northwest dance project

ArtsWatch Weekly: Steampunk Sweeney, award season begins

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

It’s a brilliant beginning. Sitting in the audience you’re not quite sure whether it’s part of the music or some Victorian version of an emergency air raid warning: that long sharp shriek of a whistle that pierces the air and just keeps on slicing like the blade on a piece of heavy machinery run amok. Then the orchestra barges dissonantly in, and the chorus raises a clangor, and you’re attending the tale of Sweeney Todd, the closest thing the world of musical theater and opera has to a steampunk antihero.

Smoke-spewing factories and magical elixir: Toby (Steven Brennfleck) plays the crowd in Portland Opera's "Sweeney Todd." Photo: Cory Weaver

Smoke-spewing factories and magical elixir: Toby (Steven Brennfleck) plays the crowd in Portland Opera’s “Sweeney Todd.” Photo: Cory Weaver

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, which has two performances left on Thursday and Saturday at Portland Opera in a production featuring the magnetic bass-baritone David Pittsinger as Sweeney and Susannah Mars as the ghoulishly pragmatic Mrs. Lovett, is a musical tale grounded in the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution, under whose disruptive rules and relentless sway we still live even if the rough promise it ushered in has taken on the aspect of a ghost revolution. Sweeney! Sweeney! He’s our conscience, our warning, our mirror. Plus, he sings. And that steampunk shriek keeps coming back now and again, just to remind us of what special brand of seductive, human-devised hell we’ve entered.

ArtsWatch reviewers Bruce and Daryl Browne took in a Sunday afternoon performance when the temperature outside was a sweltering 100 degrees, and report an almost-full house. “Perhaps they came in from the “city on fire” in shorts and spaghetti straps because they wanted to see great musical theater,” they write. “Maybe this was their very first opera production. Or they came because it was Steven Sondheim’s grisly musical-turned-opera, a tale of moral decay across classes with magnetic appeal to a diversity of theater goers. But aye, we ought not worry about the why. Just know that Portland Opera conjured the brilliance of Stephen Sondheim and those present were treated to a stunning afternoon of entertainment and artistry.” Read the full review here.



PAMTA, PAMTA, WHO’S GOT THE PAMTA? If it’s June, this must be theater award season. The Tonys arrive in New York this Sunday, June 12, complete with national television audience. Portland’s Drammys follow up on June 27 in the Newmark Theatre. And last night, Monday, the PAMTAs – the Portland Area Musical Theatre Awards – kicked things off with a big bash in the Winningstad Theatre.


NW Dance Project: to wit, to woo

The premiere of Ihsan Rustem's "Le Fil Rouge" adds a dash of ebullient humor and style to the dynamic company's intense spring program

Northwest Dance Project is a lot of things, and a lot of very good things, but one thing it’s usually not is witty. This is a not-thing it has in common with many contemporary dance troupes (Portland’s BodyVox and a few independents like Linda Austin and Gregg Bielemeier are notable exceptions): wit isn’t generally a large part of the package in contemporary choreography.

So for lovers of the lightness of being, Thursday night’s premiere performance of Ihsan Rustem’s Le Fil Rouge was a surprise and a delight. It was also a highlight of the Project’s strong spring program, Louder Than Words, which repeats Friday and Saturday nights in the Newmark Theatre.

Julia Radick and Kody Jauron in the premiere of Ihsan Rustum's "Le Fil Rouge." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Julia Radick and Kody Jauron in the premiere of Ihsan Rustum’s “Le Fil Rouge.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Le Fil Rouge, or “The Red Thread,” is an evocation of the smart pop music and fizzy Hollywood dance styles of the 1950s and ’60s, a light and ebullient tip of the contemporary hat to the mating game in its many woozy variations: Like Twyla Tharp and a few others before him, Rustem’s not afraid to mine the energy and inventiveness and nostalgic attractions of popular culture. Performed by the entire company of nine dancers, the new piece cavorts through an appealing soundtrack of tunes by Yma Sumac, Doris Day, Edith Piaf, La Lupe, and others.


