Pepper Pepper

‘Diva Practice’ review: self-made magic

Pepper Pepper's solo dance-drag performance takes audiences on a ride through the life cycle of a drag queen


Being a diva is exacting and it’s lonely. Look at the tragic lives of Maria Callas, Judy Garland, and Edith Piaf. The life of a diva is one of expectation, work, and the pain that comes with it. For a freelance artist, drag queen, and dancer, the same is true – but with an obligation to say yes to any and every opportunity that could mark a big break or financial well-being. To become a diva takes practice – maybe even enough to break your back – and unless you’ve gone viral on social media or hit reality TV gold, you’re going to do all the hard work yourself. Luckily the perks of being a diva include champagne.

Pepper Pepper’s ‘Diva Practice (Solo).’ Photo: Chelsea Petrakis from 2017 Risk/Reward Festival.

Following last year’s Diva Practice duet with Mr. E and a months-long residency tour this spring and summer across the United States, Portland diva-in-the-making Pepper Pepper’s solo dance-drag piece Diva Practice presents the fruit of Pepper’s research into what it takes to summon the heightened feminine, the Diva. Think of it like a drag queen Consumer Reports, only as a dance piece complete with its own fragrance (for real: you can purchase OLO Fragrance’s “Pepper Spray” – it’s like poppers but Pepper! – in the lobby).

Sharing the stage with a suitcase, a webcam, a ring light, and a golden cape that would put Liberace to shame, Pepper summons the Diva and takes us on a ride through the life cycle of a drag queen. Equally dance and drag-based, the show takes on an earworm of a sonic element as well – throughout the piece Pepper only says “yes,” repeatedly, constantly, as many queens who have not yet ascended into RuPaul’s Gender Illusionist Correctional Institute must do to get by.


DanceWatch: A look back and a look ahead

We look back to NW Dance Project and Rejoice! before moving forward to Dancenorth and Nancy Ellis

Saturday mornings at 10:30 am Portland dance artist Tracey Durbin teaches a Luigi based, lyrical jazz class at NW Dance Project. It’s a phenomenal class that is emotional and technical and kicks my butt on a weekly basis, rendering me more or less useless for the rest of the day, but I love it.

Jamuna Chiarini

This past Saturday was extra special. Unbeknownst to me, the NW Dance Project dancers were also taking the class. It was also Ching Ching Wong’s last Durbin class before taking off on a ten-month world tour of performing and teaching. If you need to catch up with Wong and where she’s been and where she’s going, you can read our conversation in last week’s edition of DanceWatch.

Because the company (NW Dance Project) was in class, the energy and effort of everyone in the room was cranked up just a notch or two, and it became one of the most fun, most ecstatic classes I have taken. At the end of class Durbin put a piece of music on and made Wong improvise a solo for us. It was lovely—longing and poetic—and through her movement she thanked the dancers and Durbin. It was a truly memorable Saturday morning.

Saturday night was also Wong’s last performance with NW Dance Project, a performance I desperately wanted to see, but I was also performing at the same time with Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre at Reed College.

That evening, after I finished dancing with Rejoice!, I booked it downtown to Lincoln Hall and caught the last two pieces of NW Dance Project’s Fall show: If at Some Hour You Return by Jiri Pokorny and Wen Wei Wang’s You Are All I See. Writer Heather Wisner saw the entire show and wrote about it for ArtsWatch. Overall she felt the evening echoed George Orwell’s 1984, and that Felix Landerer’s Post-Traumatic Monster, the opening work “felt industrial, edgy, dark; a little European, a little dystopian,” which “suffused the whole evening.”

Both pieces were darkly lit and from where I was sitting the details were difficult to see. The dancers for Pokorny’s work wore heavy black shoes, which I enjoyed. I like the weight they gave to the movements and the sounds they created on the stage. Wearing shoes also eliminates my fear of anyone slipping from dancing in socks, which these dancers wear a lot. The movements were also very angular and postmodern-like, which were beautifully juxtaposed with the circular pools of light they were dancing in.

