Dance Weekly: The drag stars have aligned

Pepper Pepper and Cherdonna Shinatra expand the limits of drag

You are in luck! This week the stars, drag stars that is, have aligned and will be performing right here in Portland. Those stars are Pepper Pepper, aka Kaj-anne Pepper, from Portland, who will be performing D.I.V.A Practice; and Cherdonna Shinatra, aka Jody Keuhner from Seattle, who will be performing Worth My Salt, presented by Risk/Reward.

Both artists are working at the intersection of dance and drag, but one is a man dressed as a drag queen and the other is a woman, dressed as a man, dressed as a drag queen. I won’t tell you who’s who. Shinatra is having an existential crisis while exploring femininity and gender inequality, while Pepper explores embodiment, identity and physicality.

Two weeks ago when D.I.V.A Practice first opened, I interviewed Pepper for ArtsWatch and asked him to talk about his piece: “An important element of D.I.V.A PRACTICE is the quest to know one’s worth, to dance between autonomy and a crippling co-dependency with the audience.”

This past week both Shinatra and Pepper were interviewed on OPB’s The State of Wonder by Producer Aaron Scott. They discussed drag clowning as a characteristic of the Northwest, the prevalence of misogyny in drag and many other pertinent things. The whole conversation is available for listening on OPB’s website.

Another great interview to learn more about Shinatra is A Fiendish Conversation with Jody Keuhner (Cherdonna Shinatra) by Seth Sommerfeld for the Seattle newspaper Seattle Met. Keuhner/Shinatra talks more about the modern dance side of her life and the creation of Shinatra as a character .

There is a lot of power in anonymity, like disappearing underneath elaborate costumes and makeup, it tends to make you feel braver than you normally would because no one can see YOU, enabling you to do and say things you normally wouldn’t. This weekends performances by Pepper and Shinatra will definitely frame conversations in new ways shedding light on difficult subjects in a funny, quirky way, with plenty of glitter, gigantic wigs and tons of eye makeup.

Performances this week


The Jefferson Dancers. Photo by Jingzi Zhao.

Jefferson Dancers Spring Concert 2016 and 40th Anniversary
April 27-30
The Newmark Theatre, Antoinette Hatfield Hall, 1111 SW Broadway Ave
Celebrating their 40th anniversary, the Jefferson Dancers, a Portland Public Schools dance training program and company based at Jefferson High School in North Portland, will be performing choreography by the faculty as well as sharing the stage with former Jefferson dancers.

The program will include a duet by Director Steve Gonzales and French exchange student Charlotte Faillard from 2001-02 on Friday and Saturday night as well a piece for the whole company by alums T.J. Yale, Kasia Wihelmi and Gerran Reese.

The breakdown of alumni performers by night

Wednesday night:Graduates from the 1980’s
Choreographers:Heather Fralia Borgens / Sara Mishler Martins / Andrea Stofiel
Dancers-Jennifer Allen 1986-1988 / Donna Buckmeyer Grobey 1984-1986 / Randy Davis 1981-1984 / Ron Eckert 1988-1989 / Heather Fralia Borgens 1987-1988 / Wendy Graybill Rogers 1987-1989 / Stephanie Hale Pinto 1987-1988 / Claire Leedy 1986-1989 / Dina Mehlhaff Radzwillowicz 1986-1988 / Sara Mishler Martins 1987-1989 / Kristina Cernin Musgrove 1984-1987 / Kim Reis 1984-1988 / Addam Stell 1988-1989 / Andrea Stofiel Thompson 1988-1989 / Sonia Warfel 1988-1989

Thursday night:Graduates from the 1990’s
Choreographers-Amy Bonaduce / Damon Keller / Tony Loupe / Damien Rice / Ashley Marostica
Dancers-Nora Aron 1998 / Racheal Banks (Smith) 1995-1997 / Amy Bonaduce 1994 / Lisa Grant 1988-1992 / Demetria “Bunky” Holden-Williams 1993-1996 / Damon Keller 1995-1998 / Tony Loupe 1989-1993 / Ashley Marostica-Thompson 1998 / Damien Rice 1994-1998 / Eric C. Smith 1990-1992

Friday night and Saturday matinee: 2000’s
Choreographer – Rachel Slater and Mykey Lopez
Dancers-Corinne (Craig) Cooksey 2003-2005 / Maddi Evans 2005-2007 / Jessa Freeman 2000-2001 / Aubrey Grajales 2007-2010 / Mykey Lopez 2002-2003 / Anna Lescher Fife 1999-2004 / Rebecca Palmer 2002-2003 / Rachel Slater 2002-2003

Saturday night: 20TEENS
Choreographed and performed by-Bryn Hlava 2010-2012 / Kentrel Wesson 2010-2012 / Mia O’Connor 2008-2012 / Sarah Gomez 2009-2012 / Quinlan Neilson 2009-2014

Dance Wire Dance Passport participant. Click for details.


Dance of the Dream Man: A Twin Peaks Story by TriptheDark. Photo courtesy of TriptheDark.

