THE PAST YEAR has been a turbulent one for Portland's dance community. Financial struggles combined with a growing competition for real estate forced several companies to relocate from their longtime homes. But with the spring season approaching, brighter days are ahead. Recovered from a near bankruptcy, Oregon Ballet Theatre has moved to a new South Waterfront building and opened an additional studio in West Linn this January. Polaris and Conduit have also found new spaces after being evicted from their previous headquarters. Despite these recent challenges, dancers return to the stage this spring with renewed spirits and a host of works that promise to entice.
NW Dance Project
Consistently innovative and always captivating, NW Dance Project returns this season with a program that shouldn't be missed. This March, Ihsan Rustem presents the engrossing Louder Than Words, his fourth inspired creation for the company set alongside artistic director Sarah Slipper's Airys and Alex Soares' Trace in Loss. Summer Splendors, an annual ode to the season of light and warmth, returns in June with refreshing world premieres from a lineup highlighting women choreographers: Slipper, Carla Mann, and Lesley Telford.
- David Garten
Production company White Bird brings some of the most exciting dance groups to Portland's stages. Showcasing companies both local and international, White Bird presents established pieces as well as commissioning new work. This March, Brazil's vibrantly seductive Grupo Corpo returns to Portland with two bold new works by Rodrigo Pederneiras. Next from San Francisco: ODC/Dance, with its signature ballet/modern fusion, plus a special ODC/White Bird work newly commissioned from guest choreographer Kate Weare. Closing out the season will be White Bird's first contemporary Cuban company, Malpaso, with a piece set to dynamic live music by Grammy-winning composer Arturo O'Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble.
- Beautiful Decay
- Blaine Truitt Covert
Oregon Ballet Theatre
In its 26th season, OBT resurrects founding artistic director James Canfield's Romeo & Juliet for the first time in 15 years. Starring principal dancers Xuan Cheng and Brian Simcoe, this classic romance is sure to be a heartwarming spectacle. April brings Nicolo Fonte's exciting and haunting Beautiful Decay. OBT describes the work as one that juxtaposes daring athleticism and technical prowess with the stark reality that age brings a more fragile state—one that nonetheless still resonates with the power and beauty of distant youth.
- Mary Overman
With its previous Southwest Portland building demolished to make way for condos, Polaris has moved into a space in Northwest that was custom-renovated for the company. Back on its feet (literally), Polaris presents Springworks this May, followed by X-Posed in June. A continuation of the annual series, X-Posed features raw, envelope-pushing productions, with unconventional movement and an inquisitive approach to the creative process. The series aims to expose dancers to new choreographers, new choreographers to the public, and the Portland community to the artistic process.
- Pearl Dive
- Michael Shay
"What if Balanchine had played guitar or Warhol had studied dance?" That's the question BodyVox's upcoming Pearl Dive Project explores. Known for its unorthodox approach to dance, BodyVox will take on what happens when artists and innovators working at the peak of their professions immerse themselves in a craft they've never considered. Eight creatives who have never danced will choreograph a piece for BodyVox's eccentric company. The result will undoubtedly entertain and likely present refreshing innovation.
After losing its studio space last March, Conduit has since moved into the Ford Building, a creative space in Southeast Portland previously occupied by a yoga and swing dance studio. On February 13, Conduit hosted a re-launch event to commemorate the new beginning. Stay tuned for the annual Dance+ Festival in July, which will showcase pioneering and original work from Portland-area dance makers. The festival encourages experimental artistry that pushes the bounds of traditional performance and will also feature artist-led workshops.
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