Tag Archives: White Bird

Link: Goteborg dances into PDX

By Bob Hicks

Last night I went to White Bird‘s opening-night performance by Goteborg Ballet (the Swedish contemporary company performs again tonight and Saturday night in the Newmark Theatre) and discovered a sort of sister-city alternate universe.

"OreloB," by Kenneth KvarnstromThree dances, all contemporary and very European, all very different from what you see at Oregon Ballet Theatre but also intriguingly complementary, and reminiscent of OBT’s old James Canfield days. I wrote about it in this essay, Sister dance cities? Goteborg meets Portland, on Oregon Arts Watch. An excerpt:

“At the core of OreloB is Jukka Rintamaki’s electronic score, based on the sinuous repetitions of Ravel’s Bolero but scratching them up so they sound ragged and removing the overly familiar undulations while retaining the hypnotic effect. Helena Horstedt’s costumes, with little shoulder-and-back ruffles that seemed like sea-creature gills, lent the piece a slightly sinister science-fiction feel (the designs reminded me a little of the stuff the late lamented Portland theater artist Ric Young used to do). And the dancing was vigorous and unstoppable, inventive and relentless. The energy doesn’t let up: when the dancers walk, they walk with purpose. It’s rhythmic, sexy, trancelike – maybe something like Ravel’s music was when it was fresh, before it became commonplace.”

Photo: “OreloB,” by Kenneth Kvarnstrom

Doing the dance: Scatter’s back in town

Barak Marshall's "Monger." Photo: Gadi DagonGadi Dagon

By Bob Hicks

After a whirlwind fling with white asparagus, Belgian beer, briny mussels, fish stews, canal-skimming tour boats and close encounters with the likes of Memling, Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Vermeer, De Hooch, Michelangelo, Cocteau, Picasso, Van Gogh, Frans Hals and Jan Steen in places where a church that began life in 1408 is known as the “Nieuwe Kerk” (the Oude Kerk, from 1306, is still hanging around, too) Mr. and Mrs. Scatter have needed a little jog to get back in the swing of things in good old Puddletown.

Fortunately, White Bird and Barak Marshall were on hand Tuesday night to do the trick.

Continue reading Doing the dance: Scatter’s back in town

Egypt’s Hawass is back in the saddle

By Bob Hicks

How quickly the worm turns.

Less than a month ago, in a post detailing the ouster (or resignation: stories varied) of the legendary archaeologist Zahi Hawass as Egypt’s powerful chief of antiquities, we made this observation: “(T)he revolution is real, and Hawass, barring yet another turnabout, won’t be making any of its crucial decisions.”

The Great Sphinx, still partly buried in sand, ca. 1880. Wikimedia Commons.Well, the turnabout’s happened. As Kate Taylor reports here in the New York Times, Hawass is back in the saddle, reappointed by the new prime minister, Essam A. Sharaf. Hawass has made his share of enemies over the years, and was held in suspicion because of his close ties to the Mubarak regime, but was also known as a fierce and effective defender of and spokesman for Egypt’s cultural treasures. Plus, he’s a wily fox.

Separately, antiquities inspector Sarah Marei, one of the people trying to deal with safeguarding the nation’s collections during and after the revolution, wrote this piece for The Art Newspaper decrying the looting of museums and archaeological sites. “(T)he police presence vanished in the revolution and has yet to return to the sites,” wrote Marei, who’s been working in Giza. “The individual initiatives on the part of site inspectors and the townspeople from the remote areas is often the only current protection afforded to some of the world’s most unique and magnificent monuments.” Marei kicked up a bit of controversy by suggesting that collectors and institutions outside of Egypt might be providing a ready market for the looters.


Good Korean dance: I have this review in this morning’s Oregonian of the South Korean contemporary dance troupe Laboratory Dance Project, which is finishing a three-night run on White Bird‘s Uncaged series. It’s a good company with excellent dancers and fresh ideas, and the Portland run is its West Coast premiere. Final show tonight (Saturday), 8 p.m., Lincoln Performance Hall.


Photo: The Great Sphinx, still partly buried in sand, ca. 1880. Wikimedia Commons.

