Artist Profile: LanDforms

LanDforms (Seattle, WA): The Garden of Expectations
dance/theatre/music/sculpture/horticulture

LanDforms is making their Risk/Reward debut at this year’s festival. Recently finding themselves in Seattle after a stint at Martha’s Vineyard, where they made their hilarious and tragic Barbie-themed work, The Life in Plastic, Risk/Reward welcomes them to our Portland stage.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

The Garden of Expectations is a movement piece that presents the audience with a surreal and abstract glimpse into another world, presenting a wealth of symbolic and metaphorical readings, including but not limited to life, death, decay, vulnerability, the consumption of living things for human pleasure, and the never ending search for approval. The Garden of  Expectations turns reality TV on its head, forming its own thoughts about what it means to get the Rose. In this version of dating game show absurdity, challenges include basking in radiant sunshine, drinking water, and putting down strong roots.

BIO

Under the moniker LanDforms, Leah Crosby and Danielle Doell’s productions span dance, theater, music, sculpture, and horticulture. LanDforms’ often funny, sometimes tragic, always unusual performances explore the absurdities of human relationships, nostalgia, and the intersections of power, control, and love. Crosby was born in upstate New York to artist parents; Doell went to 13 years of Catholic school in the Midwest. Their early socialization around what is “normal” regarding gender, power, sex, and identity was, to put it simply, different. As LanDforms, they examine how their disparate histories build their present and future expressive bodies. LanDforms began on Martha’s Vineyard, where Crosby and Doell lived for two years. Danielle joined the Seattle dance scene in 2017, knowing Leah would soon follow. They collaborated long-distance and during several developmental residencies while separated. Now, LanDforms is excited to be a Seattle-based company, making work within the PNW’s thriving performance communities. The Garden of Expectations was created in close creative collaboration with the dancers.

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Artist Profile: ilvs strauss

ilvs strauss (Vancouver, BC): Déjalo
solo mediated theatre

One of our festival favorites is back. ilvs’s sea cucumber goes down in history as a highlight for almost anyone who saw it. This summer, ilvs is bringing her most intimate piece yet, delving into her youth — she is speaking English. They are speaking Spanish.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Déjalo es una pieza para una actuación en solitario llena de sutileza, magia y el delicado equilibrio de la tragedia y el humor. Investiga de forma juguetona la complejidad de la comunicación, el peso de lo no dicho y la intimidad del diálogo. 

BIO

ilvs strauss is slowly making her way up the West Coast: born in Southern California in 1979, she soaked up as much vitamin D as humanly possible before moving to Portland, OR with her family in 1989. There she bought a raincoat, a bike, and a drum set. She took a slight detour and earned a degree in Chemistry from OSU, before returning to Portland to play more music, experiment with photography and drawing. Fast forward to 2005: Seattle. ilvs lands a Production Internship with a music festival and through that experience, enters the world of Technical Theater. She learns things about lights and sound and video. Meanwhile, she gets an itch to do some of her own art. She writes, does slide show presentations, plays some music, eventually tries and likes dance. All this gets thrown into the big soup pot that is her greater body of artistic work. Skip to the present: ilvs finds herself in Canada pursuing her MFA at Simon Fraser University. Here she stumbles upon those who laud the idea of Digital Scenography, her people. She continues to explore and create subtle spectacles of temporal collage that challenge traditional notions of theater and performance through the use of technology, corporeality, and ephemerality.

