Beautiful Decay

Dance Weekly: Linda Austin for the win

"Beautiful Decay," DIVA Practice, "Pearl Dive Project" and so much more this week in Portland dance

This morning my husband posted a photo on my Facebook page of a person dressed in a suit holding a poster in front of her face that read “I am an artists, this does not mean that I will work for free, I have bills just like you. Thank you for understanding.”

Linda Austin, the co-director of Performance Works NorthWest understands that paying dancers is the right thing to do, which is why on Friday night she will be performing a solo adaptation of A head of time, to raise funds to pay the nine dancers in her new work, (Un)Made You, which will be performed in November at Shaking the Tree Theatre, part of a longer work called (Un)Made Solo Relay that unfolded over the past several years.

Austin also received a Challenge Grant from the James & Marion L. Miller Foundation. Miller will match new and increased donations up to $5000.

A head of time was an ensemble work that she made in 2012 that touched on (and was dedicated to) family members who had passed away ahead of their time. ArtsWatcher Bob Hicks saw the performance in 2012 and wrote about it affectionately for ArtsWatch. Martha Ullman West also weighed in on the performance in the comments section below the article. Both are very good reads and do a good job maybe helping a not-so-adept dance watcher understand how to look at abstract dance.

According to Austin, the solo will include a hammer, a balloon, video images, a ladder, extension cords and blankets. Weaving in the soundscape of Seth Nehil, Austin says she will form, re-form, dissolve and fragment our timescapes.

Austin and Jeff Forbes (Austin’s husband and a well-known lighting designer) recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of their space, Performance Works NorthWest, a community rehearsal and performance hall at Southeast 67th and Holgate. I interviewed Austin at the time of the anniversary celebration about her past, present and future.

I hope among the many entertainment possibilities available this weekend that you choose to fit in A head of time, one, because you are curious about Linda Austin the performer, and two, you think paying dancers for their hard work is a good thing too.

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ArtsWatch Weekly: a Will and a way

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

The first thing we do, let’s count all the layers. He’s been updated, squeezed down, rethought, rewritten, cleaned up, dirtied down, worshipped unabashedly, reviled occasionally, shrugged off as a front man for some more sophisticated writer (Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, is the latest in a long line of contrarian candidates), quoted out of context ’til the cows come home.

Shakespeare's funerary monument, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Wikimedia Commons

Shakespeare’s funerary monument, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Wikimedia Commons

And still, four hundred years after his death, old Will Shakespeare’s a survivor. In a lot of ways, it seems, he’s never been healthier. He’s translated into pretty much every language of any size on Earth, and adapted into everything from ballets to symphonic musical scores to teen-movie comedies. And he’s an economic powerhouse: towns from Ashland, Oregon to Stratford-upon-Avon, England are built on the sturdy foundation of the money and visitors he draws in.

So, happy anniversary, Will. No one’s absolutely sure of the precise date he was born, but he was baptized on April 26, 1564 (probably three days after his birth), and died on April 23, 1616, and April 23 – this Saturday – is the day that much of the world will be celebrating his legacy. In Portland, the biggest party might be Shakespeare at 400, an all-day event (8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.) at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall. It’s presented by PSU, the Portland Shakespeare Project, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Play On! Project” of contemporary “translations” of the plays (that word’s caused a lot of ruckus in the Church of Shakespeare), with input from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s The Wonder of Will celebration. There’ll be lectures, and readings, and a sonnet slam, and excerpts from three of OSF’s controversial translations by contemporary playwrights. Come see and hear for yourself what Amy Freed’s done with The Taming of the Shrew, Ellen McLaughlin with Pericles, and Douglas Langworthy with Henry VI: fresh approaches, or sacrilege?

Everything’s free, but organizers want to know how many people will be showing up, so click that link above and send in your RSVP.

"Oberon, Titania, and Puck with Fairies Dancing," William Blake, ca. 1786, watercolor and graphite on paper, 18.7 x 26.6 inches, Tate Britain, London / Wikimedia Commons

“Oberon, Titania, and Puck with Fairies Dancing,” William Blake, ca. 1786, watercolor and graphite on paper, 18.7 x 26.6 inches, Tate Britain, London / Wikimedia Commons

 


 

Once upon a time the woods were mighty, and so were the men who worked in them. Paul Bunyan could clear-cut a hillside with a single swing of his ax (such activities are frowned upon these days) and hard-working, hard-living woodsmen were memorialized in folk songs: I see you are a logger, and not just a common bum, for nobody but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb.

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Age before (and beside) beauty

Nicolo Fonte's "Beautiful Decay" for Oregon Ballet Theatre eloquently reflects on youth and age

“Crabbèd age and youth cannot live together,” a poem attributed to William Shakespeare tells us.

That may be, but they sure as hell can dance together, and damned well, as sixtysomething guest artists Gregg Bielemeier, Susan Banyas and the energetic, fleet members of Oregon Ballet Theatre showed us Thursday night in the company premiere of  Nicolo Fonte’s  lovely ballet Beautiful Decay.

The evening-length work, originally made for Philadelphia’s BalletX, concludes the company’s twenty-sixth season with an eight-performance run at the Newmark Theatre, this weekend and next.

Guest artist Susan Banyas and Gregg Bielemeier in "Beautiful Decay." Photo: Yi Yin

Guest artist Susan Banyas and Gregg Bielemeier in “Beautiful Decay.” Photo: Yi Yin

From Act III of Bournonville’s Napoli, which was the second half of OBT’s fall opener,  to Balanchine’s Nutcracker and James Canfield’s Romeo and Juliet, this has been a season of story ballets, and Beautiful Decay not only carries a narrative thread tied to the life cycle and the (expletive deleted) aging process, it also includes some of the conventions to be found in what ballet historians often refer to as the big three: Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and The Sleeping Beauty, all with music by Tchaikovsky. Beautiful Decay is set to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, contemporary composer Max Richter’s The Four Seasons Recomposed, and a few pop songs composed by Iceland’s Ólafur Arnalds.

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Gregg Bielemeier and Susan Banyas talk about aging artfully

Oregon Ballet Theatre's Nicolo Fonte is working with two Portland dance legends on "Beautiful Decay"

Beautiful Decay, choreographed by Oregon Ballet Theatre’s new resident choreographer Nicolo Fonte, features veteran Portland dancers Susan Banyas and Gregg Bielemeier as it explores the inevitability of time and its changes on the human body.

This piece seems like a significant step forward in the discussion of age in ballet, specifically, and in the culture, more generally. Our obsession with youth, I think, is hindering the full expression of the dance art, something that develops with age.

I caught up with Susan and Gregg three weeks ago to talk about their experiences inside Beautiful Decay.

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Dance Weekly: Divine dancing in various guises

All the dance you can possibly think of is happening right here, right now, this weekend.

Just because the weather has gotten dark again and the rain is back does not mean you get to crawl under the covers and stay there for the duration. There are important dance works being performed this weekend and you need to see them. They will NOT be projected on the underside of your blankets. This weekend offers 11 possible ways to connect with and view dance, with a little something for everyone.

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