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DanceWatch: Giving thanks edition

By Jamuna Chiarini
November 25, 2016

I love the silence that surrounds me when I stand in the middle of a heavy snowfall. It feels strange and exciting, magical and otherworldly, like time is standing still. It’s amazing to me that you can see so much movement in the falling snow, but not hear a sound. In this moment, my senses are heightened and I notice things I’ve never noticed before. The snow is beautiful and I feel happy, calm, and my mind it quiet and focused-which is difficult to do sometimes.

The only other experience that I can equate to this, for me, is dancing and watching dance. In these moments I am able to focus my mind and my body, transport myself, and block out everything that isn’t necessary for that moment. Right now I want this. I am exhausted from the election, the constant chatter on Facebook, the news, the atrocities in the world, the suffering, the anger, the fighting, everything.

I am not trying to encourage sticking your head in the sand but rather to encourage art making, doing and seeing. It seems like the best possible way to process what is going on around us, and it might even give us a feeling of empowerment over our circumstances.

In keeping with the Thanksgiving tradition of avowing what we are thankful for, I am most thankful for dance and dance makers and artists of all kinds, they transport me and help me see and feel things I might not have been able to on my own.

I am specifically thankful for the four performances that I witnessed and participated in post-election and the ideas they left behind: my own, The Kitchen Sink, Linda Austin’s The last bell rings for you, Reggie Wilson’s Moses(es), and Suspended Moment: Activating the Nuclear Past + Present by Meshi Chavez, Yukiyo Kawano, Allison Cobb and Lisa DeGrace.

The Kitchen Sink was a year-long project that I worked on with fellow dancers Celine Bouly and Abigail Nace, which culminated last weekend at BodyVox. You can read about my process creating the dance in a story I wrote for ArtsWatch.

What’s my take away from my own show? I love circles. Circles are not a choreographic trope that choreographers use when they run out of ideas.They are beautiful, timeless, natural and full of meaning. Life is circular, my joints move in circles, I will always use them.

The last bell rings for you seemed to say that every “body” is sacred with the ringing of bells by performers (as well as audience members) as a variety of bodies moved as humans do throughout the performance space at Shaking the Tree Theatre, creating a sacred, church like atmosphere. These 28 bodies explored the space and each other, sometimes moving together, and sometimes not, and often were moved by unseen forces. That made me think about what is in our control and what is not.

Moses(es), which was created across the country in Brooklyn, New York, was similar in structure in so many ways to The last bell rings for you, which is amazing to me given the distance between the two companies. It made me wonder about the power of collective thinking, the evolution of post-modern dance, cultural expectations and that maybe we are more similar than dissimilar.

Suspended Moment: Activating the Nuclear Past + Present, which was performed in the Littman Gallery at Portland State University this past Tuesday, was a scary and timely reminder of what can happen to power when it’s left unchecked. Visual artist Yukiyo Kawano decorated the gallery space with two hanging replicas of the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 fabricated from her grandmother’s kimonos, stitched together with strands of her own hair. In addition she added hanging paper lanterns for the dead, a calligraphic tapestry on the wall with the famous work of Japanese poet Matsuo Basho’s Narrow Road to a Far Province, and a river of rice paper flowing down from the ceiling meandering through the space with the same writing on it.

Butoh dancer Chavez—dancing to Cobb’s poetry recited live by Kawano and Cobb, with music by Lisa DeGrace—animated the space, invoking the spirits of the dead and creating indelible images of death and suffering and remembrance as a reminder to us not to change the narrative.

This weekend offers us three wonderfully different respites from the world.

Opening Friday is The Portland Ballet’s (TPB) Thanksgiving holiday show which includes The Enchanted Toyshop, choreographed by TBP artistic advisor John Clifford to Gioacchino Rossini piano pieces, and The Gift Box, a world premiere by The Portland Ballet co-artistic director Anne Mueller to a score by Georges Bizet. Both dances will be accompanied live by the Portland State University orchestra, directed by Ken Selden.

