Linda K. Johnson

DanceWatch Weekly: To vogue and then to taco

Dance comes in many forms this week with films, cross genre collaborations, dance battles, a panel, Trisha Brown films, 65 dancing horses and tacos.

Are you a talented makeup artists, costume designer, voguer or waacker? If you are screaming, “Yes, I Am!”, then you could enter to compete in Critical Mascara: A Post-Realness Drag Extravaganza. It’s part of PICA’s Time Based Arts Festival and combines performance art, drag, and vogue to incite us to new heights of glamour and ferocity. If you aren’t sure what waacking is, Kumari Suraj, one of Critical Mascara’s newest co-directors, explains the dance form in her instructional video. Voguing, which is based on hand gestures, poses and turns, originated in the Harlem ballroom scene in the 1980’s and was brought to mainstream attention through Madonna and the documentary Paris is Burning, which chronicled the lives of LGBT African-American and Latino dancers in that scene.

Critical Mascara is broken up into two main categories: Looks and Moves. These two are broken down further into four sub-categories: Scrap Identities (hybrid-culture couture), Neck Up! (artface), Vogue Elements, and Waacking. Go to PICA’s website for more info if you are interested in entering.

Critical Mascara was created four years ago by Portland’s own Pepper Pepper—queen, choreographer, and performance artist. This year, Critical Mascara has added Isaiah Esquire, a dance artists well known in Portland’s drag ball scene, and Kumari Suraj, who introduced waacking to the masses on the reality TV show So You Think You Can Dance. The extravaganza celebrates community and creativity, and is a setting for diversity, agency, self-expression and fierce, powerful dancing.

While you are considering which category appeals to you, Voguing or Waacking, looks or costume or are trying to figure out how to take two weeks off of work to see all of the TBA events (which I will break down for you in September), you can check out this weekend’s performance offerings. They come in many forms: films, cross genre collaborations, dance battles, a panel, Trisha Brown films or 65 dancing horses—one of these events includes tacos with the price of admission.

Performances this week


Photo courtesy of Ben Martens personal archive.

Headwaters Showcase #4: Video Art Edition + Tacos
Curated by Ben Martens in association with Water in The Desert
7 pm August 18
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St, Ste 9

The proceedings include two hours of short films, music videos, dance for film, and animated shorts by regional and national filmmakers, and, of course, a break for tacos (included in the price of admission).

Ben Martens, who has been curating monthly performances at The Headwater Theater for several months now, is a poet, electronic music producer, emcee, mover, organizer and performance artist with an interest in revolution, existentialism, comedy, mindfulness and environmentalism. He studied Music and Performance at Naropa University and has been studying Butoh with Mizu Desierto since his arrival in Portland in January 2015. He and Desierto are hoping to rev up Portland’s performance community by bringing them together through low-cost, low-ambition, high energy community showcases. Martens is planning shows for September 27 and October 28, and is always looking for future performers, particularly performers of color and diverse ages, in theatre, comedy, dance and ensemble work. If you are interested in performing contact Martens at


3 performances with movement + dance + sound. Photo courtesy of Takahiro Yamamoto.

3 performances with movement + dance + sound
8 pm August 20
Beacon Sound, 3636 N Mississippi Ave.

This single evening of cross genre collaborative performances features Jin Camou, Ayako Kataoka, Takahiro Yamamoto, Jesse Mejía, Jmy James Kidd, and Tara Jane O’Neil. Choreographer and costume designer Jmy James Kidd and multi-instrumentalist and composer Tara Jane O’Neil from Los Angeles, will perform Magical Diagonal.
Portland-based dancer and choreographer Jin Camou will present a solo that transforms the everyday into a heightened state. Dancer/experimental musician Ayako Kataoka, composer/engineer Jesse Mejía, and choreographer/performer Takahiro Yamamoto presents Circuitous, a trio that investigates the coexistence of multiple, performative states.


Photo of Malik “Kilam” Delgado. Courtesy of ADAPT.

ADAPT 2016
All styles dance battle
A Mic Check! Event presented by: PSHA x APANO x AMP x ALLY
5 pm August 20
Portland State University: Smith Memorial Student Union (1st floor), 1825 SW Broadway

The event, hosted by Malik “Kilam” Delgado and accompanied by DJ Fish Boogie, will consist of preliminary competitions early in the day with the top 16 contenders competing one-on-one starting at 5pm. The competition will be judged by Isiah Munoz (Chapter1ne), Jireh Spoon (Soul Felons Crew, BDB, HOODZ), and Pandora (Style Elements Crew, Venus Fly, LXD, Step Up 3). The winner takes home $300 and a trophy.

