PDX Contemporary Ballet

DanceWatch: Xuan Cheng and Ye Li’s ballet academy.

This week a performance by the students of a new Beaverton ballet school and a busy schedule of concerts

Did you know that Xuan Cheng (a Principal Dancer with Oregon Ballet Theatre) and her husband Ye Li (a soloist with OBT from 2011-2015) co-direct their own ballet school in Beaverton? They do! It’s called Oregon International Ballet Academy (OIBA) and they are performing this weekend, one classical work and one brand new contemporary ballet choreographed by Li.

Jamuna Chiarini

I just discovered their school this week in a last-minute search online before writing this week’s DanceWatch. It’s one thing to be a performer, but it’s a whole other ball of wax when performing artists, who have spend the majority of their careers bringing other people’s artistic vision to life, venture out on their own, creating work in their own voices. Watching a rehearsal video of Li’s new work sparked my curiosity, and I had to learn more. Cheng, Li, and I met briefly for coffee during Xuan’s lunch break from OBT, and we talked about their dance life, their history together, the new school, and the new work.

The OIBA students will be performing the Second Act of Swan Lake, staged by Cheng and adapted from Lev Ivanov’s choreography, and a world premiere by Li called Black and White at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall this Saturday night. They will be joined by 18 student musicians from the Metropolitan Youth Symphony, directed by Raúl Gómez, with costumes designed by Annika Schindler, a costume fabricator for LAIKA. Cheng and OBT Principal Dancer Brian Simcoe will be guest performing as well, courtesy of Oregon Ballet Theatre. The set design for Black and White includes a series of different-sized black and white boxes that the dancers engage with rhythmically, and the costumes have been created to evoke a sense of time, which is the constant, and the elegance of Victorian times.

Artistic Director Xuan Cheng working with her students at Oregon International Ballet Academy. Photo by Yi Yin.

Cheng and Li joined OBT in 2011 when they were hired by Christopher Stowell after one audition. They loved Portland right away and were very happy to call it home. Prior to OBT, they both danced for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, and Cheng danced for La La La Human Steps. They both danced for GuangZhou Ballet in China straight out of ballet school—she became a principal dancer with the company and he a soloist.

Between the two of them there is a lifetime of experience of training and dancing ballet’s classics, as well as the works of many well-known contemporary choreographers, including William Forsythe, Nacho Duato, Ohad Naharin, Jirí Kylián, Mats Ek, Mauro Bigonzetti, Christian Spuck, Christopher Stowell, and Nicolo Fonte.

When they first came to Portland, the Chinese community was very excited and proud to see Chinese dancers performing with Oregon Ballet Theatre and asked if they would teach their children. At that point they were still focused on their performing careers with OBT and weren’t able to devote the time they would like to teaching. But as time passed, Cheng started volunteering and creating small pieces for different community shows. She found that there was a big need for them and was drawn to teaching. She and Li both felt strongly that it was important to pass on their experience to the next generation and decided to open a school.

They opened Oregon International Ballet Academy in 2015, and it now has approximately 50 students. Cheng is still performing full time with OBT and teaches ballet classes in the evening, and Li retired from performing in 2015 to run the school full time.

Young dancers at the Oregon International Ballet Academy. Photo by Yi Yin.

When we met, Cheng said that teaching and running a school was satisfying. “It’s different than dancing,” she said “I feel like my life is actually very balanced. Before, I only knew ballet, ballet, ballet. Ballet is everything in my whole life. And as a dancer it’s always me, me, me, me. So during teaching it’s actually made me a better dancer. I’m also learning from the kids, too.”

She says she is treasuring her time dancing in the studio much more these days now that she has a thousand other things to focus on when she leaves at the end of the day. “It’s made my life more full and not so one sided,” she said.

When I asked about how the two of them work together, Cheng said, “It’s very challenging but we help each other. Our whole life since we met, we’re dancing together, we are always helping each other. We help each other grow and become a better person, we’re honest with each other. Sometimes we have to really say it, touch the pain. In Chinese we have a saying, it’s like the good medicine is the bitterest.” They have known each other since 1998, were each other’s first love, and married two years ago.

Ballet students at the Oregon International Ballet Academy. Photo by Yi Yin.

They want to teach their students the connections between the ballet steps and the stage, and teach the why of it all. They want to teach them curiosity and to become active participants in the process. They want more for their students than just performing and smiling and looking pretty on stage. They want to involve the students in the creative process.

The new work by Li, Black and White, is based on an idea that came from his mother. “My mom always said when a baby is born, we are like a white paper, white colors, you put a color on there. Black is a bad thing you did. You punched the cat. You did a bad thing, You put the black color on your paper. You hug somebody, you make somebody happy, then you add another color. So basically that’s your life. So the idea is at the end, we’re going to have a lot of colorful stuff, a lot of painting on the white paper. No matter what kind of stuff you do, when you look back, those colors are what you did, or your memories.”

Li’s new work features live music with compositions by David Long, ERA, Samuel Barber, Ezio Bosso, Raul Gomez-Rojas, and Li himself, who originally wanted to be a violinist. His mother wanted him to be a dancer.

The performance also holds a few surprises, especially in reference to Li’s mother’s metaphor.

Performances this week

Diva Practice (Solo) at the Risk/Reward Festival 2017.  Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

Diva Practice (Solo)
Pepper Pepper
November 2-November 5
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St.
November 2 Post-Show Q+A talk back with Pepper Pepper
November 2-3 performances have ASL Interpretation

Diva Practice (Solo), is the last leg in a three-part cycle created by multidisciplinary artist Pepper Pepper who works in performance, drag, theatre, and dance.

“Diva Practice is a research project about drag and contemporary performance as a solo, duet, and ensemble,” Pepper says. “Diva Practice is a performance about queens dancing in the face of uncertainty, because being fabulous takes practice.”

I asked Pepper in an email interview what uncertainty queens have to face. Pepper said that “uncertainty is a political, choreographic, and emotional narrative throughout the show.” Using “improvisation and video interactivity” it places the character in uncertain situations where choice, impulse, and intention combine to illustrate her “practice.”

The making of Diva Practice (Solo), happened through a series of residencies, performances, and a tour through Oregon, Louisiana, Maine, Texas, and Georgia that “make accomplices of the audience and initiate conversation around gender, power, and vulnerability.”

