Lane Hunter

Fresh faces, historic ballet

A hundred years after Ballets Russes's sole Portland performance, the young dancers of The Portland Ballet delve into the Russian tradition

“Ms. Davis, this is my daughter, she’s 5, and I’m wondering if you have a class she could take?”

“What a wonderful show. My daughter has been studying ballet since she was 8, she’s 12 now, do you think she could study at Portland Ballet?”

These were two of the many questions fielded by Nancy Davis, who with Anne Mueller is co-artistic director of the The Portland Ballet, immediately following the conclusion of their spring concerts at PSU’s Lincoln Performance Hall on the last Saturday in May.

And I couldn’t help thinking that these and other questions were inspired by the palpable pleasure the young performers were taking in being on stage, dancing their hearts out in a difficult program that demanded the mastery of quite different techniques and styles.

Henry Winslow and Naomi Rux in “Les Sylphides.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

The program was keyed to ballet history in Portland and elsewhere, and began with Les Sylphides, the Michel Fokine ballet that Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes performed here a century ago, in the spring of 1917. Set to an arrangement of Frédéric Chopin’s music by that most Russian of composers, Alexander Glazunov, it premiered as “Chopiniana” at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in 1907. The version performed by TPB, its third revision by the choreographer, was made for the Ballets Russes’s first tour to Paris, and premiered at the Théâtre du Chatelet, in 1909, with Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky heading the cast.

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Dance Weekly: The N.E.W. dance residency bears fruit

Catherine Egan, Lane Hunter, Linda K. Johnson and Ruth Nelson talk about their N.E.W. Expressive Works Residency at Studio 2-Zoomtopia.

On Friday night, four Portland choreographers—Catherine Egan, Lane Hunter, Linda K. Johnson and Ruth Nelson—will reveal the culmination of six months of thinking, experimenting and moving in the studio as part of The N.E.W. Expressive Works Residency, at Studio 2-Zoomtopia.

The N.E.W. residency program, directed by Subashini Ganeshan, supports the making of contemporary dance of all genres. The program offers 144 hours of free rehearsal space over six months to four choreographers; “Fieldwork,” or peer-to-peer feedback sessions; and a fully produced, ticketed performance at the end.

Portland has only one other similar residency for choreographers. The Performance Works NW’s Alembic Artists Residency awards 80 studio hours over a 10 month period with additional hours at an extremely reduced rate. (This year’s Alembic artists are Claire Barrera, Noelle Stiles and Katie Scherman.) This residency also culminates in a produced performance at the end.

I asked each choreographer of the N.E.W. residency group two questions as a way to introduce them to you.

1. What has this residency done for you?

2. What have you discovered about dance or dance making during this residency? Any ah-ha moments?

When I asked choreographer Linda K. Johnson these questions, she said, “The real answers to both of these lines of inquiry are so much more subtle, fleeting and private. These are extended conversations about intention, and fear of failing or being seen, or how we construct meaning from what we are doing/thinking.”

I agree. My questions are simply a springboard to a larger conversation and a means to introduce these choreographers to you.

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