Keyon Gaskin

ArtsWatch year in dance 2017

From ballet to world to contemporary, where the dance scene led, ArtsWatch followed. In 20 stories, a brisk stroll through the seasons.

Dance in Portland and Oregon has long been on the edge – often financially and sometimes artistically. Yet despite economic challenges you can’t keep it down: the city moves to a dance beat, and every week brings fresh performances. ArtsWatch writers got to a significant share of those shows in 2017, and wrote about them with breadth, wit, and insight.

The twenty ArtsWatch stories here don’t make up a “best of” list, though several of these shows could easily make one. They constitute, rather, a January-to-December snapshot of a rich and busy scene that runs from classical ballet to contemporary and experimental work.



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A dance down memory lane in 20 tales from ArtsWatch writers:


“Hopper’s Dinner”: an exuberant feast. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

A mellow Meadow like old times

Jan. 20: “Going to opening night of BodyVox’s Urban Meadow at Lincoln Performance Hall on Thursday evening was a little like dropping over for dinner with a bunch of old friends you haven’t seen in a while, and remembering why you liked them in the first place,” Bob Hicks wrote. “The table was set nicely, the food and wine were good, and everybody swapped old jokes and stories with easy familiarity. There was even a guest of honor, who was fondly feted, and who told a few good tales himself.” The “guest” was the wonderful dancer Erik Skinner, who was retiring from BodyVox (though not from performing) after this run, and the program included a bunch of old favorites that were themselves welcome guests.


It’s mid-TBA and there is still so much to see and do! If you’re just tuning in, TBA, or Time-Based Art, is the Portland Institute For Contemporary Art’s yearly festival of performances, workshops, artist talks, visual art exhibitions, music performances, and after-hours parties. This year’s 11-day festival, spread out to venues across the city, is inherently interdisciplinary and features local, national and international artists coming from as far away as Singapore, Morocco, and France.

Jamuna Chiarini

Earlier in the festival ArtsWatcher Nim Wunnan caught Korean performer Dohee Lee’s work MU/巫; a piece based in Korean shamanism that combines technology, ritual, and the sounds of drumming and voice that explores myth as the thread that “connects us to our lands, nature, history, belief systems, and to each other.” You can read his in-depth review here.

Closing tonight Is Dead Thoroughbred by Portland artists keyon gaskin and sidony o’neal. If you’re interested in hearing about the process and concept behind this new performance project, join them in conversation at 12:30 p.m. today (Wednesday, Sept. 13) with scholars Sampada Aranke and Kemi Adeyemi at PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art). Wunnan also reviewed Dead Thoroughbred and you can read about his experience seeing the performance here.


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

Weekend DanceWatch: TBA goes local

Interviews with the local choreographers included in this year's TBA Festival

TBA really gets going tonight! What is TBA? TBA stands for Time-Based Art Festival (art in real time), and it’s the yearly festival produced by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, known as PICA—they sure do like their acronyms over there. It runs from September 10–20th.

PICA’s focus is supporting the development and creative processes of contemporary experimental performing and visual artists, artists who are distinctive, risk takers, visionaries, and leaders in their fields. PICA is also interested in curating a global conversation and helping audiences access art and see it in new ways. This 10-day festival features live performances, music, workshops, talks and art installations.

This year TBA hosts an unprecedented number of local Portland dance artists. Because of that, I decided to highlight those performing artists through short interviews so you can get to know them better. This is not to say that there aren’t other amazing dance performances to take note of because there are. You can check out the full schedule on PICA’s website.

Because this is TBA’s 20th anniversary, the festival will be honoring that legacy by looking back as well as looking ahead. This means that Mike Barber’s Ten Tiny Dances is back and with that, ten new performing groups will take to the infamous tiny stage at festival’s late-night performance and mingling space, The Works.

Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest
7 & 9 pm, September 12
Sustainable Northwest Wood Lumberyard, 2701 SE 14th Ave.
Interested in redefining the dancer/audience relationship and conversing about industrial sprawl and locally harvested forests through dance, Heidi Duckler Dance Theater NW will be performing in a lumberyard as part of a two-part series, the first of which took place last weekend in Hoyt Arboretum.

TBA dance artist interviews


Keyon Gaskin dancing down the stairs in “it’s not a thing” at Black genus, genesis, genius at Central Library. Photo by Robert Duncan.

Keyon Gaskin dancing down the stairs in “it’s not a thing” at Black genus, genesis, genius at Central Library. Photo by Robert Duncan.

it’s not a thing 
keyon gaskin
September 11-12
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.