ILVS STRAUSS’S WEBSITE

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Artist Profile: Milton Lim & Patrick Blenkarn

Milton Lim & Patrick Blenkarn (Vancouver, BC): asses.masses
multimedia performance

You may remember Milton Lim’s work okay.odd from our 2016 Risk/Reward Festival of New Performance. Flashing slides. Breathing. Thumping. Remember? Milton Lim is back with a fresh piece in collaboration with fellow Vancouver phenom Patrick Blenkarn with a piece about “we.” These explorers of multimedia and digital performance examine questions of labor and values… and YOU are the ones who get to play the game.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Equus asinus—the ass, the donkey—has played a central role in religion, colonialism, warfare, and the economics of almost every major civilization since its domestication over 5000 years ago. It has symbolized everything from power, strength, and stupidity, to wisdom, piousness, and fertility. In recent years, however, the utility of the ass has been made superfluous in post-Industrial societies and the animal is being ‘transitioned’ to produce other forms of value. In light of these transitions, the contemporary status of the ass presents a particularly potent context for understanding the state of labor in our current era, as well as a reminder of the deeply anthropocentric features of philosophies of labour and emancipation.

asses.masses is comprised of a series of short games, each documenting the specific and real contemporary conditions of donkeys in seven distinct countries, industries, and contexts of value.

BIO

Milton Lim is a Vancouver-based artist whose output spans performance, new media, dance, installation, and video art. His work is engaged with global politics, the cataloguing/archiving/indexing of public data, and resource allocation. These thematic interests are bolstered by a continued interest in game mechanics, typography architecture, and high-frequency content. He holds a BFA (Hons.) in theatre performance from Simon Fraser University. He is Co-Artistic Director of Hong Kong Exile, an Artistic Associate with Theatre Conspiracy, the recipient of the 2016 Ray Michal Prize for Outstanding Body of Work, and the recent Artist-in-Residence with PuSh International Performing Arts Festival (2016 – 2018). miltonlim.com

Patrick Blenkarn is an interdisciplinary artist and director. His recent works feature sustained investigations into the history and function of the book, the politics and imperialism of the English language, and the history of labour and value. His projects have recently been featured in film festivals, galleries, and performance festivals, including the RISER Projects (Toronto); SummerWorks Performance Festival (Toronto), the rEvolver Festival (Vancouver), and the Festival of Recorded Movement (Vancouver). Patrick has a degree in philosophy, theatre, and film from the University of King’s College and an MFA in interdisciplinary art from Simon Fraser University. Patrick is currently a term lecturer at SFU for experimental performance. patrickblenkarn.comB

MORE INFO ABOUT ASSES.MASSES

ASSES.MASSES VIDEO INSPIRATION

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Artist Profile: Body Home Fat Dance

Body Home Fat Dance (Portland, OR): Weighted Bodies
dance/movement

Body Home Fat Dance sells out. We’re serious. This new and highly-desired dance company has been making waves in Portland over the last few months. Risk/Reward is proud and PUMPED about the debut of their newest performance, Weighted Bodies.

PERFORMANCE SYNOPSIS

Body Home Fat Dance’s work is building a new vocabulary of movement—one that feels expressive, accessible, and unique to fat bodies. This movement vocabulary highlights and celebrates jiggles, ripples, folds, mass, and softness—codifying in movement the multidimensional meanings of fat in motion. Through deeply curious exploration—how light and shadow enhance texture and shape, how the momentum of mass creates risk and adventure, how fat intensifies the reverberation of movement—BHFD reclaims the narrative of our bodies and reshape the audience’s conception of fatness.

Weighted Bodies is an exploration of the artistic and emotive possibilities of movement and dance in fat bodies. When dancers in non-conforming bodies occupy a stage, the narrative is often “I can do this even though I’m fat.” Instead, we are exploring the narrative of “I can do this BECAUSE I’m fat.”

BIO

Body Home Fat Dance is a fat-celebrating dance collaboration. Our goal is to inspire joyful movement, connection with our bodies, and creative expression, while honoring our unique abilities and challenges with self-compassion. More than just dance classes, we’re co-creating a resilient community, building an empowering and nuanced dialogue about fat liberation, and connecting with our own embodied selves. We invite folks with all levels of experience, all bodies, all abilities, all genders to come dance with us!

