, too, training her perceptions on the role of ballet masters in the 20th century, the legacy of the late studio pianist Robert Huffman, and the path to stardom of Northwest Dance Project’s Ching Ching Wong, among other stories.

Gavin Larsen at the barre: everyday ballerina. Photo: Ashby Baldock

Gavin Larsen at the barre: everyday ballerina. Photo: Ashby Baldock

Starting Sunday, Larsen’s writing for ArtsWatch will get more personal. That’s the day we’ll begin publishing Everyday Ballerina: The Shaping of a Dancer, a twelve-part daily series of reminiscences and turning points that pulls back the curtains and gives us inside glimpses of the challenges, uncertainties, and triumphs of the dancers’ life. Just a taste of the style you can look forward to, from Gavin’s recollections of performing in The Rite of Spring: “Some people sweat a lot more than others, and even those who are not heavy sweaters begin to pour and drip as soon as extreme exertion is finished and they are slowly, stealthily, creeping and crawling and oozing their way across the stage to become part of a huge, undulating, slimy mass of dancers twister-ing themselves into the towering pile of limbs we called the Human Monolith.”

See you on Sunday. Stick around for the whole twelve days. Belly up to the best barre in town.



Heidi Schwegler, Portland 2016 Biennial, Hazen Hardware installation, Clatskanie. Photo: Jennifer Rabin

Heidi Schwegler, Portland 2016 Biennial, Hazen Hardware installation, Clatskanie. Photo: Jennifer Rabin

ARTSWATCH WRITERS HAVE BEEN OUT AND ABOUT, ducking into galleries and museums, checking out the sights of summer. And, yes, there’s been a lot to see. Just a couple of the impressions they’ve come back with:

Portland2016: The Cellular Memory of Place, Part One. Jennifer Rabin follows the Disjecta Biennial to one of its several sites around Oregon, this time to an old hardware-store building in Clatskanie, where Heidi Schwegler is conducting a kind of archaeology of the aesthetic mind. Rabin quotes the artist: “I prefer to mine the peripheral ruin, the discarded stuff that is ignored and considered worthless.”

Busy Bodies. Patrick Collier regrets having seen only the final chapter, the one on view now at Elizabeth Leach Gallery, in MK Guth’s series This Fable Is Intended for You: A Work Energy Principle, which began in 2009 and ’10 at One New York Plaza. Of Guth’s fabric-based works, he writes: “For a moment I am reminded of the rag rugs I grew up with, handmade by my great-grandmother, and while this may provide a point of entry, any sense of nostalgia for me stops there.”



ArtsWatch links


Norman Wilson, Joe Theissen, Dan Murphy, Mike Dederian in "Forum." Photo: Liz Wade

Norman Wilson, Joe Theissen, Dan Murphy, Mike Dederian in “Forum.” Photo: Liz Wade

TRAGEDY TOMORROW, COMEDY TONIGHT. Christa Morletti McIntyre sings the praises of Broadway Rose’s revival of the 1960s musical farce A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

INTERVIEW WITH INTERVIEW WITH A ZOMBIE. Jumana Chiarini’s most recent DanceWatch Weekly is highlighted by an interview with TopShakeDance choreographer Jim McGinn, whose new work Interview with a Zombie continues through Friday at New Expressive Works.

The Britt Orchestra at Crater Lake. Photo: Jim Teece

The Britt Orchestra at Crater Lake. Photo: Jim Teece

NATURAL HISTORY: MUSIC AND SETTING TO DAZZLE THE SENSES. Marc Mohan was on hand when composer Michael Gordon’s Natural History was premiered by the Britt Orchestra to kick off this year’s Britt Festivals in Jacksonville. Oh: did we mention that for this performance only, orchestra and audience were on the shore of Crater Lake? “I found myself torn between closing my eyes to appreciate the dimensionality and range of the music, and wanting to visually absorb the stunning surroundings and the stoicism of the performers, who labored under an intense morning sun,” Marc writes. “This was a non-repeatable, unforgettable aesthetic amalgamation.”

SUPERSTAR, TAKING ON SHADOWS. Christa Mortletti McIntyre reviews Michael Streeter’s revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1970s concept show, a production that ripples with questions for our time.

AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH. Christa Morletti McIntyre looks down from the heights of Sharr White’s Annapurna at Third Rail Rep, a play of middle-age regrets: “The elephants in the room are overgrown corpses, but White’s play is an insightful look into what drives contemporary relationships over the edge.”

Karen Trumbo and Bruce Burkharstsmeier in "Annapurna": from the depths of the mountaintop. Photo: Owen Carey

Karen Trumbo and Bruce Burkhartsmeier in “Annapurna”: from the depths of the mountaintop. Photo: Owen Carey



About ArtsWatch Weekly

We send a letter like this once a week to a select group of email subscribers, and also post it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and sometimes head off on little arts rambles we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.


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