October DanceWatch: The moves get spooky

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

The month in dance will haunt the senses as the choreography calls on the spirits


Happy Halloween my little ghosts and ghouls, welcome to the spooky October issue of DanceWatch. The veil between the worlds has thinned and dance is lurking everywhere, so beware…

This month, aerial company Night Flight takes over Lincoln Hall with creepy creatures flying about, and Ballet Fantastique sinks deep into the soul of Poe with the world premier of their new ballet, Nevermore: Stories of Edgar Allan Poe.

Oregon Ballet Theater celebrates its 30th season with three significant ballets that span three decades in OBT Roar(s), and White Bird begins its 22nd season with illusionist dance company Momix, German choreographer Sasha Waltz and Guest, and facile young tap dancer Caleb Teicher and Company from New York. 

Portland Dance Film Fest, directed by Kailee McMurran in partnership with NW Film Center, takes over the Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium for three days, presenting dance films from around the world. 

New to the DanceWatch list is a performance that melds visual arts and burlesque by Lacy Productions, a world premiere circus production by Amaya Alvarado and Kate Law called Pole Disclosure, a 7-to-Smoke open styles dance battle, an Odissi performance by the renowned Odissi dancer Collena Shakti and her students, and a night of improv with Linda Austin and the Holy Goats. 

There is of course much, much, more to see on the list so look if you dare…

Week 1: October 1-6

The Value of the Black Ballet Star: Politics of Desire in the Economy of Institutional Diversity Lester Tomé 6 pm October 3 Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Massee Performance Lab (PAB 128), 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd

In his lecture, dance scholar Lester Tomé will interrogate the ballet world’s move towards diversity onstage while simultaneously ignoring its colonialist and racist history and culture offstage.

Tomé teaches dance history and anthropology, as well as cultural studies, social theory and research methods in dance. He is an associate professor in dance and an affiliate of the Latin American and Latino/a Studies Program at Smith College and a faculty member in the Five College Dance Department. Tomé is the author of articles in Cuban Studies, and you can find his writing in Dance Magazine, Dance Research Journal, Dance Chronicle, The Routledge Companion to Dance Studies, The Cambridge Companion to Ballet, and The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Ballet, to name just a few.

Viva MOMIX!  Artistic director Moses Pendleton  Presented by White Bird October 3-5 Newmark Theater, 1111 SW Broadway Alert: A strobe light will be included in each performance  1 pm October 4, masterclass with Momix, FLOOR Center for Dance, 6635 N Baltimore Ave

Celebrating 35 years of dance-making and illuminating the world in completely unexpected ways, this dancer-illusionist company from Connecticut transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary with imaginative lighting, fantastical costumes, bizarre props, and the ever-amazing human body.

Portland Dance Film Fest Directed by Kailee McMurran October 3-6 Portland Art Museum, NW Film Center’s Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave

This three-day, dance-centric film festival, features three unique programs that include 20 dance film shorts, four mini-dance documentaries, and the Oregon Dance Film Commission. Also included in the festival are workshops, and a closing night party that includes libations as well as the live filming and editing of a new dance film creation. Notable Oregon filmmakers and choreographers included in the festival are: Conrad Kaczor, Jordie Campbell, Amy Leona Havin (The Holding Project), Cara Hagan, Robert Uehlin, Suzanne Chi, Kailee McMurran, Rachel Slater, Lena Traenkenschuh, and Dylan Wilbur. 

Check out Portland Dance Film Fest’s website for screening times, film descriptions, talkback times, and workshop info.  

Cabaret des Arts: A Fusion of Visual Arts and Burlesque Lacy Productions 7 pm October 4 West End Ballroom, 1220 SW Taylor St

Running for one night only, Portland-based Lacy Productions, produced by Lacy Knickers, presents Cabaret des Arts: A Fusion of Visual Arts and Burlesque. Guided by emcee extraordinaire, Fannie Fuller, guests will begin the evening in the West End Ballroom gallery perusing the art work of Northwest artists and will then adjourn upstairs to The West End Ballroom Theater for the live Cabaret des Arts performance inspired by both classic and contemporary art. 

Originating in 17th century Italian theater, burlesque became popular throughout Europe and America, and was intended as a comedic interlude that parodied a more serious artistic work (literary, dramatic or musical work). Audiences were expected to be well-read in order to understand the references in the performances. The root of the word burlesque, “burla,” is derived from the Italian word means to trick or joke.