“The diva practice research tour allowed me to experiment and practice with live audiences across the US,” Pepper said. “In a way, the practice became performing the show as a live rehearsal. This informs the ethos of the show, which is radical acceptance and discernment. The tour was also a way for me to see drag and diva worship in many different states which influenced my choreography and frame of mind.”

I interviewed Pepper back in 2016 close to the debut of D.I.V.A. Practice in Pepper Pepper explains D.I.V.A. Practice.

Polaris Dance Theatre dancers in Avalanche. Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre.

Polaris Dance Theatre, artistic director Robert Guitron
November 2-10
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave.

Creating an arch between Prince, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen in this dance/music tribute, Polaris artistic director Robert Guitron plays with themes that were central to these artists—gender identity, diversity, sexuality, racism, spirituality, and fashion—in an evening work for thirteen dancers.

PDX Contemporary Ballet dancers attempting to read while dancing in Converge. Don’t try this at home. Photo courtesy of Briley Neugebauer.

PDX Contemporary Ballet, directed by Briley Neugebauer
November 3-5
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St.

In this collaborative project, PDX Contemporary Ballet, which thrives on experimentation in ballet, has combined spoken word and contemporary ballet choreography to expand the storytelling power of both by pairing Portland choreographers with Portland writers.

The pairings are: BodyVox dancer/choreographer Alicia Cutaia and Fox and Beggar Theater Director Nat Allister; ballet dancer/choreographer Micah Chermak and poet Milly Wallace; Briley Neugebauer (artistic director of PDX Contemporary Ballet) and playwright Claire Willett; and Neugebauer and poet Lorelei O’Connor.

Due to a generous donation, PDX Contemporary Ballet is offering $5 and $10 tickets on opening night.

A moment from Linda Austin’s solo Big Real from 2004. Photo courtesy of Performance Works NW.

A fundraiser performance presented by Performance Works NW
7:30 pm and 9:30 pm November 4
Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance, 4625 SE 67th Ave.

Celebrating 17 years of engaging artists and audiences in “the process of experimentation, creation and dialog around the presentation of contemporary performance,” Performance Works NW directed by dance artist Linda Austin and lighting designer Jeff Forbes present Iconic, a fundraiser performance of 18 short works by community of artists inspired by photographic prompts highlighting memorable PWNW performance from 2000-2017.

The evening promises revelry and refreshments, and all proceeds go to supporting the awesome PWNW programming.

EARLY SHOW: 7:30pm
Linda Austin and the Boris & Natasha Dancers (Michael Chambers, Tom DeBeauchamp, Ben Martens), Gregg Bielemeier, Catherine Egan, Allie Hankins, Linda K. Johnson, Meg McHutchison, Kelly Rauer & claire barrera, edward sharp, and Lu Yim & keyon gaskin

LATE SHOW: 9:30pm
Tracy Broyles, Jeff Donaldson-Forbes, Maggie Heath, Seth Nehil, John Niekrasz, Stephanie Lavon Trotter, Leah Wilmoth with Alanna Hoyman-Browe & Simone Wood, Takahiro Yamamoto & Roland Dahwen Wu, and James Yeary.

Dancers Xuan Cheng and Brian Simcoe. Photo by Yi Yin.

Swan Lake Act 2 and Black and White (world premiere)
Oregon International Ballet Academy, directed by Xuan Cheng and Ye Li
Swan Lake Act II, Stage by Xuan Cheng after Lev Ivanov, World Premiere: Black and White, Contemporary Ballet Choreography by Ye Li
Featuring Xuan Cheng and Brian Simcoe, guest dancers from Oregon Ballet Theater,
OIBA students, and live music by members of the Metropolitan Youth Symphony and Music Director Raúl Gómez
7:30 pm November 4
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.

See above.

Performances Next Week

November 9-12, When We, Allie Hankins & Rachael Dichter, a PWNW Alembic Co-Production
November 11, A-WOL Dance Collective 15th Anniversary Celebration
November 15, The Hip Hop Nutcracker Featuring MC Kurtis Blow, Decadancetheatre
November 15, Horizon3 in collaboration with RAW PORTLAND, Brynn Hofer, Gerard Regot, and Melanie Verna

Upcoming Performances

November 16-18, L-E-V, presented by White Bird
November 18, Mood Factory, Hosted by Dan Reed Miller and Ben Martens
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 + Billie, Ihsan Rustem, NW Dance Project
December 8-9, The Nutcracker with Chamber Ballet of Corvallis, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
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 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Crystal Jiko, Tere Mathern, Madison Page, Wolfbird Dance
December 17, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
December 22-24, The Nutcracker with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene


January 12, Love Heals All Wounds, Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz, Presented by Portland’5 Center for the Arts
January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

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 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
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 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
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 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
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
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem


DanceWatch Weekly: Journeys, a goblin king and an arts festival

The dance weekend features PDX Contemporary Ballet and Trip the Dark Dance Company

Two Portland dance company performances and an outdoor arts festival in Wilsonville— your dance weekend in a nutshell!

Two shows open on Friday night. PDX Contemporary Ballet’s Iterum Echo collects three works that involve journeys (“iter” is a Latin word meaning journey) by artistic director Briley Neugebauer, Margaret Wiss, and Kiera Brinkley. And Trip the Dark Dance Company will stage The Goblin King: A David Bowie and Labyrinth Tribute, which runs for three consecutive weekends.

For PDX Contemporary Ballet, Iterum Echos finishes out the company’s first full season, an exemplary feat, considering most Portland choreographers work from project to project due to the amount of funding available for dance and the financial reality of dance: maintaining a company of dancers year round is a whole other ball of wax.

Since October 2016, the company, directed by Neugebauer (who danced with the now defunct Moxie Contemporary Ballet Company as well as Polaris Dance Theatre, ART-IF-ACT Dance Project and was an apprentice with Donald Byrd’s Spectrum Dance Theater in Seattle), has produced three major shows: Incipio in October, Interlude in February 2017, and now Iterum Echos. The company which prides itself on experimentation in ballet, received its nonprofit 501(c)(3) last April, and has since provided a platform for numerous choreographers, who have all been women. The fact that the company is directed by a woman and performs works by women choreographers is an unusual distinction in the ballet world, where choreographic commissions and directorships are predominantly held by men.

The works featured in Iterum Echos will be performed in the intimate setting of New Expressive Works space at 810 SE Belmont St., doing away with the traditional space that separates the audience from the performers.

