Andrea Parson

The red and the visible dark

The premieres of Ihsan Rustem's swift new "Carmen" and Patrick Delcroix's "Visible Darkness" color the spectrum for NW Dance Project

The beginning is not the fall itself, but the struggle to get up. Elijah Labay, the central figure in Patrick Delcroix’s new dance Visible Darkness, lies prone on the stage of the Newmark Theatre, raising his shoulders, lifting his torso, and then sinking back again. He’s been lying there, intermittently resting and struggling to move, for who knows how long. He is discovered, with alarm, and slowly, gently raised, and the dance moves on.

Visible Darkness is one of two world premieres (the other is resident choreographer Ihsan Rustem’s swift and witty new take on that old reliable potboiler Carmen) that opened Thursday evening in NW Dance Project’s newest program, which will repeat Friday and Saturday in the Newmark. Both tell stories, though not in the traditional story-ballet sense: they are narrative, but elliptical, allowing suggestion and mood to fill in much of the storytelling detail.

Ching Ching Wong and William Couture in “Visible Darkness.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

The story of Visible Darkness is very personal for Delcroix, the French choreographer and Jirí Kylián associate who’s created several dances for NDP beginning in 2011. According to Scott Lewis, NDP’s executive director, it’s about an accident Delcroix had two years ago: “He fell off a ladder while working on his home in The Hague and was found days later, unconscious, with a broken nose and other injuries,” including brain trauma. His recovery was long and arduous. This is Delcroix’s first new dance since the accident, and an emergence: As he says in a program note, “a difficult chapter in my life is complete.”

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DanceWatch Weekly: Ten new tiny dances

Ten Tiny Dance returns to the Beaverton Farmers Market with ten new tiny dances

Ten Tiny Dances is back! The performance concept, created in 2002 by Portland dance artist Mike Barber, has become a staple of Portland’s dance scene. And Saturday at the Beaverton Farmers Market ten new dances will squeeze themselves inside the four-by-four foot Ten Tiny Dance stage.

The dances will be performed on five stages scattered throughout the market. (A map of the stage locations is available online here.) Throughout its lifetime, Ten Tiny dances has been seen in many locations around Portland include PICA’s TBA festival and most recently out of town in Tempe, Arizona, Columbus, Ohio, and Houston, Texas, and has seen far more variations on its theme than performance locations. It has also showcased a large swath of Portland dance talent. This is Ten Tiny’s 8th year at the Beaverton Farmers Market.

Each year the choreographers grapple with new ways to fill the tiniest stage they will probably ever dance on. Most often the dances happen on top of the stage, but I have seen dances on the ground around the stage, under the stage. The most notable for me personally was choreographed by Angelle Hebert: A man with an ax hacked the stage around dancer Carla Mann to smithereens, leaving her with an even smaller stage to writhe around on—the tiniest stage of all the Ten Tiny dances.

Yes, figuring out how to dance on the 4-by-4 foot stage and dealing with its limitations makes dancing on it challenging, but that is exactly what makes it interesting.

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NW Dance Project: to wit, to woo

The premiere of Ihsan Rustem's "Le Fil Rouge" adds a dash of ebullient humor and style to the dynamic company's intense spring program

Northwest Dance Project is a lot of things, and a lot of very good things, but one thing it’s usually not is witty. This is a not-thing it has in common with many contemporary dance troupes (Portland’s BodyVox and a few independents like Linda Austin and Gregg Bielemeier are notable exceptions): wit isn’t generally a large part of the package in contemporary choreography.

So for lovers of the lightness of being, Thursday night’s premiere performance of Ihsan Rustem’s Le Fil Rouge was a surprise and a delight. It was also a highlight of the Project’s strong spring program, Louder Than Words, which repeats Friday and Saturday nights in the Newmark Theatre.

