Amenta and Intisar Abioto

Improvisation Summit of Portland review: spontaneous community

Creative Music Guild's annual two-day celebration of improvisation embraced varied forms of music and dance


Once a year the Creative Music Guild puts on the Improvisation Summit of Portland, featuring local experimental and jazz musicians of all stripes interspersed with other regional and national artists. The roster includes some of the best dancers, instrumentalists, electro-acoustic, and electronic musicians that the region has to offer, performing over the course of two days at the Kenton neighborhood arts space, Disjecta. The volunteer-run festival’s vibe of nerdy musician meets block party is Portland at its fundamental best, a venue for musicians to produce the weird, the deep, and the outrageous amongst other like-minded individuals. And it expresses a deep sense of community that seems lacking in other parts of Portland’s music scene.

Austin & Kleine’s ‘DUETS.’ Photo: Jonathan Sielaff.

Drum Dances

One of the integral parts of the ISP is improvised dance. This year’s festival, which took place June 30-July 1, included five dance performances ranging from entirely improvised to some that were decidedly more choreographed. Dancers Andrea Kleine and Linda Austin’s performance of DUETS with Mike Gamble and Fabian Rucker on synthesizer juxtaposed precise movement with chaotic sounds of two microbrute synths. Percussionists Lisa Schonberg and Heather Treadway improvised a provoking and complex rhythmic framework for dancer Danielle Ross to improvise movement. Similarly, Carla Mann’s improvised dance interwove with crackling energy of Brandon Conway’s freely improvised performance on electric guitar.

Two dance performances that stood out at the ISP both occurred on the festival’s last night. First was New York based dancer and choreographer Andrea Kleine’s SHIPS, a reimagined selection from her larger work Screening Room, or, The Return of Andrea Kleine, based on images from a film by Yvonne Rainer, with New York drummer Bobby Previte compositions as a musical backdrop.

Kleine’s ‘SHIPS’ at ISOP. Photo: Erica Thomas.

The performance began with Previte, Grant Pierce, and Andres Moreno on percussion and Fabian Rucker on baritone saxophone, slowly building a low rumble of drum and saxophone into what would become a swaying cacophony. Amid this, the dancers rose gracefully from their seats in the audience, moving slowly to the center of the room, performing movements that were independent of each other but nonetheless similar in their tranquility.


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