cirque du soleil

DanceWatch Weekly: Looking ahead, way ahead

A message from the future: Your dance card is full

Toss the streamers, pop the cork, and roll the drums because Portland’s 2017–2018 dance season is here! Listed below are all of the dance related performances that I am aware of from now until next summer. I will of course be adding more performances to the list throughout the year as they come to my attention, so stay tuned. But as it stands right now, it’s a pretty impressive list, and I’m excited. Portland’s dance scene is on fire!

The incredible amount of Portland dance offerings this year span American modern dance history, show breadth in style and approach, represent different cultures/counter cultures and countries, offer many ways to interact with them, and will be performed by local, national, and international dance companies and artists.

When you look at the calendar in full and see the sheer volume of dance events happening this year, it’s extraordinary. We Portlanders are really lucky. Even if you don’t make it to all of the performances below, please take some time to click on the links to learn about all of these amazing artists in our midst.

Continuing this week will be performances of Where to Wear What Hat by WolfBird Dance—a commentary of society’s constraints on women from from the 1950s until now, and two evenings of curated dance films with Portland Dance Film Fest from filmmakers around the world.

Cirque Du Soleil’s Kurios: Cabinet Of Curiosities also continues with it’s crazy cast of dancing, twirling, and flying characters through October 8 at the Portland Expo Center. You can even listen to the show’s soundtrack while you buy tickets online. Tickets are 20% off through Artslandia’s website by clicking on the Kurios advertisement on the right hand side of their page.

If you are in Eugene, head out to First Friday ArtWalk to be a part of the choreographic process for a ballet with Instaballet. If you are in Astoria, you can catch some of Portland’s finest Flamenco artists, Espacio Flamenco Portland, at the Performing Arts Center.

And last but definitely not least is This is a Black Spatial Imaginary, two performances and whatnot by Portland dance artist keyon gaskin and Portland-based writer and performance artist sidony o’neal that “considers the movement and fixity of Black communities, by activating past, present and future spaces for Black life.”

Performances this week!

Where To Wear What Hat by WolfBird Dance. Photo courtesy of WolfBird Dance.

Where To Wear What Hat
WolfBird Dance
Choreography by Selina DiPronio and Raven Jones
August 31-September 3
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont
Commenting on society’s constraints on women from the 1950s until now, choreographers Selina DiPronio and Raven Jones juxtapose iconographic ‘50s imagery with displays of force in both humorous and disconcerting ways to demonstrate the power and strength of women.

DiPronio and Jones have been working together since their student days at the University of South Florida and are interested in creating in collaborative environments and abandoning all conventions.

The deep-sea creatures of Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities. Photo by Martin Girard

Kurios: Cabinet Of Curiosities
Cirque Du Soleil
August 31-October 8
Portland Expo Center, 2060 N Marine Dr
This fantastical big-top performance draws the viewer into the mysterious curio cabinet of an ambitious inventor who defies the laws of science, reinventing the world around him. Out of his cabinet comes a wacky cast of characters: quirky robots, underwater creatures, a human accordion, and contortionist sea creatures. What is “visible becomes invisible, perspectives are transformed, and the world is literally turned upside down.”

Photo courtesy of Instaballet. Dancers Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan.

#Instaballet No. 23
Directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of Eugene Ballet Company
5:30 pm September 1
First Friday ArtWalk, Capitello Wine, 540 Charnelton St, Eugene
This event is FREE
Live music and dancers from Eugene Ballet Company

Reimagining who creates ballets, Instaballet, directed by Suzanne Haag and Antonio Anacan of Eugene Ballet company, gives artistic control to the audience. If you have ever wanted to choreograph a ballet but aren’t a dancer or a choreographer, now is your chance. Head on over to First Friday ArtWalk in Eugene and be a part of the process and make a ballet on the spot. The creative process begins at 5:30 pm and a performance of the final product will happen at 8 pm. The performance will be accompanied by live music and four Eugene Ballet dancers will make themselves available for your creative juices. In Eugene.

If you are interested in learning more about Instaballet and how it came to be, Eugene ArtsWatch correspondent Gary Ferrington wrote about them in 2015 in Crowd-sourced Choreography.

