DanceWatch Weekly: Dear Santa

DanceWatch ends 2017 with a letter to Santa and a few last performances

Welcome to the very last DanceWatch of 2017. It’s been a hell of a year, but thankfully we had dance.

After today, DanceWatch will be on a break for two weeks and will reconvene in the new year on the January 12, at the Newmark, with movement artists Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz and their collaborative work Love Heals All Wounds. The work combines dance and spoken word and “addresses social issues while also promoting diversity, inclusion, and empathy as a uniting force.” A perfect start to a brand new year.

Jamuna Chiarini

Before we leave 2017 in the dust, and head into the future, let’s recap. In 2017 DanceWatch covered 271 dance performances. That’s TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY ONE dance performances, folks! That’s a lot, and I know I missed a few.

White Bird and BodyVox both celebrated 20 years presenting and making dances in Portland, Eric Skinner retired after dancing with BodyVox for 20 years, and Portland State University clicked delete on its dance program. A state university without a dance program is almost unheard of, and the disappearing dance program is a bizarre occurrence in such a fast growing, dance-centric town as Portland, overflowing with talent.

I also had the privilege of speaking with 16 different dance artists from Portland and beyond—a completely selfish endeavor I have to admit. The more distant we become from one another in this computerized world, the more compelled I feel to connect. It’s hard living life in general, especially as an artist, and I don’t want to live it alone. I want to know how other people do it, how they live their lives as artists, how they make their work, what makes them feel successful, and how they see themselves in the world. I want to know it all, and I want to share it with you. I think the solutions are in those conversations, somewhere.

Les Watanabe in “Salsa Caliente” by Donald McKayle commissioned for the Joyce Trisler Danscompany. Photo courtesy of Les Watanabe. Photographer unknown.

The year began with an interview with Les Watanabe, a dance faculty member at Western Oregon University and a former dancer with Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch and Donald McKayle. I was shocked to learn that he lived here in Portland and that I had never heard of him. Shouldn’t someone of his caliber be teaching in the Portland community? I think so. The same goes for quite a few of the other “retired” professional dancers I know of floating around Portland.

I also interviewed former New York City Ballet soloist Tom Gold, the three commissioned choreographers for Oregon Ballet Theatres XX program (Helen Simoneau, Nicole Haskins and Gioconda Barbuto), Iranian dancer and filmmaker Tannin, Butoh artist Mizu Desierto, Butoh artist Meshi Chavez and visual artist Yukiyo Kawano, former NW Dance Project dancer Ching Ching Wong, Oregon Ballet Theatre dancers Xuan Cheng and Ye Li, Allie Hankins on her creative process, Spenser Theberge on Forsythe technique, and Linda Austin on her new work a world, a world. These are just a few of the interviews/previews/reviews written by myself and my colleagues here at Oregon ArtsWatch. The entire collection can be found under Dance on Oregon ArtsWatch’s main page.

Dancer Ching Ching Wong. Photo (c) Peddecord Photo

Even though we had a record year, I still think more work needs to be done and more funding needs to be found in order to support a strong, healthy, growing dance ecosystem. In this past week alone, I have had three separate conversation with dance artists about feeling exhausted. Why? Because it takes every ounce of energy they have to produce a concert. Not only do choreographers have to create a dance, they have to find the money to fund it. That endeavor in itself is stressful and exhausting and takes up a huge amount of time and energy, energy that could be spent making art. What if choreographers had enough money to pay other people to do the grant writing, fundraising, and marketing, in addition to paying themselves and their dancers, of course. Sounds brilliant right? It is. This should be the norm. For a community that loves dance so much, the financial support just doesn’t match. So…

Dear Santa,

For 2018 and beyond, I would like;

1. Someone to produce regular seasons of Portland/Oregon choreographers so they don’t have to keep producing themselves.
2. More funding, we’re just barely getting by. How about new sources of funding and more of it. ArtsWatch Executive Editor Barry Johnson had a few ideas on how to fix this problem that he wrote about for Artslandia. Check it out here. He suggests that the arts in Oregon aren’t being funded sufficiently and gives suggestions on how to rectify this.
3. Free or low cost health care and mental health services for artists.
4. Fiscal sponsorship and or free or low cost help to become a non-profit.
5. A dance advocacy/resource group that helps promote the dance community as a whole throughout the larger community, and advocates for and them and communicates on their behalf with the press. Also provides administrative support with grant writing, press releases, artist statements, marketing, low cost design services, material distribution, and creates mailing distribution lists to buy. Good examples of this are The Field in New York City, Dance USA, and Dancers Group in San Francisco to name a few.
6. More artist residencies. Do you have space dancers could rehearse in? If so, create a residency. Choreographers need time and space to make work and Portland currently just has two.
7. Create opportunities and productions for choreographers to make new work. Portland has an abundance of talented choreographers and dancers floating around with nothing to do. Think Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. We can make dances anywhere for any event.
8. Have auditions and hire NEW artists instead of the ones you’ve always hired.
9. Create a pipeline of exchange with other communities outside of Portland or Oregon to get your work seen, see new work, and be part of a larger community.
10. Additional funding sources for touring.
11. A summer dance workshop for professionals that draws professional dancers and teaching professional from around the world.
12. Make Portland a dance center that people are interested in being a part of and staying in for the long term.

