Dance Weekly: Bursting at the seams

Continuing celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, visiting artists, new works at Polaris and more!

Five years ago when I moved to Portland from New Jersey (for the record I am originally from Berkeley, California), it was hard to discern what was happening in Portland’s dance scene from the outside. From what I could see online and from what I can remember, there was an outdated community web page and dead lists of dance companies that no longer existed on various websites. The large companies like BodyVox, Oregon Ballet Theatre, NW Dance Project and Polaris were still standing, but the majority of Portland’s dance community seemed to have been flattened by the recession and various other things, and I arrived in the aftermath.

I won’t lie: This was devastating for me. I was 36 and still raring to perform and needing desperately to keep the momentum going. I had moved my family across the United States with blind faith that a thriving dance community was waiting for me on the other side. It wasn’t, and I was heartbroken. I thought my career was over. Admittedly I can be a bit melodramatic at times and occasionally lack patience, but this was huge for me. In my lifetime I had never directly experienced the results of war or a shattered economy, so I didn’t recognize the signs, and the wounds to the community were real. Slowly over time I began to meet people who supported me, and a totally new kind of dance life emerged, one that I am now extremely satisfied with.

Today in Portland, it is a completely different story. Our community is thriving and bursting at the seams with dancers moving here from all over the world. The energy and activity are amazing, and this growth seems to be re-charging the existing dance community as well.

The reason I started writing Dance Weekly was to create a sense of community for myself by gathering everyone together on one page. I also wanted to help create visibility for all of the hardworking artists making dances out there. I want people to know that we are here and that we are dancing. And we are dancing this week!


Dance Weekly: Saving dance!

How do we preserve the dance we see, especially when there's so much?

I wish I were an octopus with many arms or a Hindu god with multiple heads and then I would be able to see and report on all the dance events that happen in Portland, but sadly I don’t and I’m not. As our dance community grows, I am ever more aware of the importance of writing about dance as a historical record of what is happening. As we all know dance is ephemeral, once it is gone there isn’t much left to say that it was ever here. What is left to tell us that it existed? Where is the evidence of the creativity, the long hours and funds put into making dances?

This happened to be the topic of choreographer Katherine Longstreth’s installation Marginal Evidence that closed at the White Box gallery this past Saturday. As part of the closing, Longstreth gathered together choreographers Linda K. Johnson, Anne Mueller and Linda Austin to talk about their experiences recording dance. After they spoke, Longstreth opened up the floor and invited all of us to share our various methods of preserving dance works. Emails from folks not able to attend were read, comics from a collaborating artist that had been dug out of a box in a basement were passed around, a phone with video played, and many stories were told. I felt so thankful and buoyed to know that we were in this community together.

Here is a link to the recording of that conversation.

Whats happening this week?

A Conversation and Book Signing: The New Explorers by Kris Timken
Presented by Oregon College of Art and Craft
7 pm (doors open at 6:45 pm) November 19
Oregon College of Art and Craft, 8245 SW Barnes Road Portland. OR 97225
What role do artists play in shaping the identity of a country? How do they make meaning from the landscape? If there is no territory left on earth to discover, are explorers obsolete? These are some of the question that author Timken proposes to the twelve women artists/explorers in her new book, The New Explorers.

Oregon College of Art and Craft (OCAC) will present a Conversation with author Kris Timken, artists Camille Seaman, Linda K. Johnson (Portland dance artist also featured in the book), curator Prudence Roberts and PSU Professor Ethan Seltzer as part of their speaker series: Intersecting Tradition and Innovation.

Polaris Dance Theatre in rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre.

Polaris Dance Theatre in rehearsal. Photo courtesy of Polaris Dance Theatre.

Polaris: Open Studio
10:30 am November 20
Portland Festival Ballet, 10058 SW Arctic Drive, Beaverton
Please RSVP to Sara Anderson at sara@polarisdance.org.
Enjoy a Friday morning “cup of joe” and rehearsal with Polaris Dance Theatre at the company’s temporary location. Artistic Director Robert Guitron and the dancers of Polaris are working towards an evening of new work that will premiere in January 2016. They want you to join them for a sneak peak.

Riverdance Leads Emma Warren and Bobby Hodges. Courtesy of Riverdance.

Riverdance Leads Emma Warren and Bobby Hodges. Courtesy of Riverdance.

