Portland loves to talk about its diverse art scene, says choreographer Robert Guitron, but when he challenges locals to name more than five Portland dance groups, they tend to trail off after White Bird, Oregon Ballet Theatre and BodyVox. Guitron thinks Portland's varied disciplines and lesser-known dancers deserve better. "Ballroom, East Indian, tap, Bollywood, highland dance—it boggles my mind how much is going on in this relatively small community," he said.
Which is why he and his own company, Polaris Dance Theatre, are hosting the Groovin' Greenhouse at the Fertile Ground festival. The Greenhouse will spotlight a half-dozen local companies and soloists: The Dance Coalition of Oregon will present a dance sampler with Mythobolus Mask Theatre, cabaret group the Dolly Pops, Ann Marie Hathaway's Botanical Ballroom Madness and a new modern piece by Agnieszka Laska. Jefferson Dance alumnus and Do Jump! member Aaron Wheeler-Kay pays homage to his instructors in We Carry Our Teachers Within Us, a contemporary solo infused with West African, ballet, hip-hop, tap and aerial dance. The pre-professional company NW Fusion Dance stages works by pro choreographers, among them its director, Brad Hampton, and the Trey McIntyre Project's Lauren Edson. The Portland Festival Ballet performs Les Watanabe's I Wish, an ensemble piece inspired by They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Legacy Dance will be there too, along with Polaris dancers Cerrin Lathrop and Carlyn Hudson presenting solo works. Polaris itself is on the bill, offering a sneak preview of its Motown-inspired spring show Lil' Mo, part of an ongoing series of works inspired by popular music.
Guitron said he invited everyone he could think of to participate in the Groovin' Greenhouse. While he didn't get the diversity he had hoped for in this first installment, he hopes the Greenhouse will become an annual event as more people grasp its potential.
"Maybe we'll be inspired if we get our asses off the couch and see what's happening in the crevasses, not just in the big spaces," he said.
: Polaris Dance Center, 1501 SW Taylor, 800-494-8497. 7:30 pm Friday, 5 and 8 pm Saturday, Jan. 28-29. $10. Info at polarisdance.org.