Guest Blogger: Beth Thompson

From the dancing brain blog by Beth Thompson:


Beth in Orlando at Profile Theater (photo by David Kinder)

Beth in Orlando at Profile Theater (photo by David Kinder)

RISK/REWARD:

A wonderland of sun and clouds intermittently warmed my face on the way to the theatre today. A fresh breeze to compliment the click of my boots – a literal breath of fresh air – and with the freedom of the breeze I became aware that I was free from any expectations as to what I would see at the opening night of Risk/Reward 2016. I had no expectations of the subject matter or mediums I would see. And, I had no expectation that I needed to like what I saw. I was free of any need to ‘get’ something out of these creations.

From my humble perspective, the work created by this year’s Risk/Reward artists is intelligently structured, clearly delivered, and rooted in an appreciation for that special gift of live performance; the simple fact that 100+ human beings are in a room together, each having an individual experience of a shared moment in close quarters surrounded by strangers. Ahhh, the audience, my favorite thing about live performance, and it’s delightful to watch several very different styles of performance rooted in that interest.
Milton Lim’s work okay.odd., demands the most from this special relationship. His work opens with a quietly intimate and professional ritual acknowledging his ancestors and ours. He exits and a video/sound installation guides the audience into a meditative awareness of their breath. From this intimate place of meditative awareness, Lim throws us into a visual onslaught of seemingly random words which command the entire space while the beat drives and shakes the theatre. Observing my breath through the brutality of light and language, I could feel the subtle tightening of my shoulders and ass. I was present with the tension that sneaks it’s way into the never-ending stream of stimulus that greets me daily. At the end of this exhausting immersion (Lim’s description notes that we are experiencing a short length session), Lim comes back on stage to connect and invite the audience to end the experience by sharing a ‘tender touch’ with the artist. The work is passionately ritualistic. Lim believes he can truly connect with his audience and isn’t afraid of pissing them off with a form that is, frankly, uncomfortable. After Lim’s piece I realized my heart was racing and I was out of breath, his strobe affect had sent me into a kind of adrenaline state. Lim’s relationship to the audience is certainly the most demanding on the audience, though other works acknowledge this special gift of audience in their own ways.
Anthony Hudson (Carla Rossi) is using some of theatre oldest forms remade through his dance-drag-song-comedy-multimedia extravaganza. He speaks directly with the audience, sharing and responding.  He reveals himself to us as he strips away his wig and white face, he leaves his ‘mask’ behind and his identity becomes more complex. Revelation, comedy and culture are his tools. As he makes us laugh, we want him to be our friend so he can call us out in the midst of this mess of a racist culture we were both raised in.
Comparatively to Hudson’s ease of style, Vanessa Goodman’s solo dance work is marked by a trapped and tortured movement quality, the few moments of release are flung out through barrels of explosion. At the top of the piece her gaze is fixed and searching towards the sky. It is only as she slowly (oh, so slowly) becomes willing and able to hide her torture under a mask of socially appropriate gesture, that her gaze lowers towards the audience. She smiles. She is more accessible to the world and yet further from her self. This simple, slow change in her gaze took my attention away from my empathy for this character putting on socially acceptable mask and toward the question, “Am I complicit in the self-injuring performances given by others around me simply by agreeing to be their audience?”
Aside from my own fascination with how different artists are driven to engage with their audience, it was also simply wonderful to see five deeply disparate forms on the same stage. Goodman’s dance and Hudson’s drag narrative are followed by Lim’s violent ritual of meditation and connection. And, after a brief respite, we sink into Portland’s SNKR and their visual sonic landscape. I was immersed in the color, rhythm and vibrancy of their video creation and struck by the artistry of how they were able to co-mingle the architecture they created on stage with the architecture of the video media. I had no sense of “This piece is about…” and I didn’t need it. I was simply drenched in the moment at hand. Their work gave me new hope for how video and live performance can work together. Finally, Ilvs Strauss’ Doin’ It Right dived into my home vocabulary. Weaving subtle gesture, dance and relationship through a score of music and pre-recorded text, Strauss narrative simply and honestly invites the audience to peer into her personal exploration of that never simple question, “Is there such a thing as right and wrong?”
Thematically, this year’s Risk/Reward line up is all wound up in the experience of where we come from, how we’re negotiating that history, and the immediacy of sharing these questions with the people in the room today.
I walked into the theatre calm, free of expectation. I walked out riled up. Riled up with questions about and appreciation for these artists, the structures and media they created to share with this unsuspecting audience. An audience who didn’t know what they came for. Who didn’t have to enjoy every moment of it. An audience just has to show up and be willing to offer their presence as generously as the performers do each night.

