Fickle weather notwithstanding, Portland is pretty good about offering summer movie and concert series in parks all over the city. Outdoor dance series? Not so much, with the exception of Oregon Ballet Theatre’s OBT Exposed, a week of free classes and performances that happened last month in Director Park.
That’s where Polaris Dance Company founder Robert Guitron has planted the first Galaxy Dance Festival, a two-day affair spanning the spectrum of local dance, with free classes and performances. Contemporary companies A-WOL Dance and the Agnieszka Laska Dancers will perform, as will Pendulum Aerial Arts and Circus Project; you’ll also find ballroom and Latin dance from Edge DanceSport, classical dance from Portland Festival Ballet and flamenco by Laura Onizuka.
The festival, at least two years in the making, secured seed money from Boeing and is taking its artistic cues from winter’s Fertile Ground Festival, where Polaris played host to participating dance companies. “It’s amazing how much is going on in a town this size,” says Guitron. “Portland is becoming this little arts nugget. In discussions I’ve had with people like [Mayor] Sam Adams, we’ve talked about, ‘How do we keep artists here? How do we keep this sustainable?’ We need to make the community aware by showcasing the arts.”
Performances are only half the equation: Classes will be taught by homegrown talent, including Olivia Ancona (Jefferson Dancers, Polaris, Northwest Dance Project), who now dances with Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company and fellow Jefferson alum Steve Gonzales. DJ Prashant Kakad will lead a Bollywood class, which should prepare you nicely for Jai Ho!, the monthly Bollywood dance night at Lola’s Room. Teacher William McClellan, of Ohio’s Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, represents the out-of-town contingent. First-time dancers, take note: Lululemon Athletica’s yoga ambassadors will lead morning warm-ups.
Guitron and company hope to make the festival a weeklong annual event that incorporates national and international dance companies even as it shows off what Portland has to offer.
“This is not an event to promote Polaris,” says Guitron. “It will be a playground where everyone can come and play.”