The pieces include Circular Wave of Circumstance by Boston choreographer Wiss, inspired by the concept of space-time where time and three-dimensional space are considered fused in a four-dimensional continuum. It employs an original soundscape composed by local artist Colin Minigan. Portland choreographer Kiera Brinkley has created The Times, which explores her “real world” profession as a nurse. Brinkley, a former performer and choreographer with Polaris Dance Theatre, is a quadruple amputee since age two. Neugebauer’s Continually Beginning considers “the ordinary, repetitive steps of everyday life, the subtle differences that sometimes occur, as well as the feeling of moving backward instead of forward.”

On Saturday BodyVox, Polaris Dance Theatre, Edge Movement Arts, and Mexica Tiahui Aztec Dance Group, a dance group formed by Oregon State University students in 1995 to help preserve and promote Mexican culture, will perform as part of the Wilsonville Festival of Arts that brings visual art, literary arts, live music, dance, theatre, and performance art, outside to the public, for free, at the Town Center Park.

If you missed it, last week I spoke with former New York City Ballet dancer Tom Gold about working with Twyla Tharp, ballet marketing and his work for The Portland Ballet. “It’s all about marketing, and money and business. Nobody’s thinking, ‘I want to encourage and nurture this.’ That’s kind of the last thing.” You can read the full interview here.
Also last weekend ArtsWatch’s Nim Wunnan reviewed the latest installment of New Expressive Works’ resident choreographer program, and noted that tension was a common thread.

Performances this week

Jefferson Dancers Spring Recital, 7 pm June 1. Photo by Fritz Liedtke.

Jefferson Dancers Spring Recital
Jefferson Dancers
7 pm June 1
5210 N Kerby Ave.

The Jefferson Dancers, a Portland Public Schools dance training program and company based at Jefferson High School in North Portland, celebrates its 41st anniversary this year and will feature choreography by faculty members and performances by students in this recital program.

Iterum Echos by PDX Contemporary Ballet, June 2-4 at New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont. Photo courtesy of PDX Contemporary Ballet.

Iterum Echos
PDX Contemporary Ballet
Directed by Briley Neugebauer
June 2-4
New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St.
See above.

Goblin King: A David Bowie and Labyrinth Tribute by Trip the Dark Dance Company, June 2-17, The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. Photo courtesy of Trip the Dark Dance Company.

Goblin King: A David Bowie and Labyrinth Tribute
Trip the Dark Dance Company
Co-directed by Corinn deWaard and Stephanie Seaman
June 2-17
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St.
In tribute to Jim Henson’s 1986 film “Labyrinth” and singer/songwriter David Bowie, Trip the Dark Dance Company takes the audience on an adventure to the center of the Labyrinth to rescue Sarah’s baby brother from the Goblin King after Sarah had wished him gone. It’s a mind-bending, hypnotic adventure that includes a little tap, contemporary dance, theater and a lot of Bowie, and… “where everything seems possible and nothing is what it seems.”

Photo of the Mexica Tiahui Aztec Dance Group. Wilsonville Festival of Arts June 3-4. Photo courtesy of Mexica Tiahui Aztec Dance Group.

Wilsonville Festival of Arts
June 3-4
Town Center Park
29600 SW Park Pl., Wilsonville
In its 18th year, the Wilsonville Festival of Arts brings visual art, literary arts, live music, dance, theatre, and performance art, outside to the public for free, at Town Center Park. This year’s festivities includes dance performances by BodyVox, Polaris Dance Theatre, Edge Movement Arts, and Mexica Tiahui Aztec Dance Group-a dance group formed by Oregon State University students in 1995 to help preserve and promote Mexican culture.

Performances next week

June 8-10, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
June 9, Kúkátónón 2017 Showcase!, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe
June 9-11, Jazz Around the World, Presented by Wild Rumpus Jazz Co
June 10-11, Dance Out Loud Choreographers Showcase, Directed by Oluyinka Akinjiola and Donna Mation
June 13, Moving History: Portland Contemporary Dance Past and Present, a film by Eric Nordstrom
June 14-15, SHUT DOWN: The Final Performance from PSU Dance Students

Upcoming Performances

June 23-24, Risk/Reward Festival Of New Performance, Produced by Jerry Tischleder
June 27-July 2, Cabaret, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland
June 29-30, Choreography XX, Oregon Ballet Theatre
June 30-July 1, Improvisation Summit of Portland 2017, Hosted by The Creative Music Guild and Disjecta
July 8, Ten Tiny Dances, Beaverton Farmers Market, Directed by Mike Barber
July 14-15, Rantom Skoot, Linda Austin, Gregg Bielemeier, Bob Eisen (NYC), and Sada Naegelin & Leah Wilmoth
July 14-16, Apparatus, by Danielle Ross
July 15, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
July 26, Movement and Flow: Portland Dance Films, Hosted by NW Film Center featuring films by Conrad Kazcor, Fuchsia Lin, Dylan Wilbur Media, Gabriel Shalom, Jackie Davis, and Amy Yang Chiao
July 29, Hafla, Portland Bellydance Guild
August 3-5, Galaxy Dance Festival, Hosted by Polaris Dance Theatre
August 11-13, JamBallah Northwest ’17, Hosted by JamBallah NW
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans
August 24-October 8, Kurios: Cabinet Of Curiosities, Cirque Du Soleil

DanceWatch Weekly: Tech and the beauty of dance

The tech savvy Rainbow Dance Theatre and a great performance by Butoh artist Teresa Vanderkin lead to speculations about what makes great dance

It’s raining here in Portland, a steady stream of tiny droplets creating vertical lines over a backdrop of lush green trees, waving gently in the wind against the dark gray sky. It’s a beautiful, peaceful moment. I love how Portland’s gray skies, combined with the humidity, make colors pop. People who don’t know Portland winters think it’s ALL gray and dark, but they don’t realize that without the background gray, you wouldn’t see/appreciate the color.

Right now, because of the constant bombardment of bad news from the Trump administration, I am fatigued, full of feelings, and I am actively seeking out moments of beauty and connectivity as a salve.

Last weekend I found a few of those moments when I went to see Selfie by Rainbow Dance Theatre and Timsila & the Cypress Tree by Butoh choreographer Meshi Chavez, performed by the students of his nine-week Butoh Performance intensive, Being Moved.

Selfie by Rainbow Dance Theatre. Photo courtesy of Rainbow Dance Theatre.

Selfie was choreographed by former Pilobolus dancer Darryl Thomas and former Merce Cunningham dancer Valerie Bergman for their company Rainbow Dance Theatre, which is based in Monmouth, Oregon. The dance explores the idea of self through the platform of technology and social media. They ask: Which part of us is the actually the self? The outer part, the inner part or the part we share with the world on social media?