Photo from the film Open directed by Lindsay Gauthier. Dancers Michael Montgomery and Laura O’Malley. Photo by Aleskey Bochkovsky.

Portland Dance Film Fest (PDFF)
Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans
Presented by NW Dance Project, Dance Wire, Bad Hands Studio, and Design By Goats
September 1-2
SubRosa Dance Collective members Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans, have curated a massive, five-day dance film festival, spanning two weekends (and several locations) that concludes this weekend with two curated evenings of dance films (each evening lasting approximately one hour). The works screened are from Finland, Vietnam, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Canada, Switzerland, Belgium, and the United States. Check out Portland Dance Film Fest’s website for screening times, film descriptions, interviews with select filmmakers, and more.

This is a Black Spatial Imaginary, two performances and whatnot
keyon gaskin and sidony o’neal
3 pm September 3
Paragon Arts Gallery, 815 N Killingsworth St

As quoted from their event page on FaceBook.

This Is A Black Spatial Imaginary considers the movement and fixity of Black communities, by activating the past, present and future spaces for Black life.

1st event for This is a Black Spatial Imaginary @ Paragon Gallery. Two performances. there will be snacks and whatnot.

cover charge for non-black people, artists split the proceeds.

about exhibition and project:

This is a Black Spatial Imaginary brings together installation, video, print media, performance, and public intervention, exploring new forms of practice at the intersection of art, collaboration, historical record, urban planning, collaboration and creative exchange.

This Is A Black Spatial Imaginary considers the movement and fixity of Black communities, by activating past, present and future spaces for Black life. Moving from NW to NE Portland (as Black Portlanders did), the work starts near Union Station at PNCA’s Center for Contemporary Art and Culture, crosses the Broadway Bridge, activates key sites, and ends on the eastside at PCC’s Paragon Gallery, with over 40 Black artists and scholars coming together to showcase work and share ideas. In sifting through historical and contemporary Black geographies, the work provides clues to understanding how Black possibilities live and breathe. The project grounds itself in collaborative work that span local and global Black geographic imaginaries, bringing both analytics and poetics to fields of practice.

Noche Flamenca
Presented by Espacio Flamenco Portland and the Performing Arts Center, Astoria
7 pm September 3
Performing Arts Center, 588 16th Street, Astoria
All Ages
Children 12 and under free!
Celebrating the variety in flamenco music and dance, Espacio Flamenco Portland will entertain Astoria audiences with soulful sounds of Moroccan singer Randa BenAziz, guitarist Brenna McDonald, percussionist Nick Hutch and Christina Lorentz, and dancer steppings of Lillie Last, Montserrat Andreys, Kelley Dodd, and Christina Lorentz.

Upcoming Performances

September 7-17, TBA:17, Portland Institute For Contemporary Art
September 8-9, Will Rawls, I make me [sic] Portland, TBA:17
September 9, Critical Mascara, performances by Pepper Pepper, House of Ada, Flora, and DJ Spf 666, TBA:17
September 8-9, Dohee Lee Puri Arts, MU/巫, TBA:17
September 8-16, Direct Path To Detour, Single Focus (World Premiere),Takahiro Yamamoto, TBA:17
September 9, Rejoice! Community Ensemble Dance Workshop + Performance, hosted by Scale House, Bend
September 9-10, Corbeaux, Bouchra Ouizguen, TBA:17
September 11-13, Dead Thoroughbred, keyon gaskin and sidony o’neal, TBA:17
September 12-14, Thank You For Coming: Play (West Coast Premiere), Faye Driscoll, TBA:17
September 14-17, Bunny, Luke George and Daniel Kok, TBA:17
September 16-October 1, Billy Elliot The Musical, presented by The Hasson Company, Portland’5
September 16, ADAPt Dance Celebration 1v1 Open Styles (do it your way) dance battle, Hosted by GAAN and ADAPT
September 21, Lessons in Drag with Lawhore Vagistan, Kareem Khubchandani, presented by Reed College Performing Arts
September 22, Carlyn Hudson Presents: Solos, and Not-Solos…(But Mostly Solos)
September 29-30, Diphylleia Grayi (Skeleton Flower) + Matriarch, Degenerate Art Ensemble and Mizu Desierto, presented by Mizu Desierto and Water In The Desert
September 29-30, Episode III, jin camou, Julia Calabrese, Mary Sutton, Leah Brown, a PWNW Alembic Co-Production