ArtsWatch Weekly: whale of a week

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

The history of art, in a way, is a history of obsession. And who is more obsessed than Captain Ahab, feverish hounder of the great white whale? Herman Melville, perhaps, creator of the novel Moby-Dick, or, The Whale, and thus creator of the monomaniacal Ahab. Or Orson Welles, the mad genius of the cinema, who attempted to latch on to Melville’s harpoon and ride it to obsessive triumph in an unlikely stage adaptation of a novel that might be both untamable and unadaptable. Or, maybe, Scott Palmer, the adventurous artistic director of Bag&Baggage Productions, who’s taken Moby Dick, Rehearsed, Welles’s obsessive adaptation of Melville’s obsessive novel, and brought it to the B&B stage. In his fascinating (and in its own way, obsessive) review of B&B’s production, ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell quotes Palmer on the book that started it all: “Moby-Dick isn’t a novel, it is an entire imaginative world. It is massive, bulky, colossal, terrifying, majestic and ultimately unfathomable. It is the physical representation of one man’s will, one artist’s transcendent vision, an entire internal universe externalized …”

Bag&Baggage's magnificent obsession. Casey Campbell Photography

Bag&Baggage’s magnificent obsession. Casey Campbell Photography

Giant whales and such, as Brett points out, have been something of a communal obsession in Portland lately, from Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble’s season-long serial [or, the whale] to Portland Story Theater’s The Essex, the Northwest Film Center’s Welles-fest, a reading of excerpts from the novel at Portland’s Mother Foucault’s bookshop, and the musically adventurous AnyWhen Ensemble’s Moby-Dick inspired Boldly Launched Upon the Deep.

And how does this magnificent obsession (or cascade of obsessions) work out? Campbell writes: “Neither Ahab nor Melville nor Welles nor Palmer let the challenges of their tasks daunt them. Ahab caught his prey, but it cost him his life and those of his crew. Melville’s novel was widely regarded as a crazy failure in its time, and its overabundance of non-dramatic material still repels many readers. Welles’s misguided attempt to turn so inward-gazing a novel as Moby-Dick into compelling stage drama amounted to hunting a white whale; as Palmer acknowledged in a pre-show talk, it’s perhaps a good thing that Welles devoted himself to filmmaking rather than playwriting. In nevertheless choosing to stage Welles’s whale folly (in his centennial year), Palmer again plays the white knight, this time trying to save the white whale. Does he catch the object of his obsession in this new production and redeem Welles’s hubristic vision? Like the others, it’s a foredoomed, magnificent failure that, if you can stick with it long enough, you ultimately can’t let go of.”

America is, of course, a land of magnificent attempts and magnificent failures, which makes this whole thing seem so, well, American. It’s like a magnificent stab at the great American production of the great American adaptation of the great American novel: Who needs perfection when you’ve got a series of obsessions the size of a great white whale?



Vin Shambry (left), Chantal De Groat, and Chris Harder in "We Are Proud To Presnt ..." Photo: Owen Carey

Vin Shambry (left), Chantal DeGroat, and Chris Harder in “We Are Proud To Present …” Photo: Owen Carey

America is also obsessed with race, and the great stain of its racial history, which continues to trouble and obsess us in everything from policing to housing to job opportunity to our political campaigns, where it is sometimes used like a hidden (or not so hidden) persuader of fear and loathing. ArtsWatch’s Barry Johnson delves into this not-so-magnificent American obsession in his review of Artists Rep’s new production of We Are Proud To Present a Presentation About the Hero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, from the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915, Jackie Sibblies Drury’s smart and searing play about race, and our continuing difficulty in talking about it honestly, often even when we have the best of intentions. “We Are Proud to Present is a scorpion of a play,” Johnson writes, “and its tail packs a serious punch made all the more deadly by the light tone of the beginning.”



Tamisha Guy and Vinson Fraley Jr. in Kyle Abraham’s ‘The Getting’. Courtesy White Bird, © Jerry and Lois Photography All rights reserved

Vinson Fraley Jr. and Tamisha Guy in Kyle Abraham’s ‘The Getting.” Courtesy White Bird, © Jerry and Lois Photography. All rights reserved.

And while we’re on the subject: In Kyle Abraham dances about race, Nim Wunnan writes for ArtsWatch about the dance troupe Abraham.In.Motion’s canny and provocative performance in the White Bird series, a trio of works rooted in hip-hop, modern, and contemporary dance. The show “confidently and gracefully engaged both historical and very immediate issues of race and the individual’s place in this culture,” Wunnan says, and adds: “We start to understand in this work that certain movements and positions are almost exclusive to black bodies in this culture. And we rightly start to feel uncomfortable in our seats, notably when the usually vibrant and fluid [Tamisha] Guy sinks to the floor with a leaden exhaustion, face down, with her hands behind her back in an unmistakable position of submission, of arrest. The one Oscar Grant was in when he was shot point blank in the back.” Grant, in case you’ve lost track amid the the seemingly endless string of “incidents” involving police and black citizens, was slain by a Bay Area Rapid Transit policeman in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009 in Oakland.