What artists have you been working with and are inspired by lately?
I’m working on “A Song To…”, a piece by Mia Habib made in Oslo, Norway, with a 16-person cast. Elisabeth Tambwe is my latest art crush!

What is “it’s not a thing” about?
A lot of things most of which I don’t know.

Can you talk about your choice to replace a dance photo of yourself and a traditional bio with a black rectangle and no words?
There is a photo of me, but I chose not to use words because I don’t want to provide context for or frame this work in that way, and the black box seems a more appropriate way. Also this piece has really made me think about how we engage or are expected to engage as artists and ways of subverting or challenging those expectations.

What is your process of dance making?
Living/multifarious/non-existent/inclusive of everything/contentious/surprising/while smoking cigarettes/in my head/out of research/reading/dancing in my room/observing/conversations/crying a lot/trying to understand theory/try to confuse everything/going deep/disregard/lots of laughing/offending/(un) learning…

Is there anything that you would like to talk about that I didn’t ask about?
That I’m rushing to write this at the last minute, per usual, seems pertinent to who I am as a person/maker, I guess.


Lucy Yim. Photo by Cristin Norine

Lucy Yim. Photo by Cristin Norine

Devastation Melody
Lucy Yim
PNCA Mediatheque, 511 NW Broadway, Room 107
September 12-14

Please tell me about Devastation Melody. What is it about? When did you begin working on it?

Devastation Melody is my attempt at articulating a sensation/feeling that I have had for a lot of my life. In my 20’s I had this internship in Paris with a group of other Americans and we were late for our flight back to Spain. One of the girls had pissed off the cab driver because she was pressuring him to drive faster. When we got there, everyone except for me started running through the airport, knocking people over on the way. I was very awarely ashamed of the spectacle happening in front of me, all these hyper entitled Americans running over people…. I was walking quickly behind them, when one of them turns back and yells, “What the fuck is wrong with you?! Hurry up! Are you always like this?” I of course had no time to reply. The plane had already left without us at this point.

Maybe I tell you this story because that question is still lingering for me in a very abstracted way. There is a quiet trauma, like a whisper, that is a familiar friend—the sensation I am talking about. How it has been shaped interacts socially and culturally through the body and through language. I was interested in creating a work from this sensation through the medium of performance because of the direct audience-performer relationship, which to me echoes its internal/external shaping with the socio-cultural.

There are many things Devastation Melody is “about” and the way I have been articulating it in a way that one can read as a coherent statement is, Devastation Melody is a work exploring the space where mourning and melancholia intersect. It comes from the personal, but I am taking a good hard look at what my body, fragmented and non-synchronous, speaks to a larger culture. I am asking if it does speak to a larger culture. I am making what is invisible, visible and asking why they are. One concrete example of this is sexuality. I am drawing connections between the assumed hetero-ness of my body and the model minority myth. I am wrestling with where my responsibility to unpack, dismantle, unhinge the myth lies.

In my research and making of this work there are all sorts of double standards that are popping up, and they might be my own paranoia around being an artist of color making work that circles that part of my identity, but I don’t know. I don’t think I will know until I perform it.

How has the Creative Exchange Lab influenced you, helped you?
CEL was amazing. Any supported time to create is helpful. I am so active in supporting this performance community here in Portland with Physical Education, it was timely. It allowed me to step away for a moment. I have to say that all of the PICA ladies are quite phenomenal people and they have been very supportive of me and my work. I am so incredibly appreciative, and they make me quite proud to be a part of this community. Meeting the other artists and getting a glimpse into how hard everyone works and how invested in their craft they are, was inspiring. The other artists are further along in their careers, so from my vantage point, it was motivating. I took great strides in prioritizing this work after CEL, and I don’t think that was coincidental.

Who/what influences your work?
I am going to intentionally answer this question in a particular way that I think will give a context for Devastation Melody rather than me as an artist because I am quite scattered in my influences. I became acutely aware of the lack of experimental/avant-garde artists/poets/performers of color and took time for that research. I looked at the poetry and film work of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, she has been a big influence, as well as installation, sound artist Nam June Paik. The psychoanalytic research of Anne Anlin Cheng and David Eng on racial grief, the consideration of racial grief in relation to queer theory through the writing of Dina Georgis, and the book The Senses Still by Nadia Seremetakis on the dissolving of culture….

