Say what you will about 11:Dance Co.'s new show—just don't call it cool.
"I'm so terrified that somebody's going to be like 'oh that was cool,'" says artistic director Bb DeLano of the newest show from one of Portland's most diverse dance groups. The pre-professional company's second-ever show debuts this week with choreography from big local names like Northwest Dance Project's Ching Ching Wong. "Sparking conversation—that's the goal," DeLano says.
Set in a post-apocalyptic library where each dance opens a different chapter of social commentary, the hourlong show of nine dances covers serious topics like the male gaze and privilege, says DeLano, who co-produced with local breaker Huy Pham. But there will be whimsical topics, too—like dinosaurs and burgers and fries.
11:Dance Co. is too young to have much of a reputation, but it's already promising to stir up Portland's dance scene.
The group's debut last winter was a show that DeLano described as an "emotional roller coaster." The interactive performance, originally planned as a one-off passion project, established 11:Dance Co.'s signature as a blend of styles—ballet, contemporary and krumping in one show. Over the past year, DeLano decided to grow 11:Dance Co. into a full-fledged company, from 11 to 23 dancers, all with different training and dance backgrounds.
"The group has the most incredible heart and spirit, but the stories get lost if the bodies are all over the place," DeLano says. "If you train the bodies to be blank pages, the choreographers can really dig into the story."
This time, the dancers trained five nights a week for six months, even practicing on a concrete floor for three weeks while their new East Burnside studio was refurbished. The resulting works cover everything from parenting struggles, as told by local hip-hop dancer Isiah Munoz, to contemporary choreographer Toogie Barcelo's reinterpretation of dinosaur extinction.
"Super dance" is what DeLano jokingly named to 11:Dance Co.'s style, a fusion of different influences that nods to contemporary, hip-hop, jazz and breaking.
"If a story we are telling is more relatable with waacking movement, we want our dancers to be able to convey that," DeLano says. "If a story can be told better with hip-hop, we want to be able to do that." She says it's a way to break down boundaries in the dance world, where you typically only see styles like vogue in a ballroom or the disco-inspired street style of waacking in a club. "We don't want to limit ourselves," she says.
The audience shouldn't hold back either, says DeLano. "I hope people are going to go home and be like, 'Ugh! What was that? I can't believe they did that!'" she says about the controversial topics in the show. "They're going to talk about it and be mad about it, and it's going to be awesome."
see it: Library at the End of the World is at CoHo Theater, 2257 NW Raleigh St., 220-2646. 7 pm Thursday and Saturday and 1 pm Sunday, Dec. 5-20. Extended director's cut on Sundays. $25-$55.