ArtsWatch Weekly: NEA battle, dancing with Rodin

Arts groups push back, a week of dance, a road dog warrior, concert tips, what's on stage

It’s been a busy week in the arts world. Nationally, as the New York Times reports, the new administration seems intent on moving forward with its plan to kill off the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities, although it’s by no means certain that Congress would go along with it, and, as the Times reports, opposition is being mounted across the country. The endowments reach into virtually every congressional district, and that reflects a lot of votes. As the Times put it, “(E)ven if the arts get only crumbs, administrators said, they are crumbs worth fighting for: much-needed money that supports community projects, new works and making the arts accessible to people in different parts of the country and to those who are not wealthy. And after years of culture-war debates in which conservatives took aim at the programs, questioning their value, arts groups are pressing the case that the federal money they receive supports organizations — and jobs — in all 50 states, both red and blue.”



Oregon Ballet Theatre’s new “Swan Lake.” Photo: Randall Milstein

IN PORTLAND, MEANWHILE, it’s a dancey sort of week. Oregon Ballet Theatre has just opened Kevin Irving’s reimagined version of Swan Lake, with the focus shifted from Odette/Odile to Prince Siegfried; it continues with four performances Thursday-Saturday at Keller Auditorium. Look for Martha Ullman West’s review in ArtsWatch on Wednesday.


On Wednesday, White Bird brings the French company CCN-Ballet de Lorraine to Schnitzer Hall in a program that includes among its three pieces Merce Cunningham’s important 1975 Sounddance, a performance that Alastair Macauley reviewed approvingly a week ago in the New York Times: “The choreography gives us a sense of the void, of time being intensely limited, of life having a start, a conclusion, and a desperate, passionate rush in between. It looks biological, sexual and violent. Though the Lorraine dancers did not have all the rigor of the Cunningham company, this was recognizably Sounddance — ardent, violent, thrilling.”


And in a remarkable piece of cross-disciplinary thinking, ArtsWatch dance critic Martha Ullman West considers the dancerly aspects of cast metal in the Portland Art Museum’s big exhibit Rodin: The Human Experience, as well as in a sculpture by the contemporary artist Fujikasa Satoko in the museum’s permanent collection. See how it all moves in Martha’s essay Rodin and the shape of dance.

The Rodin exhibit, with giant photo of the artist. Portland Art Museum photo



TAKE FIVE. ArtsWatch’s music editor Brett Campbell picks five concerts in the coming week to add to your calendar (plus a bonus pair of holdovers from last week, so you can make it a lucky seven):

Oregon Symphony

The two guests (longtime Oregon Bach Festival favorite Jeffrey Kahane as soloist in a Schumann piano concerto and Christoph König conducting) are the names, but the best news is the performance of Slonimsky’s EarBox, a propulsive John Adams piece the OSO co-commissioned in 1996, and an appropriate Oregon tribute for the great American orchestral composer’s 70th year. Elgar’s famous Enigma Variations provide the familiar fodder.  Feb. 25, 26, and 27 at 7:30 pm at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.


Resonance Ensemble

Dirty Stupid Music is the latest edition of the ensemble’s annual fun show, featuring Liberace imitator David Saffert joining five of Resonance’s top singers in cabaret music. Curious Comedy Theatre, 5225 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland. Feb. 25. Our partners at Artslandia are offering a shot at free tickets.


The Ensemble of Oregon

Another lighthearted vocal show from an ensemble known for more serious fare, this one, In vino veritas, features songs about wine from throughout the ages, with five of The Ensemble’s best joining  pianist Chuck Dillard in music by Mozart, Haydn, Schein, and more. Three performances, three locations:

  • 7 p.m. February 24, St Luke’s ~ San Lucas Episcopal Church, 426 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.
  • 7 p.m. February 25, Central Lutheran Church, 1857 Potter St., Eugene.
  • 3 p.m. February 26, The Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave., Portland.


Eugene Concert Choir

The choir sings a relative Beethoven rarity, his underrated Mass in C, and one of the 20th century’s most popular choral masterworks: Leonard Bernstein’s joyous Chichester Psalms. February 25th at the Hult Center, Eugene.