Artist Profile: ilvs strauss

ilvs strauss (Seattle, WA): Doin it Right
Dance/Theater/Performance Art

Photo by Tim Summers.

Photo by Tim Summers.

ilvs strauss brings her critically-acclaimed theatrical wit and imagination to a work investigating text based movement (Dance Narrative) in depth. Playing with layers of TEXT/SUBTEXT/ SUPERTEXT, she explores forgiveness, loss, and the sometimes complex meaning of the said vs unsaid with help from four dancers and Daft Punk’s Doin it Right.

BIO

ilvs strauss is an analytical chemist turned multi-disciplinary performance artist and theater tech living and making work in Seattle. Her art ranges from Dance Narrative performance to anamorphic outdoor sculptures, illustrated storytelling (aka Slide Shows) to haiku poetry. As Technical Director / Lighting Designer she has worked for Pat Graney, KT Neihoff, Salt Horse, and Cherdonna, and is currently the TD at Velocity Dance Center. She also teaches workshops on writing, movement and performance. Her solo piece, Manifesto (last seen at Risk/Reward Festival 2014), now an evening length show), was listed in Dance Magazine’s BEST of 2014 list.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Five dancers (ilvs included) are in matching pedestrian outfits: grey shirts, black pants, sneakers. A Voice Over narration (ilvs’s voice) plays throughout the piece – this is the TEXT. The dynamics of the performers onstage dance-interacting with each other and with the VO serve as the SUBTEXT – highly scored, improv-based movement. The movement is derived and inspired by words, with partiality paid to subtlety, facial expressions, and repetition. The final layer, the SUPERTEXT, is set unison choreography to Daft Punk’s Doin it Right that plays repeatedly and intermittently throughout the piece. In addition to Daft Punk, there is an instrumental sound scape of looped clips from songs off of PJ Harvey’s album Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. As it stands, the story is about loss, sunshine, and saying goodbye.

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Artist Profile: SNKR

SNKR (Portland, OR)
Sound/Video/Movement/Performance Art

 

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Against a backdrop of architectural video and location sound, Rauer moves, taps and interacts with microphones and found objects. Sitting onstage, Nehil treats the live sound and triggers samples of scratchy LPs. Actions are mirrored between past and present, sounding in remote sites and the space of the snkr_still1stage.

BIO

Seth Nehil is a composer, video artist and performance-maker. His distinctive sound pieces feature manipulated acoustic recordings, voice and granular synthesis in unlikely combinations. He has created original scores and sound designs for dance and theater productions, has directed large-scale performance pieces and has released over 15 albums of experimental music on international labels. Seth currently teaches sound and video at the Pacific NW College of Art, among other schools.

Kelly Rauer merges video and movement studies to form large-scale, multi-channel video installations where the body serves as the main subject, object and device. Intimacy and proximity are guiding principles that shape the way she approaches, frames, deconstructs and reconstructs an experience of the body. These video installations are highly planned and choreographed experiences, typically designed to immerse the viewer in uncommon perspectives of the body and its movement not possible in a live performance context or in our day-to-day social interactions.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

SNKR is the duo of sound/video artist Seth Nehil with video/movement artist Kelly Rauer. In performance, they bring together video, sound and movement; Dance is a form of sound-making, and making sound is a way of interacting with places. We sent impulses into schoolyards and rail yards, we created feedback inside Portland’s oldest building, and we explored angles inside a semi-abandoned Soviet-era grain mill in Southern Estonia. In performance, we layer action on action and sound on sound. Kelly is swinging and coiling microphone cables, dragging and rubbing the mics, exploring the simple sounds of paper, wood and metal. She reflects and contrasts with her former self, which is multiplied on the large screen at the back of the stage. A raking light focuses her concentrated body-listening in front of the projected image. Seth is watching, changing and adding in the moment, twisting knobs and triggering digital sounds. SNKR finds an intersection of movement as sound-making and sound-making as movement.

VIEW A VIDEO SAMPLE OF SNKR’S PREVIOUS WORK

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Artist Profile: Hong Kong Exile

Milton Lim/Hong Kong Exile (Vancouver, BC): okay.odd.
Multimedia/Theater

okay.odd. logo

okay.odd. is a multimedia meditation session centered around facilitating a stream of consciousness encounter through use of associative language and image. Based on the tenets of concentration, mindfulness, contemplation, and visualization, okay.odd. exists between thought and perception; knowing and unknowing; real and imagined. Breathe. Don’t think.

