The Kitchen Sink

I love the silence that surrounds me when I stand in the middle of a heavy snowfall. It feels strange and exciting, magical and otherworldly, like time is standing still. It’s amazing to me that you can see so much movement in the falling snow, but not hear a sound. In this moment, my senses are heightened and I notice things I’ve never noticed before. The snow is beautiful and I feel happy, calm, and my mind it quiet and focused-which is difficult to do sometimes.

The only other experience that I can equate to this, for me, is dancing and watching dance. In these moments I am able to focus my mind and my body, transport myself, and block out everything that isn’t necessary for that moment. Right now I want this. I am exhausted from the election, the constant chatter on Facebook, the news, the atrocities in the world, the suffering, the anger, the fighting, everything.

I am not trying to encourage sticking your head in the sand but rather to encourage art making, doing and seeing. It seems like the best possible way to process what is going on around us, and it might even give us a feeling of empowerment over our circumstances.

In keeping with the Thanksgiving tradition of avowing what we are thankful for, I am most thankful for dance and dance makers and artists of all kinds, they transport me and help me see and feel things I might not have been able to on my own.

I am specifically thankful for the four performances that I witnessed and participated in post-election and the ideas they left behind: my own, The Kitchen Sink, Linda Austin’s The last bell rings for you, Reggie Wilson’s Moses(es), and Suspended Moment: Activating the Nuclear Past + Present by Meshi Chavez, Yukiyo Kawano, Allison Cobb and Lisa DeGrace.

The Kitchen Sink was a year-long project that I worked on with fellow dancers Celine Bouly and Abigail Nace, which culminated last weekend at BodyVox. You can read about my process creating the dance in a story I wrote for ArtsWatch.

What’s my take away from my own show? I love circles. Circles are not a choreographic trope that choreographers use when they run out of ideas.They are beautiful, timeless, natural and full of meaning. Life is circular, my joints move in circles, I will always use them.

The last bell rings for you seemed to say that every “body” is sacred with the ringing of bells by performers (as well as audience members) as a variety of bodies moved as humans do throughout the performance space at Shaking the Tree Theatre, creating a sacred, church like atmosphere. These 28 bodies explored the space and each other, sometimes moving together, and sometimes not, and often were moved by unseen forces. That made me think about what is in our control and what is not.

Moses(es), which was created across the country in Brooklyn, New York, was similar in structure in so many ways to The last bell rings for you, which is amazing to me given the distance between the two companies. It made me wonder about the power of collective thinking, the evolution of post-modern dance, cultural expectations and that maybe we are more similar than dissimilar.

Suspended Moment: Activating the Nuclear Past + Present, which was performed in the Littman Gallery at Portland State University this past Tuesday, was a scary and timely reminder of what can happen to power when it’s left unchecked. Visual artist Yukiyo Kawano decorated the gallery space with two hanging replicas of the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 fabricated from her grandmother’s kimonos, stitched together with strands of her own hair. In addition she added hanging paper lanterns for the dead, a calligraphic tapestry on the wall with the famous work of Japanese poet Matsuo Basho’s Narrow Road to a Far Province, and a river of rice paper flowing down from the ceiling meandering through the space with the same writing on it.

Butoh dancer Chavez—dancing to Cobb’s poetry recited live by Kawano and Cobb, with music by Lisa DeGrace—animated the space, invoking the spirits of the dead and creating indelible images of death and suffering and remembrance as a reminder to us not to change the narrative.

This weekend offers us three wonderfully different respites from the world.


Hi there. My name is Jamuna Chiarini. I am a writer here at ArtsWatch and a dancer, choreographer, producer, and arts administrator. Did I leave anything out? Oh yes, I am also a stay-at-home mom, chauffeur, cook, chief pot washer, therapist, motivational speaker, etc., etc. My work as a dancer/choreographer and writer is as a freelancer, which means that all of my creative work is mixed in with everything else in my life, which makes it all kind of messy on a daily basis. This is what I want my art to reflect, my real life. I want my art to meet me where I am, in this very moment in time, not a fantasy of what I wish my life looked like.

I didn’t get to this “everything is one” zen moment alone, mind you. The last five years involved a lot of kicking and screaming and crying on my part, coaching from my mentor and dance teacher Linda K. Johnson, support from friends and family, a lot of watching and writing about dance, watching other people dance around me and seeing how they adapt, and thinking about the form, along with some plain old personal growth/investigation.

The Kitchen Sink choreographed by Jamuna Chiarini. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

The Kitchen Sink choreographed by Jamuna Chiarini. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

When I first got to Portland I was really frustrated because I couldn’t find like-minded dancers and choreographers to work with or take classes to from. I moved here five years ago from New Jersey (for the record I am from Berkeley, CA). My training was in ballet, Graham, Horton and Limón technique, all pretty traditional, which I didn’t see represented here (except for choreographer Josie Moseley who wasn’t making work anymore). This sent me into a panic as I really felt like I was coming to the end of this career that had never really flourished. I had had so many deeply bitter dance teachers in the past who were forced to stop dancing because of their age and injury, and this idea/image was alway looming over me.

To top it off, I was also in a lot of pain. Every time I danced I hurt from head to toe the next day. It was a really confusing and frustrating experience that I put off dealing with for a long time. It got to the point where I wasn’t dancing or moving at all, just a lot of sitting and feeling really really sad.


DanceWatch Weekly: Election night recovery edition

Linda Austin rings the bell, Chiarini and Hobbs on the same bill, Polaris continues

It’s been a rough couple of days, and thank goodness we have art. Go see a show: dance, theatre, music, a movie, anything. Let’s lose ourselves in something other than this insane political roller coaster we’ve been on for so long. Artists are always inspiring, and they thrive under any conditions.

