The Five Best Dance Productions to See in Portland This Spring

One of the pieces attempts to challenge the placid femininity white dresses can represent, while another addresses materialism.

Ordinary Devotions
Portland is lucky to have Linda Austin. The veteran dancer and choreographer makes no distinction between uncomfortable and hilarious or banal and profound. Austin's new work, Ordinary Devotions, will deal with everyday beauty and aging, a topic rarely addressed in an industry that retires dancers before they turn 30. In a small theater with limited seating, Austin will perform meditative, choreographed interactions with objects from tarps to cassette tapes. It's likely to be uncomfortably intimate at times, and there will be moments when you're not sure whether you should laugh at or ponder what's happening on stage. But as long as you're moved, you're probably having the intended reaction. Performance Works NW, 4625 SE 67th Ave.,, 8 pm Wednesday-Saturday, 5 pm Sunday, March 14-23, $12-$16

A Little Less Human: A Ghost Story
Few Portland dance companies are as thoroughly campy and utterly sincere as Trip the Dark. In fact, there are probably few companies anywhere like Trip the Dark—the dance troupe creates heartfelt, slapstick interpretations of cult classics like Twin Peaks and Labyrinth. This time, it pays tribute to the 2017 existential drama A Ghost Story. The show deals with themes of grief and isolation, but it's likely Trip the Dark's sense of whimsy and optimism will shine through the heavy subject matter. You can usually count on Trip the Dark shows to include some tap dancing and unexpected props—the Labyrinth show featured a couple of whoopie cushions. Chapel Theatre, 4107 SE Harrison St.,, 7:30 pm Friday-Saturday, April 12-27, $15

In its 49 years of existence, Philadanco has built an international reputation for its graceful and frenetic modern dance and started the International Association of Blacks in Dance. In 2012, the company's founder, Joan Myers Brown, was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Barack Obama. Philadanco has never, however, performed in Portland. Thankfully, that will change in April, when the Philadelphia company performs one night only as part of White Bird's current season. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway,, 7:30 pm Wednesday, April 24, $30-$74

The Americans
Long before Kevin Irving became Oregon Ballet Theatre's artistic director, he was a student in the training ensemble of Alvin Ailey, who revolutionized modern dance with his eclectic choreography that often addressed race and sexuality. So it's somewhat surprising that OBT is only now adding one of Ailey's works to its repertoire—Night Creature, a playful, vibrant piece set to a swinging Duke Ellington score. The company will perform the work in its final showcase of the season, which functions as a tribute to American choreographers. The bill also includes Trey McIntyre's Robust American Love, a piece set to a Fleet Foxes song that OBT premiered in 2014, and a new work by local choreographers and BodyVox founders Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland. Hampton and Roland are keeping details about their new work close to the chest, but BodyVox is nothing if not surprising, so even if details were available, the final product would still be unexpected. Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway,, 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday, 2 pm Sunday, June 7-15, $46-$103

PDX Contemporary Ballet was founded by dancer Briley Neugebauer in the wake of Moxie, her former company. For the most part, PDX Contemporary has been a vessel for Neugebauer's subtle, emotive choreography, which is enough to make its shows worthwhile. But the company has expanded its creative footprint—its next show features four new works by four of its dancers. The works in the showcase were all inspired by the central imagery of PDX Contemporary's fourth season: a white dress, which functions as a symbol for conformity and rote societal roles. Each choreographer interpreted the loose, abstract theme in her own way. One of the pieces attempts to challenge the placid femininity white dresses can represent, while another addresses materialism. New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St.,, 7:30 pm Friday-Saturday, 2 pm Sunday, March 1-3, $15-$30

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