What is your process of dance making?
Being inside of a process gives access to a whole world of want and curiosity. I can already see the desires and the questions that will go unanswered in Devastation Melody that will inform the next project. It’s comforting in a way as it relieves the pressure to fit it all into one piece. I want to say it all, but I cannot, or maybe I could, but I do not know how to with where I am at right now. It’s like rollover minutes. And, I don’t have a definable process of making per-se. I do have a definable process of neurosis and creative surges inside of a process. It’s bodily and intuitive.

Suniti Dernovsek performing in Leading Light as part of the New Expressive Works residency at Studio 2 @ Zoomtopia.

Suniti Dernovsek performing in Leading Light as part of the New Expressive Works residency at Studio 2 @ Zoomtopia.

Leading Light
Suniti Dernovsek
September 12-13
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.

Can you tell me what Leading Light is about?
Leading Light began with a clear idea to research the life of well-known singer Dalida. She received great recognition but dealt with depression and unbearable loss and ended her life by ingesting barbiturates. As I pondered her life I kept coming back to what was personal and relevant for me at present. Questions arose in regards to presentation and the vulnerability in expressing what feels honest. How do I include all of myself? While in the act of dancing, the dance kept asking more questions and offering ideas. The work began to examine the performer’s role in expressing an ideal versus what is intimate and honest. I am in a place in the process where the dance feels like it knows more than me yet I continue to find interest in investigating a body that has perfected posturing and presentation but is consumed by a mind that self-identifies with its scars and is unwilling to part with them.

When did you begin working on this piece?
In the second half of last year I received a six-month residency at Studio 2 and made a 20-minute solo, which currently has become a broken up section that will eventually be part of a larger work. For the TBA Festival I have reconfigured and reconsidered this 20 minute solo to show it one last time.  It feels like an important part of the process for me to find an embodied intimacy and clarity within my choreographic vision.

I am premiering the evening length work in December at Studio 2, and it will include performer Allie Hankins and live music by Holland Andrews.

What does your studio/dance making practice look like?
It’s different all the time. I have many practices. I keep making more to break up the predictability.  I move, I ask questions, I journal, I read, I bring in other artists to inspire and wreck what I make, I look for surprises, I look for what is interesting, different and what’s the same.

Luke Gutgsell performing in The Self Possessed as part of the New Expressive Works residency at Studio 2 @ Zoomtopia .

Luke Gutgsell performing in The Self Possessed as part of the New Expressive Works residency at Studio 2 @ Zoomtopia .

The Self Possessed
Luke Gutgsell
September 12-13
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.

What is The Self Possessed about?

The Self Possessed is about the attempts I make to change events through the powers of imagination rather than real world engagement. The work is, at times, a bizarre form of prayer and ritual intended to provide a protective shield from the perceived threats of the world. The work speaks to my opposing feelings in the face of love—my reluctance to bond and simultaneous desire for intimacy.

In one section of the work I try to inhabit my body from the inside while experiencing the vastness of space around me. I become lost in my cells and the eternal falling feeling of the stars. This piece highlights the bazar feeling of being both an infinitely vast network of awareness and lump of flesh stamped with culture.

This dance is about claiming my gayness and aligning myself with people of all types who are proud to be exactly who they are. It is a practice in saying, “I am this and not that. I can say yes AND say no. I have a border between my body and yours, and yet I am here, accessible to you. You can see me if you would like. Even in these high heels.

The Self Possessed is about the strength of vulnerability and the vulnerability of strength. It is about the rejection of male standards of behavior and beauty. It is an elegy for the hours of punishment and denial that I have inflicted upon my body so that I might be “loved” a little more and seen as strong, masculine and forever young.

Even though this work deals with some tough issues, it is not without ample doses of humor, compassion and generosity.


The movement vocabularies of Trisha Brown and the late Merce Cunningham have been a huge influence on my dancing. Also my time spent in the companies of David Dorfman, Risa Jaroslow and Tiffany Mills really shaped my approach to making dances. These three choreographers bring interpersonal dynamics and broader societal issues into their work in a way that Brown and Cunningham did not. My own work contains both abstraction and meaningful content. It is not my goal to neatly portray any one idea but rather to explore all of the nooks and crannies in and around any number of related themes. I try and leave it up to the audience to decide what to take away.

You have a collaborator in this piece?
The piece was originally developed as a solo, but I asked Nicholas Daulton to join the process about two-thirds of the way through. Nicholas brought a wealth of great ideas to the table that definitely changed its overall content. I wanted the work to highlight his theatrical sensibility, humor and Waacking skills. It was very important to me that this work honestly present Nicholas as the extraordinary individual that he is.

