DanceWatch Weekly: Inside and outside the bubble

The Oregon dance scene extends beyond Portland, we are happy to report, and a ton's happening in town, too

When I lived on the East Coast, New Jersey specifically, it took about an hour-and-a-half of driving to get anywhere—to New York, Philadelphia, even to southern New Jersey. That was the norm, it was accepted, and we did it obediently, with occasional grumbling here and there. But I’m glad I did it because New Jersey did not offer the artistic communities, resources and variety that I craved. Don’t get me wrong, Jersey isn’t ALL bad, it does have the best pizza and bagels in the land, and it’s home to a magical place called Grounds For Sculpture, a 45-acre outdoor sculpture park, inhabited by a pride of peacocks.

Because of this experience, I was relieved when I arrived in Portland five years ago to discover that everything I wanted and needed was just 10-15 minutes away from home. But now, in the process of scouring the internet for dance performances, I am learning a lot about dance communities outside of Portland, and my original concept of Portland’s community has broadened to include them. I see these communities as opportunities for exchange and partnership, and a way to break out of the Portland bubble and connect to other dance communities. It’s time to get back in my car.

The closest community is Beaverton, where a large portion of the Indian community lives and where most of the classical Indian dance performances by local and international artists happen.

Next is Salem, home of Willamette University where Portland dance artist Michele Ainza teaches. Her choreography can be seen this weekend in Carmina Burana, performed in collaboration with the Willamette Master Chorus.

Then there is Eugene, which I don’t know that much about except that it seems to support a small, robust community of independent dance artists, and University of Oregon, which has a dance department with an undergrad and graduate degree program. I imagine this community to be a vibrant epicenter of dance exchange and experimentation much like Portland. This weekend the U of O faculty, alongside two graduate fellows, will unveil new works in the annual Faculty Dance Concert.

Eugene is also home to the Eugene Ballet Company, a ballet company directed by one of the few women ballet directors in the country, Toni Pimble. In April, Pimble will unveil her new production of The Snow Queen. An adaptation based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Snow Queen, created from scratch, with the help of a generous patron which will be unveiled in April. The entire creative process is being chronicled by arts writer Bob Keefer, and you can read all six parts here on ArtsWatch.

Then, there is Monmouth, Oregon, which I just learned about recently when I met and interviewed Les Watanabe about his life in dance and his new work for the Fertile Ground Festival. Watanabe teaches modern dance at Western Oregon University along with Darryl Thomas and Valerie Bergman, the directors of Rainbow Dance Theatre, whose company performed the new work Selfie here two weeks ago. I will be heading out to Monmouth in a next couple of weeks to meet up with Darryl Thomas and learn more about the technology he has developed for that production.

Back In Portland this weekend through Tuesday, San Francisco dance artist Sean Dorsey will perform The Missing Generation at Reed College, Oregon Ballet Theatre presents Kevin Irving’s adaptation of Swan Lake, Linda Austin gathers artists in a cabaret style performance of protest, Donna Oefinger (aka Donna Mation) will teach hip hop and poppin n lockin as part of Renee Sills’s OMSI class series Movement in the Museum: Physics & Force, Israeli choreographer Iris Erez discusses her work, and White Bird presents, Ballet De Lorraine from France.

Phew! That was a lot! Enjoy!

Performances this week

Faculty Dance Concert
University of Oregon Department of Dance
February 16-18
University of Oregon, Robinson Theatre, Miller Theatre Complex, Eugene
The evening features new works by University of Oregon faculty members: Brad Garner, Shannon Mockli, and Rita Honka, alongside graduate teaching fellows Hannah Andersen, and Darion B. Smith.

Garner who co-directs Harmonic Laboratory, an interdisciplinary artist’s collective in Eugene that combines dance and technology, has created a duet for himself and Mockli called Genesis based on the idea that couples help each other to evolve. His second piece for the concert is called Admitting Light and uses dancer bodies to represent Nikola Tesla’s current generator, featuring an original score by Jon Bellona and a live string arrangement by Jeremy Schropp with digital animation by John Park.

Mockli, in musical collaboration with dance faculty member Christian Cherry, presents Unearthed, inspired by imagery by writer Annie Dillard: “If you stay still, Earth buries you, ready or not.”

Honka, investigates the relationship between bony structures and body systems in Become, a dance for two tall dancers that gives them permission to take up space and become who they were meant to be.

Graduate fellow Hannah Andersen presents Ecliptic, a piece for 14 dancers featuring musician Markus Johnson that was inspired by choreographer Crystal Pite’s talk for the Vancouver program Creative Mornings called Conflict is vital, which acknowledges conflict as a catalyst for change.