Your servant in dance,

Jamuna Chiarini

Candace Bouchard dances in The Nutcracker one last time before her retirement from Oregon Ballet Theatre/Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert

This week in Oregon dance, Nutcrackers reign supreme at Oregon Ballet Theatre and Eugene Ballet. A transformative work for a transformative time.

Long time OBT dancer Candace Bouchard will retire at the end of the run and the same goes for Suzanne Haag of Eugene Ballet who I danced with many moons ago at The School of the Hartford Ballet in Connecticut. Both beautiful and amazing dancers with talent that extends beyond the stage.

Imago Theatre’s two shows continue; FROGZ, a tale of frogs, penguins, cats, and inanimate objects combined with physical comedy and fantastical costumes that upends the viewers sense of reality and HOTEL GONE, in which five dancing travelers push, pull, and shove in a hotel lobby “where identities shift, love is uncertain, and souls search for substance Checking-in and checking-out take on new meaning as live music drifts through HOTEL GONE as the dancers are propelled through coat racks, exiting and entering a world of timeless seduction and trapped mysteries.”

Butoh dancer Paula Helen. Photo by Erica Howard.

Closing out the year will be Mood Factory #2: Bones and Flowers, hosted by Dan Reed Miller, Ben Martens, and Hank Logan, at 7 pm on December 30th at The Headwaters Theatre in North Portland. This eclectic evening of performances by an array of movement, theater, and music practitioners addresses spirituality and mythology, issues of gender and culture, racial justice and cultural appropriation, sexuality, feminism, matriarchy, and our innate connection to nature and ritual.

The featured artists are; Butoh artist Paula Helen, actor, dancer, director, practitioner and teacher of Action Theater improvisation Mary Rose, dancer and visiting Butoh teacher Nathan Montgomery, dancer, performance artist, improvisor, physical comedian, ritual creator, Butoh practitioner, and lighting wizard Hank Logan, dancer Alison Krochina, renaissance man, performance artist, dancer, electronic sound/musician, producer, Butoh practitioner Ben Martens, and Dan Reed Miller.

Have a wonderful holiday season. Celebrate with love and light, and see you in the new year with more dance.

Upcoming Performances

January 6, Community Dance Day, NW Dance Project
January 8, Free Dance Day, BodyVox Dance Center
January 12-13, I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra, Leah Theresa Wilmoth
January 12, Love Heals All Wounds, Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz, Presented by Portland’5 Center for the Arts
January 10-11, Tesla: Light, Sound, Color, Harmonic Laboratory, Eugene
January 13, Tesla: Light, Sound, Color, Harmonic Laboratory, Portland
January 15, Tesla: Light, Sound, Color, Harmonic Laboratory, Bend
January 18, Zoe Jakes & Special Guests: A Dance & Variety Revue, Presented by Narcissa Productions LLC
January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 19, The Global Street Dance Masquerade Presentation and Film, Portland Art Museum
January 21, M/f duet + Teething, Marissa Rae Niederhauser (Berlin) and Aaron Swartzman (Seattle), Performance Works NW Alembic Artists
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 3-25, Chitra The Girl Prince, NW Children’s Theatre, Anita Menon
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 15, Faculty Dance Concert featuring guest artist Vincent Mantsoe, Hosted by University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 18, Chapel Theatre Open House, Chapel Theatre
February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre

March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, HEDDA, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 9, Noontime Showcase: Jefferson Dancers, Presented by Portland’5
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 14, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Presented by Portland’5
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, a dance for film by The Holding Project
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem


2 Responses.

  1. Jackie Sacks says:

    Thank you for being a voice for the dance community. Your list is motivational! While I understand this forum is OR focused, it saddens me that Vancouver is never mentioned. I am adding recognition of all that Vancouver contributes to the metro dance community to my Santa list. Many Portland dancers trained in Vancouver as young dancers – Franco Nieto, Brent Luebbert, Eowyn Emerald Barrett, Spenser Theberge, Anna Hooper, and Briley Jozwiak to name a few. I teach at Vancouver School of Arts and Academics where we focus on training young artists. We also partner with White Bird, and support Portland dancers as guest artists, and audience members. Our next dance concert is January 18 and 19. I would love to chat more about the Vancouver/Portland connection.

  2. Hi Jackie, thank you! Your timing couldn’t be better. I was just trying to figure out who to talk to in the Vancouver community to find out what’s happening there. Please email me at so that we can meet. I would love to write about you and the Vancouver dance community for an upcoming DanceWatch.

Comments are closed.

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