Julia Radick and Kody Jauron in the premiere of Ihsan Rustum's "Le Fil Rouge." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Julia Radick and Kody Jauron in the premiere of Ihsan Rustum’s “Le Fil Rouge.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Le Fil Rouge, or “The Red Thread,” is an evocation of the smart pop music and fizzy Hollywood dance styles of the 1950s and ’60s, a light and ebullient tip of the contemporary hat to the mating game in its many woozy variations: Like Twyla Tharp and a few others before him, Rustem’s not afraid to mine the energy and inventiveness and nostalgic attractions of popular culture. Performed by the entire company of nine dancers, the new piece cavorts through an appealing soundtrack of tunes by Yma Sumac, Doris Day, Edith Piaf, La Lupe, and others.

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NW Dance Project wraps a decade

… still sock-footed, fluid-moving and full of surprises!

“Ten years! 160 new works!”

Northwest Dance Project’s artistic and managing directors, Sarah Slipper and Scott Lewis, veritably beamed through their opening announcements. They gloried in a successful tour to Slipper’s native Canada. They teased preliminary plans to move their company into a new space. They marvelled aloud that moments from now, the facade of the Jive Building on Southwest 10th and Stark would host a giant projected simulcast of this show. It was clearly a thrilling evening for the NWDP—a victory lap, with each of the evening’s four pieces culminating in an extended curtain call.

Parson and Nieto in "After the Shake." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Parson and Nieto in “After the Shake.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Considering the company’s huge repertoire, the “Director’s Choice” must have been a hard one, but the four pieces that made the cut were, in order of performance:

  • State of Matter, by Ihsan Rustem: A seeming conflict between nude, natural fluidity and black-clad, martial-arts-like ferocity, set to ambient/noise music and spoken word that somewhat romantically equates human beings with dust and clouds.
  • A Fine Balance, by Slipper: A pas de deux featuring Andrea Parson, Viktor Usov, a table and a chair. A seeming couple enacts the varying dynamics of power, domesticity, detainment and upset by posing selves and furniture amid filmic flashes and fadeouts.
  • Harmony Défiguréé, by Patrick Delcroix: Beginning with three couples, introducing three interlopers, culminating in a trio of love triangles. Music and action build to a whalloping climax and subside in a long denouement.
  • After The Shake, a world premiere by Slipper: Ingeniously free-standing brooms that double as pendulums are props in this religious reverie about the rise and decline of Shaker communities. ‘Tis a Gift to be Simple, as arranged by Aaron Copland, is identifiable, as are the motions of chores, barn-raising, worship, and spirit-slaying.

Just for fun, let’s suppose the Director’s Choice program is a concise current summary of the company’s identity—representing not only the benchmarks of a 10-year run, but also the hallmarks of Slipper and Co.’s celebrated vision.

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Preview: NW Dance Project’s really BIG show

The contemporary company celebrates its 10th anniversary onstage, and in a great big outdoor simulcast on the side of a downtown building

Call it the Attack of the 50 Foot Dancers.

While the 10 dancers of the Northwest Dance Project are performing onstage in the Newmark Theatre Thursday night, their giant avatars will be cavorting on the side of downtown’s aptly named Jive Building, taking their art to the streets.

“I’m not chintzing out. I’m going big,” Sarah Slipper, NDP’s co-founder and artistic director, said with a laugh a few days ago while taking a break from rehearsing her newest piece.

Andrea Parson and Patrick Kilbane in Patrick Delcroix's "Harmonie Défigurée." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Andrea Parson and Patrick Kilbane in Patrick Delcroix’s “Harmonie Défigurée.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

This week’s shows, called Director’s Choice, mark the Dance Project’s tenth season, and Slipper wanted to celebrate that landmark emphatically: in the past decade, the company’s dancers have premiered more than 160 works. So the idea of the giant projections on the side of the Jive, at Southwest 10th Avenue and Stark Street, was born. The project’s sheer size and street-accessibility create the possibility of generating an entirely new audience. “We were very interested in bringing vibrancy to the city,” Slipper said. “You know how I’m always saying I want to crack things open. Let people in. Even, it becomes visual art. It’s First Thursday, so the area’s going to be pretty active, which is cool.”

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