Today’s burlesques, which includes both men and women, are elaborate performance pieces incorporating the use of costumes, dance, comedy, and theater to challenge social norms, gender politics, sexuality, and the public’s perception of the naked body.

Pole Disclosure (World Premiere) Amaya Alvarado and Kate Law Oct 4-6 A-WOL, 513 NE Schuyler Street

Through the medium of aerial acrobatics, this Portland-based contemporary circus duo, Amaya Alvarado and Kate Law, accompanied live by cellist Yoko Silk, premiere their evening-length Circus Theater show, Pole Disclosure—true stories delving into the stigmas of motherhood, domestic violence, sexual assault, body image, sexism and ageism in the performance industry. 

Alvarado, originally from Oregon, is a multidisciplinary circus artist who traveled the world studying, performing and teaching, and is a graduate of the Professional Program at the Circus Warehouse in NYC and the New England Center for Circus Arts.

Law is a dancer, aerialist and acrobat who has performed with A-WOL Aerial Dance Collective, Night Flight Aerial, Flyaway Productions, Project Bandaloop, The Crucible, and Supperclub. 

Silk’s repertoire of musical styles includes hip-hop, folk, rock, celtic and blues. Yoko has recorded 15 albums and has performed with Bad Mitten Orchestre, Unkle Nancy and the Family Jewels, Marv Ellis, and Lady Rizo. 

Elevate: 7 to Smoke open styles dance battle Presented by Rythmatix (Chris Wu) 8 pm October 5  Vitalidad Movement Arts Center, 116 SE Yamhill St

Bridging the club, street dance, and bass music communities, visual artist/dancer/DJ Chris Wu of Rythmatix, presents Elevate: 7 to Smoke dance battle, judged by DC-based Future.  

A 7 to Smoke is a 45-minute dance battle with eight dancers. One dancer is paired to compete against another dancer and each dancer gets 45 seconds to use their skills to dance/have fun/impress the judges/wow the crowd. After both dancers have danced, the judges choose the winner.

That winner stays in the “winning spot” and battles the next contender in line, the loser goes to the back of the line. The battle continues until one dancer has defeated all 7 dancers, hence the name 7 to Smoke, or the time limit is up, and the dancer with the most wins, wins!

There are six invited dancers and two open spots to be claimed in preliminaries. The invited dancers are: Tyler Tomb Barker, Paula Metzler, JuJu Nikz, Adrian Lobo Miramontes, Donna DonnaMation Oefinger, and Jesus Rodales.

The battle will flow into an after party featuring West Coast bass music producers and DJs, including LA-based B. Bravo and Portland-based Danny Corn, Barisone, Aquamarine and Mr. Wu. 

Check online for the full schedule which includes a popping class with The Beautiful Street at 3 pm, open styles prelims for two wild card spots at 8:30 pm, and the dance battle at 10 pm. 

OBT Roar(s) Oregon Ballet Theatre October 5-12 The Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay Street

Celebrating the opening of its 30th season, Oregon Ballet Theatre has chosen three distinct works to represent three separate periods in both Oregon Ballet Theatre history and ballet in general. 

The program opens with William Forsythe’s seminal work, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, commissioned in 1987 by Rudolf Nureyev for the Paris Opera Ballet. The ballet is set to the pulsating, electronic score of Thom Willem and propels the six women and three men through space in a series of off-centre balances, shifting symmetries, and casually charged encounters. Maintaining its traditional theme and variation structure the work “seems to represent a classic order tilting towards change and disruption,” Sarah Crompton remarked in her story on Forsythe for The Guardian. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was last performed by OBT in 2016.

Performed by OBT twice in the past, Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), a collaboration between choreographer George Balanchine and composer Igor Stravinsky, was originally choreographed in 1941 and called Balustrade, but when Balanchine went back to revive it three decades later he had completely forgotten his original choreography. The choreography for the second version of this abstract, plotless ballet, reflects the mood and dynamics of the music, and will be presented alongside live music under the baton of OBT music director and conductor Niel DePonte, featuring violin soloist Nelly Kovalev.

Last presented by OBT in 1993, Scheherazade, created by Dennis Spaight, OBT’s associate director and resident choreographer in 1991, retells Michel Fokine’s original 1912 production of Scheherazade in a more positive light.  Spaight’s Scheherazade tells the tale of a beautiful storyteller who saves herself from death by telling a to-be-continued tale to the cruel sultan night after night. The ballet features original sets designed by artist Henk Pander, costumes designed by the late Ric Young (best known for his theatrical extravaganzas at Storefront Theatre), and lighting designed by Peter West. 

