risk/reward festival

Risk/Reward 2016: Creative tensions

Multi-disciplinary performance festival explores the contrasts between multimedia elements

Ah, summer: that season when the only arts our sun-drunk brains are capable of handling are explosion-laden superhero films and simplistic beach read books. Or so the entertainment-industrial complex would have us believe.

Not in Portland. Portland Center Stage devotes its annual July Just Add Water festival to workshop readings of new plays in progress. The end-of-summer Time Based Art Festival is dedicated to edgy, category-free performance and visual art developed by fringe festival-style artists from around the world. The city’s season of experimentation really gets started with the annual Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance, “a developmental platform for the creation of new performance works,” according to its mission statement, which cites criteria including “adventurous,” immersive,” and “cross-disciplinary”; it’s like a mini-TBA Festival, but geared exclusively to artists from our region.

Anthony Hudson as Carla Rossi at 2016 Risk/Reward Festival, Photo: Chelsea Petrakis.

Anthony Hudson as Carla Rossi at 2016 Risk/Reward Festival,
Photo: Chelsea Petrakis.

This year’s ninth annual edition, which ran June 17-19 at the valuable arts hub at Portland’s Artists Repertory Theatre, showcased new works whose quality and appeal often matched and sometimes surpassed those higher-profile incubators. The most successful drew their power, and often their humor, from the interaction of two or more media forms—artistic friction that struck sparks.


Dance Weekly: Dance through the sorrow

Risk/Reward opens, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre gives a Ted Talk and more

This has been a horribly sad week. Another mass shooting has occurred, and this one has hit the LGBT community hard—a community that is integral to the dance community worldwide. Without the contributions of LGBT dancers and choreographers throughout history, I really don’t know what dance would look like today. This shooting makes me think about the AIDS epidemic and how it destroyed a whole generation of artists, artists we will never know and whose impact on the world we will never see. There are now 49 more people that we will never know.

Emmaly Wiederholt who has a blog called Stance on Dance wrote in response to the Orlando shooting a piece called On Guns and Dance. In it she says, “The fact that the victims of this horrible shooting were dancing, in essence trusting one another to be uninhibited in what they assumed was a safe space, makes this shooting all the uglier. I consider it one of the most egregious breaches of morality to strike violence when people collectively have their guard down. They were dancing, drinking and flirting, for goodness sake. They were cavorting on a Saturday night during Pride month when the LGBTQ community has much to be proud of and celebrate.”

So in response, I say, let’s dance. Let’s dance in solidarity with the LGBT community and the victims and survivors of the Orlando shooting. Let’s dance as a political act against the oppressive forces of the world. Let’s dance to process our collective grief and to feel joy and ecstasy. Let’s dance for love and because we can. Let’s dance.


Weekend dance calendar: New, now, next

Risk/Reward's second round, a Butoh fundraiser and Pretty Creatives

“New, now and next,” I’ll call this weekend. Risk/Reward is in its second weekend of new experimental works, Butoh performers Meshi Chavez and Stephanie Lanckton have gathered a strong faction of the dance community to perform and help them raise money for a trip to Berlin, and new choreographers are getting their toes wet in the process of making choreography and working with dancers at Northwest Dance Project. It’s the full spectrum.

Save the date for Fun/Fuck!, a new work by choreographers Takahiro Yamamoto & Lucy Yim, Linda Austin and Karen Nelson exploring the shape and power of those two words, fun and fuck, on Friday July 24, at Performance Works NorthWest.

Festival of New Performance
July 17-19
Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St.
Featuring eight artists in two weekends, Risk/Reward is interested in blurring the boundaries between independent theater, music, dance, and performance art, encouraging creative risks, experimentation and bold investigation. Expect the unexpected. We’re now in Week Two.

Dani Tirrell performs at this weekend's edition of the Risk/Reward Festival./John Pai

Dani Tirrell performs at this weekend’s edition of the Risk/Reward Festival./John Pai

Week Two: Dani Tirrell, dance/Vogue, Seattle; Katie Piatt, improv comedy/performance art, Portland; Tim Smith-Stewart, theater, Seattle; Jessica Jobaris & General Magic, performance art/dance, Seattle.

