By Bob Hicks
Snow? What snow? It’ll be gone by Sunday (that’s not a promise, only an extreme probability) and you’ll be wanting to get out of the house. Maybe over to Mississippi and Shaver in North Portland, where Northwest Dance Project has its studio.
That’s where I’ll be, starting at 3 p.m., for NDP’s latest Dance Flight — an afternoon of sipping wine, watching rehearsal and then settling in for an informal dance talk with the choreographer. The wine will be French, and so is the choreographer, Patrick Delcroix, whom I’ll interview onstage. The chat should be nice and easy, and I’ll make sure anyone in the audience who wants to ask a question gets the chance. Dance Flight details are here.
Delcroix spent 17 years as a leading dancer with Nederlands Dans Theater, then became assistant to choreographer Jiri Kylian, whose pieces he sets on companies around the world.
In addition, he’s created about 35 pieces of his own, and the one he’s doing for Northwest Dance Project is his first for an American company, although he’s worked in the states on several occasions as a repetiteur. Somewhere along the line (in 2001, to be exact) he even entered the knighthood, being named a chevalier of arts and letters by the French government.
On Tuesday afternoon I stopped in at the studio to watch some rehearsal and meet Delcroix. Although he retired as a dancer in 2003, he still has a dancer’s lean body, and he still moves with an athlete’s grace. With his sharp features and his hair cropped much closer than in the picture above, he looks like a greyhound, a creature built for speed. (In fact, the Los Angeles Times once called him “the fastest dancer on the planet.” Maybe we’ll ask him about that.) Like so many choreographers, Delcroix seems a natural teacher, and when he wants to get a point across about a particular move he partners up and demonstrates it. What I saw carried hints of the great physical comedians: lean loose movements; a center of gravity at the hips, which swivel freely; a deceptive quickness; a vital tension between grace and awkwardness, threatening imbalance but maintaining fluidity.
The dancers were working on the second movement of a three-movement piece — what he called “the wild stuff” after an opening movement of harmony — and they were concentrating on sliding, bumping and twisting. In precisely the right combinations, of course. Delcroix is using the entire nine-dancer company (three men and six women, including recent Prince Grace Award winner Andrea Parson) for his piece, which will premiere March 18-19 at the Newmark Theatre on a program that will also feature a premiere by Northwest Dance Project artistic director Sarah Slipper and the return of Blue, by Nederlands Dans Theatre’s Lucas Crandall.
One thing Delcroix said on Tuesday, smiling, about NDP’s dancers: “They know how to move.” Coming from the guy once known as the fastest dancer on the planet, that sounds like a compliment.