“ADAPT is committed to connecting dancers of all backgrounds to inspire and further elevate the NW Dance community. Welcoming all experiences and walks of life under one roof to exchange through music and movement.”

Double Difference
Linda K. Johnson and Linda M. Wysong
3 pm August 20, Panel, Demolition & the Stones of Ross Island
3 pm August 27, Artist talk
Indivisible Gallery, 2544 SE 26th Ave
(Indivisible is open for viewing: August 20 and 27, noon to 5 pm)
In this gallery exhibit, Portland dance artist Linda K. Johnson and Linda M. Wysong, an environmental design and social practice artist, continue a 25-year, collaborative dialogue revolving around Portland’s layered and ever-changing landscape.

By Cavalia
July 7-August 28
The White Big Top, located at Zidell Yards in South Waterfront, 3030 Moody Ave
Combining 65 horses, special effects, acrobatics, dance, aerial work and live music under a big top, this equestrian ballet celebrates beauty in nature, transporting the audience to virtual environments around the world.

image_main2_22 (1)

Photo of “Spiral” (1974)-choreography by Trisha Brown. Photo by © Gene Pittman 2008.

A group show curated by Kari Rittenbach
July 23-September 2, 2016
Opening July 23, 4-6pm
Gallery hours Thursday-Sunday 3-6pm
Yale Union, 800 SE 10th Ave
Three videos of works by Trisha Brown—La Chanteuse (1963), Falling Duet (1968), and Spiral (1974)—will be shown on a loop at Yale Union as part of a curated festival by Kari Rittenbach. Rittenbach is a graduate of Yale University, the Courtauld Institute of Art, and the Whitney Independent Study Program and is a writer and independent curator based in New York.

The concept behind TREES IN THE FOREST: “Considering nature as a concept, structure, or formal subject, the exhibited works examine its cultural and social mediation, as well as “naturalized” systems of knowledge and power in the world at large. TREES IN THE FOREST takes an ecological approach to a disparate selection of recent art practices; it is an experimental survey of understudied territories in an era of routine environmental catastrophe.”

Upcoming performances

August 25-September 11, Visiting Alembic Artist Margit Galanter, Performance Works NW
August 27, Late Summer Harvest: A Showing of Two Works in Progress, choreographers Eliza Larson, Taylor Eggan and Daniel Addy
August 27, Open House, New Expressive Works
September 10, Collection, NW Dance Project
September 8-18, TBA: 16, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art

Conduit is closing with a party

The Portland dance incubator celebrates two decades of dance classes, rehearsals and performance

On Wednesday night the Portland dance community will say a sad goodbye to Conduit Dance. Conduit has been an incubator for contemporary dance in Portland for 20 years, and on June 15 it announced that it had given notice at the Ford Building studio, its most recent home, and would be suspending all operations and programming as of July 23, 2016. Friends, artists, supporters, students and audiences of Conduit are invited to Wednesday’s evening of dancing and remembering with snacks and refreshments. Conduit has also asked its friends to come prepared with their Conduit stories and any archival material they may have to include in Conduit’s archival project.

In 1995 Conduit was founded by dance artists Linda K. Johnson and Mary Oslund as a home for contemporary dance artists to work out new ideas in the form, through teaching, rehearsing and performing. The studio, housed on the fourth floor of the Pythian Building on Southwest Yamhill Street, was collectively run by Keith V. Goodman, Michael Menger, Gregg Bielemeier, Tere Mathern, Johnson and Oslund. Each person contributed to the rent and in turn was given a certain number of hours to rehearse, teach and perform. The amount of activity in the space was immeasurable, and classes were packed with students.

Gather- a dance about convergence

Gather, choreographed by Conduit’s Artistic Director Tere Mathern, performed in Conduit’s original home at the Pythian Building in 2012. Photo by Gordon Wilson.

In 2001, Mathern and Oslund became co-directors and began to mold Conduit into a nonprofit organization expanding its role in the community. In 2009 Mathern took over and became Conduit’s first paid part-time artistic director.


Linda K. and ‘Trio A’: a new view

Dancer Linda K. Johnson's long journey with Yvonne Rainer's landmark contemporary dance lands on the Ten Tiny Dances stage at Beaverton Farmers Market

This Saturday, July 9, Portland dance artist Linda K. Johnson will perform an adaptation of New York choreographer Yvonne Rainer’s seminal work Trio A at the Beaverton Farmers Market. She’s calling it Trio A Pressured (after Trio A) because it’s compressed to fit the tiny four-by-four-foot stage used by Ten Tiny Dances. Trio A was choreographed in 1966, and Johnson is a repetiteur of the work. Her job is to make sure that all of the elements of the dance that made it radically different 50 years ago remain intact when someone new learns the dance, maintaining its integrity for the next generation.