Dance of the Dream Man: A Twin Peaks Story
April 28-April 30
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut Street
With a script written by local playwright Ellen Margolis, TriptheDark, an indie Portland dance company, will harken back to the early days of Twin Peaks, a creepy David Lynch TV series from the early 1990’s, to explore lines from the original series and dig deeper into the mystery of Laura Palmer’s death. If you are unfamiliar with the series you can catch up on Wikipedia or the Twin Peaks fan page and follow the filming of the revival of the series.

TriptheDark, directed by Corinne deWaard and Stephanie Seaman, likes to perform in unusual venues as a way to reach non-traditional dance audiences and grow the appreciation of the art form.

Dance Wire Dance Passport participant. Click for details.

In The Heights
Stumptown Stages
April 27-May 1
Brunish Theatre, Antoinette Hatfield Hall, 1111 SW Broadway Ave
Over the course of three days in a predominantly Dominican-American neighborhood in the Washington Heights section of New York City, a community rallies together in a neighborhood struggle. Infused with Latin rhythms, dance and hip-hop lyrics, this Tony Award-winning musical is about chasing your dreams while remembering where you came from.


Pepper Pepper and Mr. E in D.I.V.A Practice. Photo courtesy of Pepper Pepper.

D.I.V.A Practice
A night of dance and contemporary drag by Pepper Pepper
April 29-May 1
N.E.W. Expressive Works/Studio 2-Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont St. #2
Choreographer and performance artist Kaj-anne Pepper, also known as Pepper Pepper, will perform alongside drag artist Mr. E to an original score by Cabiria Jones, exploring what it means to be fabulous in the face of uncertainty while questioning the significance of drag and gender in contemporary culture.

Dance Wire Dance Passport participant. Click for details.

Fuse—Portland Dance Portrait
The photography exhibit of Jingzi Zhao
April 1-May 1
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave.
For one month, Polaris will be hosting a sneak peek of “Fuse – Portland Dance Portrait,” a project by the photographer Jingzi Zhao. “Fuse” captures dancers on location, in historic landmarks, neighborhoods, and businesses around Portland, to showcase the beauty, culture and lifestyles of Portland.

Zhao’s larger body of work will be exhibited at the Multnomah Arts Center from October 7-25.

Jazz Through The Ages
Wild Rumpus Jazz Company
April 29-30
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave
In the manner of it’s namesake Wild Rumpus Jazz Co., co-founded by Kelsey Adams and Lucy Brush, is here to get the party started and bring jazz dance back to Portland. Its inaugural performance, “Jazz Through The Ages,” celebrates the rich history of jazz dance while having fun.

The history of jazz dance is rooted in African American vernacular dance and over time branched out into many different styles including tap, Broadway, funk, hip-hop, Afro-Caribbean, Latin, Pop, club jazz, popping, B-boying, party dances and many more. A few notable jazz choreographers were Katherine Dunham, Jack Cole, Lester Horton and Bob Fosse. But there were many many more. Well known Portland jazz teachers and choreographers include Tracey Durbin and Mary Hunt.

cherdonna - worth my salt 2 (3 of 29) copy

Cherdonna Shinatra in WORTH MY SALT. Photo courtesy of Cherdonna Shinatra.

by Cherdonna Shinatra/Jody Kuehner
Presented by Risk/Reward
Apr 29-May 1
12 pm April 30, Workshop with Jody Kuehner at Flock Dance Center
Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th Ave
See above.


Vitality Dance in rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Vitality Dance.

(IN) significant-The Mundane and The Meaningful
Vitality Dance
4 pm April 30
New Expressive Works/Studio 2-Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont St. #2
Vitality Dance Collective, a vision of Kristina York, was created for adults dancers who dance, but don’t have the time to dedicate themselves full time to the art. The company acts as a collective, supporting the choreographic vision of all its members, and enjoys being not easily definable. They are about innovation, authenticity and fun.

Coming up next week and the week after

May 1-29, Chinese Dance for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Malik Pcr Delgado, Victoria Chen, and Jingzi Zhao
May 4, Malposa, White Bird Dance
May 5-7, Featuring works by Trey McIntyre, Gregg Bielemeier, Jason Davis, George Balanchine and Anne Mueller, The Portland Ballet’s Spring Concert
May 5-7, I Just Want One Tiny Thing, And I Talk Too Much, WolfBird Dance
May 6-8, From Within, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 9, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Advanced students of the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre
May 10, Formosa Circus Art, The The Taiwanese Association of Greater Portland
May 12, WE’RE FROM HERE: 3 PDX dancers/film and performance, presented by KBOO Community Radio
May 12-21, Exposed, Polaris Dance Theatre
May 14, Props to Bellydance!, Ruby Beh and Co.
May 20-21, TRACES, Sara Naegelin and Mark Koenigsberg
May 20-21, HAVA | חוה, The Holding Project
May 20-22, Now Then: A Prologue, Allie Hankins

One Response.

  1. Thanks for the support OR Arts Watch!

    I’d also like to ad D.I.V.A Practice is a duet with drag chameleon MR. E (Erika Stanley) a female identified drag queen. We’ve worked hard to produce a show that engages and questions the status of female drag and the performance of femininity.
    Come find out how we play with that this weekend!

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