As usual, October is teeming with dance events. Tally them up and the beginning of fall season offers upward of 50 performances by major companies this month alone; in what would customarily be a competitive environment, a number of Portland organizations have instead teamed up to provide audience incentives.
At the top of the docket is a new dance card program, an opportunity only available this month. Scott Lewis (executive director of the Northwest Dance Project or NWDP) thought of the idea after realizing that a number of organizations—White Bird, BodyVox, NWDP, and the Oregon Ballet Theatre (OBT)—had all scheduled shows on October 14 and 15. These four organizations, plus four others (bobbevy, Polaris Dance Theatre, Tracy Broyles, and Portland Center Stage) eventually joined forces with the goal to "work together rather than fracturing the audience," as Lewis puts it.
How it works: The wallet-sized cards are available at all performances by the affiliated eight groups. Whenever someone attends a show, his/her card is punched. Two punches merit a restaurant gift certificate; prizes escalate from there, with the grand prize being a huge package deal including eight hotel stays, eight shows, and eight dinners in Portland (pdxdancecard.org).
The collaboration between the various companies signals a trend: "This is a wonderful example of Portland arts organizations working together to build audience for dance," said Walter Jaffe of White Bird Dance.
Also indicative of this communal spirit is FRONT dance journal, the first issue of which was released this September. (Free copies are available at Nationale and Washington High School.) Assembled by Tahni Holt, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles, and Robert Tyree, FRONT is a broadside that feels like a sophisticated zine and reads like a rallying point for the dance community (rather than an explicit critical inquiry). Filled with interviews and essays, its contributors' list is a who's who of Portland's scene.
A final outreach effort this month comes from OBT, who will begin a new pricing structure (inaugurated by their production of Petrouchka/Carmen, opening this weekend, see obt.org), which could conceivably reduce the price of a ticket by over $100—for the best seat in the house, no less—if you're under 35. Their new pay-your-age program targets the bourgeoning young creatives of Portland: Patrons under 35 call or visit the box office and receive the best tickets available, for the price of their age. (Individuals are restricted to two tickets and must show ID at the event.) The program will run at least the entire season, and so long as it "keeps bringing new people into the theater," said OBT's Trisha Mead. It's one of many outreach efforts by the company, who revived their OBT Exposed program this summer after a two-year hiatus.
As for the actual performances this month, they sound genuinely great, and diverse, as they surprisingly are within Portland's small scene. Petite company bobbevy (bobbevy.com) begin their season on October 7 with Palace of Crystal—another work in their surreal, sparse style. Continuing their mission as a conduit for global dance, White Bird Dance (whitebird.org) present the Israeli troupe Vertigo Dance Company on October 13, and will follow it up with their Uncaged series (October 20), while Conduit Dance (conduit-pdx.org) opens their season this weekend with an program of work by three female choreographers from Portland and Seattle. And the Northwest Dance Project (nwpdp.com) has flown in choreographer Didy Veldman, who Lewis insists is precisely "what's happening in Europe right now." It's yet another excellent example of the increasing accessibility of world-class dance within Portland. As Lewis puts it, "You could go to Europe, or you can go to Lincoln Hall. It's cheaper coming to Lincoln Hall."