November 20-22
Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St
Drawing on Irish traditions, Riverdance theatrically combines music, song and dance into a large-scale glittery broadway styled production. It is simultaneously the story of the Irish people and humanity’s struggles around the world. The show features dance from Ireland, Spain, Russia and America. It debuted in 1995 and propelled dancer Michael Flatley to stardom.

Pacific Dance Ensemble: Autumn Choreographers concert
Presented by Pacific University’s Theatre and Dance department
November 19-21
Tom Miles Theater, Warner Hall on Pacific’s Forest Grove Campus, 2043 College Way, Forest Grove
Celebrating its 14th season, Pacific Dance Ensemble will present an evening of original dance works by dance faculty James Healey and Mary Hunt, guest choreographer and BodyVox dancer Katie Scherman, and student choreography by Jassa Gunn and the dance students of Pacific University Dance Ensemble.

Byron Westbrook- Interval:Habitat. Photo courtesy of Disjecta.

Byron Westbrook- Interval:Habitat. Photo courtesy of Disjecta.

Byron Westbrook’s Interval/Habitat
November 19 – 22
Gallery hours daily from 12 – 5 pm
nightly performances 7pm–10pm
Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave
Byron Westbrook is a Brooklyn based artist interested in electronic sound interventions, the dynamics of perception in space and social engagement. He approaches the gallery at Disjecta for Interval/Habitat, as a dramatic stage for looping sequences of light and sound, imposing a time-based narrative over the activity within the space, creating a collaborative environment with the audiences and performers alike.

Westbrook will be collaborating with Portland performance and dance artists throughout the four day run of the show.

The Schedule

Thursday, November 19, 7 – 10 pm
Concrete/Concert, a night of text and movement exploring the possibility of concrete poetry beyond the page, using spoken word shapes the interstitial space of the gallery. Presented in three acts; solo performance with Stacey Tran, followed by Sidony O’Neal and Ed Sharp (aka Future Death Agency), then Ayako Kataoka Blasser with collaborator Luke Gutgsell.

Friday, November 20, 7 – 10 pm
Ensembles looks at collective acts with a large movement group led by Linda Austin, with Allie Hankins, Tracy Broyles, Emily Stone, Noelle Stiles, Tahni Holt, Nancy Ellis, Chelsea Petrakis, Danielle Ross, Lucy Yim, followed by string trio with Justin Smith, Amie Kuttruff and Patti King. Ensembles will conclude with a solo expression by poet Rob Gray as counterpoint.

Saturday, November 21, 7 – 10 pm
Inside Interval/Habitat, continues the experiment of Interval/Habitat with a moment of reflection. An open conversation with curator Chiara Giovando and artist Byron Westbrook about the project will start off the evening, followed by voice and movement with Takahiro Yamamoto, duo Lucy Yim and Allie Hankins, and a special presentation by Jesse Mejia.

Sunday, November 22, 7 – 10 pm
Quiet Light, an evening of sonic explorations of the installation Interval/Habitat, includes dancer and choreographer Linda Austin; Gabi Villaseñor and Michael Bunsen; and an improvisational quartet with Evan Spacht, David Haverkampf, Eric Gibbons and Branic Howard, on trombone, percussion, bass, and resonant metallic objects.

Weekend Dance: They’re even dancing in trees

While AWOL Dance heads to the forest, lots of other dance action stays in town

This week in Portland dance news, Ching Ching Wong of Northwest Dance Project received the Princess Grace Award. She is the fourth dancer in the company to receive it. The Princess Grace Award was created by Prince Rainier III of Monaco to honor his wife, Princess Grace Kelly. The Foundation’s mission is to identify and assist emerging talent in theater, dance, and film by awarding grants in the form of scholarships, apprenticeships, and fellowships.

We congratulate our new honoree, and we think this is a good week to look for other worthy and amazing local dancers all over our beautiful city.

Galaxy Dance Festival
Polaris Dance Theatre
August 6-8
Simon & Helen Director Park, 815 SW Park Ave
Polaris Dance Theatre, founded in 2002 under the artistic direction of Robert Guitron, is newly installed in its brand new home at 1826 NW 18th Ave. Polaris is a contemporary dance company that focuses on accessibility through community performances, classes and outreach.

In its 3rd year, the Galaxy Dance Festival is one of those programs, bringing together a large swathe of Portland’s dance community with classes and performances at Director Park. The featured dance companies that will perform during the three day festival: Polaris Dance Theatre, Polaris Junior Company, Pacific University, Northwest Conservatory of Dance, Automal, Pendulum Aerial Arts, The Skylark Tappers & PDX Dance Collective, The Circus Project, 3rd Shift Dance, WHYTEBERG and NW Fusion Dance Company.