October 5-7, Complexions, presented by White Bird
October 6-8, Mowgli – The Jungle Book Ballet, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
October 7, Dance Of The Hummingbirds, Jayanthi Raman and dancers
October 7-14, Rhapsody In Blue (World Premiere), choreography by Nicolo Fonte, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
October 12-14, Paul Taylor Dance Company, presented by White Bird
October 13-14, The Northwest Screendance Exposition, directed by John Watson, presented by the University of Oregon Department of Dance, Eugene
October 19-21, Wen Wei Wang (World Premiere), Luca Signoretti (World Premiere), At Some Hour You Return by Jirí Pokorný, NW Dance Project
OCT 20-22, Abominable, Taylor A. Eggån and Daniel Addy
October 20-22, Uprise, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theater
October 22, Le Corsaire, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
October 26, Cocktail Hour: The Show, choreography by Marilyn Klaus, presented by Seacoast Entertainment Association
October 26-28, Dancenorth Australia, presented by White Bird
October 31, Opus Cactus, MOMIX, Eugene

November 3-5, Converge, PDX Contemporary Ballet
November 9-12, When We, Allie Hankins & Rachael Dichter, a PWNW Alembic Co-Production
November 15, The Hip Hop Nutcracker Featuring MC Kurtis Blow, Decadancetheatre
November 16-18, L-E-V, presented by White Bird
November 24-26, The Enchanted Toyshop by John Clifford, Tourbillon by Anne Mueller, performed by the PSU Orchestra and The Portland Ballet
November 26, The Taming Of The Shrew, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
November 30-December 9, Lexicon (world premiere), BodyVox

December 7-9, Bolero, Ihsan Rustem, NW Dance Project
December 9-24, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 13-17, a world, a world (work-in-progress), Linda Austin Dance, PWNW
December 17, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
December 22-24, The Nutcracker with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene

January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird

February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
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, World Premiere’s by Sarah Slipper and Cayetano Soto, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
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 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 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
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

Fabrice Lemire’s class act at OBT

The artistic director of Cirque du Soleil's soon-to-open "Varekai," a onetime Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer, returns to lead company class

“I will now pretend to teach,” Fabrice Lemire tells Oregon Ballet Theatre’s dancers.  The dancers and Lemire–artistic director for Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai, a Cirque favorite that made its debut in 2002 and plays May 6-10 at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum–are assembled on a Tuesday in OBT’s main studio for the daily ritual known as company class.

For Lemire, this is something of a homecoming after almost two decades away. Paris-born and Paris-trained, he performed with Oregon Ballet Theatre from 1993 to 1996, and remains one of the most versatile and technically impeccable dancers the company has ever had. He was memorable as Hilarion in the company’s first version of Giselle, and equally so in Josie Moseley’s modern-inflected With. He displayed his considerable talents as a character dancer when, in Coppélia, he thoroughly inhabited the role of the doll-obsessed toymaker Dr. Coppélius.

Fabrice Lemire, artistic director of "Varekai," leads company class at OBT, where he once danced. Photo: XXX XXXXX

Fabrice Lemire, artistic director of “Varekai,” leads company class at OBT, where he once danced. Photo: Molly Ishkanian

On this day, as he walks around the studio and watches the dancers repeat the combinations of steps he has assigned them, he speaks frequently of épaulement, the aristocratic yet flexible carriage of the shoulders that classical dancers work long hours to acquire. His own épaulement was, and still is, elegant and beautiful; very much a part of the way he moves onstage and off.  While he makes no individual corrections, as a group he instructs the dancers to “breathe through the spine,” and “feel the épaulement right from the start.”  The dancers are extremely attentive, weary as they are after the first weekend of their last concerts of the season.