Mary Oslund’s infinite possibilities

Mary Oslund Dance Company. Photo: John Klicker

By Martha Ullman West

For Mary Oslund, the child’s sense of infinite possibilities has never ended. How else could she have made Childhood Star, her stunningly beautiful new piece, in which she seamlessly mixes every form of movement that has touched her life as a dancer and choreographer?

Commissioned by White Bird, for which we owe them our everlasting thanks, Star premiered at PSU’s Lincoln Performance Hall on Thursday night. (It repeats tonight and Saturday.) Like most of Oslund’s work, it is first and foremost about dancing itself, and an ongoing exploration of what the human body can accomplish aesthetically. It contains, of course, the movement vocabulary Oslund has developed over several decades – long-limbed extensions, geometric shapes, duets involving contact between dancers that initiate movement phrases – but there is also a breakthrough here: a new musicality, a softening of phrasing, a balancing of the emotional and the intellectual that make the piece achingly lovely to watch.

Continue reading Mary Oslund’s infinite possibilities

In an evening of schoolhouse Martha Graham, Moseley’s lovely lament

Josie Moseley teaching at the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre. Greg Bond/Oregon Art Beat/2010. Courtesy Oregon Public Broadcasting

The place to be in Portland Tuesday night was the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, where the legendary Martha Graham Dance Company was performing in town for the first time since 2004. As if that weren’t draw enough, the program provided the world premiere of Portland choreographer Josie Moseley‘s “Inherit,” a solo for Graham dancer Samuel Pott. Moseley’s piece was underwritten by White Bird, which presented the Graham company as part of its Portland dance season. Catherine Thomas’s review for The Oregonian is here. Art Scatter’s chief correspondent and resident dance critic, Martha Ullman West, was also on the spot and files this report.


By Martha Ullman West

Ask a male modern dancer about Martha Graham technique and you’ll likely get a shake of the head, a roll of the eyes, and a lecture on how her pelvis-centered movement is difficult to impossible for a man’s body to do.

Portrait of Martha Graham and Bertram Ross, June 27, 1961. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Van Vechten Collection. Photo: Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964). Wikimedia Commons.This is definitely true of Lamentation, the gut-wrenching, writhing, keening solo Graham made on her own body in 1930, in which she absorbed and expressed all the griefs of a world as troubled as our own, at the same time providing the kind of catharsis the ancient Greeks found in the tragedies of Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus.  It’s no accident she later made dances based on Oedipus Rex (Night Journey) Medea (Cave of the Heart) and Agamemnon (the monumental evening-length Clytemnestra) all of them from the woman’s point of view.

Lamentation is the centerpiece of the Martha Graham Company’s current road show: We saw it twice at the Schnitz on Tuesday night, first performed with smooth elegance by Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, her costume — originally a tube of knitted fabric as much a part of the solo as the dancer’s body — perked up with a red leotard underneath it.

Then, post intermission, to introduce the Lamentation Variations we saw Martha herself, on film, gnarled feet rooted to the floor, her seated body arching in a seamless cry. Let it be said that this 80-year-old solo of Graham’s is so emblematic of that period of modern dance that the editors of the International Dictionary of Modern Dance chose it for the book’s cover.

Continue reading In an evening of schoolhouse Martha Graham, Moseley’s lovely lament

After 31 years, a lovely ‘Dance’ indeed

Martha Ullman West, Art Scatter’s chief correspondent, spent Thursday night at White Bird, watching Lucinda Childs‘ minimalist landmark “Dance.” (It repeats Friday and Saturday nights at Portland’s Newmark Theatre.) For Martha, who also reviewed the American premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Thursday’s show was a felicitous rediscovery.

Lucinda Childs dancers and film images in "Dance." Photo: Sally Cohn

By Martha Ullman West

Thirty-one years ago, dear lord, I saw and wrote about for Dance Magazine the American premiere of Lucinda Childs’ Dance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Philip Glass was in the pit, and the large house was packed with New York’s self-styled intelligentsia.

I thought it had good stuff in it, but came close to agreeing with my husband, who wearily muttered to me as we staggered down BAM’s steps and headed for the subway, “Minimalism is of minimal interest.”

So when I went last night to the Newmark to see the revival of this work, I was extremely curious to know how I would respond after three decades of watching and writing about dancing, of many kinds, in many places.

