Tag Archives: Linda K. Johnson

Art Scatter goes to dance appreciation class

Oh man, we left you hanging there for a couple of days with Thomas Hobbes! Art Scatter can be SO cruel. What can I say? We watched some debate. We watched some Project Runway (Leanne won!). We prepared to meet a roomful of students in Linda K. Johnson’s dance appreciation class at Portland State University. We didn’t blog.

Maybe I should say a few words about that dance appreciation class. First of all, it sounds like a great class. Linda, who has been involved in some of the very most interesting projects around the city in the past decade (and more!), including the Halprin fountain City Dance event and overseeing a year of artist-in-residencies in the South Waterfront district, has set up a pretty rigorous course of study. For example, the class sat in on a rehearsal of Swan Lake, which became a sort of lecture-demonstration because artistic director/choreographer Christopher Stowell was so open to explaining what he was trying to do. Their writing assignments sound quite interesting, too, which maybe was where I came in — to talk about writing about dance.

This is something I love to talk about, even though I’ve actually done it far less than I would have liked. Time machine time: In 1978 I wrote about a visit to Seattle by Twyla Tharp’s modern dance company. That was the first time I committed an act of criticism with intent. To publish, I mean. And it caused me a great deal of grief and excitement and a couple of all-nighters spent writing and re-writing and throwing my hands up in despair. How could I possibly bottle in words what I’d seen onstage (not to mention the interviews I’d conducted with the dancers; Twyla wasn’t along on the tour), for consumption in a newspaper (the Seattle Sun, RIP)? Well, I had an excellent guide, who was in the process of developing a deep understanding of newspapers, though he knew even less about dance than I did, and we muddled through.
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Sunday in the park with the Halprins (while Rome burned)

So, while Wall Street Giants shuddered, pivoted and crashed to the ground, Art Scatter was amusing itself at “City Dance,” the celebration of Lawrence and Anna Halprin, specifically Lawrence’s Portland plazas and fountains, Anna’s dances and early ’60s San Francisco art music, which somehow affected both. I will type (or is it keyboard, technically?) as long as I can, until the shock wave takes us off line… oddly it seems appropriate to muse on subjects such as these during times of economic crisis.

We’ve already set up the fountains, and to a lesser extent the dances, in a post below. To summarize, L. Halprin was hired by Ira Keller and the PDC to provide some public spaces for Portland’s first major Urban Renewal project, the demolition of the South Auditorium district and its replacement by a Skidmore, Owings, Merrill office/residential park. Keller was so happy with these, that he later asked L. Halprin to finish off the set with a plaza/fountain in front of what was then Civic Auditorium. It’s now the Keller Auditorium and the fountain is now Keller Fountain, though old-timers will be excused for calling it the Forecourt Fountain.

Fast forward 40 years or so. The fountains and plazas, important icons in the history of urban landscape design, could use a little conservation work, and so architecture writer/magazine editor Randy Gragg, the Halprin Conservancy, Third Angle New Music Ensemble and four Portland choreographers (Tere Mathern, Cydney Wilks, Linda Austin and Linda K. Johnson) banded together to help raise our collective consciousness about the Halprins’ work by staging a moving concert through all four sites (Keller Fountain, Pettygrove Park, Lovejoy Fountain, Source Fountain).

So on Sunday afternoon, sunny and warm, several hundred Portlanders, unaware perhaps that financial Redwoods were crashing, assembled to watch the show on the last day of the Time-Based Art Festival. Maybe there were more than that, adding the two concerts together. The second concert was so packed that when I arrived right before it began, I couldn’t get close enough to see anything much at the first site, the Keller Fountain, but that’s not going to deter me from my posting. Because there were three more sites to visit.
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