Wang’s work felt softer and lighter in comparison, and because it said in the program that the movement was created in collaboration with the dancers, I spent a lot of time wondering which movement belonged to whom, and wondering about the dancers personal movement choices. Both pieces were superbly danced, of course.

I have a growing dislike of seeing dance far away in proscenium settings. I want to see dance up close. I want to be able to see dancers faces and feel their energy. I want to feel what they are feeling. I want to be involved. Something gets lost in translation for me if I’m sitting far away in a theatre separated by that invisible fourth wall and the space between us.

After the company bowed at the end of the performance, NW Dance Project artistic director Sarah Slipper brought out an enormous bouquet of flowers with extremely long flowing streamers attached and presented it to Wong. At this point the entire audience was on their feet clapping wildly, and several people in the front row were waving poster boards with hand drawn messages to Wong on them. The two male dancers who flanked Wong even raised her up on their shoulders and brought her to the front of the stage. It was a spectacular send off and I’m so glad to have witnessed it. It’s inspiring to see a dancer and her dancing so appreciated by an audience.

This brings me to Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre, and their fifth show Uprise, which opened this past weekend at Reed College’s Greenwood Theatre.

I like the Greenwood Theatre. The dancers are close, you can see their faces, and feel their energy. There is nowhere to hide. It’s all out in the open, which makes the experience so personal and relatable.

Uprise is a collection of six dances choreographed by Oluyinka Akinjiola, the company’s artistic director and company dancers Michael Galen and Jamie Minkus, in collaboration with the other company dancers: Uriah Boyd, Bethany Harvey, Juliette Nolan and Xavier “Decimus” Yarbrough.

I performed with the community ensemble in The Beast In Us, the first piece in the program choreographed by Akinjiola to the song Beasts of No Nation by Fela Kuti. We wore multicolored African print tunics with matching leggings and were encouraged to find our inner beast while performing a mix of steps based in the African diaspora. The ensemble included me, Christina Bazzaroni, Katie Emery, Jenny Fremont, Simeon Jacob, Jennifer Hanis-Martin, and Paige Thomas. I loved dancing the movement we were given and I had an amazing time dancing with Rejoice! and the ensemble.

The company is multi-ethnic and multicultural, and the movement forms represented in the works encompass every style imaginable from contemporary dance, dances from the African and Cuban diasporas, capoeira, hip-hop, krumping and more. A true representation of the actual world that we live in here in America.

The music ranged from Fela Kuti to Jill Scott to Portland singer/songwriter Amenta Abioto, who sang three heavenly solos interspersed between the dances. Abioto also composed the music for Quiet Strength, which was choreographed and performed by Akinjiola to Forget me not America, written by Joselyn Seid with vocals by Andrea Vernae. Against the backdrop of the rhythmic music, Akinjiola’s powerful, airborne dancing and her manipulation of yards of blue, white, and red cloth (introduced in that order, I think), the names of African-Americans killed by police were spoken with the words “Forget me not America” following.

The other pieces in the program dealt with finding the inner beast, differentiating fact from fiction in the story of Xica da Silva (a black woman who transcends slavery to become Brazilian aristocracy), keeping hope alive in the journey from oppression to awareness, using movement from B-boying, stepping, Palo, and Krumping for their roots in resistance as inspiration, and so much more.

This was a powerful performance with a purpose. The company’s work is significant and important at this moment in time, and their presence and energy to create change in this mostly white city, and Trump’s America is important.

Performances this week

Cocktail Hour: The Show-Florence
Ballets With A Twist
Artistic director/choreographer Marilyn Klaus
Presented by Seacoast Entertainment Association
7 pm October 26
Florence Events Center, 715 Quince St, Florence

Cocktail Hour: The Show, created by New York choreographer Marilyn Klaus, in collaboration with Grammy-nominated composer Stephen Gaboury, and costume designer Catherine Zehr, brings back the glamour and excitement of Hollywood’s Golden Age, capturing the timeless American spirit in a series of ballet vignettes inspired by American cocktails. The “Martini” is a dangerous, super cool blonde bombshell, the “Manhattan” is a big city socialite, the “Mai Tai” is Hawaiian, and the “Bloody Mary” is styled after the original bloody Mary, the murderous Queen Mary of England.

