Many of Portland’s dance companies last performed in spring of 2020 before shutting down for the pandemic, but the toe shoes and leotards are finally ready for the stage again with full spring seasons from several local dance companies.
“It does feel like dance is one of the last things to come back,” says BodyVox artistic director Jamey Hampton. “Unlike music, dance is hard to watch on a live feed on a computer. People need to be in a theater, hearing footsteps on stage, hearing dancers breathe, seeing bodies in motion in space, but audiences have been reticent to sit shoulder to shoulder in a theater during multiple COVID variants.”
With Oregon’s mask mandate over, these dance companies will continue to require audience members provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Adds White Bird co-founder Walter Jaffe, “Dance is taking a long time to come back, but we are tremendously excited to resume our live performances with some of the best American dance companies performing today. Many have lost dancers who have chosen other career paths, so they need to rebuild. It also takes a lot of time to rehearse work after company members have been out of studios for so long.”
Curtains are finally going up on what looks to be an exciting spring dance season. Here’s what’s on tap — and ballet and modern — from the Portland dance world.
“WE ARE ONE FESTIVAL” — presented by White Bird
After shutting down in 2020, White Bird soars into 2022 with multiple dance offerings for this festival. “The concept follows in the wake of the tremendous racial violence and disturbances that occurred over the past two years,” says White Bird’s Jaffe. “We developed a strong equity commitment in spring 2019, and we are selecting companies that focus on multiculturalism and racial and ethnic diversity and connecting them more strongly than ever to Portland’s diverse communities through expanded community engagement activities.”
First up is Versa-Style Dance Company. The L.A. hip-hop troupe pushes hip-hop dance into exciting and thoughtful new territory with a fusion of Afro-Latin styles combining salsa, merengue, cambia and Afro-Cuban.
7:30 p.m. April 1-2, 2 p.m. April 3, Patricia Reser Center for the Arts in Beaverton, 12625 S.W. Crescent St., $11.70-$13.50, whitebird.org
The festival continues in May with a single evening performance by Dance Theatre of Harlem, founded in New York City in 1969 to support classical and modern dancers of color. The esteemed company presents a mixed-rep tribute performance to co-founder Arthur Mitchell in a program yet to be announced.
7:30 p.m. May 4, The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway Ave., $30-$70, whitebird.org
White Bird concludes the festival on the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder with New York City’s Complexions Contemporary Ballet in a performance that includes “Woke” — a piece the Michigan Defender called “a galvanizing protest rally of a ballet that explores the essence of ‘wokeness’ — to injustice, to brutality, and to political chaos.” Music will be by Kendrick Lamar, Logic, Drake and Diplo.
7:30 p.m. May 25, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, $30-$70, whitebird.org
“Dark Side: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics” presented by B. Movement Project
The music of Pink Floyd has caused many mental flights of fancy, and now aerialist ad choreographer Brandy Guthery takes audiences into the air with “Dark Side: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics.” Guthery promises “inventive movement” featuring performances by A-WOL Dance Collective, Tempos, Isaiah Esquire, Jessie Orf and many more, with live music by Love Gigantic, featuring members of the Eels, Decemberists, Climber and the NoWhere Band.
8 p.m. April 1-2, Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 N.E. Alberta St., $35-$50, albertarosetheatre.com
“Dreamland” — Oregon Ballet Theatre
This physical exploration into REM territory begins with Toronto-based choreographer Matjash Mrozewski’s “The Lost Dance” evoking a David Lynchian world populated by seven lusty figures in an eerie ballroom. Trey McIntyre choreographs the otherworldly piece “In Dreams” to the haunting ballads of Roy Orbison. Last, Australian choreographer-ballet star Danielle Rowe presents “Dreamland,” inspired by a chilling nightmare we can all relate to.
7:30 p.m. April 8-10, 2 p.m. April 9-10; Newmark Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway, $29-$103, obt.org
CineVox Dance Film Festival — BodyVox
After its recent “NINETEEN*TWENTY” run at the spanking-new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts, BodyVox’s comeback continues with the CineVox Dance Film Festival, a collection of long, short, powerful, witty, you-name-it dance films focusing on Black, Indigenous artists of color. “We are excited to show Kitty McNamee’s new film ‘The Farewell’ from Los Angeles, a gorgeous and emotional duet; and a new film by Muddy Feet called ‘How We Live’ from Portland, beautifully shot in Washington, centered on the loss experienced in the pandemic,” says artistic director Hampton. “We will have a full program of BIPOC-directed/produced shorts, and I am hoping to screen ‘Swan Lake’ from Alexander Ekman, performed by the Norwegian National Ballet. It’s a stunning, wild rendition.”
May 12-14, BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 N.W. 17th Ave., times and ticket prices to be announced, bodyvox.com
“The Americans — Take Two” — Oregon Ballet Theatre
In the spring of 2019, Oregon Ballet Theatre debuted its new annual program of American-made ballet, “The Americans.” Finally, the company returns with “The Americans — Take Two.” The three productions that comprise Part 2 should be worth the wait. Along with the world premiere of a piece by in-demand choreographer and dance educator Michelle Manzanales, this performance also includes Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton’s “Big Shoes,” which is described as “harkening back to that moment when we dressed in grown-ups’ clothes and imagined the vast road that stretched on ahead, forever beckoning, daring us,” and Darrell Grand Moultrie’s “Fluidity of Steel,” a gender-defying piece that “celebrates maleness without conformity.”
7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, June 3-11, 2 p.m. June 4-5, Newmark Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway; $29-$103, obt.org
“Summer Premieres — Live” — presented by NW Dance Project
The always-innovative NW Dance Project is back in a big way with world-premiere contemporary works from dancer Andrea Parson, Japanese choreographer Yoshito Sakuraba (who won NW Dance’s 2015 Pretty Creatives International Choreographic Competition), and a surprise guest.
7:30 p.m., June 10-11, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Ave., starting at $29, nwdanceproject.org