“Use the floor as a partner,” Lemire tells them. It’s something I’d expect to hear from a modern dancer, but then I remember that he arrived in Portland in 1993 as guest artist and assistant to Donald Byrd, when OBT’s founding artistic director James Canfield brought in the crossover choreographer to set Crack’d Narrative on the company. Byrd, who now directs Seattle’s Spectrum Dance Theater,  combines classical ballet and modern movement in much of his work, and also has specialized over the years in his own versions of the classical repertory, including Life Situations: Daydreams of Giselle, which turns the Wilis into a gang of castrating women.  Canfield put it on the same mixed bill as the traditional Giselle, and it provided a brilliant illustration of his belief that contemporary ballet is rooted in the classical tradition.

Photo courtesy Fabrice Lemire.

Photo courtesy Fabrice Lemire.

Lemire, who has been teaching in sock feet, sits down to put on les sabots du pays, namely a shiny new pair of Nikes.  The dancers clear the studio of the barres and he figures out a combination he wants them to try: the center work that is also a part of this ritual begins. The class ends traditionally with the dancers, each of them, bowing their thanks as they leave the room.

Several interviews have been scheduled for Lemire after class.  When I take my turn in OBT’s board room, before I can ask a question, he makes a long statement he has obviously made before—that he is proud of his journey from dancer to choreographer to administrator, from art to entertainment.  I ask him about the differences between them, the distinctions between fine art and commercial art.  In dance terms, he says, “The intention behind the movement” is applicable to both; both “allow escape.” At Cirque, where most of the performers are not trained dancers, they nevertheless “have to tell stories with their bodies, and they need to surprise themselves, and me, or they won’t surprise the audience.”

I ask how his experience as a dancer, an itinerant choreographer,  and a stager (until a few years ago he was still staging much of Byrd’s work) helped him to succeed with Cirque du Soleil.  In July, he starts to develop and direct a new show whose story, he told the dancers, is a prequel to the film Avatar. His response was immediate: “Donald Byrd is so clear about his aesthetic, and he taught me never to be satisfied with the status quo as a performer.”  Elsewhere, he spoke of his ability to transfer Verakai from the tent version seen in Portland in 2006 to the arena version that will be performed at the Coliseum in May. Stagers and choreographers must know how to accommodate movement for the space in which it is performed.

The Russian Swings act from "Varekai." Photo: Martin Girard / Costumes: Eiko Ishioka © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

The Russian Swings act from “Varekai.” Photo: Martin Girard / Costumes: Eiko Ishioka © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

Lemire is on a tight schedule, and it’s time for him to do another interview. I tell him I will never forget his performance in Bebe Miller’s A Certain Kind of Heart, Also Love. He smiles softly, nostalgically, and tells me it was the last thing he performed in Portland, when it was revived in the spring of 1996 at the Newmark. “You remember? The curtain comes down on me dancing in a pool of feathers. I never came back until today.”

Many of us at the studio, including Tracy Julias, who danced with OBT at the same time, were glad to see him.

Charlie Dennard (with squeezebox) and band perform at Portland's Secret Society Monday night.

Charlie Dennard (with squeezebox) and band perform at Portland’s Secret Society Monday night.


In Charlie Dennard’s multi-continental musical world, fusion is anything but a dirty word. Then again, when the term is limited to the passé, 1970s-era quasi-mind-bending melding of rock, funk and electronic music, it does translate as a four-letter word to Dennard, though he doesn’t swear too much. The 45-year-old  jazz musician/ composer/Cirque du Soleil musical director is as conscious of his polite French roots reaching back centuries into American history (his label is Deneaux Music) as he is of his Southern heritage. Dennard’s southern ingredients include a childhood in Birmingham, Ala., and an adult life, off and on in New Orleans. He studied with jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis (father of brothers Wynton, Branford, et al.) in the late ‘90s at the University of New Orleans, where he earned a master’s degree in music.

Fusion—that word, again— does accurately describe Charlie Dennard’s brand-new CD, From Brazil to New Orleans. Untethered to any particular genre, it’s far more than a crossover collection of tired-out Preservation Hall jazz and overworked Brazilian bossa nova. Dennard’s CD even leaves mid-century bossa nova behind for newer music.

“Brazilian musicians have moved on,” he says. “They even think of bossa as elevator music.” Dennard and a band of Portland jazz all stars and Cirque du Soleil musicians will cook up a gumbo of jazz/Brazilian fusion at Monday night’s CD release party at Portland’s Secret Society.


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