tba

ArtsWatch year in dance 2017

From ballet to world to contemporary, where the dance scene led, ArtsWatch followed. In 20 stories, a brisk stroll through the seasons.

Dance in Portland and Oregon has long been on the edge – often financially and sometimes artistically. Yet despite economic challenges you can’t keep it down: the city moves to a dance beat, and every week brings fresh performances. ArtsWatch writers got to a significant share of those shows in 2017, and wrote about them with breadth, wit, and insight.

The twenty ArtsWatch stories here don’t make up a “best of” list, though several of these shows could easily make one. They constitute, rather, a January-to-December snapshot of a rich and busy scene that runs from classical ballet to contemporary and experimental work.

 


 

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A dance down memory lane in 20 tales from ArtsWatch writers:

 

“Hopper’s Dinner”: an exuberant feast. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

A mellow Meadow like old times

Jan. 20: “Going to opening night of BodyVox’s Urban Meadow at Lincoln Performance Hall on Thursday evening was a little like dropping over for dinner with a bunch of old friends you haven’t seen in a while, and remembering why you liked them in the first place,” Bob Hicks wrote. “The table was set nicely, the food and wine were good, and everybody swapped old jokes and stories with easy familiarity. There was even a guest of honor, who was fondly feted, and who told a few good tales himself.” The “guest” was the wonderful dancer Erik Skinner, who was retiring from BodyVox (though not from performing) after this run, and the program included a bunch of old favorites that were themselves welcome guests.

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TBA: Pop goes the foreign film

Interview with curator Gina Altamura: Holocene's Fin de Cinema comes to TBA, matching live music with Tarkovsky's "The Mirror"

At PICA’s TBA Festival on Monday night, Fin de Cinema drew the largest crowd in its eight years of pairing local pop and experimental musicians with influential foreign cinema. Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror projected on three walls of The Works while four sets of Portland-based musicians took turns performing original work as a soundtrack. Palm Dat and Noah Bernstein of Shy Girls started the show, followed by Brown Calculus (Members of Tribe Mars), and then Dylan Stark. Golden Retriever closed the night, their keening, ambient music filling the spacious hall as Tarkovksy’s dreamy meditation on war and memory faded out.

The series has been running at Holocene since 2009, serving a wide selection of films as creative and collaborative prompts for a healthy cross-section of Portland’s avant garde and pop music scene. The film listing includes Holy Mountain, Hausu, Svankmajer’s Alice, Blow-Up, Daisies, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, The Cassandra Cat, Mala Morska Vila (The Little Mermaid), Stalker, The Mirror, Fantastic Planet, The Color of Pomegranates, and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. These were re-scored by artists including Typhoon, Tu Fawning, Brainstorm, Nurses, AU, Why I Must Be Careful, Grouper, Visible Cloaks, WL, Valet, Wampire, Soft Metals, Wooden Indian Burial Ground, and many more. Gina Altamura, who has been booking acts and curating shows for Holocene for nearly a decade, is the creator and curator of the series. I sat down with Ms. Altamura to discuss the genesis and history of this mainstay of the Portland film and music scenes now that it’s made it into the billing at TBA.

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Andrei Tarkovsky’s “The Mirror.”

Oregon ArtsWatch: So when did Fin de Cinema start?

Altamura: It started in ’09 with [Alejandro Jodorowsky’s] Holy Mountain, which is like the quintessential one to choose. That was an epic one. It was in the days of (the group) Why I Must be Careful. Jon Niekrasz actually composed a bunch of poetry for it. So that was our first one. We initially had the audience sitting on stage, with the live performers behind the audience.

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It’s mid-TBA and there is still so much to see and do! If you’re just tuning in, TBA, or Time-Based Art, is the Portland Institute For Contemporary Art’s yearly festival of performances, workshops, artist talks, visual art exhibitions, music performances, and after-hours parties. This year’s 11-day festival, spread out to venues across the city, is inherently interdisciplinary and features local, national and international artists coming from as far away as Singapore, Morocco, and France.