As we entered the lobby at Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall, we were instructed by posters on the wall and the Rainbow Dance Theatre staff, to take photos of ourselves and text them to dancetext@wou.edu. Once we got into the theatre, we could see our photos projected onto the scrim at the front of the stage along with hundreds of other selfies, in an orderly, side by side mosaic of multi-colored faces.

The dancing began behind this scrim, and as the dancers moved, the photos fell away, creating small frames, revealing more and more of the dancing bodies behind it.

In Selfie, an hour-long series of vignettes, the performers, through motion tracking technology, interacted with abstract, vibrantly colored, computerized images projected on the same scrim. The images included wavy red lines, circles, a giant head, and raining letters, to name a few.

The raining letters really grabbed me. From the top of the scrim, white letters cascaded down against a black background in five columns as a male dancer walked through them, carrying a push broom over his shoulder. As he “bumped” into the letters, they bounced off of him, spilling onto the floor, collecting into piles. Once he got to the other side of the stage, he turned around and swept the letters off, causing the letters to billow up into the air and float down like feathers.

There were several striking moments just like this throughout, but I didn’t feel like they were developed this well. It also wasn’t always clear to me what effect the dancers were having on the screen images and what the overall story was. The dancing, which was performed by a mix of professional dancers and dance students from Western Oregon University, combined acrobatics, contemporary dance and simple ballet steps overlaid with a circus-like performative attitude. Given the level of experimentation that the technology brought to the performance, the choreography seemed too simple and underdeveloped. Technology won the creativity challenge.

Selfie brought up a lot of questions for me around what makes “good” dancing and “good” performing. What is that thing that some performers and choreographers have that affects audiences so personally? How do they get it? Is circus and aerial work dance? Does all movement theatre fall under the category of dance? Is it just a range, a spectrum?

I polled my FaceBook friends this past week looking for the words to describe that intangible thing that we all feel when we see a special performance, but can’t easily describe.

Here’s the list of qualities that were described: heart, energetic presence, commitment, tension, awareness, authenticity, a relaxed and confident demeanor, grace, the ability to transport an audience beyond the immediate awareness of the body and present moment, the ability to transcend, to reveal and to show risk.

This leads me to Timsila & the Cypress Tree by Butoh choreographer Meshi Chavez.

Timsila & the Cypress Tree, performed at The Headwaters theatre, was also a series of small, interconnected stories with many beautiful tableaux moments. Its student performers cannot be looked at in the same light as a professional work, although Chavez makes lots of professional work as well. (For Suspended Moment, a Butoh work about the atrocities of atomic warfare coming this summer, Chavez is collaborating with visual artist Yukiyo Kawano, musician Lisa DeGrace and poet Allison Cobb.)

Teresa Vanderkin as the “Blue Woman” in Timsila & the Cypress Tree by Meshi Chavez. Photo by Greg Walters.

I can, though, talk about the performance of Teresa Vanderkin, who performed with the group and has been studying Butoh with Chavez for about seven years, and occasionally teaches for him when he is away. Vanderkin has that “thing,” that performance quality that is so hard to put into words. Her movement is never big or performative in anyway; she is relaxed onstage, deeply focused; she projects an emotional range, and she possesses an awareness and knowledge of her body that is sensitive, feeling, and porous. She can access any of these possibilities within her body at any time, to tell us a story and cause us to feel something. She is a captivating performer and deeply interesting to watch, for me.

In Timsila & the Cypress Tree she is the “Blue Woman,” a universal spirit character who breaks up the chaotic space with her directional, slow-moving walking, establishing order on the stage. When she performs, I watch her face, her hands, and her feet. All the parts are telling me something.

It isn’t enough to just be an empty moving body onstage, you have to fill it with something deep and knowing, about the body, life and the world—it’s a deep depth of body knowledge and experience performing, that makes a performance special.

This weekend, more rain, and more study on beauty of all kinds in performance.

Performances this week

Cuba Infused: Featuring Stories of Ochun the Goddess of Love
Donna Oefinger, Axé Didé music and Dance Company
February 10-12
Center Space, 420 SE 6th Ave
Directed by Donna Oefinger, owner of Center Space Studio in SE Portland, director of Axé Didé music and Dance Company, and teacher of dances from the African Diaspora, brings together dance and live music in this celebration of Cuban culture. This group of 20 performers, including Oluyinka Akinjiola, artistic director of Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre, Cuban master percussionist and singer Isidro Valor Perez, and Portland funk and soul musician Jans Ingber, from the band Motet, will perform an array of dances from Cuba, including the dance of Ochún, the powerful Orisha of love, guardian of fertility, and ruler of fresh waters-she is irresistible, her laughter is seductive, her dancing graceful, and her lips are sweet like honey.

Syniva Whitney/Gender Tender and Will Courtney from Seattle, will perform GUT, as part of Linda Austin’s Cabaret Boris & Natasha. Photo courtesy of Linda Austin.

Cabaret Boris & Natasha
Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
February 10-11
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave
Performance Works NW/Linda Austin Dance presents, an eclectic, cabaret-style evening of imaginative, unconventional entertainment, featuring dancers Mike Barber and Subashini Ganesan, Seattle’s Syniva Whitney/Gender Tender, oboist Catherine Lee, actor/performer Amber Whitehall, dancer Button Will, and a short piece by the famous The Boris & Natasha Dancers, all emceed by “The Greatest Entertainers Ever,” Reid Urban and David Weinberg.

PDX Contemporary Ballet, directed by Briley Neugebauer
February 10-12
CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh St
Portland’s contemporary ballet company is back with Interlude, a program of six new dance works, by six women choreographers, for six dancers. The works explore dance’s relationship to science, politics, visual art, language, comedy, and more, and will include a musical interlude by Japanese violinist Tomoki Martens.

Participating Interlude choreographers are: Hayley Glickfeld Bielman, artistic director of Necessity Arts Collective; Briley Neugebauer, Artistic Director of PDX Contemporary Ballet; Eva Stone, producer and curator of Chop Shop: Bodies of Work, an annual contemporary dance festival in Bellevue, Washington, and the Artistic Director of Stone Dance Collective; Emily Running, founder of Portland’s Dance Wire and former performer/choreographer/administrator for the aerial troupe, A.W.O.L.; M’Liss Stephenson Quinnly, founding member of Polaris Dance Theatre and current director of Polaris Junior Company and Neo Company; and Margaret Wiss, a Boston choreographer interested in the interaction between dance and science.

