modern dance

Dance Weekly: ‘Edge Effects’ to ‘Romeo and Juliet’

The return of James Canfield and his 'Romeo and Juliet,' a new Tere Mathern dance, and much more

This week’s schedule covers the full spectrum of dance from Bay Area dancer and performance artist Keith Hennessy to ballet choreographer James Canfield’s Romeo and Juliet for Oregon Ballet Theatre and everything in between, and I mean everything—which is a good thing.

On Saturday I sat in on a rehearsal for “Edge Effects,” a new dance choreographed by long-time Portland choreographer and artistic director of Conduit Dance, Tere Mathern.

The piece was made over a two-year period with several previous iterations, in collaboration with electronic sound composer Roland Ventura Toledo, filmmaker Sophia Wright Emigh, lighting designer Robin Greenwood, along with five dancers—Lyra Butler-Denman, Vanessa Vogel, Dar VeJon Jones, Lena Traenkenschuh, and Sara Parker. It takes time to make a dance.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 17.16

Edge Effects by Tere Mathern. Photo by Sophia Wright Emigh.

The dance references the idea of an “ecotone—a zone where one ecosystem meets another as when the meadow meets the forest, the water meets the land, or where one body meets another,” said Mathern via our email conversation.

Taking the concepts of edges, transitions and transformations and relating them to human nature, culture and society, Mathern rendered them into movement, through the choreographic process.

The movement, mixed with seven short films that capture the magical aspects of nature up close, added to the atmospheric sounds created by Toledo, creates a three dimensional, experiential, enterable atmosphere, illuminating aspects of nature and relationships you did not know existed.

This concept has stayed with me since Saturday, and I find myself looking around for those moments and places where different environments meet and feeling secret pleasure in discovering them.

“Edge Effects” promises to be an a impactful, contemplative, sensorial experience.

Edge Effects by Tere Mathern. Photo by Sophia Wright Emigh.

Edge Effects by Tere Mathern. Photo by Sophia Wright Emigh.

Edge Effects
A collaboration of dance, film and sound
Choreographed by Tere Mathern
February 25-28
Studio2, 810 SE Belmont St

Regarding the New Wave of African American Choreographer and Their Gesture of Interweaving (Lecture)
6:30 pm February 25
Reed College, PAB Performance Lab, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd
Visiting dance scholar Dr. Christina Rosa from Tufts University Department of Drama and Dance will present a lecture based on her research on the intersection of embodiment, knowledge production, and processes of identification. Her most recent publication Brazilian Bodies and Their Choreographies of Identification (Palgrave McMillan), examines how aesthetic principles cultivated across the black Atlantic contributed to the construction of Brazil as an imagined community. Rosa, a native of Brazil who migrated to the US in 1996, is able to draw on her duel living experiences in her research.

GHOSTS + Snake Talk
Asaf Aharonson & Ruairí Donovan (Berlin) and Abby Crain (Oakland)
Presented by Performance Works NorthWest, Alembic Co-Production Series
Curated by Allie Hankins
February 26-27
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
“GHOSTS” by Asaf Aharonson & Ruairí Donovan of Berlin, draws on the work of theorist Michael Hardt, veiling and unveiling the complex intimacy between lovers, exploring concepts of confidentiality, indecency, travel, erottica, pornography and friendship asking the question “how can love be the central, constitutive mode and motor of politics.”

“Snake Talk,” created and performed by Abby Crain, Maryanna Lachman and Mara Poliak, with lighting design by Elizabeth Ardent and sound design by Samuel Hertz, explores femininity, calling it “slippery and undefinable within an aesthetic terrain of discomfort, excess and distortion. We are dense, opulent, dazzling, awkward, seductive, repulsive, terrifying. We ooze, leak, wander, tie ourselves in a knot, rip apart at the seams. We have forgotten the difference between kissing and eating.”

Workshop with Abby Crain will be held at Flock on Thursday, February 25, and with Asaf Aharonson & Ruairí Donovan on Saturday, February 27.

