Ken Mai

DanceWatch Weekly: Ballet closes with ‘Terra’

A busy weekend of dance also includes BodyVox, butoh, Flamenco and more

Celebrating the warmth and earthiness of Mediterranean culture, ritualistic dance, and the return of spring, as Oregon Ballet Theatre concludes its 2016-2017 Season of Giants with Terra, this weekend. The program features a world premiere by former William Forsythe dancer Helen Pickett, itself called Terra, and two dances by Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato.

Pickett’s Terra is set to an original score by American Composer Jeff Beal, of House of Cards fame, and takes inspiration from indigenous cultures, contemporary ballet, and the writings of American mythologist Joseph Campbell. Another dance by Pickett, Petal, danced to the music of Philip Glass, is also on the program.

OBT’s artistic director, Kevin Irving, was principal rehearsal director of Duato’s Compania Nacional de Danza for eight years, and he will restage Duato’s first choreographic work ever, Jardí Tancat from 1983. The piece tells the story of hardworking Mediterranean farmers enduring the hardships of Mother Nature. The second dance, El Naranjo (The Orange Tree), is a sensuous pas de deux from a larger work called Gnawa.

A collection of one-nighters—Requiem of Flower by Butoh artists Ken Mai, an evening of flamenco with El Cuadro Pepe & Lillie, BodyVox at TEDxPortland, and Bridge the Gap, a cross-genre, community-building performance featuring a range of dance styles from Bollywhacking to Vogueing—also share the spring spotlight this weekend.

Jersey Boys, a touring musical about the ‘60’s vocal group The Fours Seasons and its rise to fame, opens on Tuesday.

Mark your calendars, it’s a full schedule!

Performances this week!

Oregon Ballet Theatre’s Martina Chavez. Photo: James McGrew

Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 13-22
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway

See above info.

Butoh dancer Ken Mai. Photo courtesy of Ken Mai.

Requiem of Flower 鎮魂歌
Ken Mai (Helsinki)
Butoh College Performance Series
8 pm April 15
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NW Farragut St

A student of the butoh styles of Kazuo Ohno and Tatsumi Hijikata as well as German expressionist dance, Helsinki artist Ken Mai will perform Requiem of Flower, an ode to beauty in decay.

In speaking about the piece Ohno says,“The lifetime of a flower is fleeting. In only a brief period of days, the totality of the flower becomes as eternal as the cosmos, blossoming unabashedly into the most delicate, ephemeral and erotic expression. Shortly after, the pollen is diffused, absorbed and regenerated again for future descendants. There is no regret in its decay.”

Dance writer Wendy Perron wrote a great, comprehensive article called The Power of Stripping Down to Nothingness on the history of Butoh and its connection to the Western world for The New York Times in 1999. Perron says, “Butoh (shortened from ”ankoko butoh,” meaning ”dance of utter darkness”) grew out of the American occupation of Japan as an effort to resist the Westernization of Japanese culture. It drew on the ancient forms of Kabuki and Noh, especially in their embrace of the grotesque. Tatsumi Hijikata, the primary originator of butoh, was known for his transgressions into vulgarities and violence, as well as his meticulous, riveting dancing. The challenge of butoh is to reveal the nakedness of the soul as well as the nakedness of the body.” Click here for the full article.

Matt Wong Photography — with Pepe Raphael and Lillie Last.

Las Perlas: an evening of flamenco variety
El Cuadro Pepe & Lillie
Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
8:00 pm April 15
The Echo Theater, 1515 SE 37th Ave

Spanish Flamenco singers Alfonso Cid from Sevilla and Pepe Raphael from Madrid, join forces with guitarist Brenna McDonald, Jed Miley and Mehdi Farjami and four dancers—Lillie Last, Laura Onizuka Christina Lorentz and Brenna McDonald—in this evening celebration of the Flamenco art form.

Flamenco is a folkloric tradition that combines song, dance, instrumentals (guitar mostly), hand clapping and finger snapping and originated in Andalusia in Spain. This art form is an amalgamation of centuries of cross-pollination among the many cultures that existed in Spain. Because it is a folkloric tradition and was passed down aurally until the mid-18th century, its history is imprecise, though it is thought to be greatly influenced by the Roma people, called Gitanos, who migrated from Rajasthan (Western India) to Spain between the 9th and 14th centuries, bringing with them tambourines, bells, castanets and a variety of songs and dances. The arm, hand and foot movements of Flamenco closely resemble those of classical Indian dance styles. These traditions combined with the cultures of the Sephardic Jews and Moors make up the Flamenco we see today.

The Flamenco dance (baile) can be characterized by the light graceful arm movements of the female dancer and the contrasting stomping foot drills of the man. It is intense, passionate, sexual and deeply emotional.