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

Diva Practice (Solo)
Pepper Pepper
October 26-November 5
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St.

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. 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.”

Pepper said, “The diva practice research tour allowed me to experiment and practice with live audiences across the US. 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.

Dancenorth Australia. Photo courtesy of White Bird.

Dancenorth Australia, Lucy Guerin Inc, Gideon Obarzanek, and Senyawa
Presented by White Bird Uncaged
October 26-28
Portland State University, Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.

Inspired by traditional Javanese trance ceremonies, where you enter a trance state through dance and music, Dancenorth Australia, Lucy Guerin Inc., Gideon Obarzanek (founder of Chunky Move), and the Javanese music duo Senyawa, have created Attractor. A work performed by eight dancers and two musicians, it aims to show how music and dance can create heightened physical states by turning performance into experience. Furthering the idea of an all-inclusive shared ritual, pre-selected audience members are invited into the performance, dissolving any demarcations between performer and audience.

Lucy Guerin Inc. is an Australian dance company established in Melbourne in 2002: “The Company is committed to the exploration of everyday events and the redefinition of the formal concerns of dance. New productions are generated through an experimental approach to creative process and may involve voice, video, sound, text and industrial design as well as Guerin’s lucid physical structures.”

Dancenorth is a contemporary dance company based in Townsville, Tropical North Queensland. “An epicenter for artistic exchange and collaboration Dancenorth balances a dynamic regional presence with a commitment to creating bold, adventurous and critically acclaimed contemporary dance.”

White Bird has presented Lucy Guerin’s and Gideon Obarzanek’s work numerous times to great acclaim, including the North American premieres of Chunky Move’s Tense Dave (2004) and Two-Faced Bastard (2009) as well as Lucy Guerin’s Weather (2013).


Ching Ching Wong in rehearsal for Migrants. Photo by Jim Lykins.

Ching Ching Wong, Joe Kye, and Bravo Youth Orchestra with choreography by Katie Scherman
7:30 pm October 27
Alberta Abbey, 126 NE Alberta St.

In collaboration with Korean violinist looper Joe Kye and the Bravo Youth Orchestra, former NW Dance Project dancer Ching Ching Wong will perform “Migrants,” a solo choreographed by Portland choreographer and Princess Grace Award winner Katie Scherman.

The work is “a multi-disciplinary exploration of identity, culture, and the spirit of human migration, Migrants will also include tales of immigration from Kye and Wong’s personal journeys. The show explores many themes relevant to a rapidly globalizing world: the celebration of roots, cross-cultural interactions, and the need to recognize universal humanity across borders and artificial boundaries. At its conclusion, Migrants will offer audiences an opportunity to root themselves in their local community while simultaneously seeing themselves as part of a global village.”

Nous, on va danser by Nancy Ellis. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

Nous, on va danser
Nancy Ellis
October 27-29
New Expressive Works (N.E.W.), 810 SE Belmont Street

Nous, on va danser (We are going to dance) is the third work in a triptych of autobiographical works choreographed and performed by Portland dance artist Nancy Ellis.

The series began with Nancy, four interpretations of the same solo created by longtime collaborator and New York choreographer Yanira Castro, inspired by Ellis. Ellis and Castro performed together in college and Ellis was a founding company member of Castro’s company.

From there Ellis created Nancy’s NANCY, Mid-Me, and now Nous, on va danser.

Nous, on va danser forecasts the future using Julien Blanc-Gras’s phrase from Nous Sommes Charlie as her touchstone.

I asked Ellis via email how this quote forecast the future.

I read a beautiful passage in writer Julien Blanc-Gras’s piece Un Monde Meilleur in the collection Nous sommes Charlie: 60 écrivains unis pour la liberté d’expression or We are Charlie: 60 writers united for freedom of expression back in March 2015, while I was working on Mid-Me. It concluded with the words Nous, on va danser and they became a kind of mantra for me. His message was similar to ones we told ourselves after 9/11. The show must go on. For me personally, I know that I must go on. And for me, to “go on” means to dance.

