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October DanceWatch: White Bird fête, ‘Swan Lake,’ butoh, flamenco & more

As the fall dance season kicks in, shows ranging from Pilobolus to circus acts, fright nights, Camille A. Brown, and a dance film festival hit the stage.


October dance performances are eclectic, ranging from thought-provoking cultural dialogue to serious experimentation, campy, spooky Halloween fun, and everything in between. October also says goodbye to White Bird co-founders Walter Jaffe and Paul King as they retire after 25 years and pass the baton to executive director Graham Cole. You can celebrate their accomplishments and contributions to dance with them at the Portland Art Museum on Oct. 4, just before White Bird’s season-opening performance by Pilobolus at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, where they will revive the White Bird Awards, which recognize exceptional dance artists and supporters.

If you want to develop a deeper understanding of the elements of dance, choreography, and performance, Dance Wire and White Bird are now offering a Dance Appreciation Course (Oct. 3-Nov. 7) taught by Eric Nordstrom, Portland dance performer, teacher, and filmmaker. You’ll see two live dance performances as a group and meet four times at Dance Wire, a hub for dance information in Portland in the Old Moody Building at Zidell Yards. In the classes, you will have the chance to talk about upcoming performances and other aspects of dance, such as its history, gender portrayals, and instances of plagiarism and appropriation. The course also includes thought-provoking articles and dance films that will help guide the discussions. For more information and to register, click above and enjoy!

Lastly, please don’t let ticket prices dissuade you from seeing a performance. Many organizations offer discounts to groups, students, seniors, working artists, and recipients of the Oregon Trail Card or SNAP benefits. Thanks to the Regional Arts & Culture Council (which is currently on the chopping block by the City of Portland), anyone who receives food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and has the Oregon Trail Card can buy $5 tickets to many performances through the Arts for All program. See you in the theater!


“Look Beyond” is a new interactive performance investigation by long-time Portland Butoh artist Meshi Chavez. Photo courtesy of New Expressive Works.

Look Beyond 

  • Choreographed by Meshi Chavez with a sound score by Lisa DeGrace
  • Sept. 28-Oct. 1
  • New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont, Studio 2, Portland
  • [In the WYSE Building. Use building doors located on the South side of the building.]
  • Timed entrance for each evening – 7:00 pm, 7:30 pm, 8:00 pm, and 8:30 pm (Max 8 people per session)
  • To reserve and purchase tickets, please email subashinig@gmail.com with the date, time slot preferred, number of tickets requested, and ticket price preference. You will receive payment details and confirmation. 

“Look Beyond” is a dance performance that invites participants to become the dancers themselves. By moving in the dark, participants explore the interconnected and slippery nature of dance. The performance bridges the gap between research and performance, working to uncover the hidden movements that connect dance and the lived experiences of dancers. This event is dependent on audience participation, and everyone present is involved in the activation of the event. 

“Look Beyond” takes place almost entirely in the dark, so participants will need to be able to navigate through an unlit space in and around others. If you are concerned about your ability to participate, please contact Subashini Ganesan-Forbes at subashinig@gmail.com to discuss.

Chavez believes fostering creativity, deepening curiosity, and embracing the unknown are vital to living an artistic life. An artist in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont, he has taught and presented work nationally and internationally and is co-founder of Momentum Conscious Movement, based in Portland, where he has created movement education programming for more than 20 years.


White Bird co-founders Walter Jaffe and Paul King and their bird Barney. Photo: Jingzi Zhao

Founders Fête 

  • Presented by White Bird
  • 5-7 p.m. Oct. 4
  • Portland Art Museum, The Fields Sunken Ballroom, 1119 SW Park Avenue, Portland

Co-hosted by entertainers Dale Johannes and Poison Waters at the Portland Art Museum’s Fields Sunken Ballroom, this ticketed event will feature a tribute to the White Bird co-founders Walter Jaffe and Paul King as they retire after 25 years and pass the baton to executive director Graham Cole. The fête will also feature the return of the White Bird Awards, which recognize exceptional dance artists and supporters.


