Dance+, Part One: A warm and stormy night at Conduit

Jessica Hightower and Philippe Bronchstein, Dance+ press photo

Let’s get the weather report out of the way, shall we?

Conduit dance studio during the summer is warm and muggy.  Even with a lightning show and some rain outside during intermission, nothing could cut through it, not even the busy  fanning of programs through the still air. Whatever the temperature is during the day, I’d suggest that you wear your coolest, lightest clothing. Because if you’re a modern dance fan with a taste for the experimental, you’re going to want to catch Dance+, which continues this weekend, and then switches to a new program next weekend.

After yesterday’s preview, I’m not going to say a lot about the four individual pieces of the concert. It’s a sort of sampler, and if you haven’t seen the dance company bobbevy, say, or the choreography of Keely McIntyre (who usually is starring in the dances of others), then this is a great chance to catch up and decide whether you want to buy the full box of chocolates next time.  But it’s not enough to say anything definitive (ahem, not that what I say is ever all THAT definitive). But maybe you’re game for a few impressions? In the order in which they were received?

“Terrain,” Keely McIntyre and Ash Black Bufflo:  McIntyre and Laura Nash danced a long duet to music by Ash Black Bufflo, which mostly very deliberate and rumbly, with various ambient sounds and distinctive chords. And yes, the dance was rather deliberate, too, full of long stretches and movement that seemed elegant to me, lots of unison dancing with occasional partnered passages. Nash did a fine job of  finding the spirit, space and breath in McIntyre’s phrases, and as for McIntyre, she is one of those dancers who seems  perfectly at home in her body moving onstage. Every muscle contraction and release, big or small, seems completely logical and effortless, even when you know deep down it must be pretty difficult. I liked the long white dresses, too, and dresses were going to pop up a lot during the concert.

“W*RQ,” The DECEPTiCONS: I saw a version of this piece at Risk/Reward, but it’s one of those things that’s a work in progress, I suppose, because, yeah, six gallons of tinsel and lip-synched pop songs were familiar, but this performance seemed different, more serious, though it IS a drag show, mostly.  This version added one of sculptor David Eckard’s harness and suspension contraptions, well,  from which two of the performers hung to start the show, a strange effect, one part elfin whimsy and another, something a good bit darker. And the show continued along those two paths, sometimes madcap and sometimes not. And yes, there was some dance, much of it provided by Jen Hackworth in a brown bodysuit with her head completely covered, who is a master at swirling tinsel and provided a consistently interesting backdrop to the drag performances of Kaj-anne Pepper and company, which seemed searching and tentative to me, in a good way, I mean.

“Tilth,” Kristine Anderson: When I read that “Tilth” combined dance and creative non-fiction, I was both confused and intensely curious, because I’ve spent practically a lifetime involved in non-fiction of one sort or another and rarely had occasion to dance it out. Well, “never” would be more accurate, although I occasionally had dark thoughts about tap dancing on the keyboard of a writer who’d blown a deadline, I must confess. Anyway, back to the real show, I was first completely taken with the three little personal essays by Tabitha Blankenbiller as they were performed by Julie Hammond, mostly comic slices of life in Portland. And then Anderson’s dances—which managed to capture the inquisitive, direct observations of the essays along with their self-deprecating spirit in movement, or if not “capture” at least amplify or parallel or add counterpoint—started to grow on me, too. Strange and yet satisfying!

“This is how we Disappear,” bobbevy: The evening’s most complex collaboration, perhaps (because “W*RQ was pretty complex itself), combined a duet for Jessica Hightower and Philippe Bronchstein made by Suniti Dernovsek, music by Jesse Mejia, video by Brian Richardson, costumes by Emily Christensen and visual design by David Stein. I’m not quite sure what it all “meant”—I’d have to see it again and quiz the creators—but I liked the parts: Mejia’s doomy insinuating score, the video of an idealized forest that played behind the dancing and the moving itself, which seemed to share something with McIntyre’s “Terrain” in its straightforwardness and elegance. Part of that was simply the clarity of the tall and purposeful Hightower as a dancer and the adept partnering of Bronchstein. And yes, it made me want to see more, see it again, maybe in a larger theater.

And on that score, as a sampler, Part One of Dance+ was a rousing success for me. I checked out some new things, reacquainted myself with some artists I already knew a bit, made mental notes that I’ll bring to my next encounters. When I go back for Part Two next week, though, I’m going to dress for the weather.


Part One continues at 8:30 pm, Friday-Saturday, Conduit, 918 SW Yamhill, 4th floor. Tickets via Brown Paper Tickets.

Part Two runs July 26-28.

4 Responses.

  1. Martha Ullman West says:

    I made my way to Conduit last night to see the first group of collaborations in Dance Plus and found the last piece,”This is How We Disappear,” the most aesthetically satisfying of the four, Jessica Hightower’s dancing consistently held my attention, although I think the piece is too long, sound, video, choreography seamlessly integrated. Least interesting and/or satisfying was W*RQ, in part because of the decibel level when I was already feeling assaulted by the events in Colorado, and while I agree with Barry’s assessment of Jen Hackworth’s dancing (was she perhaps representing the “inner woman” of the rest of the cast?) I was ultimately deeply bored, even by the fabulous recycled tinsel.
    I love watching Keely McIntyre in just about anything, and thought this duet elegantly lyrical, and deeply feminine and feminist, not quite the same thing. “Tilth” certainly had its moments, but felt somehow suburban, until I realized that in fact it’s a send-up of some suburban attitudes that Portland has in the name of sustainability. So that’s my take on the first half of Dance Plus, in a performance space that in the summer time does indeed feel like an incubator.

  2. Diva says:

    I’m confused and offended by Martha’s tie in of the tragedy in Colorado, with the relatively upbeat and absurd play utilized by The Decepticons. I mean, I was there, and I remember them walking into the audience and HUGGING people… IS it dance? Maybe. It is obviously the fruit of an intense collaboration from the queer underground. Genderterrorists if anything, NOT gun toting sociopaths.

  3. Martha Ullman West says:

    Oh my goodness, I wasn’t linking the work itself, or the spirit behind it, to the hideous events in Colorado, I am so sorry if it appeared that I was doing that. Of course they’re not gun toting sociopaths, I just quite simply felt assaulted by the high volume of the music. Actually I feel assaulted by the high volume of contemporary life, from television commentators to much rock music. And yes, the work can certainly be categorized as dance as well as performance art. “Diva” should be offended if I intentionally linked the piece to Colorado, but I didn’t, and I do profoundly and deeply apologize for giving that impression.

  4. Tere Mathern says:

    Just to give credit where its due. The above beautiful press photo is by Meghann Gilligan – a really talented photographer depicting dance by bobbevy. Thank you to both of them.

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