3 Trips: guided experiences with Keith Hennessy
A workshop
February 11, 14, and 18
New Expressive Works
810 SE Belmont Street
Exploring playing, meditating, feeling, being, and dancing, Bay Area dance artist Keith Hennessy, along with co-directors Jodi Darby, Julie Perini and Erin Yanke will facilitate a three part, guided experience—Practicing Death & Dying (workshop-experience-practice), Arresting Power (film screening and discussion), and Oil Action (creative, naked experiment in solidarity and intimacy).

For more info go to the Facebook event page. Please RSVPs to keith@circozero.org to participate. No drop-ins.

Upcoming performance

February 19, Early bird submission deadline, Portland Dance Film Fest
February 25, Civilized, Catherine Egan
February 23-26, Attention Everyone!, A-WOL Dance Collective
March 2-4, Cuisine & Confessions, Presented by White Bird
March 3, Local (not easy), Iris Erez, Presented by Reed College Dance Department
March 3-5, In Circadia, Eliza Larson
March 5, Nritya Shubha Dance Festival, Guru Smt Shubha Dhananjay, Maya Dhananjay and Mudra Dhananjay.
March 3-11, The Bacchae, PSU School of Theater + Film, choreography by Tere Mathern
March 9-11, Companhia Urbana De Danca, Presented by White Bird
March 10 – 12, TPB Studio Company Performance-Featuring dances by Anne Mueller, Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, John Clifford and guest artists from Kukátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, The Portland Ballet
March 10-19, In The Heights, Portland Community College
March 16-18, Carmen, NW Dance Project
March 17, The Baroque Dance Project, Alice Sheu and Julie Iwasa
March 19, Duality: Dance Ballet of India, Presented by Rasika
March 19, BodyVox and Oregon Symphony collaboration performance
March 24, Shaping Sound, Travis Wall, Presented by Portland’5
March 24-25, New works by Alembic Artists Claire Barrera and Noelle Stiles, Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
March 23-April1, Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble, Presented by BodyVox
April 4-5, Shen Yun, Presented by Oregon Falun Dafa Association
April 6-8, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, Presented by White Bird
April 10, Noontime Showcase OBT2, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 15, Synesthesia, BodyVox, TEDx Portland
April 15, Bridge the Gap, Presented by Sepiatonic
April 13-22, Terra, Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 14-16, New work by Jin Camou, Performance Works NW Alembic Co-Production
April 25-26, Che Malambo, Presented by White Bird
April 27-29, Contact Dance Film Festival, Presented by BodyVox and NW Film Center
April 28-29, Appalachian Spring Break, Scotty Heron and Brendan Connelly, Presented by Performance Works NW / Linda Austin Dance
May 5-7, Inclusive Arts Vibe Annual Performance, Disability Arts and Culture Project
May 10, Martha Graham Dance Company, Presented by White Bird
May 26-28, N.E.W. Residency performance, Dora Gaskill, Jessica Kelley, Stephanie Schaaf, and Kumari Suraj
May 26 – 27, Spring Concert – Tribute to the Ballet Russes, Featuring work by Michel Fokine, Tom Gold, George Balanchine, and Lane Hunter, The Portland Ballet
June 2-4, Interum Echos, PDX Contemporary Ballet
June 8-10, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project
July 15, Pretty Creatives Showing, NW Dance Project
August 24-September 6, Portland Dance Film Fest, Directed by Kailee McMurran, Tia Palomino, and Jess Evans

ArtsWatch Weekly: film fest x 3

Grab your popcorn: PIFF, Portland Black Film Fest, African film fest fill the screens; 10 tips for a busy week onstage; Arvo Pärt, more

Film fanatics, this week is yours: You’ve just hit the trifecta.

The 40th annual Portland International Film Festival opens on Thursday.

The Portland Black Film Festival, featuring films about black life in America, is the newbie of the three, but arrives with some zing. It also opens on Thursday, at the Hollywood Theatre, with Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, and continues through February 22 with 10 features, including Pioneers of African American Cinema. The centerpiece, this Saturday, is the blaxploitation classic Coffy, with action star Pam Grier as special guest.

And the 27th Cascade Festival of African Films, which features films by African filmmakers from the African continent, kicked off on Friday and continues through March 7. It continues a grand tradition of bringing hard-to-find films to town – this year more than 30, including feature films and shorts. Coming up Friday is The Cursed Ones, from Ghana, about a pair of village outcasts accused of witchcraft. Every offering at the Cascade Fest, which takes place at the Cascade campus of Portland Community College, is free.

“I Am Not Your Negro” at PIFF and the Portland Black Film Festival.

PIFF, the granddaddy of the local festivals, continues through February 25 with more than a hundred movies from Afghanistan to Venezuela, in languages from Afrikaans to Yiddish. It kicks off Thursday evening with director Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, which arrives with a passel of admiring-to-ecstatic reviews and a nomination for best documentary feature at this year’s Academy Awards. It’ll also be screened February 18 in the Portland Black Film Festival. Based on Remember This House, the final, unfinished novel of the great American writer James Baldwin, it explores “the absurd – and deeply tragic – relationship between the United States and skin color.” Some of the festival films will have broad commercial releases, and some will be available in art houses or on cable. The PIFF screenings will provide your only opportunity to see some others.

Spend a little time going through the schedules for all three festivals, then make your plans.

“The Cursed Ones,” directed by Nana Obirir Yeboah, at the Cascade Festival of African Films.





Pen/man/ship. Portland Playhouse takes on Christina Anderson’s acclaimed play about a ship at sea headed for Liberia in 1896 at a time when the American Colonization Society is campaigning to send African Americans “back” to Africa. Opens Saturday.

Marjorie Prime. Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer finalist has a top-notch cast at Artists Rep: Vana O’Brien, Chris Harder, Linda Alper, Michael Mendelson. It’s science fiction about aging, technology, and memory loss: O’Brien plays an 85-year-old woman whose memories are prompted by an artificial version of her late husband. Opens Saturday.

Swimming While Drowning. Milagro produces the world premiere of Emilio Rodriguez’ play about a gay teen who leaves home and his homophobic father and winds up in an LGBT homeless shelter in Los Angeles. Opens Friday.