The dynamic dance company Pilobolus is named after a fungus that can shoot off its top faster than a speeding bullet. Photo: Grant Halverson


  • Presented by White Bird
  • 7:30 p.m. Oct. 4 
  • Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, Portland

Formed in 1971 by athletes and dancers from New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College, Pilobolus – named for a fungus that can shoot off its top faster than a speeding bullet – returns to Portland with a dynamic selection of its most iconic pieces from the past and present, including “On The Nature of Things,” “Behind the Shadows,” and the company’s latest work: “Sweet Purgatory.” Pilobolus’s choreography is a diverse mix of comic, otherworldly, and bizarre movements. Sometimes, the movements are graceful and fluid. At other times, they are more athletic and powerful. The choreography often defies logic and gravity, and sometimes, it contorts the human form in ways that seem impossible. It is constantly evolving and surprising, never failing to amaze and delight audiences.

Portland Opera The Marriage of Figaro Keller Auditorium Portland Oregon


NW Dance Project choreographer Sarah Slipper, left, working in rehearsal with dancers Alejandra Preciado, Ingrid Ferdinand (crouching), and Anthony Milian on Slipper’s new dance “Another, Tomorrow.” Photo: Clayton Cotterell

Sharing Stories

  • Presented by NW Dance Project
  • Oct. 6-7
  • Newmark Theater, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland

To commemorate its 20th anniversary and the creation of more than 350 works, the evening will feature new contemporary dance pieces from founding Artistic Director Sarah Slipper, the latest creation from renowned international choreographer Bryan Arias, and multi-disciplinary French/Canadian artist Serge Bennathan.


Yuka Iino & Yang Zou in OBT’s 2013 production of Christopher Stowell’s Swan Lake. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Swan Lake

  • Oregon Ballet Theater, artistic director Dani Rowe
  • Featuring the OBT Orchestra led by Guest Conductor Enrique Carreón-Robledo
  • Oct. 6-14
  • Keller Auditorium, 222 S.W. Clay Street, Portland

A cursed princess seeks redemption in the arms of a loving prince. A kaleidoscope of swans dance to music that makes the heart soar. An evil villain ruins a once-in-a-lifetime romance. This is not your typical classical ballet: It’s Christopher Stowell’s highly acclaimed adaptation of Swan Lake (after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov) to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, played live by the OBT orchestra. 


Derek Hough’s Symphony of Dance will perform in both Eugene and Portland in October. Photo courtesy of the Hult Center.

Derek Hough: Symphony of Dance

  • 7 p.m. Oct. 7
  • Hult Center, One Eugene Center, Eugene

Derek Hough: Symphony of Dance

  • Presented by Portland’5
  • 7 p.m. Oct. 8
  • Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, Portland

If you are a fan of Dancing with the Stars champion Derek Hough, this is your chance to see him in person, live! Hough is an American professional Latin and ballroom dancer, choreographer, actor, singer, Emmy Award winner, and New York Times bestselling author. The fast-paced live show will feature a medley of dance styles and a live band providing the pumping, heart-pounding soundtrack.


Camille A. Brown & Dancers in part three of Brown’s Trilogy on race, culture, and identity. Photo: Christopher Duggan.

Camille A. Brown & Dancers

  • Presented by White Bird 
  • Oct. 12-14
  • Newmark Theater, 1111 S.W. Broadway, Portland

Camille A. Brown & Dancers presents “Ink,” the third part of artistic director Brown’s trilogy on race, culture, and identity, examining Black life that is often appropriated, rewritten, or silenced. “Ink” celebrates the rituals, gestural vocabulary, and traditions that remain ingrained within the lineage of the African diaspora.

The show’s live music, developed in collaboration with Music Director Allison Miller, percussionist Wilson Torres, violinist Juliette Jones, and composer/pianist Scott Patterson, uses the rhythms and sounds of traditional African and handmade instruments as its center. The work travels through time with elements of blues, hip-hop, jazz, and swing.