Opening this week are two concerts that have long been in the making, The last bell that rings for you from choreographer Linda Austin, and Epoch, my own concert that I am sharing with push/Fold’s artistic director Samuel Hobbs. Hobbs and I will be debuting two new works, November by Hobbs and my The Kitchen Sink.

Also happening this weekend is the second weekend run of Polaris Dance Theatre’s 15th anniversary show, Reclaimed, also long in the making. I spoke with Polaris’s Artistic Director Robert Guitron last week, and you can read that conversation here.

Performances this week!


The Polaris Dance Company. Photo by Brian McDonnell. Dancers Melanie Ann, Gerard Regot and Jessica Zoller.

Polaris Dance Theatre
November 3-12
Polaris Dance Theatre, 1826 NW 18th Ave
Polaris, a contemporary dance company directed by Robert Guitron and Sara Anderson, is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a program of 12 dances collected from past repertory to the present in a program aptly titled, Reclaimed.

The Kitchen Sink by Jamuna Chiarini as a part of ‘Epoch’ @ Bodyvox Nov 11-13, 2016 Portland, OR Photo by Chelsea Petrakis

The Kitchen Sink by Jamuna Chiarini as a part of Epoch, a shared concert with Samuel Hobbs. Photo by Chelsea Petrakis.

Jamuna Chiarini and push/FOLD-Samuel Hobbs
November 11-13
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave

Epoch is a double bill shared by choreographer Jamuna Chiarini (your correspondent here) and dance company push/FOLD – directed by Samuel Hobbs. The concert marks the debut of two new works, my The Kitchen Sink and November by Hobbs.

November, set to an original score by Hobbs, is a work for four women enveloped in a soundscape of solitude that explores the heightened, powerful, but subtle sensorial moments that occur just before a fall. November will be performed by Jessica Evans, Briley Jozwiak, Caty Raupp, and Holly Shaw.

The Kitchen Sink, set to an original composition by Lisa DeGrace, is a trio performed by myself, Celine Bouly, and Abigail Nace. It started after my hip surgery in the Spring of 2015. Not wanting this operation to be the end of my dance career, as it has been for so many others, I became determined to re-discover my body’s capacities while finding freedom in movement, in spite of new limitations in mobility.

I wanted to push myself beyond the place where my decades of dance training, performance, and composition had brought me in order to investigate what makes a “traditional dancer.” I was not interested in leaving the field but in finding new ways to flourish within it. I wanted to know, “Am I the same person now that I cannot dance in the same way I used to? Has my worth as a dancer diminished? Do I still have something to offer the world as a dance artist?” These are some of the questions that I asked myself in the process of making this new work.

Originally inspired by the sitting image of performance artist Marina Abramovic in The Artist is Present, the choreographic process began in chairs, but as my body healed, the movement evolved to standing, shifting weight, walking, running, and falling. The dance addresses the body’s relationship to itself, objects, environments, and others. The work explores identity, aging and time, cultural expectations, connectivity, constriction, solitude, and sisterhood to name a few. Of course, I hope you come see for yourself!


The last bell rings for you. Photo courtesy of Linda Austin Dance.

The last bell rings for you
Linda Austin Dance
November 12-20
7 pm November 16, video installation + karaoke party
Shaking the Tree Warehouse, 823 SE Grant St
The last bell rings for you is the second chapter in Linda Austin’s (Un)Made dance triptych which began in 2015 with the (Un)Made Solo Relay Series, and will culminate in 2017 with an ensemble work called world, a world.

The last bell rings for you, which will be performed this weekend and next, is a collaborative, large ensemble score (a structured framework for improvisation), that features movement artists claire barrera, Jin Camou, Nancy Ellis, Jen Hackworth, Allie Hankins, keyon gaskin, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles and Takahiro Yamamoto as well as a diverse group of 18 community participants who learned the material in a series of rehearsals a week ago.

The performers will be discovering pleasure in such group behaviors as singing, walking, bell-ringing, and dancing.

The (Un)Made Solo Relay Series was a six-month adventure that began in March 2015 with a solo created and performed by Linda Austin, who then passed it down, like a game of telephone in relay fashion, to eight other performers: Jin Camou, keyon gaskin, Matthew Shyka, Linda K. Johnson, Nancy Ellis, Robert Tyree, Tahni Holt and Jen Hackworth. These performers then in turn passed it down to a group called the Dream Team—Claire Barrera, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles, and Takahiro Yamamoto— and finally performed again by Linda Austin herself.

We the audience tracked the details from Austin’s original performance through to each one of the performers, observing what was lost, what remained and what was changed. The entire process was chronicled on the (Un)Made website and includes performance and rehearsal photos as well as writing by Linda Austin and Allie Hankins, who acted as the dramaturg for the project.

Linda Austin, is the co-founder and director of Performance Works NW along with her husband, the veteran lighting designer Jeff Forbes. She has been making dances and performing since 1983 with a focus on visual elements and commissioned music. Her work is playful, intimate, soulful and witty.

I interviewed Austin in 2015 in celebration of Performance Works NW anniversary. You can read that interview here.

If you would like to catch up on the project, you can watch all 12 versions of Austin’s 2015 Solo Relay Series on a 6-channel video installation as part of a karaoke, video installation party on Wednesday.

Next Week

November 17-19, Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, White Bird
November 18, (Im)Partial Articulations, Rachel Carrico and Shannon Mockli, Eugene
November 19, Jazz Throughout the Ages, Wild Rumpus Jazz Co.
November 19-20, 3rd Annual Glow Variety Show, Trauma Healing Project, Eugene

Upcoming Performances

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

Oregon ArtsWatch Archives