Heath Koerschgen and Danielle Weathers in "Davita's Harp." Photo: Friderike Heuer

Heath Koerschgen and Danielle Weathers in “Davita’s Harp.” Photo: Friderike Heuer

A few things to keep in mind on this week’s calendar:

Davita’s Harp. The Jewish Theatre Collaborative has been preparing all season for this world-premiere adaptation (by Jamie M. Rea and director Sacha Reich) of Chaim Potok’s 1985 novel about a contentious family in the New York of the 1930s, as the world is churning toward disaster. Opens Saturday; through April 9 at Milagro Theatre.

Arvo Pärt and The Ensemble. Justin Graff gets us all in the mood for the notable chamber and vocal group’s weekend performances of the mesmerizing music of Pärt, “one of the world’s greatest living composers.” And in A Pärt Pilgrimage, Graff gets considerably more personal, telling the tale of his journey to Talinn to meet the master, of sharing chocolates,  and a session at the keyboard. All pilgrimages should be so rewarding. The performances: 7 p.m. Saturday at Eugene’s Central Lutheran Church; 4 p.m. Sunday at Portland State University’s Lincoln Recital Hall.

Northwest Dance Project. The Portland ensemble’s newest concert is called Louder Than Words, which might be appropriate, because it’s been raising the roof lately with performances in New York and elsewhere. A new work from the company’s talented resident choreographer, Ihsan Rustem, plus one each from artisitic director Sarah Slipper and Brazilian dancemaker/filmmaker Alex Soares. Newark Theatre, Thursday through Saturday.




ArtsWatch links


Wangechi Mutu, “Histology of Different Classes of Uterine Tumors”/Courtesy of PNCA

Wangechi Mutu, “Histology of Different Classes of Uterine Tumors”/Courtesy of PNCA


Wangechi Mutu and the revolt of the female form. Grace Kook-Anderson looks at 511 Gallery’s Northwest premiere exhibition of this post-colonial, feminist, New York-via-Nairobi artist. “Mutu’s women are distorted figures, hybrids of animals and natural elements, bodies that are capable of great force,” she writes.

Michelle De Young: heavy going. What happens when a Wagnerian powerhouse of a voice meets an art song in recital? Katie Taylor went to the acclaimed singer’s Friends of Chamber Music concert and found the combination of voice and material sometimes disconcerting.

Oscar nominee Ciro Guerra: an interview. Erik McClanahan talks with the Colombian-born director of the foreign-language nominee Embrace of the Serpent. Bummed that he didn’t haul home an Oscar? “We were kind of relieved we didn’t win,” Guerra said. “There was a favorite going in and it’s great not to be the favorite. It can be a lot of pressure. Even winning can be a lot of pressure. So we just made the best of it and enjoyed it.”

Toxic glory: Heathers: The Musical. Christa Morletti McIntyre takes a look at the ’80s glory that was the cult teen movie, and the new glory of its musical-theater adaptation, which is is getting a slam-bang co-production from Triangle and Staged!

Born to run (and to film): Wim Wenders, continued. Marc Mohan looks at more of the Northwest Film Center’s fascinating series by the German director. This time around: Paris, Texas; Kings of the Road; The American Friend; The State of Things.

In Mulieribus: hours well spent. Bruce Browne celebrates the “happy marriage” at Mt. Angel Abbey of the outstanding choir’s Renaissance music and exquisite projected art from a medieval book of hours.

Last chance: Jacques Rivette’s twelve-hour Out 1. The French New Wave director’s ambitious, audacious, half-a-day opus has rarely been seen in the past forty-five years, but the Northwest Film Center’s been showing it, cut into digestible segments. Marc Mohan pays his respects.

Bullshot Crummond rides again. Lakewood Theatre’s world-premiere production of the latest Crummond comedy, a sequel to a 1970s parody of the old Bullshot Drummond British adventure series, revels in an old-fashioned sort of fun, Christa Morletti McIntyre writes.