Shakti: A Classical Indian Dance Showcase Presented by Collena Shakti and Sedona Soulfire 6 pm October 6 Formation Studios, 5514 Southeast Foster Road

Join Odissi dancer Colleena Shakti and her students for an evening of Classical Indian Odissi Dance. The full repertoire of Odissi will be presented in several group pieces, duets, trios and solo choreographies. Odissi dance, as in all Indian classical dances, divides into Nritta—purely ornamental, abstract dance, and Abhinaya – storytelling through gesture and expression. Shakti will also present one of my favorite pieces—Durga which describes the  Divine Mother in her various moods: both soft as moonlight and a strong warrior holding 10 weapons to defeat demonic forces. 

Week 2: October 7-13

Hidden Stories: an outdoor immersive experience Begat Theatre Company Presented by Boom Arts and Hand2Mouth   October 10-13 Downtown Portland ( a secret meeting point will be revealed after you buy your ticket)  The show is available in French and English.  5:30 pm October 7, Artist workshop and talk, 

Featuring two Portland natives, Karin Holmstrom and Dion Doulis, and an original soundtrack by Peter Holmstrom of the Dandy Warhols, France’s Begat Theater presents Hidden Stories, a site-specific performance that blends itself into the urban landscape. Supplied with headphones, the audience is temporarily endowed with the power to hear the thoughts of certain passers-by and to follow them into the unknown. The city is transformed into a soundscape, the audience’s eye is the lens, and the spectator is the editor, leaving you free to choose which images to synchronize with. 

Körper (bodies) Sasha Waltz and Guest Presented by White Bird October 10-12 Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway 11 am October 11, masterclass with the Sasha Waltz company, Reed College, Performing Arts Building, Dance Studio, PAB 240, 3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard

The classical music website Bachtrack describes Korper (bodies)  as “a challenging treatise on our perceptions of body (and also gender) norms with closely-aligned thoughts about mortality.” Renowned German choreographer Sasha Waltz utilizes the sparsely clothed bodies of dancers, architectural elements, and the accelerating electronic music of Berlin composer Hans Peter Kuhn, to express the human condition. 

First presented by White Bird 22 years ago, Sasha Waltz & Guests was founded by Waltz and Jochen Sandig in Berlin in 1993. An important figure in contemporary and post-modern dance, Waltz creates dance-theatre as a medium of social and sociopolitical communication. 

Holy Goats Produced by Linda Austin 2 pm October 13 Performance Works NW || Linda Austin Dance, 4625 SE 67th Ave

Holy Goats! Sunday afternoon improvisations are back!  This new iteration will be devoted to dance and music by Portland-area and visiting artists. The dancers include Tahni Holt, crystal jiko sasaki, artist, claire barrera, Hannah Krafcik,  Mike Barber, Michele Ainza and Linda Austin. The musicians: Catherine Lee, Caspar Sonnet, Dan Sasaki, Annie Gilbert, and Stephanie Lavon Trotter.

Founded in 1999 by Artistic Director Linda Austin and Technical Director Jeff Forbes, Performance Works NorthWest || Linda Austin Dance engages artists and audiences of the Pacific Northwest in the process of experimentation, creation and dialogue around the presentation of contemporary performance. 

Week 3: October 14-20

Caleb Teicher and Company Presented by White Bird October 17-19 Portland State University, Lincoln hall, 1620 SW Park Ave

This 26-year-old old tap, jazz, Lindy and Swing dancer, who also has won a Bessie Award, opens the evening with a duet, Small & Tall, pairing dancers with unlikely measurements (one dancer is 4’ 10” and the other 5’ 10”) with humor and heart by mashing up of the vernaculars of jazz, tap, modern, and acrobatics. Variations follows, a work for three dancers set to Bach’s Goldberg Variations that stretches the capacity of Bach’s chord progressions by experimenting with melodic variation, counterpoint, and rhythmic invention. The third piece, Meet Ella, is a collaboration between Teicher and eminent swing and vernacular jazz dancer, Nathan Bugh, to the music of Ella Fitzgerald. Together they stretch the boundaries and distill the essence of jazz dance and music expounding on the depth of Fitzgerald’s music. 

Teicher got his start in a shared evening with tap dancer Michelle Dorrance and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards in 2011, was a founding member of Dorrance Dance, apprenticed with Camille A. Brown & Dancers, and spent time as an associate choreographer to Chase Brock, who works in theater, modern dance, ballet, opera, television and video games.

