Five dancers, ribcages printed on their black tank tops, swing outstretched arms and jolt to a stop. The sound of mechanical clanking and whirring propels them backward, each reaching one leg behind as they hop on one foot. Then they fall and crawl away, panicked.
The piece, Post-Op by company dancer Kiera Brinkley, is one of seven dances in Polaris Dance Theatre's Homegrown show, playing its second round this weekend at the company's studio. The show is a showcase of choreography by the company members, as well as work by artistic director Robert Guitron and guest choreographer Anne Mueller.
Each choreographer introduces his or her piece in a short video. Brinkley, a quadruple amputee, explains her piece is about recovering from surgery—she's undergone many.
"It's never the same," she says. "You have good and bad days, up-and-down behavior and mood swings. So that's why a lot of the time the dancers are getting on and off the floor just to symbolize how your mood and pain level differs during the recovery time."
Mueller's piece Hello, Hello, Hello is an often symmetrical duet between Kateryna Mindova and Blake Seidel. The two touch elbow to elbow, wrist to wrist and then knuckles to knuckles. They skip lyrically, holding hands, and perform quick footwork set to folksy guitar. The music in the show is another focal point—it's all from Portland composers. Mueller says she chose a song from composer Lee Howard, a friend of hers, because of its "slightly rough vulnerability."
Another standout is dancer Briley Neugebauer's One of Everything, set to poetry written and narrated by Claire Willett. It's about growing up as one of four siblings—an experience Neugebauer and Willet share—and the bonds between those family members. The oldest is "the one all the rules are tested on." The youngest "grew up with Oreos in the house." As a group, the four dancers interpret this narrative—swinging their arms and legs, rolling onto each other in a heap—to a playful, sometimes callow effect; when the recording of Willet mentions broccoli, the four turn to the audience and shout, "No!"
The dancing could be tighter at times, with lags in timing and synchronization, but the show has more variation in style than other local dance performances, a mix of silky contemporary and grounded narrative that's typical of Polaris. The videos about the pieces' creations are another plus, connecting with the audience just as intended. Finally, the show is hot—literally. At the June 7 performance, the temperature in the studio was pretty uncomfortable until someone opened a roll-up door before the second act. It's a good metaphor for new work: a breath of fresh air.
GO: Polaris Dance Theatre is at Polaris Contemporary Dance Center, 1501 SW Taylor St., 380-5472. 7:30 pm Friday-Saturday, and 2 pm Sunday, June 13-15. $17.50-$25. Tickets here.