Bolai Cao: abundant talent. It was a propitious meeting at Portland Piano International, Jeff Winslow writes – the rising young pianist Bolai Cao performing a new work by the veteran Oregon composer Bryan Johanson, a piece created in homage to Domenico Scarlatti.

Hello, My Name Is Doris: Sally Field talks about her new movie. ArtsWatch’s Marc Mohan chats with the two-time Oscar winner about her latest turn, as a “socially inept, eccentrically clad” office worker who develops a crush on her younger boss. “Some people have called it a love story, but I think it’s a coming of age story,” she says. “The challenge of being a human being is will we open up to every different stage of our life?”

Johanson and Prochaska: media speak. Borrowing from Marshall McLuhan’s famous dictum “the medium is the message,” Paul Sutinen looks at new shows by veteran painter/printmakers George Johanson and Tom Prochaska and declares the medium does matter.


Tom Prochaska, "Hillside Nevada," 2016, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. Photo: Dan Kvitka

Tom Prochaska, “Hillside Nevada,” 2016, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20 inches. Photo: Dan Kvitka



About ArtsWatch Weekly

We send a letter like this every Tuesday to a select group of email subscribers, and also post it weekly on the ArtsWatch home page. In ArtsWatch Weekly, we take a look at stories we’ve covered in the previous week, give early warning of events coming up, and sometimes head off on little arts rambles we don’t include anywhere else. You can read this report here. Or, you can get it delivered weekly to your email inbox, and get a quick look at all the stories you might have missed (we have links galore) and the events you want to add to your calendar. It’s easy to sign up. Just click here, and leave us your name and e-address.


And finally…

We end with a couple of requests. First, if you have friends or family members who you think would enjoy our cultural writing online, could you please forward this letter to them? The bigger our circle of friends, the more we can accomplish. Second, if you’re not already a member of ArtsWatch, may we ask you to please take a moment and sign on? What you give (and your donation is tax-deductible) makes it possible for us to continue and expand our reporting and commenting on our shared culture in Oregon. Thanks, and welcome!

Become a member now!

Dance Weekly: The holidays have us spinning

Nutcrackers galore, BodyVox's 'Spin', Northwest Dance Project's dancers turn into choreographers

I have been ruminating all week about Eugene and the Eugene Ballet Company since I read Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts, & My Midlife Quest to Dance The Nutcracker by Lauren Kessler, which I wrote about last week. I realized I know nothing about the dance community there, even though Eugene is so close to Portland. When I lived on the East Coast it was normal to spend at least an hour-and-a-half driving anywhere, if not more. Assuming my ignorance of dance in a nearby city is shared by other dance-propelled folks, my question is why isn’t there more of an exchange between the dance communities in both of these cities? Whatever the reasons are, it should happen more.

This week in Portland, the dancers of the Northwest Dance Project switch roles and become choreographers—debuting new choreography on each other. Many ballet companies throughout the United States do something similar, and the events are light and carefree and give everyone a nice break from the rigours of the season. A perfect holiday wind down.

Also happening this week are the final performances of The Library At The End Of The World by the dancers of 11: Dance Co at Coho Productions. You will see some phenomenal dancing by a deeply dedicated and passionate group. You can follow their performances and catch up on their live theatre mishaps on their blog written by marketing director Huy Pham. One story involves a frozen sound board and the other a frozen light board. It all makes good theatre.

Also this weekend will be the final spinning at The Spin. BodyVox’s new show puts 25 dances on a game show wheel and lets audiences spin to decide the order of the show. At first I thought this was a form of torture to put the dancers through, but artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland play it fair by putting themselves in the mix as well.

Hampton is the consummate host and makes this a really enjoyably goofy evening. He is a shmoozer for sure and it is great fun watching him engage the audience, crack jokes, drink a beer, spin the wheel and run back and forth changing in and out of costumes as he dances and emceess. It’s a blast and a great way to get a decent sampling of the BodyVox repertoire.

Northwest Dance Project's Samantha Campbell kicks up her heels in "In Good Company." (c) Peddicord Photo

Northwest Dance Project’s Samantha Campbell kicks up her heels in “In Good Company.” (c) Peddicord Photo

In Good Company
Northwest Dance Project
December 17-18
Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark St.

