What Portland has now—and what it could lose
—became painfully clear last Friday night at the Keller during Oregon Ballet Theatre's Rush + Robbins program.
OBT is in serious enough financial straits that it has called in the cavalry for next Friday's Dance United benefit,
an all-star show in which local contemporary dancers and members of some of the country's most prestigious ballet companies will dance to raise cash for their colleagues. This as OBT is showing real growth and versatility, proving its facility for major new choreographers as well as the old masters. The company adeptly handled the quick tempos and cascading movement of Christopher Wheeldon's Rush
, and Alison Roper (partnered by Artur Sultanov) infused the central pas de deux
with fluidity and breath.
Brian Simcoe stepped into the leading role for Robbins' languid Afternoon of a Faun
dancing opposite Gavin Larsen, who radiated such youthful freshness you could practically smell the shampoo as she brushed her hair from her face. Though the she-insects who kill and devour their mates in The Cage
might look dated, maybe even a little campy these days, OBT danced the work with verve and Anne Mueller was wonderfully twitchy as the Novice (and while audiences have changed over time, the solidity of the choreography has not). Finally came the antics of The Concert
, where OBT proved it can do funny, too.
Meanwhile, over at the Newmark, former OBT dancer Alexandrous Ballard showcased his Bouand Dance Company,
which danced Deanna Carter's lyrical ballet Within
; Erica Trivett's contemporary duet Echo
(see photo, above) and Davy Brun's ensemble piece Curse
. The evening concluded with SideShow
, another group work, accompanied live by 3 Leg Torso and filmed for an upcoming segment on OPB. It would not be fair to compare Bouand with OBT, a bigger company with greater resources, the current situation notwithstanding. But seeing the two programs back to back does remind one of the challenges—time and money among them—inherent in developing an artistic voice. Bouand has potential—dancers Edgar Badua and Tracy Carboneau in particular distinguished themselves with their energy and focus—but too often the movement had no discernible relationship to the music, and the dancers frequently hesitated before steps, weighing down the momentum. SideShow
, with its colorful circus set, suggested a narrative but did not deliver one; the characters were not clearly delineated, which made their occasionally emotive interaction sort of bewildering. Bouand has some growing to do; the current economic climate does not bode well for any dance right now, but I hope the company will have an opportunity nonetheless.
Images courtesy of Bouand Dance Company and Oregon Ballet Theatre.