His Eye Is on the Sparrow. Maiesha McQueen stars as the great gospel singer Ethel Waters in Larry Parr’s musical biography, performed in the intimate Ellyn Bye Studio at Portland Center Stage. Opens Friday.

Trifles/Dutchman. Defunkt brings back a couple of old one-acts with contemporary inclinations: Susan Glaspell’s 1916 Trifles, a play with feminist overtones about a murder in the country; and Amiri Baraka’s 1964 Dutchman, about a young black man and a seductive white woman who meet on a subway. It was Baraka’s last play under his birth name LeRoi Jones, and coincides with his turn toward black nationalism. Opens Friday.

The Pillowman. The new Life in Arts Productions kicks off with Martin McDonaugh’s dark, brutal, chillingly beautiful drama about child murders and storytelling in a totalitarian state. Jamie Rea directs Bobby Bermea and others. Opens Friday at The Headwaters.

Interlude. Six dances by six choreographers, danced by six company members of PDX Contemporary Ballet, all in the intimate space of CoHo Theatre. Friday-Sunday.

Missed Connections and Other Love Stories. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Readers Theatre Rep brings readings of three short plays that offer a rueful look at love: David Ives’s Sure Thing, Peter Barry’s Sex with a Mathematician, and Brooke Berman’s Defusion. Friday-Saturday, Blackfish Gallery.

Cabaret Boris & Natasha. The latest edition in this adventurous series at Performance Works NW features dancers Mike Barber and Subashini Ganesan, oboist Catherine Lee, PETE’s Amber Whitehall in a piece “made of hungriness and failure,” and more. Friday-Saturday.

In the Blood. Victor Mack directs Suzan-Lori Parks’s contemporary adaptation of The Scarlet Letter, focusing on a woman with five “illegitimate” children who’s trying to break out of poverty. Opens Friday at Portland Actors Conservatory.



Composer Arvo Pärt

A WHOLE LOT OF PÄRT. The Portland choir Cappella Romana is undertaking an Arvo Pärt Festival that kicks into high gear Thursday through Sunday, featuring the music of the Estonian composer who is perhaps the most-performed living composer in the world. Oregonians have some deep connections with Pärt and his music, and ArtsWatch writers have taken note:

When Oregon met Arvo. Brett Campbell tells the extraordinary tale of Pärt’s 1993 agreement to compose a new work for the Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene – a partnership that almost fell apart in a crisis of confidence, and ended in triumph the following year: “The ovation went on for a full 15 minutes, until, amazingly, the shy Pärt himself leapt up to the stage, a beatific smile beaming from the dark cloud of his beard, then embraced [conductor Helmuth] Rilling and the singers in turn.”

Arvo Pärt Festival: spirituality in sound. Daniel Heila explores the “holy minimalism” of Pärt’s devotional music: “The Eastern Orthodox composer’s departure from modernism was marked by an intense reexamination of all that he knew about music and an exploration and embracing of its sacred history.”

A Pärt pilgrimage. Oregon music student Justin Graff recalls his journey to Estonia to meet his musical hero and what he found, and shared, down a long rural road.




ArtsWatch links


Theater for Barbarians. Maria Choban gets on her ancestral Greek and goes to a bunch of Greek plays around town. They tell her more about contemporary America than ancient Greece, she writes: where’s the raw, wild passion?

Kill the NEA? What it might mean. The new presidential administration is taking aim at the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. We consider what might happen if both federal agencies actually get the ax.

Fertile Ground reviews: Young Bloods. Brett Campbell takes in Broken Planetarium’s Atlantis and Orphic’s Iphigenia 3.0 and discovers theater made by and for a bold new generation.

Global Voices get a fair hearing. A.L. Adams drops in on the first weekend of Boom Arts’ mini-festival of readings of international plays (it concludes this weekend). The upshot? “Global Voices” is all over the map – and that’s a good thing.

Cappella Romana: choral conundrum. Bruce Browne, reviewing the choir’s performance of Finnish composer  Einojuhani Rautavaara’s All Night Vigil (Vigilia), argues that this music from the 1970s deserves much wider attention. And he praises guest basso Glenn Miller: “He is so modest and self-deprecating, you wouldn’t know his capabilities, except his vocal quality is that of the voice of God.”



About ArtsWatch Weekly

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It’s all about ballerinas and monsters this week, beginning Thursday with the second weekend run of BodyVox’s semi-annual (it is performed alternately in Portland one year, and then away the next), Halloween-themed show, BloodyVox: Blood Red Is The New Black.

Monsters & Death, Ben Martens monthly showcase at The Headwaters Theatre, opens Friday, this time with a dark twist. And so does INCIPIO, PDX Contemporary Ballet’s new, two-act ballet choreographed by Briley Neugebauer, which combines classical and contemporary dance. Eugene Ballet raises the curtain on Giselle on Friday, too, a version choreographed by artistic director Toni Pimble.

Giselle is one of the creepiest ballets out there, and one of my favorites. It tells the story of a young woman, Giselle, who dies from a broken heart (who does that?) when she finds out her lover, Albrecht, is engaged to another. The Wilis, a group of powerful, supernatural women who enjoy dancing men to death, summon Giselle from her grave and offer to avenge her. Sadly/happily, depending on how you look at it, Giselle’s love for her lover saves him from this terrible fate. One of these days I wish a choreographer would change the ending and let the Wilis have their fun. But until then…Happy Halloween.

Performances this week!


Dancers Jeff George and Eric Skinner in BodyVox’s GEORGE AND GEORGE. Photo by Ken Salaman.

BloodyVox: Blood Red Is The New Black
October 27-29
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave
Created in 2010, BloodyVox, BodyVox’s “scary” version of a holiday classic, celebrates directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland’s favorite holiday, Halloween. This dance theatre extravaganza touches on all aspects of Halloween, creating an evening that is dark, mysterious, magical, beautiful, ironic, odd, hilarious and absurd. The dance, which is made up on many smaller dances, incorporates the standard Halloween fare of vampires, zombies, ghosts, killer lady spiders, and creepy identical twins alongside elegant technical ballet and modern dance done in the BodyVox style. It’s all about having fun while getting scared.

When I spoke with Hampton and Roland last week about the dance Hampton said, “It’s your standard modern dance fare.” Roland reiterated “Its typical. Anything you might find at the end of a Martha Graham piece or something that’s gone bad.” Hampton finished the conversation off with: “When you think of horror and modern dance, it’s limitless.”