James Canfield

Romeo and Juliet
James Canfield/Sergei Prokofiev
Oregon Ballet Theatre
February 27-March 5
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St
Young love, underage sex, teen suicide and Crips vs. Bloods family rivalry are how choreographer and former OBT Artistic Director James Canfield defines his Romeo and Juliet in his interview with Arts Watcher Marty Hughley for Artslandia.

What’s different about Canfield’s version is his investment in the development of the characters and their relationships with each other, giving the work dimension and depth.

And of course there is always beautiful dancing, chiffon and Prokofiev, performed every night by the live OBT orchestra.

Pure Surface
Featuring Renee Sills, Sam Pirnak and Christopher Rose
7 pm, February 28
Valentine’s, 232 SW Ankeny St
Curated by Stacey Tran and Danielle Ross, Pure Surface is a performance series interested in encouraging cross-disciplinary practice and performance by bringing together movement, text and film in the spirit of improvised collaboration. Each month a new group of artists is brought together in the intimate, open-air setting of Valentine’s, and performance is made. This month’s artists are movement artist Renee Sills, video/interdisciplinary artist Sam Pirnak and writer Christopher Rose, who explore the intersection of the Filipino and Black Diasporas.

Nrityotsava 2016
Kalakendra benefit concert
4 pm, February 28
Lake Oswego High School, 2501 Country Club Rd
Kalakendra, the society for the performing arts of India, is a Portland organization with the mission to introduce, promote, and enhance awareness of the various performing arts of the Indian subcontinent through concerts, classical dances, recitals, and lecture-demonstrations.This benefit concert will feature performances by 11 Indian dance groups from Portland and California.

NOTHING TO LOSE; A Dance Party Fundraiser for Physical Education
ft pop-up performances all night long.
8 pm, March 2
Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St
Physical Education is comprised of dance and performance artists Keyon Gaskin, Allie Hankins, Lucy Lee Yim and Takahiro Yamamoto. PE’s mission is to provide immersive methods of engaging with dance and performance through reading groups, lectures, curated performances, aerobic/movement classes and dance parties.

The featured performers at the fundraiser are Ruth Nelson, William Jay, Holland Andrews, Jin Camou, Julia Calabrese, Danielle Ross, Stacey Tran and Physical Education; Keyon Gaskin, Allie Hankins, Lucy Yim, and Taka Yamamoto with DJ’s Daniela Karina, Rap Class and Allan Wilson with visuals by Jodie Cavalier.

Keith Hennessy courtesy of PICA.

Keith Hennessy courtesy of PICA.

Keith Hennessy: PSU MFA Studio Lectures Series
7 pm, March 3
Portland State University, Lincoln Hall Room 75
Bear/Skin (Performance)
Keith Hennessy
Presented by PICA
March 4-5
Studio 2, 810 SE Belmont St
Bear/Skin is a “dance that is politically motivated by the tension between killer cops and virgin sacrifice, between indigenous culture and modernist appropriation. It has (almost) nothing to do with gay bears and everything to do with The Rite of Spring, teddy bear shamanism, the reconstruction of ritual bear dances, action movies, suicide economics, and the poetry of springtime.”

Hennessy is a San Francisco-based dancer, choreographer, and performance artist regarded as a pioneer of queer and AIDS-themed expressionist dance. Hennessy is known for nonlinear performance collages that combine dance, speaking, singing, and physical and visual imagery, and for improvised performances that often undermine the performer-observer barrier.

If you are interested in furthering your Hennessy experience, he will be teaching a workshop on March 12th from 1-5pm, at University of Washington’s Dance Department’s Meany Hall. Check out the Velocity Dance’s website for more information.

Later in March

March 10-12, Kyle Abraham presented by WhiteBird.
March 13, Dance Film Day, an afternoon of dance films and discussion, co-presented by dance artists and writer Jamuna Chiarini, and Performance Works NW.
March 14, workshop and lecture demonstration with Kyle Abraham at Reed College presented by WhiteBird.