It’s all about whimsy this holiday season. Travel back in time with Northwest Dance Projects’ dancers-turned-choreographers to the whimsical school days of yesteryear. Enjoy a playful return to youth with these vibrant dancers as they frolic and roll to the tunes of Puccini, Dick Dale and many more. The choreographers are Kody Jauron, Elijah Labay, Lindsey McGill, Andrea Parson, Franco Nieto, Julia Radick, and Ching Ching Wong.

Wong’s choreography can also be seen this weekend in 11:Dance Co’s Library At The End Of The World.


NW Dance Project: now and wow

World premieres by Pokorny and Landerer and the return of Ihsan Rustem's brilliant "Mother Tongue" get the company's season off to a seductive start

It’s getting a little tough to remember that Northwest Dance Project was just a scrappy little startup eleven years ago – as Gavin Larsen reported for ArtsWatch earlier this week, a $30,000 summer program that since then has blossomed into a $1 million resident and touring company that’s known far beyond its Portland home.

This is what life’s like for the Project these days: a quick tour to Mongolia just weeks ago, then back to the company’s spacious new East Side studios and headquarters to prepare for the newest New Now Wow! program. Seduce yet another opening-night crowd, no matter what it might have thought of the program’s three pieces, with the dancers’ intense focus, flexibility, and ability to make a scene pop off the stage.

From left: Kody Jauron, Ching Ching Wong, Lindsey McGill, Elijah Labay in "What We've Lost on the Way." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

From left: Kody Jauron, Ching Ching Wong, Lindsey McGill, Elijah Labay in “What We’ve Lost on the Way.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

New Now Wow!, which opened Thursday night at Lincoln Performance Hall and repeats Friday and Saturday evenings, is one of the Project’s annual concerts, and as the company’s matured it’s maintained NWDP’s focus on premiering new work, but also begun to bring back some of the company’s greatest hits. In this case, that means that Ihsan Rustem’s Mother Tongue, which looks every bit as brilliant as it did when the company premiered it in 2012, joins two world premieres: Jiri Pokorny’s The Presence of Absence, and Felix Landerer’s What We’ve Lost on the Way.


Dance Weekly: Relationships matter

Northwest Dance Project and Éowyn Emerald top the dance weekend

This week’s dance offerings are about relationships. Old ones, new ones, difficult one, fun ones, inspiring ones and then some. Talking about how we as humans relate to each other and to the things around us, is our favorite topic. There is endless material and endless variations on it. This week’s choreographers will be working out these relationship puzzles right before your very eyes, in real time.

Éowyn Emerald & Dancers

Éowyn Emerald & Dancers. Courtesy of Éowyn Emerald.

Éowyn Emerald & Dancers
October 23, 24, 25
Greenwood Theater at Reed College, 2903 SE Botsford Dr

Led by Portland choreographer Éowyn Emerald, this mighty band of dancers who have traveled from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and back, will present an evening of new work based on the idea that bonds between people are created through shared experiences. “In every group of individuals there are hundreds of stories to tell, yet it is the relationships between them that capture our imaginations over and over again.”

Northwest Dance Project, "New Wow Now." Courtesy of NW Dance Project.

Northwest Dance Project, “New Wow Now.” Courtesy of NW Dance Project.

New Now Wow!
NW Dance project
October 22-24
Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave
Freshly back from a tour to Mongolia, NW Dance Project presents three new dances (two world premiers), by European choreographers Jirí Pokorný, Felix Landerer and NW Dance Project Resident Choreographer, Ihsan Rustem. New works representing contemporary choreography now, in what promises to be a wow kind of evening.

Former Oregon Ballet Theatre dancer and writer Gavin Larsen, sat in on rehearsals and spoke with company dancer Ching Ching Wong and wrote about her experience for Arts Watch.

Fallen Fruit’s A Day in Paradise

apples & pomegranates by Tahni Holt
Presented by Portland Art Museum and Caldera
1 & 3 pm October 24
Portland Art Museum, 1219 SW Park Ave
The long-time Portland choreographer and director of Flock, Tahni Holt, will perform a solo as part of Fallen Fruit’s A Day in Paradise along with artists Natalie Ball, Bruce Conkle, Bill Cravis, Horatio Law, Aaron Lish, Marne Lucas, Jess Perlitz, and DeAngelo Raines.

We turn to the press release: Building on “the mythological idea of Eve eating the apple in the Garden of Eden, Holt will perform a solo that walks the line between rejected female stereotypes and embodied expression, wrestling with motherhood, sensationalism, emotionality, sexuality, and image/time-bound body, and the body in the present moment.”