Vancouver Symphony

Chamber Music Northwest director David Shifrin joins the band to play Weber’s flashy clarinet concerto and music by Rossini. The concert also features Mozart’s dramatic penultimate symphony, No. 40. 3 p.m. Saturday, February 25, and 7 p.m. Sunday, February 26, Skyview Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver.


PDX Jazz Festival 2017

The citywide jazz spectacular continues through Sunday on stages across town. Still to come are the the likes of Bill Mays, the Thomas Barber and Charlie Porter quintets doing Dizzy Gillespie, neo-soul star Roy Ayers, Grammy-winning guitarist John Scofield, mambo master Hector Martgnon, and the 15-piece MONK’estra and the T.S. Monk Sextet playing Thelonious. Look for reviews on ArtsWatch imminently.


Portland Opera

The company continues its new winter series with repeat performances of Songs of Love and War in the intimate Gregory K. and Mary Chomenko Hinckley Studio Theater in Hampton Opera Center. Six of the company’s soloists sing songs from some of the great early Baroque masterpieces, Claudio Monteverdi’s madrigals. Christopher Mattaliano directs each dramatic song as a vignette. Look for Terry Ross’s review in ArtsWatch before the final performances Thursday and Saturday.

Portland Opera’s “Songs of Love and War.” Photo: Cory Weaver




ArtsWatch links


Maria Schneider Orchestra and Kneebody: many voices, one vision. Angela Allen takes a look and listen to a pair of the big acts from the opening weekend of the PDX Jazz Festival.

A Road Dog barks his tale. We follow breathlessly along as The Angry Filmmaker – Portlander Kelley Baker – and a 120-pound chocolate lab named Moses hit the road, find America, and write a book about it. Well, Baker writes the book.

Bach Cantata Choir and Ladysmith Black Mambazo: variety’s virtue. Bruce Browne takes in concerts from two very different traditions and reaffirms that good music is good music, wherever it arises. Still, he suggests, a little less showmanship might help.

Mary of the mysteries. Holy Mother of God, how could you say such things? Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary gives a distinctly unmythological view of Mary’s version of the whole proceedings, and actor Jacklyn Maddux spins it out for Corrib Theatre.

Northwest history hits the stage in Astoria and db. Hailey Bachrach notes a trend on Portland stages: stories about – gasp! – the place we live. Portland Center Stage’s Astoria looks at the the forging of a raw empire from a rainy place, and CoHo’s db looks at the legend of D.B. Cooper. What might be next?

ARCO-PDX: recipe for rejuvenation? Terry Ross listens carefully as the amplified classicists borrow from the rock world to try to bridge the gap to young audiences. It’s a good fight, and an uphill one, he says: “Until public grade schools and high schools put a priority on music teaching, until a substantial percentage of their students play in a band or orchestra, or sing in a choir, the future looks bleak for classical music. Simply programming concerts for young people, as symphony orchestras and opera companies increasingly to, will not do the trick. You’ve got to make the kids go, all the kids and not just those with ‘enlightened’ parents. Kids who are introduced to the delights of reading, or painting, or acting grow into adults who respect these arts and value them. The same is true of classical music.”

Noises Off off as its space is sold. Hillsboro’s Bag&Baggage theater company cancels a potential hit for a very good reason: It doesn’t know if it’ll have a place to put it.

Well-worn Oregon, refugee dreams. In the galleries, K.B. Dixon’s black&white photographs at Parsons of urban and rural scenes reveal a deeply embedded Oregon, and Friderike Heuer’s complex photomontages at Camerawork delve into the issues, emotions, and in-betweenness of the world’s refugees.

Friderike Heuer, “Seeking Shelter,” 2015, photomontage.



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.

 And finally…

We end with a couple of requests. First, if you have friends or family members who you think would enjoy our cultural writing online, could you please forward this letter to them? The bigger our circle of friends, the more we can accomplish. Second, if you’re not already a member of ArtsWatch, may we ask you to please take a moment and sign on? What you give (and your donation is tax-deductible) makes it possible for us to continue and expand our reporting and commenting on our shared culture in Oregon. Thanks, and welcome!

Become a member now!

Comments are closed.

Oregon ArtsWatch Archives