AWOL Dance Collective will hit the trees this weekend.

AWOL Dance Collective will hit the trees this weekend.

Art in the Dark
AWOL: Dance Collective
August 7-16
Under the Trees at Mary S Young Park, West Linn
Awol’s Art in the Dark, is an annual happening in the forest, suspended from trees. This year’s event will recreate a fantastical, Old World circus performance that includes lions, poodles, mimes, clowns, strongmen, a ringmaster and, of course, beautiful dancing aerialists.

This will also be Emily Running’s last performance with Awol. Running has performed with Awol for seven years and is the mastermind behind Dance Wire, a webpage dedicated to uniting the Portland dance community online, and she is a co-director of Conduit Dance.

Summer Works
Moxie Contemporary Ballet
11:30 am August 7 at Bite of Oregon; 7 pm  August 7 at Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.
Moxie ballet is the newest dance company on the Portland block. Directed by Gina Canland, this contemporary ballet company and school rages against the “ballet body,” opening it’s door to dancers of all body types, mixing rigorous ballet classes with cross training.

The company’s first summer intensive concludes with two shows in one day, an abbreviated version at The Bite of Oregon, and a full-length performance at Lincoln Hall. Students will perform dances choreographed by guest faculty—Drew Jacoby, Doug Baum, Marie Zvosec, Katie Scherman, Michele Oliva, Jourdan Epstein—and expect an appearance by Moxie Contemporary Ballet.

Moxie Contemporary Ballet's Emily Schultz/Photo by Lindsay Hille

Moxie Contemporary Ballet’s Emily Schultz/Photo by Lindsay Hille

(Un)Made Solo Relay, Grand Finale
Linda Austin, Claire Barrera, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles and Taka Yamamoto
August 7-8
Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.
It’s Grand Finale time! After a six-month adventure that began in March with a solo created and performed by Linda Austin who then passed it down to six other performers like a game of telephone in relay fashion, is now ready for its final stages where it will be witnessed and performed by a group of movers and then performed again by Linda Austin herself.

Pure Surface
Julia Calabrese, Patricia No, Eileen Isagon Skyers
6 pm August 9
Valentine’s, 232 SW Ankeny St
Curated by Stacey Tran and Danielle Ross, Pure Surface is a performance series interested in encouraging cross-disciplinary practice and performance by bringing together movement, text and film in the spirit of improvised collaboration. Each month a new group of artists is brought together in the intimate, open air setting of Valentine’s and performance is made. This month’s artists are movement artist Julia Calabrese, writer by Patricia No and filmmaker Eileen Isagon Skyers.

Dances with words at Polaris

The Portland dance company builds an evening of dance pieces from text

There is no doubt in my mind that Robert Guitron, the artistic director of Polaris Dance Theater, is as passionate about written language as he is about dance.

Earlier this month (November 7-16) at Polaris’s home studio on SW Taylor St., Guitron debuted his new production Word, an evening of dance to spoken word, comprised of 15 dances including choreography by company dancers Kieraqmil Brinkley, Jocelyn Edelstein, Briley Neugebauer and M’liss Quinnly all performed to various works of different authors, poets and playwrights. All the readings were prerecorded with music mixed in, except for one.

In between pieces in the second half, company apprentice Valerie Grabill came to the edge of the stage and read to us from her ballet corrections notebook about her memory of a four-hour ballet class she had taken with Summer Lee Radigan, teacher and artistic director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. I don’t remember exactly what the notes were, but I do remember that her feelings were raw and that hearing about her experience was moving and inspirational. The audience stayed right with her, laughing and loving every moment of it.

Polaris performs "Words" in its home studio./Photograph courtesy of Polaris

Polaris performs “Words” in its home studio./Photograph courtesy of Polaris

Yes, this was a massive undertaking with a distinctly grassroots feeling. Not only was Guitron the main choreographer and the host of the show, but during the performance he ran the sound and moved scenery onstage as well.  For the performance the Polaris studio was converted into a black box theater seating roughly 100. Because of the number of dances and performers on stage (15 most of the time) this density, along with multiple large sheets of opaque plastic dissecting the space and the feeling of sameness throughout the show, made it difficult for me to differentiate between the pieces, and the ones that stood out were the pieces with fewer dancers in them. It was the space around them that made it possible for me to see them. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the dancing of the larger company: This is a very capable group of highly skilled contemporary dancers, after all.


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