Camille A. Brown & Dancers was founded in 2006 by four-time Princess Grace and Bessie Award-winning choreographer Camille A. Brown. It is a New York City-based dance company advancing the artistic vision of its founder that uses theatricality and the aesthetics of modern dance, hip-hop, African dance, ballet, and tap to tell stories that connect history with contemporary culture. It is strongly character-based and expresses each topic by building from small moments, modeling a cinematic sensibility. To inject each performance with energy and urgency, Brown uses theater, poetry, visual art, and music of all genres as tools.


Eugene Ballet’s “The Snow Queen” offers a modernized revamping of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale but does not stray from the original message of good triumphing over evil. Photo courtesy of Eugene Ballet.

The Snow Queen

  • Presented by Eugene Ballet, artistic director Toni Pimble 
  • Oct. 27-29
  • Hult Center, One Eugene Center, Eugene

In this dark and fantastical retelling with a contemporary twist of the classic hero’s quest by Hans Christian Anderson, childhood friends Gerda and Kay are separated when Kay becomes blinded to the goodness in the world by shards of glass from a frozen mirror created by evil. This tale of love and friendship triumphing over evil is told through elaborate costumes, sets, projections, puppetry, and a commissioned score by Portland composer Kenji Bunch.


Ballet Fantastique’s “Nevermore: Tales of Edgar Allan Poe,” Oct. 19-22 at Eugene’s Hult Center. Photo courtesy of Ballet Fantastique.

Nevermore: Stories of Edgar Allan Poe

  • Presented by Ballet Fantastique, artistic director Donna Marisa Bontrager 
  • Oct. 19-22
  • Hult Center, One Eugene Center, Eugene

Immerse yourself in the haunting literary works of Edgar Allan Poe through a theatrical production by Ballet Fantastique. The Hult Center in Eugene will be transformed into a haunted house as you journey through Poe’s most iconic works, including “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee,” “Masque of the Red Death,” “Cask of Amontillado,” and “Fall of the House of Usher.” The nationally recognized Poe specialist-impersonator Alastair Morley Jaques will guide you through each story and poem with selected excerpts from Poe’s texts. The production blends new ballet choreography for BFan’s international artists with acrobats, actors, and a spine-tingling live musical accompaniment performed by Liz Dorman, Sergei Teleshev, and Dale Bradley that includes eerie sound effects such as howling wind, hushed whispers, creaking doors, and lightning strikes designed to scare you to death!


Flamenco artist Rafael Ramirez will perform his new solo, “Lo Preciso,” at Alberta Rose Theater on Oct. 25. Photo courtesy of Rafael Ramirez.

Rafael Ramirez – Lo Preciso

  • Presented by Espacio Flamenco
  • 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25
  • Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 N.E. Alberta St., Portland

Lo Preciso (Spanish for “Exactness”) is a new contemporary flamenco work by Spanish dancer and choreographer Rafael Ramírez. Ramírez, who has performed with renowned luminaries and on stages worldwide, is from Málaga, Spain, and became a professional dancer at the age of 11 under the tutelage of masters such as “La Lupi,” Rafael Campallo, Oscar de los Reyes, and Javier Barón. His intense solo dance is accompanied by four musicians in a dueling quest for artistic precision and is an ecstatic call-and-response delivery of the masculine prowess of the genre.


A still from the film “Signal” by Oregon director and choreographer Heather Hindes, with cinematography by Conrad Kaczor. “Signal” will be screened in Picks 2 at the Portland Dance Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Portland Dance Film Festival.

Portland Dance Film Festival (PDFF)

  • Oct. 19-21
  • Dekum Street Theater, 814 N.E. Dekum St.
  • Workshop: Choreography for the Camera with Kailee McMurran-10 a.m.-noon Oct. 21
  • Masterclass with Nadav Heyman, Fundamentals of Dance Filmmaking. 1-4 p.m. Oct. 21

Screendance is a powerful medium for storytelling that transports viewers to places they would not normally be able to go. It allows audiences to experience the human body in motion in new ways, bringing the viewer closer to the dancer and creating intimacy and a shared kinesthetic experience. Now in its 11th year, this dance-centric film festival features 24 films from eight countries in three programs, covering the gamut of movement styles and lived experiences.