Johnson, a native of Portland, has worked up and down the West Coast for the past 25 years as a choreographer, performer, educator, arts administrator, curator, and public artist. She discovered Trio A on a 1997 trip to New York City to see a Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum. In an article she wrote for Dancers Group in San Francisco, Johnson describes her initial, accidental encounter with the work that would eventually change her whole approach to dance.

EVT TTD 2016 PROGRAM linda k. johnson photo

Linda K. Johnson. Photo courtesy of Ten Tiny Dances.

“Drenched from an autumn downpour, I entered the cavernous room that held the exhibition and looked for a place to sit down and dry out. The only seats in the entire space were two small black cloth cubes set in front of a video monitor in the far corner of the room.”


DanceWatch Weekly: Ten new tiny dances

Ten Tiny Dance returns to the Beaverton Farmers Market with ten new tiny dances

Ten Tiny Dances is back! The performance concept, created in 2002 by Portland dance artist Mike Barber, has become a staple of Portland’s dance scene. And Saturday at the Beaverton Farmers Market ten new dances will squeeze themselves inside the four-by-four foot Ten Tiny Dance stage.

The dances will be performed on five stages scattered throughout the market. (A map of the stage locations is available online here.) Throughout its lifetime, Ten Tiny dances has been seen in many locations around Portland include PICA’s TBA festival and most recently out of town in Tempe, Arizona, Columbus, Ohio, and Houston, Texas, and has seen far more variations on its theme than performance locations. It has also showcased a large swath of Portland dance talent. This is Ten Tiny’s 8th year at the Beaverton Farmers Market.

Each year the choreographers grapple with new ways to fill the tiniest stage they will probably ever dance on. Most often the dances happen on top of the stage, but I have seen dances on the ground around the stage, under the stage. The most notable for me personally was choreographed by Angelle Hebert: A man with an ax hacked the stage around dancer Carla Mann to smithereens, leaving her with an even smaller stage to writhe around on—the tiniest stage of all the Ten Tiny dances.

Yes, figuring out how to dance on the 4-by-4 foot stage and dealing with its limitations makes dancing on it challenging, but that is exactly what makes it interesting.


Dance Weekly: Time to improvise!

The Improvisation Summit of Portland 2016 will go where no dancers have gone before

Summer is upon us and that brings festivals, festivals of all kinds, but most importantly dance festivals. I am biased, I know.

Summer festivals to me feel different from the regular programming of the traditional performance season. To me they encapsulate the qualities of summer—bright, festive, free and open—and they run the gamut of experimentation and expression. It is a time to sample many ideas in one place.

Opening on Thursday night, the Improvisation Summit of Portland 2016, curated by Portland dance artist Danielle Ross, features a large swath of the Portland dance community. Since its inception in 2012, the Improvisation Summit, a subset of the Creative Music Guild, has brought together dancers, musicians, filmmakers and other experimental artists to create improvised, one-of-a-kind performances. For me there is a feeling of electricity and risk watching dance artists create movement in the moment while they are performing. There is an aliveness and a deep listening that happens in their bodies that is not always present in set choreographed movement. This year’s summit is stocked to the brim with veteran improvisers and performers who are willing to take those risks.


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.


Review: ‘Co / Mission’ at Conduit

Four dancers, four choreographers, lots of variety and plenty of crosstalk

In last weekend’s Co / Mission, Conduit gathered four Portland dancers and gave them the means to commission the local choreographer of their choice. Overall, the program was an absolute treat. Each of the four short, original works was proportioned like the space itself – small, sturdy, and comfortable in its strengths and capacities. It’s a size and sort of event I’d like to see more of  – local professionals curating adjacently but not necessarily collectively, balanced in such a way as to do as much as they can with a modest scale, with plenty of crosstalk but enough variety to avoid our tendency to create echo chambers here in Portland.

Rachel Slater in "Co / Mission." Photo: Chris Peddecord

Rachel Slater in “Co / Mission.” Photo: Chris Peddecord

In little more than an hour, the four pieces – which ran at Conduit Thursday-Sunday, June 13-15 – drew on diverse but complementary influences and styles. The shared themes, coincidental or not, seemed to alternate AB/AB. The first and third pieces employed more complex sound design and movements, channeling a little bit of the sense of a sophisticated session of dancing alone in your bedroom that a lot of contemporary solo work brings to mind. The second and final pieces drew on more classical movements and employed simple props and light sources.

A strong focus on women in dance and pop culture emerges through all the pieces. It does so cumulatively, with little overt politicization of gender. The sense is more that we have strong work coming from a group of dancers and choreographers who happen to all be women (except for Franco Nieto). The work shines on its own merits and concerns, many of which come from what feels like a particularly female perspective.