KT Kusmaul is a fat, queer, white, able-bodied, genderqueer femme performance artist and community builder. She is the founder of Body Home Fat Dance. What started as a drop-in dance class for larger-bodies folks looking for a safe space to move together has grown into weekly sold-out classes, presenting at conferences, organizing workshops, mentoring of new teachers, and the development of a performance company. As Body Home Fat Dance evolves, KT’s aim is to increase connection, representation, and opportunity for movement work within this underrepresented group of fat-bodied dancers. Throughout the past 2 decades, KT has created radical gender-based performance in Portland’s queer community, including drag, music videos, and dance—all within a deeply collaborative, community-embedded framework. Performance and choreography credits include DKPDX, Homomentum, Untrained I, Cattitude, A Queer for All Seasons, International Drag King Community Extravaganza, and music videos for Athens Boys Choir and Scream Club.

BODY HOME FAT DANCE’S WEBSITE

BODY HOME FAT DANCE’S CLASS SCHEDULE

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Guest Blog: Sharon Norman

Response by Sharon Norman 

Intro:  I am an older white lady who is a theater junkie. My dance experience is Risk-Reward, Fertile Ground and Nutcracker. I have seen several Risk Reward Festivals.

Risk Reward 2018
Wonder Full
Solo dance full of verbal rhythm as well as Dance. Collapse and rebuild. Confetti celebration.

Planet Pink
Solo Dance. Fun Funky fabulous moves, and I was a tad uncomfortable about Transgender. What pronouns do you use if you don’t know? Or didn’t read the program.

In the White Frame
Family Dance. Mixed race. Heritage of culture shown. Multiple generations.

Air Objects #3 – Music in lobby
Haunting and primal.

War
War Card game of questions. And emphasis on I don’t cheat!  Questions asked of the performer growing up.

Au Collective of Physical Tales
A personal journal shown thru Dance.
Powerful moves. Diversity and same. Or as I been told Same Same but Different.
Wings depicted flying. Soaring. My favorite part.
Water showed swimming fluid.

Guest Blog: Jess Drake

Response by Jess Drake (check out more on dramatoogie.com)
An excerpt from Dramatoogie’s inaugural #NoShowSunday post:

Friday: “Risk Reward Festival” at Artists Rep #ArtsHub
Hands down favorite performance event of the year, for the tight form of 20 minutes for each new artist to present work so we are transported rapidly but completely through totally unique work that always syncs in some zeitgeisty thematic realm of our collective-imagination, with the true potential to launch a new phase of career for non-traditional contemporary artists with sound or movement based practices, especially queer non-gender binary radicals ! and that includes most everyone in the audience any given night !

Guest Blog: Jessica Green

Response by Jessica Green (find out more about her work at https://fusedcreativepdx.com/

I went into the Risk/Reward Festival not knowing what to except. What I got was two hours of brave artists ripping themselves at the seams to show what was going on inside of them and the world they live in.  Britt Karhoff started by showing us the inside of a woman’s brain going through grief and the burden of womanhood. She uses her limited props to show the emotional labor women in our society are set up to go through. Having a wooden table break apart in her hands while she, through rhythmic movements, reassembles it and goes on to use it as her personal stage. Raw and at times uncomfortably funny, she comes undone on stage and then puts herself back together again. A journey every woman can connect with.

Bouton Volonté took the stage and the room in one quick grab of their hands. Prancing to the microphone like they not only owned the place, but all of us too. Bouton made it clear from the beginning that this was their show, and we should be honored they let us witness it. Interweaving their jaw dropping dance moves, body drops and all, with stopping the music to give us a snippet of what it’s like to be a trans person in the world; They managed to create my favorite moment of the night by asking the audience what we thought their gender was, expecting and waiting for an answer.  After a couple sheepish attempts from two women in the crowd calling them gender fluid, a bold man raised his hand. “You’re male.” Bouton looks at him with a perfectly placed head tilt and asked him why he thinks that. “Because I’m a man and you look like me.” After a long pause where I’m pretty sure not a single person took a breath, Bouton asks the man to join them on stage. Keeping with the narrative of their show, Bouton bravely asks the man to please leave the auditorium, stating they don’t feel comfortable performing their next piece with him in the room.  The misinformed man begrudgingly walks out. Bouton then asks if anyone in the room would like to try again to gender them “Maybe one of my friends that are here or someone that read the program.” A person raises their hand and says “Trans-femme?” It was that easy. To me it was a symbol of how simple it is to know someone’s preferred pronouns. All you have to do is ask, all you have to do is take the time and care to know someone and respect who they are.  Once Bouton feels safe they tell us of a child who dreamed of being Maria from The Sound of Music, but unfortunately, they weren’t born white or female enough for that. They place a sheer white dress over their body and take us on a journey through dance and body movements.

