Dance Weekly: The more we get together

Dance at Fertile Ground means Groovin' Greenhouse and more

By Jamuna Chiarini

Even in these tough economic times, it is amazing to me that artists of all kinds are flourishing, and my spirit is buoyed when I see large shared festivals—artists banding together to support each other and share resources. This is key. The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works and Groovin’ Greenhouse are great examples of this.

Fertile Ground, now in its 8th year, begins today and runs for 11 days, and presents works-in-progress and world premieres in dance, theatre, comedy, visual art and film all across Portland. Groovin Greenhouse, hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre, supplies much of the dance component.

According to Brett Campbell, Christa Morletti McIntyre, and Bob Hicks here at ArtsWatch, there are 160 performance taking place on more than 30 stages across the city. You can get the full scoop on what the festival looks like and has to offer from their report on “speed-dating-with-the-media night.”

Here on Dance Weekly I pulled out just the dance performances and elaborated.

Independently produced world premieres

Courtesy of The Tempos.

Courtesy of The Tempos. Photo by Geoffrey Squier Silver Photography.

Between Worlds
Echo Theater Company (Producer), The Circus Project,
and Tempos Contemporary Circus
January 22-31
Echo Theater, 1514 SE 37th Ave.

Featuring three full length works, this is a shared evening for three different Portland circus companies: Echo Theater Company, The Circus Project and Tempos Contemporary Circus. The topics range from Super Hero Old Folks to the seven deadly sins, incorporating aerial dance, acrobatics, dance, theatre, music and puppetry.

Alicia Cutaia, who is the co-director of “Sinners,” a piece she and her boyfriend circus artist Russ Stark created for The Circus Project, is also a dancer for BodyVox. She is the long-legged one with platinum blond hair who can turn for days. I have personally seen her in ballet class do just that.

Now in her second year with the company via Michigan, she also teaches at Conduit, The Circus Project and at BodyVox. She previously danced for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and Eisenhower Dance.

Not a lot of people know that Cutaia lives in both worlds. I spoke with Cutaia on the phone while she was assisting with last minute costume preparations to get the info on the dance.

“We put the seven deadly sins in pandora’s box. Pandora opens the box and all the sins come out. We created this little world with the seven sins and they are trying to take Pandora into that world.”

“Sinners,” a cast of 21, incorporates dance as much as all the circus arts. Through the lens of the jazz dance technique of Bob Fosse, color, fabric and fantasy, Cutaia has created a classic cabaret world for the sins to live in with a few minions to boot.

Courtesy of SubRosa.

Courtesy of SubRosa. Photo by Design by Goats.

SubRosa Dance Collective
January 22-31
Conduit Dance, 2505 SE 11th Ave. #120

How do you physically communicate the feelings of displacement? What is the emotional fallout for individuals and community? That is the question SubRosa has put to task. With rising rents, evictions, and lack of creative work spaces, this is the hot topic of the day and we are all affected.

SubRosa will present an immersive experience with some surprises, investigating these ideas in collaboration with Valerie Perczek, a multimedia artist, musician, videographer, and performer. For Perczek the root of her work is the theme of transformation and the belief that art forms provide the physical tools for reconnecting with intuition.

SubRosa is a dance collective made up of dancers Carlyn Hudson, Cerrin Lathrop, Jessica Evans, Kailee McMurran, Lena Traenkenschuh, Tia Palomino and Zahra Banzi.

Groovin’ Greenhouse Presented by Polaris Dance Theatre

M'Liss Stephenson in Tangled with Polaris Dance Theatre.

M’Liss Stephenson Quinnly in Tangled with Polaris Dance Theatre. Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre.

Polaris Dance Theatre
Groovin’ Greenhouse
7:30 pm January 21
Polaris Studio Theatre, 1826 NW 18th

Freshly installed in their new home built with their own hands, blood (just a few minor cuts and bruises, we hope) and sweat, Polaris Dance Theater will kick off Groovin’ Greenhouse, which they have curated and hosted for six years, with an evening of their own work by Artistic Director Robert Guitron. The new work focuses on illumination, shadows, love, loss, loneliness and the gifts we receive from others—an appropriate journey in this darkest of dark Portland winters.

Dancer M’Liss Stephenson Quinnly, who is a founding Polaris dancer, will be taking her final bow with Polaris this week. She is currently the rehearsal director for both the main company as well as the junior one. In addition to dancing, Quinnly is also a world-class synchronized swimmer, and those influences can be seen in her choreography.

While Quinnly was prepping for opening night I got her to give me the scoop on her future plans via email.

Are you really leaving Polaris? How did you meet Robert and begin dancing for Polaris?
Yes, it’s true, Groovin’ Greenhouse 2016 will be my final show as a Polaris dancer.
I came to meet Robert at the very first audition that Polaris held to build it’s company. An ad for the audition was brought to my attention by a friend of mine. It was only a few days away so I scrambled to find all my paperwork. I finally located my resume but could only find my mom’s old headshot! I figured it looked a lot like me so when the day came, I turned that in (it was at least a year before I told them that the headshot in my dancer file was my mom and not me)! I had no idea when I went to the audition that they were literally building their original cast. I was absolutely thrilled to receive the phone call asking me to work with them! We wore numbers during the audition back then, and for the first few weeks of me working with Polaris, I was referred to as number 74. That was the beginning of an amazing 14 years as a Polaris company member!