Spectacle Garden 6: Monsters & Death
Curated & produced by Ben Martens
7:30 pm October 28
Music and Dancing at 930.
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St
After a wild ride of performances by some of Portland’s finest experimental artists, all focusing on Monsters & Death of course, the evening will continue into the wee hours of the morning with the musical stylings of Wretched Tween Fantasy, Ben Martens, Savage Nightingale and DJ Banzai. Curator and organizer Ben Martens says, “Bring your costume, come late, just come through, all of our nightmares will come true!!”

Ben Martens, who has been curating monthly performances at The Headwater Theatre 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 for low-cost, low-ambition, high-energy community showcases. Martens is always looking for future performers, particularly performers of color and diverse ages, in theater, comedy, dance and ensemble work. If you are interested in performing, contact Martens at bensmateria@gmail.com.


PDX Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Chris Hughes.

PDX Contemporary Ballet
Choreographed by Briley Neugebauer
October 28-30
N.E.W. Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St
Artistic director Briley Neugebauer accidentally created a new choreographic challenge for herself last year when she and her dancers were looking for a way to add more seating at a performance. They decided to place the chairs all around the stage, inadvertently creating a performance in the round. This, of course, is not a new idea, especially in contemporary dance practices, but it was new to Neugebauer and it suddenly opened up an abundance of new ideas. Neugebauer wants to combine the classical form of ballet and contemporary movement practices and ideas.

The work, INCIPIO, which in Latin means “I begin,” is performed in the round, and is set to Jorge Mendez’s “Fragments,” with additional sounds of ambient rain overlaid. A totally appropriate arrangement for this time of year here in Portland.

The process of creating this work was one of self-reflection and self discovery for Neugebauer, she said. Last year she realized that she couldn’t “do it all” and decided to step down as a performer and focus solely on directing the company. At the time she was performing, choreographing, teaching and doing all of the administration work for the company. The decision was difficult, as Neugebauer always identified as a performer and only a performer, and stepping off the stage and out of the limelight at 27 was definitely an adjustment, but a good one, she said.

She also was inspired by the number of dancers who came to her during an audition, expressing the need to get away from the negative, body-shaming rhetoric of the ballet world, and just dance. She decided that she needed to create opportunities for others to dance, and to provide that safe place for them to be whoever they wanted to be as they are.

INCIPIO is part Neugebauer’s personal story and part pure dance.


Eugene Ballet’s Giselle. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

Eugene Ballet Company
Artistic Director, Toni Pimble
October 28-30
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

See above.


Marginal Evidence by Katherine Longstreth. Photo courtesy of Katherine Longstreth.

Marginal Evidence
A visual installation about the act of choreography
By Katherine Longstreth
October 24-November 5
Reception November 3, 6:00-7:15 pm
Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Performance Lab 128, 3202 SE Woodstock Blvd
Marginal Evidence, a visual installation about the act of choreography created by choreographer Katherine Longstreth, reopens at Reed College in the Performing Arts Building. It was originally installed at the White Box gallery last year around this time. You can read my preview of the exhibit here, and Martha Ullman West’s review of the exhibit, here. There will be a reception and walk through with Longstreth on November 3rd.

Next Week

November 3-12, Reclaimed, Polaris Dance Theatre
November 4-6, Obstacles and Victory Songs, Stephanie Lavon Trotter and Dora Gaskill
November 5-6, All The Marys, Luciana Proaño

Upcoming Performances

November 11-13, Epoch, Jamuna Chiarini and push/FOLD-Samuel Hobbs
November 12-20, the last bell rings for you, Linda Austin Dance
November 17-19, Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, White Bird
November 19, Jazz Throughout the Ages, Wild Rumpus Jazz Co.
November 19-20, 3rd Annual Glow Variety Show, Trauma Healing Project, Eugene
November 25-27, The Enchanted Toyshop, The Portland Ballet Holiday Show
November 26, Nutcracker Remixed, All That! Dance Company, Eugene
December 2-4, N.E.W. Expressive Works Residency Performance, Dana Detweiler, James Healey, Jessica Hightower, and Renee Sills
December 8-10, In Good Company, NW Dance Project
December 8-10, ARCANE COLLECTIVE, Presented by BodyVox
December 9-11, The Book of Esther — A Rock Gospel Ballet, Ballet Fantastique, Eugene
December 10-26, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker®, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 15-17, Complicated Woman, Katie Scherman/2016 Performance Works NW Alembic Resident Artist
December 16-18, The Nutcracker, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
December 18, Gifts, a film by Clare Whistler/2015 Performance Works NW visiting artist
December 19, Dancing with the Stars: Live! – We Came to Dance, AEG Live NW, Eugene
December 22-24, Cirque Dreams Holidaze, Presented by U.S. Bank Broadway in Portland

Dance Weekly: Dancers are from everywhere

This week: A month-long celebration of many Asian cultures through music and dance and new works by new companies

The beautiful, transitional month of May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. This month was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10,1869 (the majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants).

Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland will be hosting a month-long celebration with performances every Saturday and Sunday by local cultural organizations and dance troupes representing India, Nepal, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Hawaii/Pacific Islands and more.

This weekend China, Nepal, Indonesia and Cambodia will be represented by the Vancouver Jasmine Dance Troupe, Dance Mandal, Haiyan International Dance Academy, Cambodian Dance Troupe of Oregon, Ka Lei Hali’a O Ka Lokelani, and our very own ArtsWatcher Brett Campbell will be playing Saturday the 21st with Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan. This promises to be an exceptional experience. Check out the schedule for more information on all of the upcoming performances

Performances this week


Victoria Chen performing the Chinese water sleeve dance as part of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month at Lan Su Chinese Garden. Photo by Jingzi Zhao.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
May 1-29
Lan Su Chinese Garden, 239 NW Everette St
See above.

Malposa Dance Company
Presented by White Bird Dance
7:30 pm May 4
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway
Visiting Portland for the first time and closing out White Bird’s 18th season, this Havana-based dance company was started in 2012 by Osnel Delgado, Dailedys Carrazana and Fernando Saéz. It mixes Cuban folklore with ballet and modern dance. The ten-member company will be performing three pieces Wednesday night only: Ocaso, choreographed by Artistic Director Osnel Delgado; Under Fire, choreographed by Trey McIntyre; and 24 hours and a dog, by Osnel Delgado with live music by Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble.

Dance Wire Dance Passport participant. Click for details.