The sound design introduces these themes most directly. The first audio we hear is a shockingly sexist George and Gracie Burns dialogue, and Rachel Slater’s sensuous torment in d’autres femmes calls back to the skewed gender dynamics of the same era via Nina Simone’s classic The Other Woman. Linda K. Jonson summons the equally powerful figures of Wonder Woman and Poly Styrene in her piece for organizing member Jamuna Chiarini (who is a contributing writer to ArtsWatch). These references all seem to participate in the two broader themes of defiance and otherness. Suzanne Chi’s final, lyrical performance lacks all these hallmarks of troubled Americana, instead simply pitting a studious, solo dancer against an impending darkness.

Individual performance notes:


Dancer: Jen Hackworth

Choreographer: Linda Austin

Du | et was an intriguing chance to watch Linda Austin’s movements and outbursts emerge from a different person. Though an experienced choreographer, Austin says this is her first “solo piece performed on a body other than my own.” Austin’s marks were present on all parts of the piece – from the procedural, investigative movements to the deadpan recitation of jokes to the audience to the use of props. Austin’s sense of deferred presence seemed to be a driving concept of the piece, charging Hackworth to respond to herself as if she were another dancer, lending her manipulations of the props a feeling of searching or preparation, and smirked at with the use of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance with Somebody.

The sound design here was complex, but smart and layered, not overwrought. The opening George and Gracie dialogue worked surprisingly well with Hackworth’s studied manipulation of a wooden tailor’s ruler and a rock, the odd-couple of objects. However, the initial nimbleness she had with the ruler didn’t seem to last throughout the piece. Without it, the props felt sparse, and could have been strengthened by either engaging the leftover open space or maintaining a higher degree of precision in handling the little objects in question. They did lend themselves to some touching moments, as Hackworth gently positioned them with an attention that seemed to say she had few other concerns in the world than this little rock, a sense later echoed in the placement of her own foot between the edges of the floorboards.

Jen Hackworth in Linda Austin's "Du / et." Photo: Chris Peddecord

Jen Hackworth in Linda Austin’s “Du / et.” Photo: Chris Peddecord

d’autres femmes

Dancer: Rachel Slater

Choreographer: Franco Nieto

Slater began her piece standing stock still, holding a strained smile through the laments of Nina Simone’s The Other Woman. She presented herself as a surface on which the audience could project a sequence of reactions to the mores and traditions implied in the situations reveled in by the song. I thought this followed DU | ET’s sense of hesitant resiliency quite well. The gesture could have gone stale easily, but happily it broke before becoming too much of a misplaced endurance piece. Slater proceeded to writhe and promenade with a sense of ownership of the stage and dashes of cabaret flair that paired well with Simone’s sound. Alternating between brassy and sensual, she seemed the most defiantly present of all the performers, as if daring someone to stop her from dancing. The staging was as restrained as it was effective: an open shade behind a thin curtain, glowing with early evening light, and a large, shimmering mirrored panel.

Like a Corvette

Dancer: Jamuna Chiarini

Choreographer: Linda K. Johnson

This shared DU | ET’s feel of po-mo bedroom dancing, but minus the formal play with duality and absence. Thematically this was placed perfectly in the program, as if the unsteady pride that felt lost or neglected in the first piece was mixed with the agency and guile of the second, reinforcing the contemporary movement and gesture with Wonder Woman’s metal bands. Chiarini’s investigative feeling of trying-on and stepping-up in this piece is what first gave me the sense of viewing a private dance session, one where the dancer is updating if not constructing some aspect of their identity. As Hackworth worked her way up to Whitney Houston, Chiarini progressed to Wonder Woman, as if they were two sides of some fantastically collectible coin.

The Last Errand

Dancer: Suzanne Chi

Choreographer: Lindsey Matheis

Suzanne Chi stormed through a field of dangling, dim lightbulbs with an electrifying mix of precision and fluidity. At one point she fired off a startling torso-slap which was one of my favorite moments of the show and paired well with Hackworth’s playful karaoke of Whitney Houston while spinning back and forth to whack her own chest and back with her flailing hands. I swear that she struck some recognizable Tai Chi postures, but I’ve been proven to see those whether they’re really there or not. Regardless, she commanded the stage with as much gusto as Slater had in the second piece, but without reference to a fixed place and time. The sparse lighting and the breathy soundtrack built this otherworldliness. Going by the program notes, there’s at least passing reference to the young-adult book City of Ember, but I wonder how well-targeted that was for the audience. I’m hoping that it was meant to remain a passing reference, as the out-of-time sense of this final performance elevated the power behind her movements from a sense of opposition or defiance to a more independent, celebratory place. Seeming to say that Chi would dance while the lights went out, some of them dying in the palm of her hand, however long they lasted.

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