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Fall Arts Guide 2011: Bring On the Rain

Dayglo landscapes, feral children, killer choruses and more art to keep you sane this fall.

Give Up the Chunk

Chunky Move gets graceful.

When Gideon Obarzanek founded the Melbourne, Australia-based dance company Chunky Move in 1995, the name seemed fitting. “My movement, compared to other companies, seemed quite brutal,” he says. 

But the name tells only part of the story: Along with movement that he describes as “animalistic, extending the body into a creaturelike state,” Obarzanek makes dances with mechanical precision, steps that shift the body in unexpected ways and productions with characters, narrative and storytelling. Over time, he has become known for theatrical and visually striking multimedia work. We saw why when the company made its White Bird debut in 2004 with Tense Dave, which featured simultaneous narratives unspooling on a revolving set, and again in 2009, when the troupe returned with Two Faced Bastard, in which the dancers played rough with each other and the furniture. 

IMAGE: Bronwyn Kidd

 On its third Portland visit, as part of a White Bird series, Chunky Move will launch the North American premiere of Connected, wherein Obarzanek links these elements through a single set piece: an enormous undulating “wave” sculpture, created by Berkeley sculptor Reuben Margolin. It’s suspended over the stage by wires and looks like the controls of a giant, unmanned puppet. The five dancers in the piece become attached to it—literally—and as they move in and around the sculpture they form increasingly complex relationships with it and each other. 

Margolin, whose specialty is nature-inspired kinetic sculptures, had never worked with dancers before but was intrigued by the idea. “The human body is so dynamic and expressive, and thinking about how to work with this range of movement is what made this collaboration both exciting and challenging,” he says. “Gideon wanted to build the sculpture onstage, and so I designed magnetic joints, so that the dancers could snap the paper elements together as part of the performance.”

Despite the logistical challenges of bodies and wires and long-distance collaborating, Obarzanek calls the results “beautiful.” “Even though there’s a lot of mathematics, it’s a very human experience, a human work,” he says. “We’re really trying to show the relationship between moving bodies and kinetic sculpture and how one influences the other, and how we look at the human body through an inanimate object.” Production elements meet offstage as well: Connected’s sound (which includes recordings of gallery guards expressing their views on art) is linked to a lighting console through a computer, so, Obarzanek says, “Often, the music controls the lighting, so you get a sense of what the sound looks like.” Connected is a radical creation—nothing chunky about it. HEATHER WISNER. 

SEE IT: White Bird presents Chunky Move at Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave., 245-1600, whitebird.org. 8 pm Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 20-22. $20-$30.

More Dance

Fill Your Dance Card

Fall in Portland has always meant a performance crush, as local dance groups stage overlapping events. This year, some of these folks have smartly packaged their shows together as Fill Your Dance Card, a punch card, available in the lobbies of participating organizations, that earns prizes for each show you attend: See two shows by two organizations, get a $20 gift certificate for a local restaurant; see three shows, get another $20; see four or more and you’re entered to win dinner, a show and a hotel stay. 

It’s an appetizing offer—you’ve gotta eat, after all—in an already tasty dance season: BodyVox is up first, with Horizontal Leanings, a moving exploration of community and culture (Sept. 29-Oct. 15, bodyvox.com). White Bird follows with the shape-shifting, perennially popular Pilobolus (Oct. 5, whitebird.org), while Portland’s Polaris Dance Theatre stages iChange, a contemporary piece on interpersonal relationships (Oct. 5-7, polarisdance.org). And bobbevey offers the multimedia piece Palace of Crystal (Oct. 7-9 and 14-16, bobbevy.com). Oregon Ballet Theatre opens 2011-12 with visiting choreographer Nicolo Fonte’s vision of the Russian carnival ballet Petrouchka and OBT artistic director Christopher Stowell’s take on the story Carmen; OBT’s orchestra plays the Stravinsky and Bizet scores live (Oct. 8-15, obt.org). A few blocks away, White Bird welcomes the West Coast debut of Israel’s Vertigo Dance Company (Oct. 13-15, whitebird.org). That same weekend, the Northwest Dance Project offers its New Now Wow! program of contemporary-ballet world premieres (Oct. 14-15, nwdanceproject.org). Finally comes Australia’s Chunky Move (see above).

La Luna Nueva Festival

Miracle Theatre Group celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month in sabroso style: The Evolution of Latino Hip Hop from Latin Groove PDX Productions traces the history of the genre from African dance (7:30 and 9:30 pm Thursday, Sept. 29; $15-$17). Los Dedos Bailan, Las Cuerdas Cantan (“Fingers Dance, Strings Sing”) features dancer Laura Onizuka with Latin fusion musicians Toshi Onizuka, Al Martin and Catarina New (7:30 pm Friday, Sept. 30; $20-$23). At Fusion Flamenco: Travesuras (“Pranks”), flamenco dancers Antonio Arrebola and Jason Martínez are accompanied by guitarist Ricardo Diaz and singer José Cortes (7:30 and 9:30 pm Saturday, Oct. 1; $25-$28). El Centro Milagro, 525 SE Stark St., 236-7253, milagro.org. 

Imago Theatre, Zugzwang

What kind of information can you convey to modern audiences without words? Imago Theatre cofounder Jerry Mouawad created his Opera Beyond Words series to find out. These abstract performances tell stories through theater, dance and movement. Mouawad’s fifth production, Zugzwang, is about a man whose risky gamble in a poker game leads to an adventure with both his enemies and his entourage. Dancer-choreographer Gregg Bielemeier stars as the protagonist Rafifi; Imago cofounder Carol Triffle and dancer-choreographer Keyon Gaskin, among others, join in. Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th Ave., 231-9581, ticketswest.com. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, Sept. 29-Oct. 22. $10-$12. 

Bobbevy, Palace of Crystal

Wild visuals, theatrical costuming and bold dancing—you can expect all of these in a performance by bobbevy, the dance company formerly known as Hot Little Hands. Performed by skilled local movers Richard Decker, Jessica Hightower and Keely McIntyre, this new multimedia piece pits idealism and the desire for happiness against an uncaring reality. The physicality of Dernovsek’s choreography is set against an installation by Stein, video by artist John Bacone and original music by Ash Black Bufflo. The Mouth Studio, 810 SE Belmont St., 913-8959, bobbevy.com. 8 pm Fridays-Sundays, Oct. 7-16. $12-$15.

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