How are all three pieces connected?

Besides being autobiographical and chronological (Nancy’s NANCY is retrospective, Mid-Me was about my present, and Nous, on va danser evokes the future), I’ve discovered that they’re all about moving through fear: stage fright, fear of change, fear of being seen and heard.

The first solo in the triptych was Nancy’s Nancy, a multidisciplinary work where you used movement, set design, theatre, and music. Is this latest solo also multi-disciplinary? If so, how do you develop the different forms and weave them together to tell a complete story? What is your creative process like? What informs your choice making?

In Mid-Me, I wanted to try not talking, but I still use props and video with people speaking in it. In Nous, I ultimately wanted to use only my voice and my body. There is no video, only one minimal prop. Stephanie Lavon Trotter composed and recorded a score so that I could have music without having to “outsource” to other musicians. (Incidentally, I’ve also exclusively hired women to help me with this piece.) I’m less concerned with telling a complete narrative than using language, sound, and movement to engage with the audience and hopefully keep them engaged. I’d rather people be confused or even uncomfortable than have no thoughts or feelings about it.

Opus Cactus by Momix. Photo courtesy of Momix.


Opus Cactus-Eugene
MOMIX directed by Moses Pendleton
7:30 pm October 31
Hult Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Eugene Center, Eugene

Immerse yourself in the desert with giant cactuses, lizards, snakes, insects, and the dancers of Momix in Opus Cactus, an illusory work created by MOMIX artistic director Moses Pendleton that celebrates the landscape of the American Southwest.

Pendleton was the co-founder of Pilobolus Dance Theater in 1971, and formed his own company, MOMIX, in 1980.

Performances Next Week

November 2-5, Diva Practice (Solo), Pepper Pepper
November 2-10, Avalanche, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
November 3-5, Converge, PDX Contemporary Ballet
November 4, Swan Lake Act ll & Black and White (world premiere), Oregon International Ballet Academy, Artistic Directors Xuan Cheng and Ye Li
November 4, ICONIC, A Fundraiser to support Performance Works NW Programming

Upcoming Performances

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
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, 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: TBA dance preview

PICA's 11-day festival features experimental, interdisciplinary artists from around the globe

Ready, set, go! It’s TBA time!

TBA stands for Time-Based Art, Portland Institute For Contemporary Art’s annual festival featuring experimental, interdisciplinary artists from around the globe who are defining this moment in time through their art. Performing artists this year come from all over the US as well as Lebanon, Bulgaria, South Korea and France. The festival runs 11 days starting on September 8, and spreads out to various corners of the city. It’s an exciting rush of non-stop activity, from morning workshops, midday artists talks and evening Field Guide sessions led by the TBA Scholars (a new program this year), multiple evening performances, visual art exhibitions, music performances and after-hours parties. It is a mind altering, opinion changing, heart opening, extravaganza of the senses. So go!

Because I write about dance, I am going to break down the “danciest” aspects of the festival even though PICA clearly states that they aren’t pigeon-holing artists this year. I can’t help it, I am a dancephile, and I ALWAYS have my lens sharply focused on anything dance related. This is not to say that there aren’t many other wonderful offerings outside of what I am writing about below, because there are, and you should see them, too. Check out the full schedule of events on PICA’s website.

If you are a dancer/mover/juggler, do not miss the Master Classes taught by TBA’s visiting and local artists. As Portland artists, we do not get many chances to rub elbows with artists from other communities unless we go to theirs and that’s expensive.

So here goes.


Dance Weekly: The drag stars have aligned

Pepper Pepper and Cherdonna Shinatra expand the limits of drag

You are in luck! This week the stars, drag stars that is, have aligned and will be performing right here in Portland. Those stars are Pepper Pepper, aka Kaj-anne Pepper, from Portland, who will be performing D.I.V.A Practice; and Cherdonna Shinatra, aka Jody Keuhner from Seattle, who will be performing Worth My Salt, presented by Risk/Reward.