The Portland Ballet om Trey McIntyre's Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

The Portland Ballet in Trey McIntyre’s Half-life. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

The Portland Ballet’s Spring Concert
May 5-7
Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave
This annual spring concert danced by the students of The Portland Ballet will feature a wide range of styles from contemporary to classical with highlights from Trey McIntyre’s Half-Life, a raucus ballet choreographed to the music of Queen; the world premier of Gregg Bielemeier’s Separate Times (Similar To But Different Than); with an original score by Jeremy Reinhold; and Jason Davis’ Ochos Niñas en Rojo, to fandangos by the San Francisco Guitar Quartet. Also being performed will be George Balanchine’s Valse-Fantaisie with music by Glinka, Anne Mueller’s adaptation of Marius Petipa’s romantic Raymonda Suite, and Jason Davis’ Simplicity to Chopin originally choreographed in 2012.

Dance Wire Dance Passport participant. Click for details.

I Just Want One Tiny Thing, And I Talk Too Much
WolfBird Dance
May 5-7
Studio Two at Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont, # 2
Co-directed by Selina DiPronio and Raven Jones, WolfBird Dance will perform an evening-length piece introspectively looking at the violence present in the creative process and the pain it takes to birth new ideas. “Thematically razing and remaking, devouring and constructing, six dancers trap themselves inside the fight of the creative subconscious to actualize its intent.”

Dance Wire Dance Passport participant. Click for details.

Photographer: Mercy McNab — with Joanna Hardy, Emily Schultz, Briley Neugebauer, Billy Bork and Mercy McNab

PDX Contemporary Ballet. Dancers are Joanna Hardy, Emily Schultz, Briley Neugebauer, Billy Bork and Mercy McNab. Photo by Mercy McNab.

From Within
PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 6-8
Alberta Abbey, 126 NE Alberta St
To dance or not to dance is the question that many dancers ask themselves when things do not go as planned. Combining poetry, the solo sounds of the cello by Hannah Hillebrand of Northwest Piano Trio, and a tenacious group of ballet dancers, PDX CB choreographers and dancers will explore what makes them want to dance in the face of opposition. The company will be performing new works by choreographers Matt Cichon, Sari Hoke, Joanna Hardy, Briley Neugebauer, Samantha Schilke and Alexandra Schooling.

Noontime Showcase: OBT2
Advanced students of the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre
12:00pm May 9
Antoinette Hatfield Hall rotunda, 1111 SW Broadway
As part of Portland’5 Centers initiative to make the performing arts accessible to everyone, the centers offer free noontime showcases by different performing arts groups from around Portland. As part of this program the pre-professional dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre 2, Oregon Ballet Theatre’s training program, directed by Lisa Sundstrom, will perform excerpts from August Bournonville’s Napoli, which was performed earlier in the season by the main company, along with several other works to be announced at the performance.


Formosa Circus Art. Photo courtesy of Portland’5 Center For The Arts.

Formosa Circus Art
Presented by The Taiwanese Association of Greater Portland
7:30pm May 10
Antoinette Hatfield Hall, Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway
Hailing all the way from Taiwan, this 12-member troupe prides themselves on sharing the rich cultures of Taiwan while pushing the boundaries of the traditional circus, combining acrobatics, stunts, street dance, juggling, drumming,martial arts and extreme endurance with contemporary issues in a contemporary setting.

Coming up next week

May 12, WE’RE FROM HERE: 3 PDX dancers/film and performance, presented by KBOO Community Radio
May 12-21, EXPOSED!, Polaris Dance Theatre
May 14, Props to Bellydance!, Ruby Beh and Co.
May 14, Renée vs.The Rectangle and Oh, there you are, Nickels Sunshine and Renée Archibald
May 14-15, Coppelia, Portland Festival Ballet
May 20-21, TRACES, Sara Naegelin and Mark Koenigsberg
May 20-21, HAVA | חוה, The Holding Project
May 20-22, Now Then: A Prologue, Allie Hankins

Dance Weekly: FRONT and ‘Metamorphosis’

A dance newspaper publishes a new edition, and a new ballet company debuts

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks, and things are finally settling down just enough to make space for a new dance company in town, PDX Contemporary Ballet. The company will debut “Metamorphosis” on Friday night at Alberta Abbey in NE Portland.

Also significant this past week was the launch and distribution of FRONT, a Portland-based printed newspaper about contemporary dance started in 2010 by Portland dance artists Tahni Holt, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles, Alyssa Reed-Stuewe and Robert Tyree. FRONT is now edited and designed by Ross, Tyree and Justin Flood.

This issue is different from the others in that there is a special workshop component to the newspaper that helps people physically engage with the written material, and lots of questions are asked in the newspaper that other artists can take into their own work. The cover design is a fold-out poster with beautiful photos of Portland dance artists enveloped in curvy black and white grids.

FRONT invited five leading US-based choreographers to restate a period of artistic creation past into a series of questions now. The result is a publication with the spirit of a toolbox, through the lens of contemporary dance.

Poets, body-based creatives, lateral thinkers, sacred typographers and curious folk—let’s generate.

I was not able to attend the launch party and workshop this past weekend, so instead I sent Robert Tyree a barrage of questions about it, attempting to get a deeper understanding of the workshop, the paper and what FRONT is all about. That conversation is below.

Matt Fabric 2

PDX Contemporary Dance performer Matt Cichon. Photograph by Gregory Bartning.

But first this week’s performances:

PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 5-7
Alberta Abbey, 126 NE Alberta St

PDX Contemporary Ballet, directed by Joanna Hardy, Briley Neugebauer, and Emily Schultz, came to be after the fall of Moxie Contemporary Ballet. The dancers regrouped, forged a partnership with Alberta Abbey and commissioned choreography from some untapped talent in Portland and from outside the city.

The choreographers were tasked with creating a new work for the company based on the concept of metamorphosis/transformation, a choice marking the significance of the dancers recent experiences of falling apart and reorganizing into something new.

The choreographers are Melissa St.Clair (Director of SOAR, a documentary on Kiera Brinkley -Polaris Dancer and her sister Uriah Boyd performer with Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre), Melissa Franzosa (dancer with David Parsons Dance Company), M’liss Quinnly (Polaris Dance Theater) and the collaborative team of Lindsey Matheis (ex-NW Dance Project dancer) and Chris Peddecord (retired professional dancer and dance photographer).

Guest appearance by SubRosa Dance Collective.

PDX Contemporary Ballet performers are Alexandra Schooling, Briley Neugebauer, Abigail Parker, Matthew Cichon, Samantha Schilke, and Sari Hoke.


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