Flamenco Cubano Presented by Espacio Flamenco 8 pm October 19 Artichoke Music, 2007 SE Powell Boulevard

Cuban flamenco dancer Ana Rosa pairs with singer Samir Osorio and Espacio Flamenco for one night only at Tablao Artichoke presented by Espacio Flamenco. Rosa is the director, instructor, choreographer, and principal dancer for the Compañia Flamenca Ecos, a group considered to be the foremost reference for flamenco in Cuba and Osorio-Leon, who now resides in Seattle, was the lead flamenco singer with Compañía Flamenca Ecos of Havana, Cuba, as well as the founder and lead singer of the Irene Rodríguez Company.

Let Us Pray – a dance party! The Holding Project, Amy Leona Havin 7:30pm October 20 Church Bar, 2600 NE Sandy Blvd

Get glammed up in your ‘70s best and bring your dancing shoes to The Holding Project’s fundraising party, Let Us Pray. Because making art is expensive, the proceeds from the event will go to supporting The Holding Projects’s upcoming live performance, dance films, and festival submission fees. The party features live DJs, drinks, dancing, food, raffles, photo booth, silent auction, and a special screening of Amy Leona Havin’s newest dance film, HOLY LOLA. 

This year’s raffle and silent auction donors include White Bird, Pure Barre, The Jasmine Pearl Tea Company, Oregon Ballet Theatre, FLOOR Center for Dance, Sego Lily Pottery, CoHo Productions, STEPS PDX, Briley Jozwiak, Shaking The Tree Theatre, Chamber Music Northwest, Grand Central Bakery, Carlyn Hudson, Ground Breaker Brewing, Sweet Alyssum Farm, Float On, and more.

Night Flight’s 9th Annual Fright Night – A Halloween Circus Night Flight October 24-26 Lincoln Hall | Portland State University PG13

In this spooky, Halloween adventure, Night Flight, an aerial and circus arts company, sends the young witch Agatha on an adventure to get to graduation on time. Agatha must avoid odd spells, sinister sisters, vampires, and wolves, (not to mention those creepy girls from Salem who won’t let her study) in peace to make it to her goal. 

Nevermore: Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (World Premiere) Ballet Fantastique, Donna and Hannah Bontrager October 25-27 Hult Center, One Eugene Center, Eugene

Inspired by Poe’s blockbuster tales like The Raven, Annabel Lee, Masque of the Red Death, Fall of the House of Usher, and more, this grand Halloween spectacle embraces Poe’s themes of death, madness, isolation, the undead, and more, in this macabre ballet.

New Expressive Works’ 12th Residency Performance Featured choreographers: Gregg Bielemeier, Jordan Kriston, Sweta Ravisankar, and Trevor Wilde October 25-27 New Expressive Works, Studio 2, 810 SE Belmont, [In the WYSE Building]

The New Expressive Works residency performance takes place twice yearly, showcasing the work of the program’s four new choreographers each time. This residency offers choreographers a chance to make a new work in a supported environment, with feedback from peers, no strings attached and no expectations of what the work should look like in the end.

This round features Inher/Outher by Jordan Kriston, Over Under Dressed by Gregg Bielemeier, Depression: a story of relief by Sweta Ravisankar, and Through the Veil by Trevor Wilde. Kriston toured the world as a professional dancer for eight years with Pilobolus Dance Theater and dances with Ela Fala Dance Collective. Bielemeier is an Oregon-born dance artist who has worked on the West Coast and in Europe as a featured choreographer, performer and teacher for more than 48 years. Ravisankar is a trained Bharatanatyam artist and has been performing for the past 25 years. She runs her dance school “Sarada Kala Nilayam” in Portland and San Jose. Wilde has performed with Polaris Dance Theatre, Jordan MacIntosh-Hougham, Shaun Keylock, Beth Whelan, and Andrew Schneider.

The residency program, which N.E.W. founder Subashini Ganeshan began in 2012, supports the making of dance in all genres. The program offers four choreographers 144 hours of free rehearsal space over six months; “fieldwork,” or peer-to-peer feedback sessions facilitated by dance artist Katherine Longstreth; and a fully produced, ticketed performance at the end.

Redwood (World Premiere) Playwright Brittany K. Allen  Directed by Chip Miller Choreography by Darrell Grand Moultrie October 26-November 17 Portland Center Stage at The Armory, 128 NW Eleventh Ave

A young Black woman’s relationship with her white boyfriend is upended when her uncle’s exploration of their family’s lineage reveals that her ancestors were enslaved by her boyfriend’s ancestors. Guided by a hip-hop dance class chorus, choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie (choreographer of “Instinctual Confidence” and “Fluidity Of Steel” for Oregon Ballet Theater), this American family learns to live and love in a present that’s overpopulated with ghosts.