Both artists are working at the intersection of dance and drag, but one is a man dressed as a drag queen and the other is a woman, dressed as a man, dressed as a drag queen. I won’t tell you who’s who. Shinatra is having an existential crisis while exploring femininity and gender inequality, while Pepper explores embodiment, identity and physicality.

Two weeks ago when D.I.V.A Practice first opened, I interviewed Pepper for ArtsWatch and asked him to talk about his piece: “An important element of D.I.V.A PRACTICE is the quest to know one’s worth, to dance between autonomy and a crippling co-dependency with the audience.”

This past week both Shinatra and Pepper were interviewed on OPB’s The State of Wonder by Producer Aaron Scott. They discussed drag clowning as a characteristic of the Northwest, the prevalence of misogyny in drag and many other pertinent things. The whole conversation is available for listening on OPB’s website.

Another great interview to learn more about Shinatra is A Fiendish Conversation with Jody Keuhner (Cherdonna Shinatra) by Seth Sommerfeld for the Seattle newspaper Seattle Met. Keuhner/Shinatra talks more about the modern dance side of her life and the creation of Shinatra as a character .

There is a lot of power in anonymity, like disappearing underneath elaborate costumes and makeup, it tends to make you feel braver than you normally would because no one can see YOU, enabling you to do and say things you normally wouldn’t. This weekends performances by Pepper and Shinatra will definitely frame conversations in new ways shedding light on difficult subjects in a funny, quirky way, with plenty of glitter, gigantic wigs and tons of eye makeup.

Performances this week


The Jefferson Dancers. Photo by Jingzi Zhao.

Jefferson Dancers Spring Concert 2016 and 40th Anniversary
April 27-30
The Newmark Theatre, Antoinette Hatfield Hall, 1111 SW Broadway Ave
Celebrating their 40th anniversary, the Jefferson Dancers, a Portland Public Schools dance training program and company based at Jefferson High School in North Portland, will be performing choreography by the faculty as well as sharing the stage with former Jefferson dancers.

The program will include a duet by Director Steve Gonzales and French exchange student Charlotte Faillard from 2001-02 on Friday and Saturday night as well a piece for the whole company by alums T.J. Yale, Kasia Wihelmi and Gerran Reese.

The breakdown of alumni performers by night

Wednesday night:Graduates from the 1980’s
Choreographers:Heather Fralia Borgens / Sara Mishler Martins / Andrea Stofiel
Dancers-Jennifer Allen 1986-1988 / Donna Buckmeyer Grobey 1984-1986 / Randy Davis 1981-1984 / Ron Eckert 1988-1989 / Heather Fralia Borgens 1987-1988 / Wendy Graybill Rogers 1987-1989 / Stephanie Hale Pinto 1987-1988 / Claire Leedy 1986-1989 / Dina Mehlhaff Radzwillowicz 1986-1988 / Sara Mishler Martins 1987-1989 / Kristina Cernin Musgrove 1984-1987 / Kim Reis 1984-1988 / Addam Stell 1988-1989 / Andrea Stofiel Thompson 1988-1989 / Sonia Warfel 1988-1989

Thursday night:Graduates from the 1990’s
Choreographers-Amy Bonaduce / Damon Keller / Tony Loupe / Damien Rice / Ashley Marostica
Dancers-Nora Aron 1998 / Racheal Banks (Smith) 1995-1997 / Amy Bonaduce 1994 / Lisa Grant 1988-1992 / Demetria “Bunky” Holden-Williams 1993-1996 / Damon Keller 1995-1998 / Tony Loupe 1989-1993 / Ashley Marostica-Thompson 1998 / Damien Rice 1994-1998 / Eric C. Smith 1990-1992

Friday night and Saturday matinee: 2000’s
Choreographer – Rachel Slater and Mykey Lopez
Dancers-Corinne (Craig) Cooksey 2003-2005 / Maddi Evans 2005-2007 / Jessa Freeman 2000-2001 / Aubrey Grajales 2007-2010 / Mykey Lopez 2002-2003 / Anna Lescher Fife 1999-2004 / Rebecca Palmer 2002-2003 / Rachel Slater 2002-2003

Saturday night: 20TEENS
Choreographed and performed by-Bryn Hlava 2010-2012 / Kentrel Wesson 2010-2012 / Mia O’Connor 2008-2012 / Sarah Gomez 2009-2012 / Quinlan Neilson 2009-2014

Dance Wire Dance Passport participant. Click for details.