Dance, which has three sections (giving it the beginning, middle and end lacking in so much contemporary dance these days) strikes me now as a very beautiful work, indeed, and a playful one.

Continue reading After 31 years, a lovely ‘Dance’ indeed

Belly-dancing on the Nile: Our far-flung correspondent hobnobs and returns

Martha Ullman West, Art Scatter’s chief correspondent, has been trotting the globe. She’s endured an evening of wretched belly-dancing on the Nile, chatted with a centenarian ballet dancer in Philadelphia, revisited the works of Jerome Robbins in New York, and returned home to Portland, where she found irritation with Random Dance and happiness with Oregon Ballet Theatre. Here’s her report:


Here are some scattered (no pun intended) thoughts about what I’ve been seeing in the world of performance, mostly dance, since I departed on February 1st for a glorious Metropolitan Museum of Art tour of Egypt with a postlude in Jordan, followed by 10 days in New York, where I ploughed through many clipping files in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, at Lincoln Center.

These endeavors were interrupted by snow and a day trip to Philadelphia to interview Yvonne Patterson. She is a former dancer in Balanchine’s first companies, now a whisker away from turning 100, still swimming every day and teaching the occasional master class in ballet, no kidding. There was also a fair amount of hobnobbing with my New York colleagues, during which the state of dance and dance writing was discussed with a certain amount of hand-wringing on both counts.

The River NileThe worst performance shall come first: an unspeakably godawful belly dance demonstration on board the Nile River boat on which I spent four otherwise glorious nights.

I’ve seen better at various restaurants in Portland, although the effects of her lackluster undulations, which bored even the men in the audience, were somewhat mitigated by the sufi dancer who followed, a very young man who was completely committed to spinning himself into a trance, and therefore pretty compelling.

In New York, I was taken to see a play called Mr. and Mrs. Fitch, oh so cleverly written by Douglas Carter Beane, at Second Stage Theatre, starring the suave John Lithgow as a gossip columnist running out of copy and Jennifer Ehle as his equally ambitious and rather more unethical wife. They invent a celebrity to write about, and despite such wonderful lines as “I swear on a stack of Susan Sontag‘s Against Interpretation” and the cast’s finely tuned delivery of the lines, the ethics practiced by the real-life press these days made it all rather less than funny for someone who still thinks journalism is an honorable profession, or at the very least that it should be.
Continue reading Belly-dancing on the Nile: Our far-flung correspondent hobnobs and returns

Random Dance, and other movements

Random Dance, coming to White Bird and the Newmark.

Mr. Scatter is not a dancer. This may seem odd, considering the number of dance posts that have been on this site of late (or maybe, once you’ve read them, it seems painfully obvious), but that is partly a matter of coincidence. There’s been a lot of dance in town lately, and more is on the way.

We’re talking, of course, about presentational dance, art dance, dance as performance — not the social dance that Mr. Scatter did not learn in the 1950s and 1960s, when he suffered from a not uncommon affliction known as Two Left Feet, complicated by a textbook case of shyaroundgirlitis. Yes, he did go to his senior prom. He was in the band. The perfect end-run.

Mr. Scatter's unfortunate childhood affliction.Watching dance, on the other hand, is a longtime pleasure, one that slides from tap to tango, classic to contemporary, Broadway to ballet. And it strikes Mr. Scatter that, while a lot of people weren’t looking, Portland’s become a heck of a dance town.

Oregon Ballet Theatre is somewhere near the middle of it all, continuing its lovely performances of Christopher Stowell‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and George Balanchine‘s The Four Temperaments through Saturday at Keller Auditorium.

And surely much of this renaissance can be laid at the feet of White Bird, which has routinely brought the un-routine to Portland audiences, exposing the city to worldwide dance ideas. Fresh from Hubbard Street, which has barely had a chance to skip back to Chicago, here White Bird comes again, this time presenting England’s Random Dance (that’s them in the photo above) Thursday through Saturday in the Newmark Theatre. The piece, Entity, by company leader Wayne McGregor, runs an hour and is reputed to be fast and furious. It also marks the end of White Bird’s two-year Uncaged series, which has spotted dance in adventurous spaces around town while it’s waited for its regular second-season home, Lincoln Performance Hall, to be refurbished. That’ll be done by the start of next season.