On the opposite end of the performance spectrum is Spectacle Garden 7: feels edition happening Saturday night This monthly, open invitation, community-oriented performance series is curated by musician and butoh dancer Ben Martens. Spectacle Garden is a platform for Portland performers of all kinds to express, express, express, and includes physical comedy, dance of all kinds, film, music and poetry and many other undefined mediums of expression. Check out the Facebook event page for the full lineup of participating artists. All proceeds will go to the water protectors at Standing Rock.

Also happening this weekend is Polyphonic: A Series of Interdisciplinary Performances presented by The Creative Music Guild that includes dancers Danielle Ross and Claire Barrera in collaboration with sound artist Jean-Paul Jenkins, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Mike Gamble and video artist DB Amorin.

Performances this week!

The Portland Ballet,Dress rehearsal

The Portland Ballet’s The Magic Toyshop. Dancers Nick Jurica and Medea Cullumbine Robertson. Photo by Blaine Truitt.

The Portland Ballet
Gift Box (Anne Mueller) & The Enchanted Toyshop (John Clifford)
November 25-27
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park at Market

The Enchanted Toyshop, adapted by Clifford in 2003 for The Portland Ballet, was originally known as La Boutique Fantasque, and was choreographed by Léonide Massine for the Ballets Russes who debuted it in Paris on Christmas Eve, 1919. This adapted version tells the story of two children who accidentally get locked up overnight in a magical toyshop and witness all the toys coming to life. The characters include Pinocchio, playing cards, poodles, Pierrots, Russian nesting dolls and a cast of more than 90 dancers.

The original cast of La Boutique Fantasque included Italian dancer and founder of the Cecchetti method of ballet, Enrico Cecchetti ,who played the shopkeeper. Pablo Picasso was on hand to sketch dancers in their final poses.

The Gift Box by Mueller is likened to the anticipation of slowly and sweetly unwrapping a highly desired gift and will be performed by 20 dancers from the school’s pre-professionals to TPB’s year-old Career Track program as well as advanced students in the Academy’s Youth Company. The ballet includes sweeping grand gestures as well as smaller, articulate detailed movement.

Mueller is a former principal dancer, director of artistic operations and interim artistic director at Oregon Ballet Theatre, and was co-founder of Trey McIntyre Project.

I interviewed Mueller last year on her work for last year’s holiday show and three years ago when she created a new work for BodyVox 2. You can read those interviews here and here.


Art work by Jacob Yona Art for Ben Martens Spectacle Garden 7: feels edition.

Spectacle Garden 7: feels edition
Hosted by Ben Martens
7 pm November 26
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St
Participating artists include: Brandon Fisette, Stefano Iaboni, Natasha Kotey and Benja, Ian Lucero and Etsuko Ichikawa, Hank Logan Peterson, Nevada Harris, Emily Jones, Demian DinéYazhi, TRASH MOUTH DANCE CO, Elzza Doll, Elana Brody and Jennifer Gwirtz.


Danielle Ross Dance. Photo courtesy of Danielle Ross.

Polyphonic: A Series of Interdisciplinary Performances
Presented by The Creative Music Guild
7 pm November 26
Compliance Division, 625 NW Everett St

See Above.

Nutcracker Remixed
All That! Dance Company, Eugene
6:30 pm November 25
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Silva Concert Hall, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene
This modern day, remixed Nutcracker includes music by Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Norah Jones, and follows Clara as she dances her way to the Land of the Sweets in the dance styles of jazz, tap, hip-hop, ballroom, classical ballet.

Next Week

December 2-4, N.E.W. Expressive Works Residency Performance, Dana Detweiler, James Healey, Jessica Hightower, and Renee Sills

Upcoming Performances

December 8-10, In Good Company, NW Dance Project
December 8-10, ARCANE COLLECTIVE, Presented by BodyVox
December 9-11, The Book of Esther — A Rock Gospel Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
December 10-26, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 15-17, Complicated Woman, Katie Scherman/2016 Performance Works NW Alembic Resident Artist
December 16-18, The Nutcracker, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
December 18, Gifts, a film by Clare Whistler/2015 Performance Works NW visiting artist
December 19, Dancing with the Stars: Live! – We Came to Dance, AEG Live NW, Eugene
December 20, Dancing with the Stars: Live!, Presented by Showbox
December 22-24, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland

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