Moxie Contemporary Ballet blazed into Portland's neighborly dance community last June, touting owner Gina Candland's evangelical message of body acceptance and specialized ballet training for real women.
By July, Candland fled to California to escape charges from unpaid dancers, instructors and angry parents who said they showed up to the Bridgeport Village studio that Moxie built to host classes, found the doors locked and were denied refunds for over $2,000 in tuition.
Moxie essentially went dark overnight, and no one would talk about it—either for fear of litigation, or simply because no one really knew what happened.
Moxie pinned the fallout on its former Director of Development, Corinne Patel, setting up an auto-reply to her e-mail address that said: "Ms. Patel€'s breach of contract, and actions, have caused, and continue to cause, unrepairable damage not only to MCB, but has directly impacted students, parents, staff, faculty, and supporters." Patel said she planned on suing the company, but couldn't say more thanks to a non-disclosure contact with Moxie.
An anonymous tipper wrote to WW but refused to speak openly: "None of the professionals around town are surprised that Moxie imploded. The real mystery was where all that initial money came from for shows, for that new facility, for the contracted dancers who are suddenly contract-less. And try Googling Gina Candland's 'Baryshnikov Award.' (Hint: It doesn't exist)"
Former Moxie dancers showed up on other stages—like at November's RAW artists showcase at Holocene—but they stayed tight-lipped.
Turns out, they were busy making their own company.
Briley Neugebauer and eight other former Moxie dancers banded together to create PDX Contemporary Ballet immediately after the company's implosion. Just two months post-Moxie, Neugebauer licensed PDX Contemporary as an Oregon non-profit and it's operated on an all-volunteer basis since then. The Alberta Abbey agreed to host the group as its resident dance company, completely rent-free. Technically, the dancers are trading talent for space—they're working with the Abbey to start up dance classes in the summer that will likely cost much less than $2,000.
"We loved what we were doing with Moxie, so when that ended, we just wanted to keep dancing," Neugebauer said.
The company's first show will run February 5-7, with dancers performing works by four local choreographers who donated their talents.
Unsure whether this free-love model for a ballet will fly, Neugebauer says she's hopefuly. But given the company's background, they're not committing to a full season yet.
"We're very tentative about promising too much," Neugebauer said.