What is your process like?
The Self Possessed was made in the context of the New Expressive Works residency at Subashini Ganesan’s Studio 2 in Portland. Four artists were given about 6 months to create a 20ish minute long piece which would be performed at the end of residency. Along the way we met as a group on 4 occasions. During these meetings, which were facilitated by Katherine Longstreth, we provided feedback about each other’s work using the Fieldwork method. This method assured that the feedback given was free of value judgements and relevant to the inquiries and interests of the artist. Having to be accountable on 4 occasions within the course of the process encouraged a productivity and forward momentum that really benefited the work.

I do not have a consistent studio practice so I create opportunities to improvise with or without music in any number of public and private spaces. I record and study the improvisations and then post many of them to the internet.

Mike Barber leaping into the very first Ten Tiny Dance. Photo by Jim Lykins.

Mike Barber leaping into the very first Ten Tiny Dance. Photo by Jim Lykins.

Ten Tiny Dances
Jen Hackworth, Subashini Ganesan, 11: Dance Co., James Healy, sub.set dance, Dawn Stoppiello, Michelle Ellsworth, Wade Madsen, Vincent Lopez, and Keith Hennessy
9 pm, September 14
The Works at The Redd, 831 SE Salmon St

Interview with Mike Barber, founder and curator of Ten Tiny Dances.

How did Ten Tiny begin?
I wanted to come up with a unique idea for a fundraiser for my first full evening’s work. Cold called the guys at Crush and  asked if I could stage a dance performance/fundraiser there and knew I’d need to make a small stage to fit the small space…some of us also  danced on the bar. Was rehearsing with Randee (Pauvee) in SF when we thought of the name. Go figure. Hadn’t planned on its success or it being a series.

Tiny is back! Where did it go? What brought it back? Is it back for good?

I’m glad it’s back. It ran for nine years straight at TBA, and both I and the PICA folks thought it would be good to take a break. I approached Erin about bringing it back this year. I’m so happy and satisfied for the run it has had….future is up in the air.

Who are the artists performing tiny dances?

A mix of local and visiting artists, some emerging, some established. Local: Jen Hackworth, Subashini Ganesan, 11: Dance Co., James Healy, sub.set dance, and Dawn Stoppiello. Visiting: Michelle Ellsworth, Wade Madsen, Vincent Lopez, and Keith Hennessy.

What is your process in choosing performers? What are you looking for? How do you curate the evening?
I work for balance…of emerging and established, male female, artistic form. For the TBA event, I collaborate in the curation with Erin (Boberg, PICA’s performing arts program director) and Angela (Mattox, PICA’s artistic director). I seek out performers who I find interesting or who I feel would be a good match….but also respond to folks who have asked/expressed interest.

Dance Weekend: Culminations

White Bird, Jefferson Dancers, and Polaris end their seasons

The season is coming to an end, and with it the cumulative work of many Portland dance artists. White Bird will finish out their season with New York tap company Dorrance Dance, live music and nine tappers. The Jefferson Dancers and Polaris Dance Theater will also perform a year’s worth of hard work learning dances from many different choreographers. And if you want to see dance on a smaller scale, check out Keyon Gaskin at Yale Union and Push Leg at Performance Works NW. Of course, if you want to get movin and groovin yourself, get to Allie Hankins Transcendentaerobicourage class on Saturday.

Jefferson Dancers Spring Concert
April 29-May 2
Newmark Theater, 1111 SW Broadway
Freshly off their tour to France, this extremely talented pre-professional high school dance company will be performing works by Jefferson Dance alumni. The choreographers showcased will be Bethany Reisburg from the Hot Shot Tappers, Charlotte Faillard from Aterballeto and Ballet d’Europe, Ty Alexander Cheng from Spectrum Dance Theatre, Thomas Yale (a Portland hip hop choreographer),  Bunky Williams (Jefferson Dance Staff) and Steve Gonzales, (Jeff Artistic Director, formerly of MOMIX Dance Theatre dancer).

Dorrance Dance taps out the Blues Project/White Bird

Dorrance Dance taps out the Blues Project/White Bird

Dorrance Dance, The Blues Project
Wednesday, April 29, 7:30 pm
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
For one night only, Dorrance Dance directed by Michelle Dorrance, will take the stage at the Schnitz with nine tap dancers and live blues music composed and directed by Toshi Reagan and her 5-piece blues band, BIGLovely to perform “The Blues Project.” Dorrance dance is interested in pushing the boundaries of tap as well as maintaining its history. This show concludes the White Bird dance season.