BIO

Hong Kong Exile is a Vancouver-based interdisciplinary arts company comprising of three artists: director/performer, Milton Lim; choreographer/dancer, Natalie Tin Yin Gan; and composer/media artist, Remy Siu. HKX strives to push the boundaries of interdisciplinary process and creation. As members of the Chinese diaspora, they investigate cultural politics in an era of globalization, and have created thirteen original works since 2011. Company highlights include an inaugural five-month residency at New Westminster’s River Market, Hive: NEW BEES 3, CanAsian Kickstart Festival in Toronto, CanAsian International Dance Festival, Seattle International Dance Festival, Dancing on the Edge Festival, and Gateway Pacific Theatre Festival.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Part spiritual retreat and part commentary on our image-inundated affect-obsessed society, okay.odd. is an invitation to encounter the version of you that you feel, but do not know. okay.odd. engages with the topic of curiosity by loosely borrowing the form of a meditation session using recorded text, eventually spring-boarding into stream-of-consciousness word association via projection and persistent rhythmic sound. Outwardly, the use of projected text in the piece is an exercise in duration, attempting to track and presume a certain train of thought that audience members may be having as they move from word to word. However, the secondary and more significant goal is to inundate observers with associative weight, leaving them with an overwhelming awareness of their subconscious thought and beliefs about how they situate themselves in local/global contexts, and why. This allows the piece to bring up socio-political perceptions around race, ethnicity, privilege, gender, sexual orientation, representation, history, and general otherness, without distilling the whole piece to any singular discussion point. The project was born out of a desire to experiment with delivery of content that would normally illicit association and tangential thought, but at a frequency that is implicitly felt, rather than cognitively activated.

VIEW VIDEO SAMPLES OF HKX’S UPCOMING WORK

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Artist Profile: Vanessa Goodman

Vanessa Goodman/Action at a Distance (Vancouver, BC): Container
Dance

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Photo by David Cooper.

Leonard Cohen wrote that “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” When everything else has been taken from a person, is that light that keeps us human something as simple as a memory of our past?

BIO

Vanessa Goodman is a Vancouver-based dance artist who is Artistic Director of Action at a Distance Dance Society, is Co-Artistic Director of The Contingency Plan dance collective and is an artistic associate with Small Stage. She received her early training in Toronto from Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, PBJ Dance Projects and Etobicoke School for the Arts. Vanessa holds a BFA from Simon Fraser University and continues her training locally and abroad, including intensives with the Batsheva Dance Company in Israel and the Hofesh Schechter Company in England. Vanessa was the recipient of the 2013 Iris Garland Emerging Choreographer Award from the Scotiabank Dance Centre.

Photo by Ben Didier.

Photo by Ben Didier.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

In a broad sense the title of this solo is a reference to the body as the container of identity and the cultural past it inherits. Most cultures throughout history have experienced life on either side of oppression at some point, and that collective history informs a muddy fabric of guilt and victimhood that exists as part of the human condition. Beyond this, there is also a more literal meaning which can be clearly discerned through the movement where the container represents an actual lack of freedom. How the mind and body copes with incarceration, especially in unjust cases, is fascinating to examine. What parts of ones self can be retained under these circumstances?

VIEW THE TRAILER FOR CONTAINER

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Artist Profile: Anthony Hudson / Carla Rossi

Anthony Hudson / Carla Rossi (Portland, OR): Looking for Tiger Lily
Theatre/Drag/Music/Multimedia

Portland's premier drag clown Carla Rossi hosts a semi-one-woman cabaret telling the story of two star-crossed lovers: Weimar Germany and contemporary America. "Carla Rossi Sings the End of the World" compares the whirling, progressive creativity and freedom of 1920s Berlin with America today via a piano-accompanied songbook of Berlin theatre standards (with pianist Maria Choban), and dance support from cabaret girls The Dolly Pops (led and choreographed by Tiffany Slottke). The always-sincerely insincere Carla guides the audience through this doomed romance with a winking eye and trademark banter, provoking us to acknowledge what became of Weimar Berlin and asking the question - could that happen to us? This event was presented with ASL interpretation. 'Carla Rossi Sings the End of the World' is funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Photo by Gia Goodrich

Photo by Gia Goodrich

LOOKING FOR TIGER LILY utilizes song, drag, and video to put a queer spin on ancestral, traditional storytelling; what it means for a mixed-race person to grow up seeing their heritage filtered through white normative media.