Redwood continues through November 17

Raymonda The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, presented by Fathom Events Choreographer: Yuri Grigorovich (version of 2003) Scenes in choreography by Marius Petipa and Alexander Gorsky used 12:55 pm October 27 Check local theater listings for more information

In this nostalgic look back at 19th century Imperial Russia, a princess’s great love for her crusader helps her resists the abduction attempts of a lovesick Saracen-a nomad of the Syrian and Arabian desert at the time of the Roman Empire. Culminating in a grand wedding after the Saracen is defeated, the ballet is a blend of mime and non-stop dancing of folk, ethnic, and classical ballet. 

Week 5: October 28-November 3

Happy Halloween!

Upcoming Performances

November November 7-9, Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group, White Bird November 7-16, Death and Delight, BodyVox November 9-10, Swan Lake, Eugene Ballet November 8-10, Transcend: Best of “In the Round”, PDX Contemporary Ballet  November 12-13, The Hip Hop Nutcracker, Presented by Portland’5 November 14-16, Autumn Choreographer’s Concert, Pacific Theatre and Dance Department November 14-17, mekudeshet (מקודשת), The Holding Project November 15-16, PANOPLY, PWNW Fundraiser November 15-17, Ignite, Meshi Chaves and Unit Souzou November 17, Le Corsaire, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events November 18, Sugar Skull! A Día de los Muertos Musical Adventure, Presented by Portland’5 November 21-23, CNDC-Angers/Robert Swinston, White Bird November 22-23, Allie Hankins + Elby Brosch, Performance Works NW November 23-24, The Nutcracker, Oregon International Ballet Academy and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony November 29-December 1, Petrushka (World Premiere) and Firebird, The Portland Ballet

December December 6-7, Dora Gaskill + Stephanie Lavon Trotter December 7-26, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Oregon Ballet Theatre December 12-14, Winter Wonders, NW Dance Project December 13-15, Babes in Toyland, Ballet Fantastique December 15, The Nutcracker, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events December 20-22, The Nutcracker, Eugene Ballet December 21, Cirque Nutcracker, Presented by Oregon Symphony December 30, A Viennese New Year, Presented by Oregon Symphony

January  January 16-25, a world, a world, Linda Austin Dance January 26, Cirque Flip Fabrique, Presented by Portland’5 January 26, Giselle, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events January 30-February 9, Fertile Ground Festival of New Works

February  February 2, Holy Goats!, Performance Works NW February 5-9, Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor, White Bird February 8-9, Alice in Wonderland, Eugene Ballet February 12, Grupo Corpo, White Bird February 15-23, The Sleeping Beauty, Oregon Ballet Theatre February 21-23, ORIGIN: Humble Beginnings, PDX Contemporary Ballet February 22, Interplay, Eugene Ballet and The University of Oregon School of Music and Dance February 23, Swan Lake, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events February 27-29, Cirque Alfonse, White Bird

March March 5-7, Rennie Harris Funkedified, White Bird March 6-8, Dragon and The Night Queen, Ballet Fantastique March 13-15, Alembic Resident Artists Performance: Sarah Brahim, Maggie Heath, and Cat Ross, Performance Works NW March 29, Romeo and Juliet, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events

April  April 2-4, Camille A. Brown and Dancers, White Bird April 4-5, Heaven and Earth, Eugene Ballet April 9-12, Beautiful Decay, Oregon Ballet Theatre April 15, ChangMu Dance Company, White Bird April (dates TBA): Linda Austin & Allie Hankins ║ The Traveler & the Thief April 19, Jewels, The Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema, Fathom Events April 23, Drum Tao 2020 April 23-25, The Rite Of Spring, NW Dance Project April 25-28, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre April 30-May 2, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox

May May 1-2, Contact Dance Film Festival, BodyVox May 8-9, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet May 8-10, Luna Mistica, Ballet Fantastique May 12-13, Dance Theatre of Harlem, White Bird May 3: Holy Goats!Plus, Performance Works NW May 22-24, ARISE: What Dance Could Be, PDX Contemporary Ballet May 28-31, Portland Tap Dance Festival, Portland Tap Alliance

June June 5-13, The Americans 2.0, Oregon Ballet Theatre June 11-13, Summer Splendors, NW Dance Project June 12-14, Up Close, The Portland Ballet

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