The song, (canto) which is the core of Flamenco, has three forms: grande or hondo (grand or deep) intense, profound, tragic in feeling and steeped with duende, which is the transformation of the musician by the depth of emotion; intermedio (intermediate), moderately serious; and pequeño (small), light, energetic songs of love.

The Spanish playwright and poet Federico García Lorca, who grew up in southern Spain and was greatly inspired and influenced by the Roma culture, spoke in depth about duende in his essay Theory and Play of the Duende, written in 1933.

Synesthesia by BodyVox. Photo courtesy of BodyVox.

Spectrum, TEDx Portland
April 15
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St

Synaesthesia is the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.

Back in January ArtsWatcher Bob Hicks reviewed BodyVox’s concert Urban Meadow which featured Synesthesia. Hicks described the piece as “visual play” “set to a score by Ravel, in which the five performers pile together and move in front of a video camera that fragments their images like a kaleidoscope and projects them above the stage. The dancers are in essence dancing against themselves; viewers dart their eyes between the “real” performers and their larger projected selves, which are similar but transformed into something almost geometric.”

BodyVox Dance Company joins Portland’s large creative community in a performance of Synesthesia for TEDx Portland choreographed by BodyVox founder Ashley Roland.

Bridge the Gap
Kumari Suraj, Isaiah Esquire, Johnny Nuriel, Daniel Giron, DJ Prashant’s Jai Ho Dance Troupe, DonnaMation, Icon, SEPIATONIC
Presented by Sepiatonic
9 pm April 15
Paris Theatre, 6 SW 3rd Ave

This dance party/performance aims to cross-pollinate the different genres of Portland’s dance and electronic music scene by offering performances in voguing, waacking, belly dancing, popping, Bollywood, samba and burlesque. Performers include international Bollywhacking artist Kumari Suraj, boylesque dancers Isaiah Esquire and Johnny Nuriel, voguing artist Daniel Giron, Bollywood dancer DJ Prashant and his Jai Ho Dance Troupe, and street dancers DonnaMation and Icon, experts in popping and locking.

Jersey Boys
Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
April 18-23
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St

You can’t have musical theatre without dance, and Jersey Boys is no exception to that rule. This dancin’ in the aisles, sing-a-long trip down memory lane story follows the quick rise to fame of the 1960’s rock band, The Fours Seasons and includes familiar songs such as Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Rag Doll, Oh What a Night and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.

Choreographer Sergio Trujillo made his Broadway debut as a performer in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway in 1989, appeared in Guys and Dolls in 1992, Victor/Victoria in 1998 and Fosse in 1999.

That same year Trujillo choreographed Jersey Boys, he also had three other musicals up and running on Broadway: The Addams Family, Memphis and Next to Normal.

In an interview with Trujillo in 2010, director Christopher Ashley describes Trujillo as a perfectionist and a great editor in his choreographic process. “If a dance doesn’t “pay off” Trujillo is more than willing to dispense with it and move on. He’s a real perfectionist,” said Ashley. “He really does his homework. He walks in the door with a very complete idea of what it could be, and he also sees very clearly what’s in front of him. He’s kind of ruthless about throwing away things that don’t work, even if he thought of them.”

Maybe THIS is the secret to his choreographic success.

Performances next week

April 18-23, Jersey Boys, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
April 21-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre
April 22, Mari Osanai (Japan), Butoh College Performance Series
April 22-23, Annual School Performance, The School of Oregon Ballet Theatre, choreography by George Balanchine, Nicolo Fonte, Alison Roper and Anthony Jones
April 25-26, Che Malambo, Presented by White Bird

Upcoming Performances

April 27-29, Jefferson Dancers Spring Concert, Hosted by the Jefferson Dancers
April 27-29, Contact Dance Film Festival, Presented by BodyVox and NW Film Center
April 28-29, Appalachian Spring Break, Scotty Heron and Brendan Connelly, Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
April 29, Yuko Kaseki (Berlin), Butoh College Performance Series
May 4-7, Taka Yamamoto, Produced by Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
May 5, Spring Dance Concert, The Reed College Dance Department
May 5-7, In Close Proximity, The Tempos Contemporary Circus
May 5-7, Inclusive Arts Vibe Annual Performance, Disability Arts and Culture Project
May 10, Martha Graham Dance Company, Presented by White Bird
May 16-21, An American in Paris, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
May 26-28, N.E.W. Residency performance, Dora Gaskill, Jessica Kelley, Stephanie Schaaf, and Michael Galen
May 26 – 27, Spring Concert – Tribute to the Ballet Russes, Featuring work by Michel Fokine, Tom Gold, George Balanchine, and Lane Hunter, The Portland Ballet
June 2-4, Interum Echos, PDX Contemporary Ballet
June 8-10, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
June 27-July 2, Cabaret, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
July 15, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans

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