Dance notes: a big bash in Hillsdale

Portland Ballet hammers down on a major expansion, plus Linda Austin's 30th, Conduit, NW Dance Project

The Portland Ballet studio in action. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

The Portland Ballet studio in action. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

On Wednesday, the hammers started swinging in Hillsdale.

“We just began yesterday and put a fence around it,” Jim Lane said Wednesday afternoon. “And today they started knocking down walls. Pretty exciting.”

The “it” with the new fence and battered walls is the studios and offices of The Portland Ballet, which is tucked beneath Wilson High School in the anchor corner of  a vibrant shopping strip in the Southwest Portland neighborhood. Lane is managing director of the dance academy and youth performance company that he and his wife, artistic director Nancy Davis, founded in 2001 as Pacific Artists Ballet. They set up shop in the former Fulton Dairy garage in the Hillsdale Shopping Center, and things have been prospering since.

Now, after a dozen years, the company’s having a $170,000 growth spurt. It’s reconfiguring some of its existing space and building out, expanding from 3,500 square feet to 6,100. That includes a new entry, offices, dressing rooms and storage space, but most essentially a new large studio, giving the school three studios. At 1,100 square feet the new studio will be smaller than the existing main studio but considerably bigger than the second studio. “It’ll allow us to bring in more younger kids,” Lane said. “It’ll help us broaden our base.”

The project’s on a tight schedule, aiming for a reopening by September 16, when the next nine-month curriculum program will begin. And it’s mostly paid for already, with $30,000 still to be raised. Major funding has come from a $70,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, with $20,000 from the Meyer Memorial Trust, $10,000 from the Collins Foundation, $20,000 from board members and some anonymous matching challenge gifts. In addition, the academy’s landlord, Ardys Braidwood, has promised a five-year rental break while the company restabilizes after its expansion. “She’s actually been quite an angel for us,” Lane said.

Lane and Davis were both principal dancers at Los Angeles Ballet in the 1970s and early ’80s, and have kept a strong relationship with LAB founder John Clifford, who was a New York City Ballet principal and choreographer when Davis was a scholarship student at the company’s School of American Ballet in 1966. Clifford has set ballets on the Portland company and works with the young dancers often. PB grads have gone on to prominent professional schools and companies across the country, from San Francisco Ballet School to Israel’s internationally touring Batsheva Dance Company. The faculty includes such leading Portland dance figures as Zachary Carroll, Michelle Davis, Elizabeth Guerin, and Josie Moseley.

Portland Ballet has about 150 students in its curriculum program, plus another 150 who attend open classes. Those numbers should grow significantly with the expansion. In the meantime, summer programs continue. They’ll be housed temporarily a couple of miles away, at the former home of Portland Festival Ballet, 4620 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway.



On July 2, 1983, Linda Austin gave her first public performance as a dancer. And for the past 30 years, she’s just kept going, through a lengthy stint in New York and an even longer time in Portland. This weekend – Thursday through Sunday, July 27-30 – she’ll celebrate her 30 years of provocative, individualistic, searching, and sometimes funny contemporary dance with “Reach:30,” at Performance Works NW, the Southeast Portland studio she runs with partner Jeff Forbes. The program will include that very first piece – “An Atrocity Exhibition in Two Parts,” which she’ll perform with guest Todd Ayoung – and a new solo, “Three Trick Pony,” with set by artist David Eckard and music by Doug Theriault. The 30-year celebration will wind up Monday night, July 1, with a performance by Ayoung and a bash called “WE: Only the PARTY will save the PEOPLE.” Details on both are here.



It’s a busy summer at Conduit dance center on Southwest Yamhill downtown, beginning with performances Friday and Saturday, June 28-29. of “Swimming in Green,” by Ohio’s Merge Dance Project. Merge just happens to include as a member Sandra Mathern, twin sister of one of Portland’s foremost contemporary dance figures, Conduit’s Tere Mathern. Sandra, according to Conduit, does collaborative work “characterized by real-time composition, video and interactive media and inquisitive movement born of natural forces acting on the body.”

Then things gear up for Conduit’s annual Dance + Performance Festival, July 11-13 and 18-20. Its eight performers/projects will feature work by Jessica Hightower, Michelle Fujii, Linda K. Johnson and others. Details on both are available on the Conduit Web site.



Meanwhile, over in the North Mississippi district, the adventurous Northwest Dance Project is getting ready to leap into its annual “Pretty Creatives” program, featuring new works created on the company’s dancers by choreographers chosen in competition. This year’s winners are Vancouver, B.C.-based Simone Orlando, a former dancer with the National Ballet of Canada and Ballet BC; and Shanghai-born Yin Yue, who now has her own contemporary dance company in New York. There’ll be two public performances on Saturday, July 20, and tickets usually go pretty fast. Details are here.


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