Coffeeshop Chat with David Eckard

The sculptor/performance artist explains his TBA collab with Linda Austin, and his evolving approach to material creations.

Apparently, ArtsWatch editor Barry Johnson’s favorite coffeeshop is the new epicenter of Portland’s performance universe. There to meet Barry, I ran into THREE performers whose work I’ve reviewed: Philip Cuomo, Maureen Porter, and David Eckard—actor, actor, and sculptor/performance artist. Tempted as I was to hide behind a copy of the Mercury and have my coffee quietly, I introduced myself to the actors, and then the actors to a performance artist (an animal of their genus, if a species or two removed). Cuomo is about to direct “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” (a Peanuts cartoon sequel), and Porter’s most anticipated project is “Sweet and Sad” (part of Richard Nelson’s trilogy) with Third Rail. Watch this space for more about them as the theater season progresses, meanwhile…


Eckard will appear at a First Thursday live talk show this evening to explain his imminent TBA piece, “Three Trick Pony.”  At the coffeeshop, he looked deceptively ordinary in a business-casual plaid button up and a beard—but we’ve already seen him nearly naked. In his video piece “Comet,” shown in April at the Museum of Contemporary Craft and viewable online, Eckard wears nothing but a loincloth and a metal harness set with shelves around his hips, over which he sifts a chalky substance (the sands of time?) while spouting original beat poetry in homage to bright-burning friends from his activist past. Not only a performance artist but also a sculptor, Eckard often crafts the structures he’ll inhabit while performing. By his own admission, it wasn’t always so. “When I first started sculpting, I had this exalted sense of ‘the object,’” he confesses, “and I didn’t want anyone touching or messing with my work. In my mind, there was performance, and there was sculpture, and they were completely separate entities.”

Over time, though, the parts began to fuse, as Eckard observed that performing with a given ‘objet’ imbued both him, and it, with new life. Much of the work we’ve seen from him in the last few years builds on this discovery, framing Eckard as almost a bionic man, performative abilities enhanced by his own creations. He used a giant yellow megaphone as a mouthpiece in 2004’s “Podium,” unfurled a one-man platform with winglike banners for 2011’s “Cardiff,” and transformed his body into the aforementioned pseudo-hourglass for “Comet.” Even when a sculpture piece is shown on its own, Eckard has found that his performance audience still associates his actions with the object. Hence “he did this with that” stories enrich the piece’s mythology and meaning even after its performative moment has passed.

Eckard’s natural next evolution? Letting someone else play with his toys. For TBA 2013 offering “Three Trick Pony,” previewed earlier this summer at Conduit’s Dance+, Eckard created props for modern dancer Linda Austin to use in whatever way she chooses—and he’s been surprised by a lot of her choices. “I’d make a piece, and I’d envision how it could be used, how it would bend—and then Linda would come up with a completely different movement.” For instance, what he thought of as a box, in her hands became a plow. “I’d go, ‘Oh wow, okay’ and take the thing back and reinforce the hinges.” Through this conversation of invention and reinvention, “Three Trick Pony” emerged as a choreographic sequence that’s performed three times. For each pass, Eckard’s objects are arranged to exert a different force on Austin’s movements. General themes that spring to mind as Austin grapples with objects larger than herself echo those Eckard has faced in “Comet”: aging and adjusting, the chaos of fate. But in this instance, as the dancer faces different kinetic challenges, she combines a consistent strategy with agile reactions in order to overcome.

Hear more about the  piece tonight at Din Din Supper Club, or catch it in action at PICA’s TBA.

Dancer Linda Austin confronts one of David Eckard's sculptural creations in "Three Trick Pony."

Dancer Linda Austin confronts one of David Eckard’s sculptural creations in “Three Trick Pony.”



A. L. Adams also writes monthly column Art Walkin’  for  The Portland Mercury, and is  former arts editor of Portland Monthly Magazine.
Read more from Adams: Oregon ArtsWatch  | The Portland Mercury

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