BIO

ANTHONY HUDSON is a multidisciplinary artist, performer, and filmmaker. He lives in Portland, OR among lush greenery, sprawling gentrification, and a not-mutually-exclusive fear of bridges and earthquakes. Anthony is perhaps best known as Portland’s premier drag clown CARLA ROSSI, an immortal trickster whose attempts at realness almost always result in fantastic failure. Career highlights include Pepper Pepper’s Critical Mascara for TBA (PICA), the Cascade AIDS Project Art Auction, Seattle PrideFest, and Conduit Dance’s DANCE+ Festival, and hosting alongside Coco Peru, Peaches Christ, Jinkx Monsoon, Bianca Del Rio, and more. Anthony & Carla host and program their LGBTQ film series QUEER HORROR bimonthly at the historic Hollywood Theatre, and they recently received their second RACC Artist Focus project grant for the full-length version of LOOKING FOR TIGER LILY, premiering in Fall 2016.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Carla Rossi, Portland’s premier drag clown and (in her words) “ghost of white privilege,” confronts white supremacy and the confusion of “mixed” identities – of living in-between, particularly sexually and racially. LOOKING FOR TIGER LILY forces Carla (but also Anthony) to trace personal and ancestral lines to work through and recreate childhood memories, namely watching Tiger Lily’s “Ugg-A-Wugg” song from Mary Martin’s Peter Pan. While this is technically a “one-woman-ish” show, a large element of the show – the storytelling – comes through with the use of video and slides, inspired by the Power Points Anthony’s father used to give as a Grand Ronde Tribal social worker. His father’s workshops for State social workers taught the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act and the lived realities of assimilation and intergenerational trauma, and included typical “dad jokes,” pictures of the Chemawa Indian School where he grew up, and his family history within the Tribe.

VIEW A VIDEO OF THE GENESIS FOR THIS PIECE

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Artist Profile: Tim Smith-Stewart

Tim Smith-Stewart (Seattle, WA) – Awaiting Oblivion or How to be ok when everything is not ok—Temporary Solutions for navigating the dystopian future we find ourselves within at present.

WEEKEND 2: An anonymous street artist, AO, has contacted Tim Smith-Stewart and tasked him with creating a performance as a way to share their “Temporary Solutions.” Tim and a team of artists carry out assigned performance scores, read letters, and project live feed video of relics, documentations, and messages sent by AO.

BIO

Tim Smith-Stewart is a Seattle based interdisciplinary artist. He utilizes text as his primary medium for creating performances and installations. This past summer Tim created BIG TREES STIR MEMORIES LIVE WATER HEALS THEM, an audio and visual installation at the LoFi Arts Festival at Smoke Farm. In February 2014, Tim showcased THE MAILROOM, an installation created in collaboration with Charlie Spitzack at the Art Shanty Project in St. Paul, Minnesota (2014). His work has also been seen at The Seattle Center Next50, On the Boards NorthWest New Works Festival, LoFi Arts Festival at Smoke Farm, Velocity Dance Center Big Bang, and Seattle Fringe Festival.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Anonymous AO uses street art, secret messages and performance scores as a radical means for survival as they combat disaffection with oppressive systems, suicidal ideation, and on overall hopelessness. AO’s secret identity is a means to protect the magical world of momentary poetic ruptures that they have constructed. Tim becomes a conduit to share that expression while maintaining AO’s anonymity. Awaiting Oblivion is a continued collaboration between Tim Smith-Stewart and Jeffrey Azevedo, occupying a thinly veiled line between “real time” and “fictional time.” While AO is constructing street art anonymously across the city, Tim presents a fiction in the theatrical space based on AO’s temporary solutions and correspondence.

VIEW VIDEO SAMPLES OF TIM’S PREVIOUS WORK

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Artist Profile: Katie Piatt

Katie Piatt (Portland, OR) – Springfield Today (LIVE)

Katie Piatt photo2 - by Jason Piatt

WEEKEND 2: Get ready to don a wig and/or costume, and be interviewed as the audience becomes the interviewees in recent PNCA grad Katie Piatt’s exploration of her hometown in Springfield Today. 