Tracy Broyles performs in Bröllin Voyagé!: An Evening of Performance, Libations and Fundraising on Saturday./Jill Marie

Tracy Broyles performs in Bröllin Voyagé!: An Evening of Performance, Libations and Fundraising
on Saturday./Jill Marie

Bröllin Voyagé!: An Evening of Performance, Libations and Fundraising
7pm, July 18
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut St. #9, Portland
Choreographers Meshi Chavez and Stephanie Lanckton, who are deep lovers and practitioners of the Butoh dance form, will be traveling across the pond to Germany where they will participate with master teachers of their craft at eX…it!, the 6th International Butoh Dance Exchange and Performance Festival.

As a fundraiser to raise money for their travel expenses, they will be throwing a raucous party, bringing together dancers, musicians, designers and creators. Featured performers will be Mizu Desierto, renowned Portland Butoh performer and Artistic Director of The Headwaters Theater and Water in the Desert; dancer/choreographer Tracy Broyles with composer Lisa DeGrace; Tahni Holt, choreographer and director of Flock and founder of Front, a newspaper devoted to the discussion of contemporary dance; and choreographer Jim McGinn with live musical performance by Joaquin Lopez.

LAUNCH from Northwest Dance Project on Vimeo.

Pretty Creatives Showing
Northwest Dance Project
7:30 pm, July 18
Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave.
Each year, Northwest Dance Project puts out a call looking for new, emerging choreographers in contemporary dance. Two choreographers are chosen, and they participate in a six-day residency and are given eighteen hours of rehearsal time to work with dancers in the Launch 10 program, a summer program consisting of pre-professional and professional dancers.

This year Yoshito Sakuraba and Banning Bouldin were chosen, and their new works for 38 dancers will debut at Lincoln Performance Hall this weekend.

Portland Dance Weekend: Festival City

Conduit's Dance+ and the Risk/Reward festivals plus a Ten Tiny Dances appearance

You will need a weekend to recover from your weekend and someone to schedule your itinerary if you plan to see everything that’s being offered. I wish I could lay out statistics on how many pieces and how many performers were performing this weekend, but I really can’t, I’ll just say it’s a lot. So get a babysitter and get going.

Dance + looks pretty good. I got a sneak peak the other night and Barry Johnson did too, and he wrote about it. The Reed theater is beautiful and the dances are fresh. Actually, almost all of the work being performed this weekend is new work. Wouldn’t you like to say you were there when so and so artist did that amazing thing? Yes, is the answer. See you there.


Today, I am deliberately ignoring nature’s various shenanigans outside my office window. It’s seriously disturbing! Instead, I’m moving on to theater and performance, because the Risk/Reward Festival’s fifth incarnation is this weekend and Artists Rep announced a couple of the directors for its 2012-13 season, and that got us dreaming…

Queen Shmooquan

I have some insider info on this year’s Risk/Reward Festivalbecause Hand2Mouth, which produces this annual adventure in experimental performance, invited me to serve on its selection panel. So I spent most of a day reading proposals and watching video with the other panelists, an interesting group from Seattle and Portland. Want some names? Let’s see: PICA’s Erin Boberg Doughton, Sean Ryan, the regional programs director of On The Boards in Seattle, White Bird’s Walter Jaffe, Portland Actors Conservatory’s Philip Cuomo and several more, including members of Hand2Mouth and other artists.

We disagreed. A lot. A couple of my very favorites did not make the cut. On the other hand, that was probably true for everyone on the panel. My main problem was just this: I didn’t know the performers well enough to be able to predict how inclusion in the festival might affect their trajectories as artists. Was this the kind of thing that would accelerate their growth somehow, maybe from the recognition or maybe because it would give them a chance to bring together ideas they’ve been playing with for a while into something they perform for an audience?

So sometimes I was drawn to work that was highly proficient technically and sometimes my voting was affected by the stories of the artists that some of the other panelists knew.


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