Troupe Vertigo, Cirque Noir, and the Oregon Symphony unite in an evening of fright. Photo courtesy of the Oregon Symphony.

Cirque Noir 

  • Troupe Vertigo and the Oregon Symphony
  • Oct. 21-22
  • Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway, Portland

Cirque Noir, Troupe Vertigo, and the Oregon Symphony invite you to experience the hidden world of the dark circus. What is below is also above. When darkness falls, Cirque Noir’s big top Caligula begins. Witness the talented acrobats, dancers, and contortionists of Troupe Vertigo as they defy gravity and glide through the air to the sounds of the Oregon Symphony Orchestra. 


It’s time for some spooky fun with Night Flight’s R-rated Halloween spectacular. Photo courtesy of Night Flight Aerial and Circus Arts.

Fright Night-A Halloween Circus

  • Presented by Night Flight Aerial and Circus Arts
  • Oct. 20-29
  • Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Ave.

In this spooky, R-rated Halloween spectacle, two video store clerks, Nick and Kyle, hope for a quiet Halloween night but are thwarted when a mysterious book shows up with the rental returns, and all hell breaks loose. The book sends them careening through time and into some of their favorite horror movies, old and new. Battling possessed dolls swinging high above the audience, contorting demi gorgons, and a blood-soaked prom queen on aerial silks, Nick and Kyle must use their wits and horror movie wisdom to make it back home alive.


It’s a dancing Tourist and Cacti in Flynn Creek Circus’s new production, “Desert Myth,” that features wild stunts and hilarity, under the Big Top at Zidell Yards. Photo courtesy of Flynn Creek Circus.

Desert Myth

  • Flynn Creek Circus
  • Sept. 28- Oct. 1
  • The Lot at Zidell Yards — Under the Big Top, 3030 S. Moody Ave., Portland

Under the big top, down at Zidell Yards in Portland’s South Waterfront district, you will find the Flynn Creek Circus flying high in an all-human spectacle that features wild stunts, hilarious comedy, and mind-blowing skills. The show is an acrobatic odyssey that follows a group of nomads separated from their homes by a sudden sandstorm. The audience will meet colorful characters along the way, such as the Tourist, the Cacti, the Wanderer, and the Sand Spirit. This provocative tale speaks to a thirst for truth in a dry land of “misguides.” Acrobats from Ukraine, Canada, and the United States will thrill audiences with this original, awe-inspiring visual roller coaster ride. For those interested, there is also an outrageous, raucous, punk-rock “Adults Only” version of the show at limited showtimes.

Jamuna Chiarini is a dance artist, producer, curator, and writer, who produces DanceWatch Weekly for Oregon ArtsWatch. Originally from Berkeley, Calif., she studied dance at The School of The Hartford Ballet and Florida State University. She has also trained in Bharatanatyam and is currently studying Odissi. She has performed professionally throughout the United States as a dancer, singer, and actor for dance companies, operas, and in musical theatre productions. Choreography credits include ballets for operas and Kalamandir Dance Company. She received a Regional Arts & Culture Council project grant to create a 30-minute trio called “The Kitchen Sink,” which was performed in November 2017, and was invited to be part of Shawl-Anderson’s Dance Up Close/East Bay in Berkeley, Calif. Jamuna was a scholarship recipient to the Urban Bush Women’s Summer Leadership Institute, “Undoing Racism,” and was a two-year member of CORPUS, a mentoring program directed by Linda K. Johnson. As a producer, she is the co-founder of Co/Mission in Portland, Ore., with Suzanne Chi, a performance project that shifts the paradigm of who initiates the creation process of new choreography by bringing the artistic vision into the hands of the dance performer. She is also the founder of The Outlet Dance Project in Hamilton, N.J.


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