But as important as they are, the scene is far from just OBT and White Bird. Keep an eye out for these upcoming events, too. (The dance action’s so hot and heavy that we’re sure we’re missing something; we apologize in advance.):
Continue reading Random Dance, and other movements

Talkin’ Hubbard Street: Mr. Scatter speaks

On Tuesday evening Mr. Scatter stood before a friendly audience (including Scatter friends Jenny Wren and David Brown) in the lower-level lounge of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and talked for 20 minutes about Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the admirable company that was about to perform upstairs. Mr. Scatter discovered that (a) microphones are our friends, and (b) speeches are better with simple sentence structures and a lack of ten-dollar words. Mr. Scatter thanks White Bird for the invitation. If there’s a next time, he promises to do better on the simplicity bit. Here is the manuscript of his talk, in black and white:

Hubbard Street Fance Chicago in Johan Inger's "Walking Mad." Photo: Tom Rosenberg

Some of you know I do a lot of my writing these days for a Web site called artscatter.com, so bear with me while I scatter a bit.

At Art Scatter we practice something I like to call the Scatter Method of Indirect Analysis, which basically tries to bring some order to the chaotic collision of free association, intuition and logic that keeps batting around inside most of our brains.

The process goes something like this.

You find a topic, and you stick it in the back of your mind, and you sort of forget about it, like it’s a slow-cooking soup.

Except not really, because from that point on, everything you see and hear becomes part of your back-burner thinking process on that particular topic. And eventually it hits the front burner.

You’ve opened your receptors. Even when you don’t actively realize it you’re looking for connections, for clues, for ways to relate your everyday world to this thing you’ve decided to concentrate on. It’s all extremely conjectural. But sometimes intriguing clues drop in from very surprising places.

I happen to think that’s a good way to approach experiencing any sort of art, from reading a book to watching a dance. You, as the audience or consumer, are the finishing point of the art. Without you, it’s incomplete.

And because each of us brings something different to the party, any work of art has a million possibilities for completion. Or I guess that’s 7 billion and counting. The artist creates, but the implications and the impact are really up to us. We want to make it the best experience we can, so we keep our tentacles attuned. See what we pick up.

So. The subject is Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

Let’s dive in.

One of the first things that struck me when I started investigating the company’s history was that in the mid 1970s, when it began, it grew out of a studio devoted to teaching tap dance. As in Bojangles Robinson and Brenda Bufalino and Gregory Hines.

Tap has a lot of international relatives, from the hornpipe to flamenco to Irish clogging, but it’s an American art form, with roots in slavery and the West African rhythms that became transformed on our own soil. And here’s something Count Basie had to say: “If you play a tune and the person don’t tap their feet, don’t play the tune.”

Bing. That stuck on the Velcro at the end of my tentacles. Didn’t know why, quite, but there it was. Something American. Something that pays attention to the audience.

Continue reading Talkin’ Hubbard Street: Mr. Scatter speaks

Mr. Scatter speaks. In front of a crowd.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Johan Inger's "Walking Mad." Photo: Tom Rosenberg

Today Mr. Scatter is putting the finishing touches on a little talk he’ll be giving Tuesday evening before Hubbard Street Dance Chicago‘s performance at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

His charge from White Bird, the dance presenting folks, is simple. Speak for 20 minutes, try to say something interesting about the performance coming up, don’t put the audience to sleep.

Mr. Scatter will do his best. Yes, scattering will be involved. Mr. Scatter suspects it might even be sort of fun. For the audience, too. On the program Tuesday night: Jorma Elo‘s Bitter Suite, Ohad Naharin‘s Tabula Rasa, Johan Inger‘s Walking Mad.

The talk, part of the White Bird Words series, will be downstairs at the Schnitz. It starts at 6:45, giving everyone ample time to settle into their seats upstairs before the 7:30 curtain. The talk is free, but you need a ticket to the performance to get in. After all, much as Mr. Scatter might suffer from occasional delusions of grandeur, the performance is the main attraction.

PICTURED: Johan Inger’s “Walking Mad.” Photo: Tom Rosenberg