Dance of the Dream Man: A Twin Peaks Story by TriptheDark. Photo courtesy of TriptheDark.

Dance of the Dream Man: A Twin Peaks Story
April 28-April 30
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut Street
With a script written by local playwright Ellen Margolis, TriptheDark, an indie Portland dance company, will harken back to the early days of Twin Peaks, a creepy David Lynch TV series from the early 1990’s, to explore lines from the original series and dig deeper into the mystery of Laura Palmer’s death. If you are unfamiliar with the series you can catch up on Wikipedia or the Twin Peaks fan page and follow the filming of the revival of the series.

TriptheDark, directed by Corinne deWaard and Stephanie Seaman, likes to perform in unusual venues as a way to reach non-traditional dance audiences and grow the appreciation of the art form.

Dance Wire Dance Passport participant. Click for details.

In The Heights
Stumptown Stages
April 27-May 1
Brunish Theatre, Antoinette Hatfield Hall, 1111 SW Broadway Ave
Over the course of three days in a predominantly Dominican-American neighborhood in the Washington Heights section of New York City, a community rallies together in a neighborhood struggle. Infused with Latin rhythms, dance and hip-hop lyrics, this Tony Award-winning musical is about chasing your dreams while remembering where you came from.


Pepper Pepper and Mr. E in D.I.V.A Practice. Photo courtesy of Pepper Pepper.

D.I.V.A Practice
A night of dance and contemporary drag by Pepper Pepper
April 29-May 1
N.E.W. Expressive Works/Studio 2-Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont St. #2
Choreographer and performance artist Kaj-anne Pepper, also known as Pepper Pepper, will perform alongside drag artist Mr. E to an original score by Cabiria Jones, exploring what it means to be fabulous in the face of uncertainty while questioning the significance of drag and gender in contemporary culture.

Dance Wire Dance Passport participant. Click for details.

Fuse—Portland Dance Portrait
The photography exhibit of Jingzi Zhao
April 1-May 1
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave.
For one month, Polaris will be hosting a sneak peek of “Fuse – Portland Dance Portrait,” a project by the photographer Jingzi Zhao. “Fuse” captures dancers on location, in historic landmarks, neighborhoods, and businesses around Portland, to showcase the beauty, culture and lifestyles of Portland.

Zhao’s larger body of work will be exhibited at the Multnomah Arts Center from October 7-25.

Jazz Through The Ages
Wild Rumpus Jazz Company
April 29-30
Performance Works NorthWest, 4625 SE 67th Ave
In the manner of it’s namesake Wild Rumpus Jazz Co., co-founded by Kelsey Adams and Lucy Brush, is here to get the party started and bring jazz dance back to Portland. Its inaugural performance, “Jazz Through The Ages,” celebrates the rich history of jazz dance while having fun.

The history of jazz dance is rooted in African American vernacular dance and over time branched out into many different styles including tap, Broadway, funk, hip-hop, Afro-Caribbean, Latin, Pop, club jazz, popping, B-boying, party dances and many more. A few notable jazz choreographers were Katherine Dunham, Jack Cole, Lester Horton and Bob Fosse. But there were many many more. Well known Portland jazz teachers and choreographers include Tracey Durbin and Mary Hunt.

cherdonna - worth my salt 2 (3 of 29) copy

Cherdonna Shinatra in WORTH MY SALT. Photo courtesy of Cherdonna Shinatra.

by Cherdonna Shinatra/Jody Kuehner
Presented by Risk/Reward
Apr 29-May 1
12 pm April 30, Workshop with Jody Kuehner at Flock Dance Center
Portland Center Stage, 128 NW 11th Ave
See above.


Vitality Dance in rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Vitality Dance.