“On an Overgrown Path” Agnieszka Laska Dancers and Lyrical Strings Duo
Thursday, April 30,8 pm
Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta
The AL Dancers will be joined by the Lyrical Strings Duo for a program built around music from the Polish folk tradition, including work by Antonín Dvořák, Frédéric Chopin, Henryk Wieniawski, Mykola Lysenko, Jeno Hubay, and Bohuslav Martinů. The evening begins with Andrei Temkin’s Chervona Bambino trio, featuring Viorel Russo of the Oregon Symphony on viola and Jeff Holt of the Wanderlust Orchestra on upright bass.

Polaris Dance Theater
May 1-10
Polaris Studio Theatre, 1501 SW Taylor St Portland
Polaris Dance Theatre’s annual collaborative performance exposing company members to new choreography, and audiences to the artistic process. New dance works by Artistic Director, Robert Guitron and guest Kieraqmil Brinkley, Blake Seidel, Jocelyn Edelstein, and Gerard Regot. Local musicians include Gerard Regot, Robert Hoffman, and Anthony DeMarco.

“it’s not a thing”
Keyon Gaskin
Saturday, May 2, 9 pm
Yale Union, 800 SE 10th Ave.
Keyon Gaskin, a Portland based dance artist, will continue “its not a thing,” the performance he’s been working on the better part of two years. Yale Union is a center for contemporary art in Southeast Portland, Oregon. It is led by a desire to support artists, propose new modes of production and stimulate the ongoing public discourse around art.

Allie Hankin & Allan Wilson
May 2, 12 pm
Flock Dance Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave. #4
Transcendentaerobicourage is an all levels movement/embodiment class. “We will breathe, vocalize, bounce, sweat, push, rest, DANCE, and work as individuals & as a group in actions that help us access the pleasure of effort and feel held by the strong hearts & minds of the people with us in the room. LIVE DJ Allan Wilson‘s music buoys us through our fatigue and steers us to an empowering transcendent climax.”

Transcendentaerobicourage is part of Physical Education(PE), a group comprised of dance and performance artists Keyon Gaskin, Allie Hankins, Lucy Lee Yim and Takahiro Yamamoto with the vision to offer performance audiences, artists of all mediums, and curious individuals immersive modes through which to engage with dance and performance.

A Push Leg Salon: AVOIDANCE
May 1-3
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
Push Leg’s inaugural performance will take a look at what we avoid, how and why. A wild collision of movement and text, inspired by YouTube videos of dogs avoiding taking a bath, articles about the collapse of civilization, the ‘furry’ movement, Blanche DuBois, mashed together with The Gas Heart by Tristan Tzara and the Surrealist Manifesto. Among other things…

The evening also includes an excerpt from Faith Helma’s (Hand2Mouth) new solo show “I Hate Positive Thinking.”

Did we forget anything? Tell us with a comment!

Black [genus, genesis, genius]

BCC: BrownHall Artists at the Multnomah Central Library

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Black [genus, genesis, genius] is a group exhibition in the Collins Gallery at the Multnomah County Central Library. BCC: BrownHall, Portland’s only black creative collective, put together a ‘curated installation of Black creatives mobilizing visual art, printed materials, movement, and voice to honor and celebrate the intersection of interests, histories, and cultural production of our community.’ Including more than 20 local artists with national reputations, Black [genus, genesis, genius] is full of painting, drawing, poetry, photography, video, performance and more bursting out of the tasteful glass boxes they’re displayed in.

You can only really experience it all if you go there yourself, but here are a few works and their artists to entice you over to SW 10th and Yamhill and up those three grand flights of stairs or elevators.


‘Tempowaryly’: It almost felt like I was dancing

Keyon Gaskin's structured improvisational dance uses the audience as props


I have decided, after I ended up sitting on the edge of the dance floor in front of the first row for Trajal Harrell’s “Antigone Jr.” at TBA and having a near religious experience (it was hard to restrain myself from jumping up and joining in on the catwalk and screaming “work it” with Mr. Harrell), that I would sit as close as I possibly could to every dance performance from here on out. There is no point in watching dance if I cannot connect with the performers. I need to see the expressions on their faces and the sweat flying from their bodies. If I can’t dance in every piece, I at least want to FEEL  like I am. I’m not sure I needed to apply this new principle to Keyon Gaskin’s “Tempowaryly: seriously frivolous,” which ran a couple of weeks ago and repeats this weekend at Performance Works Northwest, because it was almost impossible NOT to feel like I was dancing in the piece.

