Former BodyVox member Éowyn Emerald’s
third installment of Pacific Dance Makers
, which in concept is a showcase of Northwest talent, is really more about Portland this year. Seven Portland choreographers joined one from Seattle on Friday’s opening night for a show that included some real talent as well as some duds.
The standout is definitely dancer Katarina Svetlova. Svetlova danced for seven years at Oregon Ballet Theatre before moving to Germany, and she retired five years ago from Deutsche Oper Am Rhein in Düsseldorf. Now back in Portland, she’s dancing with the vigor of someone who’s reclaimed what she loves. In a piece by Anne Mueller, also formerly of OBT, Svetlova walks on stage in a gray bathrobe and white bunny slippers. She’s equally adept at playing out Mueller’s vision of a woman alone in her home as she is moments later when executing taut developpés with a vivacious grin. Later, in a duet with BodyVox’s Holly Shaw (the piece, choreographed by Eric Skinner, was added to the program to replace a dropout by Jessica Hightower), she performs with equal skill.
Another standout is Emerald’s piece featuring Shaw and fellow BodyVox member Josh Murry. At its start, Shaw enters in front of a giant screen, while Murry appears, in silhouette, behind it. He emerges, bare-chested and with a mane of blond hair, to clutch Shaw, forming a tableau right off the cover of a Harlequin novel. The two then perform an intense duet, lifting each other in unorthodox ways—he like a plank on her back, she in the fetal position like a boulder in his arms. As a howling Chemical Brothers track plays overhead, the screen behind them flickers like a gray Eye of Sauron.
A piece by Tracey Durbin also deserves note, if only for the self-evident work that went into it. A video by Janet McIntyre plays behind the action, but most of the time winds up upstaging it. In fact, these competing elements do more to weaken than to build the piece's direction. The enchanting multimedia presentation touches on the loss of a mother, with spoken word (“memories can shrink like a bar of soap”) and images (a woman walking on a beach; home movies of a wedding), but that idea never develops. Dancers gradually enter the stage—six women, with the late addition of Northwest Dance Project’s Franco Nieto—where they weave in and out of each other, occasionally connecting but often aimless. In the final movement, they all sit and watch a video of themselves in which they appear underwater, thrashing in slow-motion while wearing sheets of boldly colored fabric. It’s pretty, but largely incoherent and self-indulgent.
Other parts of the program are even less impressive. Jim McGinn’s Float
has been performed in town before and is now still just as muddy. Other pieces (namely Erica
by Seattle’s Elia Mrak and Early
by Samuel Hobbs) are directionless and tiresome in their minimalist abstraction. You won’t like everything, but that's the chance you take with a varied show like this.
GO: Pacific Dance Makers
is at BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave. 7:30 pm Saturday, Jan. 11. $20. More information here