(IN) significant-The Mundane and The Meaningful
Vitality Dance
4 pm April 30
New Expressive Works/Studio 2-Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont St. #2
Vitality Dance Collective, a vision of Kristina York, was created for adults dancers who dance, but don’t have the time to dedicate themselves full time to the art. The company acts as a collective, supporting the choreographic vision of all its members, and enjoys being not easily definable. They are about innovation, authenticity and fun.

Coming up next week and the week after

May 1-29, Chinese Dance for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Malik Pcr Delgado, Victoria Chen, and Jingzi Zhao
May 4, Malposa, White Bird Dance
May 5-7, Featuring works by Trey McIntyre, Gregg Bielemeier, Jason Davis, George Balanchine and Anne Mueller, The Portland Ballet’s Spring Concert
May 5-7, I Just Want One Tiny Thing, And I Talk Too Much, WolfBird Dance
May 6-8, From Within, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 9, Noontime Showcase: OBT2, Advanced students of the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre
May 10, Formosa Circus Art, The The Taiwanese Association of Greater Portland
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 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: Linda Austin for the win

"Beautiful Decay," DIVA Practice, "Pearl Dive Project" and so much more this week in Portland dance

This morning my husband posted a photo on my Facebook page of a person dressed in a suit holding a poster in front of her face that read “I am an artists, this does not mean that I will work for free, I have bills just like you. Thank you for understanding.”

Linda Austin, the co-director of Performance Works NorthWest understands that paying dancers is the right thing to do, which is why on Friday night she will be performing a solo adaptation of A head of time, to raise funds to pay the nine dancers in her new work, (Un)Made You, which will be performed in November at Shaking the Tree Theatre, part of a longer work called (Un)Made Solo Relay that unfolded over the past several years.

Austin also received a Challenge Grant from the James & Marion L. Miller Foundation. Miller will match new and increased donations up to $5000.

A head of time was an ensemble work that she made in 2012 that touched on (and was dedicated to) family members who had passed away ahead of their time. ArtsWatcher Bob Hicks saw the performance in 2012 and wrote about it affectionately for ArtsWatch. Martha Ullman West also weighed in on the performance in the comments section below the article. Both are very good reads and do a good job maybe helping a not-so-adept dance watcher understand how to look at abstract dance.

According to Austin, the solo will include a hammer, a balloon, video images, a ladder, extension cords and blankets. Weaving in the soundscape of Seth Nehil, Austin says she will form, re-form, dissolve and fragment our timescapes.

Austin and Jeff Forbes (Austin’s husband and a well-known lighting designer) recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of their space, Performance Works NorthWest, a community rehearsal and performance hall at Southeast 67th and Holgate. I interviewed Austin at the time of the anniversary celebration about her past, present and future.

I hope among the many entertainment possibilities available this weekend that you choose to fit in A head of time, one, because you are curious about Linda Austin the performer, and two, you think paying dancers for their hard work is a good thing too.


Interview: Pepper Pepper explains D.I.V.A Practice

Kaj-anne Pepper talks about being Pepper Pepper and what it means to be a DIVA

Seen most recently last fall hosting Critical Mascara for PICA’s TBA festival, Kaj-anne Pepper, also known as Pepper Pepper, will be “stage diving right into our hearts with a daring spectacle of dance, glitter and drag” as Pepper says, Friday and Saturday nights at Zoomtopia. Pepper will be accompanied by drag artist Mr. E, and the two will be performing to a perfectly “fabulous” original score by Cabiria Jones.

Pepper is a Portland choreographer, drag artists and MC who mixes dance and drag to address difficult subjects. D.I.V.A. Practice, as Pepper calls his approach, means exploring what it means to be fabulous in the face of uncertainty while questioning the significance of drag and gender in contemporary culture.

I caught up with Pepper via email and asked him/her a few questions.


Dance Weekly: Divine dancing in various guises

All the dance you can possibly think of is happening right here, right now, this weekend.

Just because the weather has gotten dark again and the rain is back does not mean you get to crawl under the covers and stay there for the duration. There are important dance works being performed this weekend and you need to see them. They will NOT be projected on the underside of your blankets. This weekend offers 11 possible ways to connect with and view dance, with a little something for everyone.


Oregon ArtsWatch Archives