Jamuna Chiarini

Earlier in the festival ArtsWatcher Nim Wunnan caught Korean performer Dohee Lee’s work MU/巫; a piece based in Korean shamanism that combines technology, ritual, and the sounds of drumming and voice that explores myth as the thread that “connects us to our lands, nature, history, belief systems, and to each other.” You can read his in-depth review here.

Closing tonight Is Dead Thoroughbred by Portland artists keyon gaskin and sidony o’neal. If you’re interested in hearing about the process and concept behind this new performance project, join them in conversation at 12:30 p.m. today (Wednesday, Sept. 13) with scholars Sampada Aranke and Kemi Adeyemi at PNCA (Pacific Northwest College of Art). Wunnan also reviewed Dead Thoroughbred and you can read about his experience seeing the performance here.

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DramaWatch Weekly: Out there, the drama is real

From the news to the stage, A.L. Adams' new column gives the lowdown on a week's worth of action on the Portland theater scene

Holy moly, is this week huge! Here we are in the throes of most theaters’ season kickoff with much too much to cover—not to mention TBA. (Just kidding; of course I’ll also mention TBA.)

A.L. Adams

In local season opening news, PHAME’s got a new executive director, Action/Adventure Theater has closed its doors after an epic five-year run, and Readers Theatre Rep just raised their ticket price to a whole $10 (still worth every penny, I’m sure; they’ll read two Arthur Miller plays this weekend).

How about national news? Anything major? Sometimes (actually, constantly) I look at what themes are playing out on Portland stages and think about how much they resonate with real-life events that are actually happening. If I may:

 


 

The Drama Is Real: Shows that hit a nerve with current news

In the news: Last Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a repeal of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that offers protected status to undocumented persons who’ve lived in the US since their childhood. Meanwhile, onstage: Last weekend, Ingenio Milagro, a Milagro Theatre’s playwright development symposium similar to Portland Center Stage’s JAW festival, presented four scripts including Monica Sanchez’s Los Dreamers, the story of “Dreamer” Scoobi.

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In the news: The Oregon Bach Festival is reeling over international backlash after firing their artistic director Matthew Halls in response to an incident one might call “Grit Gate.” The Telegraph reports that Halls was overheard joking with his friend, African-American singer Reginald Mobely, and had made a quip about grits while mimicking a southern accent. Though both Mobely and Halls maintain that the joke was about the South generally rather than a Black stereotype, a white woman who overheard the remark complained to University of Oregon leadership, who summarily relieved Halls of his post. With press outlets in Halls’ native England picking up the story, Grit-Gate seems to have grown into an international incident. Meanwhile, onstage: Hillsboro’s Bag&Baggage opened its season last weekend (in a new space) with Rebecca Gilman’s Spinning into Butter, a drama wherein an African American student at a primarily white college receives hate mail and the school’s administration struggles to react appropriately, arguably making things worse.

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In the news: Hillary Clinton has just released what is sure to be a polarizing book, What Happened, asking exactly that of her 2016 presidential campaign and taking belated jabs at her opponents left and right. Meanwhile, onstage: Hillary Clinton, of all people, will visit Portland on December 12. See Portland’5 for details.

 


 

Mister Theater: feet off the furniture, kid.

Out There: Shows for explorers

Sweep The Leg: A Karate Kid Musical Parody is happening at Mister Theater, which I didn’t even know was a thing. From the address, it looks like Mister is a neighbor of beloved life-drawing lair Hipbone Studios and belly dance hot spot Studio Datura. (I’m sure it means Mister like “man,” but with this heat persisting into next week and these actors karate-kicking up a sweat, the other kind of “mister” couldn’t miss.) 

Back Fence PDX This storytelling showcase regularly presents a solid roster of raconteurs, and this installment includes “Portland’s Funniest Person 2017” Caitlyn Weierhauser, aptly-named web series star Ben Weber, sketch comedy specialist Andrew Harris, cultural competency consultant Bealleka, and retro glam cult novelist Jennifer Robin.