Graduate Fellow Smith, who directs Janusphere Dance Company, originally based in New York, is distilling the human experience down to basics in Rosetta.

Presented by Durante Lambert
8 pm February 17
The Paris Theatre, 6 SW 3rd Ave
Fusion is a monthly event that combines music, dance, and art, held at Portland’s Paris Theatre directed by Portland dance artists Durante Lambert. Lambert was a principal dancer for the Northwest Afrikan American Ballet under the artistic direction of Bruce Smith, and danced for the WNBA Portland Fire Jam Squad and the Portland Trail Blazers Hip Hop Squad. This month’s Fusion performance will feature more than 20 Portland artists.

The Missing Generation by Sean Dorsey. Photo courtesy of Reed College.

The Missing Generation
Sean Dorsey
7 pm February 17
Presented by Reed College Dance Department
Reed College, Greenwood Performance Theatre, 3203 SE Woodstock BLVD
Hailed as the nation’s first Transgender contemporary dance choreographer, Sean Dorsey, a San Francisco-based choreographer, dancer and writer, has created a dance-theatre work titled The Missing Generation, based on interviews that he conducted and recorded with survivors of the early AIDS epidemic. The Missing Generation gives voice to a forgotten generation of survivors who witnessed and experienced the loss of part of an entire generation of gay and transgender people to AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s.

Carmina Burana
Willamette Master Chorus Concert
Choreography by Professor Michele Ainza
February 18-19
Willamette University, Smith Auditorium, 900 State St, Salem

Carmina Burana, a song cycle about the return of spring, fate and love, will be performed by the Willamette Master Chorus, a choral ensemble that includes a mix of 75 veteran professional and amateurs singers who will be accompanied by percussion and piano. The chorus will be joined by the Willamette University dance troupe with choreography by Professor Michele Ainza.



Xuan Cheng in rehearsal for OBT’s”Swan Lake,” opening Saturday at Keller Auditorium. Photo: Yi Yin

Swan Lake
Choreography by Kevin Irving, Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 18-25
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street
Swan Lake (World Premiere), Oregon Ballet Theatre, adapted by artistic director Kevin Irving after Petipa/Ivanov
While traditionally a story from a female protagonist point of view, Oregon Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Kevin Irving is taking a new approach to Swan Lake by telling the story through the eyes of the Prince. Irving’s Prince is sensitive and impressionable, and is forced into marriage and onto the throne before he is ready. The prince’s father conjures up the Odette/Odile fantasy to teach his son the ability to distinguish between reality and illusion, and by the time his coronation arrives, the Prince has matured into a capable leader.

UnPresidented Facts
Performance Works NW and Bad and Nasty
7 pm February 20
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave
Linda Austin of Performance Works NW will join other artists communities around the globe in acts of protest, resistance, and resilience in a cabaret-style marathon performance called UnPresidented, which is part of Not My President’s Day, as a way to mobilize ongoing resistance and channel anger into art and activism.

The evening of performances will be hosted by Pepper Pepper, and will feature Anthony Hudson/Carla Rossi, Button Will, claire barrera, Kiel Moton, Linda Austin, Tamara Lynne, Tere Mathern, Jin Camou, Meg McHutchison, DUBAIS/Nadia Buyse, Felicity Fenton, Leanne Grabel, Cyndy Chan, Daniel Glendenning, Weird Allan Kaprow, Mike Treffehn, Danielle Ross, Emily Kendall Frey, Honey LeFleur/Erin Nilles, Roland Dahwen Wu, and more!

All funds raised go to support local nonprofits Q Center, Don’t Shoot Portland, and El Programa Hispano.

Photo of Donna Oefinger – Aka Donna Mation. Photo by Katie Janovec.

Movement in the Museum: Physics & Force
Donna Oefinger – Aka Donna Mation/Renee Sills
6 pm February 21
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, 1945 SE Water Ave
Movement in the Museum: Physics & Force at OMSI is a new class series programmed by Renee Sills that explores the principles of science in action and the sensations of our moving bodies. Every month the class is taught by a different movement artist and includes a hands-on science activity or demonstration to explore the topic, a 1-hour dance or yoga class, and a 15-minute discussion. No previous dance or yoga experience is required. Open to ages 12 and over.

Sills is a Portland based performance artist and movement educator, co-founder and co-director of Sola School of Contemplative Arts that focus on mindfulness and somatic practices as tools for social engagement and activism.

This weeks class will be taught by Center Space director and dancer/choreographer Donna Oefinger, who will blend hip hop and physics.


Iris Erez. Photo courtesy of Iris Erez.