Do you have any favorite pieces or moments from your time with Polaris that you would like to share?
I have so many cherished moments over the years. One of my favorite pieces we have done is a piece that’s titled Change. The company refers to this piece as Lullaby, however, since that’s what it feels like to us. It’s sweet, kind and heartfelt. It’s about friendships and loved ones and can lull both the audience member and the dancer. It’s a piece that pulls at my heartstrings every time I perform it.

One of my favorite shows we have done is Tangled. As a full performance, it’s the most challenging show physically, mentally and emotionally. The pieces were each very athletic and demanding, but they were so amazingly beautiful and well-written that it was an honor to be asked by Robert to make it happen. As a company we fought through fatigue and mental barriers together. We pulled together closer than ever to support each other and not just to make it through it all but to do it justice and to perform it with everything we had because it’s what the work deserved. That level of company dedication and determination also gave us such a sense of pride and accomplishment once we had done it! It’s an experience I will always hold very dear.

What are your plans for the future?
I’m not ready to say that I’m done dancing for good. I feel like there is still more in me. However, I’m ready to move on to possible guest performances and to set more of my own choreography on companies throughout the Portland community. Being a contracted career dancer who works in the studio for one company has been what I worked my whole life for. I have been very fortunate in the career I have had and to have had the last 14 years of that career be with Polaris. It’s just time for me to find a whole new dance avenue. I’m not leaving Polaris on the whole though. I will still be the company’s rehearsal director, I’ll be teaching classes as well as continuing to be the director of the Polaris Jr. Company.

Polaris Dance Theatre and Polaris Junior Company
Presented by Polaris Dance Theatre’s Groovin Greenhouse
January 22-31
Polaris Studio Theatre, 1826 NW 18th
Polaris’s Junior dance company directed by M’Liss Stephenson Quinnly-a pre professional dance company for dancers 14-18, will be performing three new works choreographed by Quinnly and guest choreographer Jocelyn Edelstein. You will not be disappointed by the energy, sincerity and the love of movement that this group exudes.

Portland Bellydance Guild and Polaris Dance Theatre
Presented by Polaris Dance Theatre’s Groovin Greenhouse
7:30 pm January 23
Polaris Studio Theatre, 1826 NW 18th

Courtesy of Portland Belly Dance Guild. Photo by Phoebus-Foto.

Courtesy of Portland Belly Dance Guild. Photo by Phoebus-Foto.

The Portland Bellydance Guild is a membership organization made up of Portland Metro area performers, artisans, musicians, photographers, teachers, students, producers, and enthusiasts whose mission is to increase the public’s awareness and appreciation for dance and music rooted in the Middle-Eastern diaspora.

The Guild will present an eclectic mix of performers dancing an array of belly dancing styles from traditional to contemporary. The performers are Tiffany & Marlene, Claudia, Ashley López, Rachel Brice Gypsy Heart Tribal Bellydance troupe, Elena Villa, and Bevin Victoria.

NW Fusion and Polaris Dance Theatre
Presented by Polaris Dance Theatre’s Groovin Greenhouse
7:30 pm January 28
Polaris Studio Theatre, 1826 NW 18th
Directed by former Broadway dancer Brad Hampton, who is originally from Canby Oregon, this 14-member, pre-professional troupe will perform small sections of works to be performed in full-length in April 2016.

A-WOL and Polaris Dance Theatre
Presented by Polaris Dance Theatre’s Groovin Greenhouse
7:30 pm January 29
Polaris Studio Theatre, 1826 NW 18th
A-Wol, created in 2003 as a collective, mingles the worlds of dance and aerial. The company will be performing a new piece titled “Emergence,” about the process of coming into view after being concealed.

r:ad and Polaris Dance Theatre
Presented by Polaris Dance Theatre’s Groovin Greenhouse
7:30 pm January 30
Polaris Studio Theatre, 1826 NW 18th
Directed by dancer/choreographer Alexander Dones, r:ad will be presenting a work in process called” Soothsayer.” Inspired by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, Dones looks to explore the universal longing to understand where we came from, where we are and where we are going, and what it all means, if anything.

Dones is currently splitting his time between Portland and New York, where he dances for choreographer Doug Elkins and Cori Marquis + the Nines [IX].

Coming up later this month

CelloPointe, a father daughter chamber music and dance ensemble from Manhattan, will perform at part of Chamber Music Northwest Festival’s winter program on January 27.

La Compagnie Herve Koubi will be presented by White Bird Jan 28-30.

FRONT Ed. 05 Release & Workshop January 30.

“Being Moved-All that I know is nothing” choreographed by Butoh performer Meshi Chavez featuring performers Sara Alizadeh, Jamuna Chiarini, Lilly Lewis, Joe Mclaughlin, Mara Steen, Zebith Thalden, and Teresa Vanderkin, opens January 30-31.

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