Under The Influence: All Trumped Up Ernie Liloj must be “tired of winning.” After his original musical Under The Influence earned two Drammies in 2015 (Best Original Score and Best Actor in a Musical) he seems to have asked, “What would really put this over the top?” What puts anything over the top? A dollop of Trump, of course. A cast that includes two alums of Post5’s legendary clown shows, Ithica Tell and Jessica Tidd, should feel right at home at the Funhouse Lounge, a venue complete with a themed “clown room.”

 


 

This week at TBA

 Now onward to PICA TBA:17 (Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Art Festival), whose program I’ve perused and—just as my ArtsWatch colleague Jamuna Chiarini did for dance—I’ve plucked all of the remaining theater works from the schedule and linked them here for your ease. Less easy for me, and I’ll tell you why: this calendar is chockfull of crossover acts, most especially performance artists who infuse their theatrical pieces with varying amounts of original music.

 Are such shows concerts, or are they theater? Yes.

Will all performance artists be required to write their own music from now on? I hope so. Discuss.

 TBA performances this week include several appearances by Saudi artist Sarah Abuabdallah, three Sigourney Weaver Jam Sessions by Manuel Solano, an evening with singer/monologuist Joseph Keckler, the pop song/deadpan storytelling pairing of Half Straddle‘s Ghost Rings, Cvllejerx throwing a Super Tantrum, and the “psychoacoustic” thralls of Sound et Al.

My must-see is longtime Portland music scene fixture Holland Andrews (of Like a Villain, Aan, and Samadams), who, having lately completed an artist residency in Paris, will present collaborative work with Alain Mahé that interprets Dorothée Munyaneza’s interviews of Rawandan rape survivors following the country’s 1994 genocide. Obviously something to scream about, but also worth getting further context from a follow-up conversation; Sunday’s show will be followed by a talkback. For more femme-empowered protest music, check out Retribution, Tanya Tagaq‘s “howling protest” in defense of indigenous and human rights, or party your catharsis out with Demian Dineyazhi‘s Death Dance, a brown/indigenous punk statement that doubles as a “sweaty celebration.”

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Whew! That’s all the drama I have for this week. Hand me my mister.

 


 

With this column, the sharp-witted and sharp-eyed A.L. Adams begins her weekly look at what’s happening on Portland’s theater stages. Look for DramaWatch Weekly every Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

 

cvllejerx talks SUPER TANTRUM

TBA resident artists bring together fashion, performance, and poetry "as a form of resistance"

“Is it…‘civil-jerks’?” I posed this question to cvllejerx, aka. artists angélica maria millán lozano and maximiliano, on a three-way call last week. I could hear millán chuckle in response to my attempt to pronounce the name of their collaboration, which is in residence with the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Time-Based Arts Festival. Merging “fashion, performance, and poetry as a form of resistance,” cvllejerx will be presenting an event on Wednesday, Sept. 13, as part of TBA called SUPER TANTRUM—a title that gestures to the name of their collaborative as well as the ethos of their work.

“We’ve gotten that a lot from different people, which is actually kind of cool I think,” millán said in response to my mispronunciation. maximiliano added that a funny unplanned aside to the project has been “this ongoing thing about how people pronounce the name, all the different ways it’s been pronounced.”

In fact, “cvllejerx” is a version of the Spanish word “callejero,” which, as millán described, could mean something like “hooligan.” She continued, “you’re like a callejero when you hang out in the street, at least, in Colombia that’s how people use it. That’s kind of the attitude we want to have, and so the ‘x’ is just de-gendering the word.”

cvllejerx emerged from millán and maximiliano’s experiences of multicultural inbetweenness. “I’m Mexican and black, so I feel like and that’s kind of like where that speaks to for me, and all of these ideas and influences coming together” said maximiliano, who is also part of the Portland-based Nat Turner Project. “There’s this very specific space that is in-between, you know, being from two different places,” added Millán, “…this kind of in-between space that we always operate in that is very rich.”

