Fertile Ground Festival of New Works

Les Watanabe on Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Donald McKayle and his life in dance

The dance pioneer debuts his "Love Songs" at Groovin' Greenhouse, part of Fertile Ground

At 2 and 7:30 pm on Saturday, January 21, Laura Stilwell, Felice Moskowitz, Terry Brock and Emma Mochnick will dance Les Watanabe’s Love Songs, part of Fertile Ground’s Groovin’ Greenhouse, hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre.

I was initially interested in learning more about Watanabe when I heard that Love Songs was being performed by a cast of older, retired dancers. As an aging dancer I am always interested in how other dancers feel about aging and performing in a culture that vastly prefers youth. I also learned that Watanabe, currently an Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance at Western Oregon University, had had a rich, prolific performing career with some of America’s great, early modern dance pioneers, including Alvin Ailey and Lar Lubovitch.

I was astounded that I had lived in Portland for five years and had never heard of Watanabe, so I decided I had to talk with him and learn more about him.

Over several days last week we chatted via email, and that conversation unfolds below.

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DanceWatch Weekly: Inauguration weekend dance

Several big shows are on tap this weekend, including Tahni Holt at White Bird, BodyVox, Groovin' Greenhouse, and New Expressive Works

It’s an historic week for so many reasons, some happy, some frustrating, but here, we will focus on the happy and far less frustrating dance events in Portland.

Opening last night at Reed College’s Diver Studio is Tahni Holt’s Sensation/Disorientation, a White Bird commission that looks at femaleness and its layers in modern-day culture, will be performed in the round, by six multigenerational performers from 15 to 60 years old.

Sensation/Disorientation will be performed by Tracy Broyles, Muffie Connelly, Carla Mann, Eliza Larson, Suzanne Chi and Aidan Hutapea, with music by Luke Wyland, costumes by Alenka Loesch and dramaturgy by Kate Bredeson. Holt, within her choreography, investigates concepts of ritual, duration, exhaustion, vitality, and organic versus in organic, rupturing familiar cultural narratives around the female body specifically addressing age and weight.

For further insight into Holt’s process you can read Hannah Krafcik’s article, Reading into Tahni Holt’s ‘Sensation/Disorientation.’ Krafcik co-facilitates an ongoing movement practice with Holt at FLOCK Dance Center in North Portland and possibly offers a more intimate knowledge of Holt’s thinking and doing. You can also listen to OPB’s State of Wonder by Aaron Scott where he talks with dramaturge Kate Bredeson, musician Luke Wyland, Tahni Holt and White Bird directors Paul King and Walter Jaffe on the different aspects of the production.

Sensation/Disorientation was not intended to bookend the 2017 inauguration but works perfectly in that space anyway. Holt suggested in Krafcik’s article that we attend the Women’s March downtown and then head to her concert later in the evening. Sounds like a good plan to me.

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