“Tempowaryly,” initiated by Keyon Gaskin and co-created and performed by Jen Hackworth and Rosana Ybarra, was just what the title and the program notes indicated:  “an abstract rumination on the following concepts, and then some: inability to know/limits of perception/proclivity to define/importance of play/fiction as fact/mistrust of knowledge, language, history/quoted cultures/allusion of privacy/occult practices/alternate ways of being…”

These are the questions posed by the three performers to themselves, which they worked to answer during the duration of the performance, composing while performing as opposed to having all the choreographic elements worked out before hand. We make impromptu choices all the time in our everyday lives, of course, but it’s another things to make choreographic choices while you are dancing in the dance you are choreographing. Having never done this myself, it seems profoundly difficult and mind blowing.

“Tempowaryly” is actually a structured improv with a few fixed elements and a few unfixed elements. The fixed elements include a list of props: a floor to ceiling tripod sculpture by Nathan Stewart, carabineers hanging from the ceiling, a hot plate and pot of boiling water, yards of red velvet fabric, a box lighted from the inside made from photographic slides, a small section of linoleum with a single tap shoe, an altar, strings of white pearls, several books, three doorways for entrances and exits and a timekeeper (a member of the audience chosen before the show to keep time for the performers). The unfixed elements are where the audience members sit and how the dancers navigate and negotiate all of these fixed elements.


Keyon Gaskin's "Tempowaryly" continues this weekend.

Keyon Gaskin’s “Tempowaryly” continues this weekend.

As we enter the performance space we are welcomed by the dancers moving about the studio/performance space warming up and saying, “Welcome, please take a chair and sit wherever you like, but do not sit against the wall.”

This little moment caught me completely off guard. I stuttered. What, I can’t sit with my back against the wall? What’s going to happen to me? Can I handle this? Well, it was too late for that—I was already in the room and being watched. Peer pressure forced me to move forward, so I placed my chair in a spot facing the center of the room but shifted it to another spot a few minutes later to get what I thought would be a better vantage point. Then something clicked and all of a sudden I felt playful. I had been invited into the performance not just as a viewer but also as a participant.

It also became clear to me that the performance would be happening all around me. Then my brain started doing the what-if game it does when I see performances that inspire me. What if I voluntarily move my chair around to different spots during the performance? Could I do that? How would it affect the performers? Would I see something different from each location? Would that be awesome or disruptive? Would people think I was crazy? Probably, but it would be fun.

What happened after that was exhilarating, fun, exhausting, extremely satisfying and refreshing.

I liken the whole experience to a three-dimensional dreamscape, a shared dreamscape between three dancers on a raucous, fitful night of sleep where the mind is mulling over an entire lifetime of experiences. Or like scenes from a David Lynch film, your choice.


After seeing both “Weather” by Lucy Guerin Inc. and “Tempowaryly: seriously frivolous” in the same weekend, it become clear to me that you can’t have one form of dance performance without the other. One is a reaction to the other and its important as viewers that we see both and join in on the conversation and follow the journey in the artist exploration: We need both forms to balance us out. I’m talking about formalized concert dance presented on a proscenium stage (represented two weekends ago by Lucy Guerin Inc’s “Weather” at Lincoln Hall) and improvised, audience inclusive, questioning all previous performance notions, kind of dance, which is where Keyon Gaskin’s “Tempowaryly” at Performance Works NorthWest comes in.

Interestingly, these two dances were more similar than different. They both worked in the abstract, there were improvised sections in both dances, and humor was used at the midpoint to break things up and change direction. Both pieces are also brand-new, evolving, works in progress.

As an exercise and challenge for myself to be more concise and to the point with my writing and because a lot has already been said about “Weather,” I have written two Haiku poems as my form of witnessing that weekend of dance. Here is the first:

“Tempowaryly: seriously frivolous”

Many memories
Reading by lighted skivvies
Yards of red velvet

And here is my attempt to address the Guerin dance.


Exuberant youth
Illuminated plastic
The cause and effect

If you love dance, and I know you do, I highly recommend checking out “Tempowaryly: seriously frivolous” which will be performed   November 15-17th at Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave Portland . For ticket information go to Brown Paper Tickets or to the “Tempowaryly” event page on Facebook.

Oregon ArtsWatch Archives