The artists have specifically named the white supremacist roots of Portland, which is the birthplace of and current homebase of cvllejerx. millán described her experience of moving to the city: “I’m Colombian and I came to the U.S. at about 12, and moving to Portland has been a huge sort of change, almost like culture shock, too, because I’ve never been surrounded by so many white people,” she said. “It almost felt kind of like when I first moved to the United States…like, this is a very strange place, (I) don’t feel totally welcome.”

Photo by Lani Milton

cvllejerx practice and celebrations entail a form of resistance, all which will erupt during SUPER TANTRUM on Wednesday night. “For me is this righteous like burst of energy, whether that’s either kind of irrational, or happy, or whatever. I like this idea that we’re celebrating that, especially, in this moment, obviously, having Donald Trump as our President,” said Millán, “This idea that we have the right to cry out about it, and we have the right to also bring attention to ourselves, and celebrate ourselves, and be unapologetic about it.”

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DanceWatch Weekly: It’s TBA time!

Punch this week's dance ticket with a host of provocative choices from the Time-Based Art festival

TBA: 17 is here! TBA, or Time-Based Art, is the Portland Institute For Contemporary Art’s yearly festival of performances, workshops, artist talks, visual art exhibitions, music performances, and after-hours parties. PICA’s 11-day festival, which spreads out to venues across the city, is inherently interdisciplinary and features local, national and international artists coming from as far away as Singapore, Morocco, and France.

It’s an exciting rush of nonstop activity from morning to night, and offers a mind-altering, opinion-changing, heart-opening extravaganza of the senses. Ready-set-go!

Below I have highlighted just the dance-centric TBA events, because that’s what we do here at DanceWatch. For the full festival schedule go to PICA’s website.

Performances this week

Will Rawls in I make me [sic]. Photo courtesy of the Portland Institute For Contemporary Art.

I make me [sic] (TBA:17)
Will Rawls
September 8-9
PICA at Hancock, 15 N.E. Hancock St
In this West Coast Premiere, Brooklyn-based writer, choreographer, and performer Will Rawls will perform I make me [sic], a nonlinear, live composition that uses movement, objects, sound, and text to address “issues of authorship, memory, race and subjectivity as intersecting monuments in need of constant undoing.”

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ArtsWatch Weekly: Fire, TBA

Natural disasters, TBA springs to life, new theater season kicks into gear, Brett Campbell's musical picks, links

Bam. Just like that, it’s September. And just like that, we’re living in a disaster area. Across the metropolitan area the skies are thick with smoke, and ash is drifting like some late-summer demon snow. Fire has engulfed the Columbia Gorge, swept across Warm Springs and southern Oregon (the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland has canceled several outdoor performances), crept to the urban edges. Much of the rest of the West, from Houston to L.A., has been smacked as hard or harder.

James Lavadour, “This Good Land,” suite of two four-color lithographs. Paper size each: 30 x 39.5″; total image size: 60 x 39.5″. Edition of 20. Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts

We tend to think of art as something that engages our minds and our emotions, but here in the West we live in constant proximity to the physical, too, and somehow our art needs to engage that as well. I’m thinking of painters like James Lavadour, whose work seems hewn from the geology of the dry inland, and Michael Brophy’s scenes of human incursions into the wild, and the unromanticized gritty vistas of Sally Cleveland and Roll Hardy, and the elemental art of Sara Siestreem and Lillian Pitt and the late Betty Feves and Morris Graves, and so many others. Their refusal to abandon the idea of the physical is not caution but a recognition that we live in Place, and can’t live outside of it. Call them regionalists if you want. We are all regional, all physical, and our best artists show us how the physical, the intellectual, and the emotional are interwoven. Floods mean something. Fire means something. Wasted waters mean something. We can see it, through the smoke and mirrors of denial. Our storytellers can’t live simply inside their heads. Engage. Engage with the world. Including the physical world that is part of us, and we of it.

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Meanwhile, the cultural season’s steaming down the track like a freight train that’s behind schedule and racing to catch up. Lots and lots going on this week, so let’s just do a quick stop, look, and listen.

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