Fallen Fruit is an artist collective based in Los Angeles led by artists David Allen Burns and Austin Young who “create site-specific projects using fruit to examine concepts of place, history, and issues of representation often addressing questions of public space.” For Portland, that fruit is the apple, and Fallen Fruit will use it as a metaphor to “explore concepts of place and history in the context of complexities unique to Portland.”

A Day in Paradise is one of many events scheduled for Fallen Fruit of Portland. Please check Portland Art Museum’s website for schedule details.

Kieraqmil Brinkley and Uriah Boyd in SOAR. Courtesy Kieraqmil Brinkley and Uriah Boyd .

Kieraqmil Brinkley and Uriah Boyd in SOAR. Courtesy Kieraqmil Brinkley and Uriah Boyd .

A documentary film directed by Susan Hess Logeais
7:30 pm October 22
Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd
Q & A with director Susan Hess Logeais and producers Kieraqmil Brinkley and Uriah Boyd to follow the screening.
SOAR is a documentary film directed and produced by Susan Hess Logeais, former ballerina and model, that explores the relationship between dancing sisters Kiera Brinkley, a quadruple amputee and dancer/choreographer with Polaris Dance Theatre, and her younger sister Uriah Boyd, who is a dancer/choreographer with Rejoice: Diaspora Dance Theatre, as they adapt to life with and without each other.

Shaping Sound; Dance Reimagined
7:30 pm October 28th
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1111 SW Broadway Ave

Stars from  “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing With The Stars” will fill the Schnitz for one night with a dance performance mashup of styles and musical genres with “all the right moves.”  Well known choreographer and dancer Travis Wall with co-creators Nick Lazzarini, Teddy Forance and Kyle Robinson will be joined by a cast of 14. All of your favorite TV dance stars under one roof…such a deal!

Marginal Evidence (an interactive experience of dance-making)
Katherine Longstreth
October 1 – November 14
White Box, 24 NW 1st Ave
Marginal Evidence is a visual art installation about the intimate act of choreography. Dance is ephemeral and when it is gone, what is left? How do we know it existed? What is the evidence left behind? Using the approach of a forensic investigator, Longstreth reveals the private process of dance making and exposes the inner life of archival materials. You can read the full preview here.

Ching Ching Wong’s princess path

The Northwest Dance Project stalwart enters the company's "New Now Wow!" with a new crown: She's the project's fourth Princess Grace Award winner since 2010.


Ching Ching Wong’s gentle voice pipes up: “Julia, do you want to do some dance moves?”

It’s a couple of minutes into a five-minute rehearsal break at Northwest Dance Project. Jiri Pokorny, choreographer of a new piece for the company’s New Now Wow! program opening Thursday at Lincoln Performance Hall, steps out for a moment, and the nine dancers meander off the studio floor in various directions to refill water bottles, rummage for a bite of trail mix, glance at a phone, or give Hank, the sleepy company dog, a tummy rub.

“Yeah, I do…” Wong’s colleague Julia Radick replies. In a small patch of sunlight in the studio’s corner, the two start to move—quietly—through their duet, taking advantage of a private moment to explore their way through Pokorny’s choreography before he returns to scrutinize. Wong is well-wrapped in sweatpants, a quilted vest, and knee pads, only her pink socks hinting at her natural ebullience. The two dancers are silent, but there is clearly a strong communication between them. The duet keeps them very close together, rarely touching or making eye contact—as if a fiercely strong magnet compels their movements and dictates their relationship. It’s serene, yet the emotional undercurrent is strong. They are rivetingly beautiful to watch.

Ching Ching Wong, Northwest Dance Project's newest Prince Grace Award winner. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Ching Ching Wong, Northwest Dance Project’s newest Prince Grace Award winner. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

The NWDP dancers’ seemingly casual demeanor—loose warmup clothes, relaxed faces, the generally easy vibe in the studio—belies their crystal-clear focus, strength, and intention, both physical and mental. Even the newest company member, Kody Jauron, working with company veteran Andrea Parson as Pokorny creates a new duet for them, throws off his status as “newbie.” An onlooker would never know he was still being indoctrinated into the group. These dancers’ overall prodigy is reflected—strikingly, and prominently—by the fact that within the past five years, four of them have been nominated for, and received, the prestigious Princess Grace Foundation fellowship award.


Oregon ArtsWatch Archives