Illustration by Jenna Lechner

YOU CAN'T DANCE without a floor. But when a water main burst under Northwest Dance Project's storage unit in St. Johns the day before Thanksgiving, that was the predicament facing the dance company.

"It was devastating," says Sarah Slipper, NWDP's founding artistic director. And the timing couldn't have been worse. Having vacated their old home on N Mississippi in June of 2014 and not yet ready to move into a new space at 211 NE 10th, NWDP were housed temporarily at Portland State University, with the company's necessities packed away in that faraway storage unit. Now, it was flooded, and the damage ran deep: As the storage company ran interference, pumping out 220,000 gallons of water, 14 inches of water had damaged or destroyed what Slipper calls "a major amount" of NWDP's equipment and belongings, including brand-new sound equipment, setpieces for an upcoming show, and "the stuff that everyone forgets about"—archival materials, like posters from past shows.

But most disruptive of all was the damage to their portable sprung floor—a special surface used by companies like Russia's Bolshoi Ballet that gives dancers' movements lift and absorption. Losing a floor is a gut-punch for any dance company, and two-thirds of NWDP's floor had to be replaced. To complicate things further, Slipper had the company's move to consider, and because the storage unit wasn't covered under NWDP's insurance—and the storage company didn't have any, according to Slipper—everything needed to be replaced at cost.

"It hit us at an extremely difficult time," says Slipper. But she's convinced that the flooding was "a motivator" for the community to pitch in with the funds for a new floor.

If the company's current plans are any indication, she's right about that. Though NWDP is still raising funds for moving-related expenses, Slipper says that they anticipate being able to finally move into their new home in March, after almost a year of performing without a permanent space. In the meantime, the company has a European tour scheduled, and a new show planned for mid-March, Louder Than Words—which will feature Slipper's own choreography in the Harold Pinter-inspired Casual Act—alongside Blue, a riff on the sculptures of August Rodin, choreographed by Lucas Crandall of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Louder Than Words will also feature the world premiere of a new work from longtime NWDP collaborator Ihsan Rustem, whose State of Matter, performed with the company, won the 2010 Sadler's Wells Global Dance Contest.

As for the floor, the part that was destroyed in the flood has already been replaced, and the section that survived is now the dance surface in the company's new education studio.


Louder Than Words

Northwest Dance Project at Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Thurs March 19-Sat March 21, 7:30 pm, $29-52, nwdanceproject.org