Iris Erez-Dialogue on Dance & Dessert
Schusterman Visiting Artist at Reed College
7 pm February 21
Portland State University, Smith Memorial Student Union, 1824 SW Broadway
Join Israeli dancer/choreographer Iris Erez, as she discusses her work. Erez was a dancer with Yasmeen Godder (who performed here in 2012 for White Bird), served as curator for the Jerusalem Modern Dance Festival, and is a visiting artist at Reed College. She will be performing her work Local (not easy) on March 3. The evening of dialogue will include filmed excerpts of recent and past works, followed by a reception and dessert.

Sounddance by Merce Cunningham performed by Ballet De Lorraine. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Ballet De Lorraine
Presented by White Bird
7:30 pm February 22
6:45-7:15 pm Pre-Performance talk with Artistic Director Petter Jacobsson and Rehearsal Director Thomas on Ballet de Lorraine’s program and history of the company.
Making its West Coast debut, this 21 member company from Nancy, France, will present
Devoted, by Cecilia Bengolea and Francois Chaignaud for nine women, set to the music of Philip Glass as an ode to the past, while looking forward into the future.

The second work, Hok Solo Pour Ensemble choreographed by Alban Richard to a pulsing, rhythmic score by Louis Andriessen for 12 dancers, involves intricate gestures and waves of movement.

The program will culminate with Sounddance by Merce Cunningham, a work for 10 dancers choreographed by Cunningham in 1975. Sounddance opposes uniformity and unison movement, creating organized chaos in fast paced, vigorous choreography.

Ballet de Lorraine was awarded the title of Centre Chorégraphique National in 1999, and functions as an art center for research, experimentation and creation in the field of dance. The center asks, “Why do we dance? What are we doing right now, and how does this affect what and how we may decode what we are seeing? How can we make, or allow movement to evolve further, how far can it go? — or not go?”

Upcoming performance

February 19, Early bird submission deadline, Portland Dance Film Fest
February 23-26, Attention Everyone!, A-WOL Dance Collective
February 24, The Roots of Hip Hop, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Hillsboro
February 25, Civilized, Catherine Egan
March 2-4, Cuisine & Confessions, Presented by White Bird
March 3, Local (not easy), Iris Erez, Presented by Reed College Dance Department
March 3-11, The Bacchae, PSU School of Theater + Film, choreography by Tere Mathern
March 3-5, In Circadia, Eliza Larson
March 5, Nritya Shubha Dance Festival, Guru Smt Shubha Dhananjay, Maya Dhananjay and Mudra Dhananjay.
March 9-11, Companhia Urbana De Danca, Presented by White Bird
March 10-12, TPB Studio Company Performance-Featuring dances by Anne Mueller, Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, John Clifford and guest artists from Kukátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, The Portland Ballet
March 10-19, In The Heights, Portland Community College
March 16-18, Carmen, NW Dance Project
March 17, The Baroque Dance Project, Alice Sheu and Julie Iwasa
March 19, Duality: Dance Ballet of India, Presented by Rasika
March 19, BodyVox and Oregon Symphony collaboration performance
March 23-April1, Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble, Presented by BodyVox
March 24, Shaping Sound, Travis Wall, Presented by Portland’5
March 24-25, New works by Alembic Artists Claire Barrera and Noelle Stiles, Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
March 31, Junk in da Trunk, Tempos
April 4-5, Shen Yun, Presented by Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 6-8, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, Presented by White Bird
April 8-9, The Snow Queen, Eugene Ballet Company
April 10, Noontime Showcase OBT2, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 15, Synesthesia, BodyVox, TEDx Portland
April 15, Bridge the Gap, Presented by Sepiatonic
April 13-22, Terra, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 14-16, New work by Jin Camou, Performance Works NW Alembic Co-Production
April 25-26, Che Malambo, Presented by White Bird
April 27-29, Contact Dance Film Festival, Presented by BodyVox and NW Film Center
April 28-29, Appalachian Spring Break, Scotty Heron and Brendan Connelly, Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
May 5, Spring Dance Concert, The Reed College Dance Department
May 5-7, Inclusive Arts Vibe Annual Performance, Disability Arts and Culture Project
May 10, Martha Graham Dance Company, Presented by White Bird
May 26-28, N.E.W. Residency performance, Dora Gaskill, Jessica Kelley, Stephanie Schaaf, and Kumari Suraj
May 26 – 27, Spring Concert – Tribute to the Ballet Russes, Featuring work by Michel Fokine, Tom Gold, George Balanchine, and Lane Hunter, The Portland Ballet
June 2-4, Interum Echos, PDX Contemporary Ballet
June 8-10, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
July 15, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans

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