Although she couldn’t resist the allure of decorative punctuation and lower-case letters, the title for Lindsey Matheis’ show (a)merging
is actually pretty clever. It’s succinct and whimsical, but also descriptive: “A merging of emerging artists” is a fairly accurate tagline for the compilation show produced by the Northwest Dance Project member.
Arguably, not all of these dancers who performed Friday night are “emerging.” Some of them have been dancing in Portland for several years, but a handful of faces are new, or at least rarely seen. Matheis curated these from a stack of submissions and let the artists create their own content, resulting in a sampler platter of Portland dance. This weekend’s program, the first of two, is an interesting combination—some good, some meh—of experimental movement, romance and LED rave rings.
The first piece, Dark/Light by Sara Parker, is surprisingly likable. Parker, a current graduate student at the University of Utah, has shown work in Portland through her modern dance company Torsades dePointes Dance. Her movement in this piece, though challengingly abstract, has subtle intrigue. She builds into multiple quick sequences of repetitive movement: whipping her torso toward her knee and back up again, like a robot with a glitch, or walking increasingly faster in a circle, evoking a video that’s been sped up.
Kara Girod Shuster in Briley Neugebauer's Choice
Kara Girod Shuster and Blake Seidel perform a romantic duet, Choice, choreographed by Briley Neugebauer. Set to oldies like Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” and Etta James’ “At Last,” the piece is rather obvious but still touching. In it, Seidel tries his best to woo Shuster, who for some reason is convulsing behind a wooden TV tray. Shuster comes around only after Seidel has been scorned, and then, despite her best efforts, stumbling gracefully like a fawn finding its legs, he keeps his nose planted in a corner. It sounds trite, but they play it well—I felt a little tinge of sadness for them at the end.
The rest of the show errs more experimental, which is often calamitous, but Megan McCarthy’s and Patrick Kilbane’s piece, May as well leave it on, does it with fun. Both wear vibrant blue and dance with saucy attitude. Sometimes they gyrate with disco-ready groove, and other times they turn, legs extended, showing classical form. McCarthy, who is at least two inches taller than Kilbane, at one point lifts her bent leg, places her foot on his head and pushes him to the ground.
Patrick Kilbane and Megan McCarthy in May as well leave it on
More challenging for the audience is Kate Rafter’s Black & Blue, sort of an interpretive schoolyard fight between her and Dustin Orway. Rafter dresses just like Orway in a beige sleeveless top and unflattering charcoal shorts, giving her an androgynous look as she battles him, grabbing his forearm, shoving him and so on. The piece ends with Rafter apparently winning, as she’s cradling Orway in her arms. At moments, the movement is a tad sloppy and repetitive. But at the end, the tenderness between the two of them, as Rafter presses her lips to Orway’s defeated face, is touchingly sweet. Rafter is premiering another piece, featuring 26 glowing balls, for Fertile Ground’s Groovin’ Greenhouse showcase, which I look forward to seeing.
Kate Rafter and Dustin Ordway in Black & Blue
Samuel Hobbs showed his piece Early
at Éowyn Emerald’s Pacific Dance Makers
last weekend, and I might have been too dismissive of it then. There, it was overshadowed by a showy piece that came before, but here, among quieter abstract pieces, it breathes better. The emotion is easier to appreciate, like when dancer Jess Evans longingly slides her chin down the length of Hobbs’ outstretched arm. So is the physicality, as when Hobbs flips Evans over his back and then rolls over hers. Still, though, the piece seems to want to go somewhere, but it never resolves.
The other two pieces, from SubRosa Dance Collective and new choreographer Sara Himmelman, are a bit gimmicky. In the latter, Himmelman and two other dancers wear flashing LED rings, the kind you’d sport at a rave. If it weren’t for these—and occasionally exclaiming “ooh!” like an Old Hollywood starlet feigning indignation—they wouldn’t have much else. SubRosa dancers showed a piece from Heirloom, which they’ll perform for Fertile Ground. That show is about the dancers’ ancestries and includes a backdrop of vintage home movies and video of frying eggs. The dancers’ movement in front of it is fluid but melodramatic—at one point, a dancer kneels on the floor and cries.
This program continues through this weekend, but next weekend’s show will be more palatable for conventional audiences, Matheis says. It has a new lineup of dancers that will use more classical technique. It’s the “mac 'n' cheese vs. the duck pate that is this weekend’s show,” she says.
is at Northwest Dance Project Studio & Performance Center, 833 N Shaver St. 7:30 pm Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 18-19 and Friday-Sunday, Jan. 24-26. $15-$20. For tickets and next weekend's lineup, visit amerging2014.com