THIS SATURDAY MARKS the opening celebration for FLOCK—a new dance center housed inside Disjecta Contemporary Art Center in North Portland.
FLOCK was envisioned by dancer and choreographer Tahni Holt. Unlike many dance centers, it's not primarily a performance venue—instead, FLOCK serves as a studio for a set of artists and dancers (there are eight, curated by Holt), as well as a space for workshops. The opening celebration this weekend, "TUMBLE," is an admission-free night of round-robin performances, mostly improvisational, featuring dancers and artists.
Three of the artists are in residency at the dance center (Kaj-anne Pepper, Tracy Broyles, and Allie Hankins). Other performances include Portland veteran Linda Austin, Tere Mathern (director at Conduit Dance), and a live drawing created by Linda Hutchins. The show is organized by Holt and Portland Biennial artist Kelly Rauer; it serves as a bridge between the end of the Disjecta-based Portland Biennial exhibition and the beginning of FLOCK.
I talked with Holt earlier this year about the motivation behind FLOCK. The following is an excerpt from that conversation.
MERCURY: Where did the name come from?
HOLT: I landed on FLOCK because there's an exercise called flocking. It's an improvisational exercise, where whoever is in front is the person you follow. You have a group of people, and if you change directions, now someone else is in front, and you change directions again, and someone else is in front. The exercise represents that there's not really a lead—that we're all a community. It's also this organic, free-flowing idea that feels very Northwest to me. It's poetic. It's outdoors. It's organic. I wanted it to be simple, not too heady. And I was like, "Wow, can I actually put a bird on it...? So Portlandia." And I was like, "Yeah, I can fucking do this."
Do you screen people who want to become members?
This first round, I curated it. They're people who are incredibly rigorous. There were interests of diversity in the field, but the big umbrella is that they're experimenting in the form. They're working on a very contemporary, current level. Also, I'm not just interested in having nine artists working in North Portland, and not having a way to access the larger community. I'm interested in having an educational component to the space. There's a time on Saturdays dedicated to classes and workshops. Another component to being a member is that they are welcome to teach a class [in the time they get]. Kaj-anne Pepper has talked about these radical once-a-month classes that might happen at midnight. These classes are stemming from their own personal curiosities about the creative process. One of the major things that's different is that I'm not taking a cut from how many students show up—members pay a flat rate, and they use that time however it works best for them.
For visual artists, you can share a studio, and be in the corner working on something. But with dance, it's only one choreographer in the space at a time?
Dance studios are very challenging financially, because you can't have 20 people paying for creation space. Dance needs a big open space, and there are very few places where you can actually get that. Creation space is incredibly hard to find, and that's why I'm really excited about Disjecta's involvement, and just how affordable it can be. And I'm excited there are eight people who are really willing to try this with me. I think the model needs to exist, and this is the time for it to exist.