BIO

Katie Piatt is an artist living, playing dress-up, and telling jokes in Portland, Oregon. She explores the ideas of gender, body, sizeism, and identity with her extensive background in soft sculpture and sewing, as well as in her newer participatory performance and storytelling practice. Through the art of spoken word, improvisation, body language and costume, she collects the stories of participants while challenging the effects of growing up a fat girl in the conservative Ozark hills of Missouri. She received a BFA in Painting from Missouri State University in 2012, and an MFA in Visual Studies from the Pacific Northwest College of Art in 2015. Her recent mischief includes crashing last year’s Whitney Biennial as an aged characterization of Little Orphan Annie and doing stand-up in Canada dressed as an old woman named Martha. http://katiepiatt.com/

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

All the stories created in Springfield Today are based on true local color, traditions, and memories from Katie’s hometown in Missouri. The group fiction that occurs is a magical, one-time-only part of the show. Even the theme-song is created from an interview! Everything you see happening will not happen again. This show will make you laugh if you’re from the Midwest, have ever traveled through there, or know any of the major stereotypes about Midwesterners.

VIEW A TRAILER FOR SPRINGFIELD TODAY

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Artist Profile: Dani Tirrell

Dani Tirrell (Seattle, WA) – The Beautiful

WEEKEND 2: This dance/theatre work, created and choreographed by Seattle dance artist Dani Tirrell, is centered on Dani’s relationship with America/Seattle and his identity as a gay black man. He summarizes it as: semi-patriotic, gender non-conforming Butch Queen, some heels, some Drag, and a little bit of Thug Realness.

BIO

Detroit native Dani Tirrell is a dancer, performer, choreographer and dance educator. Most recently Dani’s work has been seen at the Seattle International Festival of Dance (Seattle), Black Choreographers Festival (San Francisco), Poetry + Motion (Seattle), On the Boards: 12 Minutes Max (Seattle), Global Dance Party (Seattle), Gay City Arts: Up Close Personal and Young Tanz Sommer (Austria).

In 2012 he was awarded a grant through The Central District Forum of Arts and Ideas creation Project. Dani is currently on staff and Northwest Tap Connection and The Beacon. He has choreographed for Broadway Bound Children’s Theater (Seattle), Brown Box Theater (Seattle) and Repertory Theatre of Hope (Detroit). Dani is the founder and Artistic Director of Dani Tirrell Dance Theater/Color Lines Dance Ensemble. He currently teaches Modern, House and Vogue throughout the Seattle area.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

The Beautiful will examine the question: “What is freedom if you are gay, black, living in America and raised in the Detroit area?” Using Vogue and House dance as a base, along with contemporary modern movement, the concepts of sexuality and the human condition are explored against a backdrop of Detroit and the automotive industry. The sound score will consist of reworking American patriotic songs interwoven with House music. In this work, Dani finds himself asking:
Who were these songs were created for?
Does these songs mean the same today as when they were first written?

CLICK HERE TO SEE A PREVIEW OF DANI’S WORK

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Artist Profile: Jessica Jobaris + general magic

Jessica Jobaris + general magic (Seattle, WA) –
A Great Hunger

WEEKEND 2: brings Seattle choreographer Jessica Jobaris and her company, general magic. With “A Great Hunger,” they bring us a Shangri-La supper table offering the intelligence of dolphins, the promise of God, superficial intimacy, Humpty Dumpty, and blurry faces binge eating on Nietzsche. A repast dedicated to the secret world of loneliness, and the incessant work of staying perpendicular.

BIO

Curiosity of the expressive body brings Jessica Jobaris to study, perform, teach and choreograph in Seattle, NYC, and the EU. She has been awarded residencies/commissions throughout the U.S., creating 25+ dance works. Jessica performed with Seattle all-stars Lingo dance theater, Scott/Powell Performance, Maureen Whiting Co., Salthorse, Carr Dance Media (NYC), Theater directors George Lewis and John Paulsen. While living abroad, she worked in Berlin for German MTV, Kristin Berger, Felix Ruckert, Jess Curtis/Maria Scaroni, & visual artist Eloise de Hauteclocque. She currently performs for Mark Haim Dance & Theater, having had the privilege of opening the ArtDan Festival in Paris, and forJoyce Theatre’s Focus Dance showcase in NYC.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Opening: a very long clean barren table. Performers enter and begin with a seance; to see if they are truly alone. Layers of stillness, hyper-physical choreography and “name” soliloquies, using Tennyson’s method for transcending the self (repeating his own name to lose his “ego”). Performers fluctuate in failure and attainment of physical contact/intimacy with each other inside projected landscapes: nauseating oceans, screaming roller coasters, blurry faced car drives, and starring Humpty Dumpty as the Fool. Unsentimental in nature, this performance is also a study in creating and annihilating loneliness thru performance; how to not be so lonely in being lonely, by being lonely together. Mostly, a comedy.

CLICK HERE TO SEE A PREVIEW OF JESSICA’S WORK

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