Guest Blog: Beth Thompson

Risk and You Shall Receive 

Response by Beth Thompson (Find more info about her and her work at www.bethjthompson.com)

The truth of the matter is I feel safe walking into Risk/Reward. This is a style of performance I identify with; new work made by the performers and using a variety of traditional and post-modern techniques of idea crafting. In the midst of that sense of belonging, I’m so appreciative that these artists did not shrink from pushing me against that comfort.  At times they told us less than we might want to know, they made us reflect on our most liberal and “educated” assumptions and sometimes pushed against our expectations of what a performance piece should require or restrict.
From my totally biased perspective, the Creation and External Reflection of Identity was a running theme. Several performers gracefully and fully let us experience them intimately, inviting us past/through/beyond the storytelling of histories and into simply being with one another’s bodies. From that intimacy, creators crafted reflections of the way they have been formed and boxed by external creations of gender and race.
Crafted by Producing Artistic Director Jerry Tischleder and the Festival Director, Spicy With Katie Watkins, this year’s Risk/Reward is a full and cohesive night of art and expiration. I’m grateful to them for organizing this weekend and for inviting me to respond with these short thoughts. And, I’m grateful to the artists for continuing to push themselves and the audience against the boundaries of The Known, even in a venue where we might be comfortable.
Wonder Full by Britt Karhoff 
A powerful performer with a clown’s instincts and a dancer’s gravity, clinging to a heavy table, trying to keep everything together. I was struck by the intimacy of simple acts; building a table, arranging her space. I felt invited into her work (which is to say, her being). And, as she stopped, breathing hard, dropping her head on the table….I was struck by how hard, how athletic it is to set up a life people want to see. A comedic chorus of “Yes. Yep. Uh-huh.” reflecting the language that women are set up to perform. The struggle to stay sane when the echo chamber of external expectations and stories ensues advancing into hysterical and exhausting. Invited back into the intimacy of this performer’s being as she lies on the floor, breathing hard, when the lights eventually come down.
Planet Pink by Bouton Volonté
I had been looking forward to Volonté’s work and they did not disappoint. A mesmerizing mover. A brilliant eye for beauty. A confident and compassionate Leader of Audience. A lover of Maria from The Sound of Music. Volonté kept their majority white audience on the hook for their privilege while also compassionately and generously inviting us to appreciate their experience of exclusion and then the embodiment of magnificent femme.  A stage littered with luggage and a mirror center stage which, from my seat, had a reflection of the exit sign. All of which felt like an invitation to exit our assumptions about how gender might play as we let the binary slip away.
In The White Frame by Angel “Moonyeka” Alviar-Langley
Early movement drawing with Boxes/Bodies. The impossibility of Balance and hard edges of Identity reflected as bodies move in and out of shadow, balancing themselves on the lines of the box of who they are/would be/can be seen as. The power of the very young bodies on stage; confident, communicative, naturally carrying the ability to impress and discomfort the audience. And, finally, the pain of an Alphabet Book describing limitation, judgement and racism being read aloud…the building blocks through which the world is understood are the accompaniment to which our young, confident dancer moves forward.
War by Eli Steffan
A Dress, A Tarp, A box of Glue and a Deck of Toxic Masculinity. A sense of tension between the desire to play and a reality that no one wants to be seen winning. A ritual act that is never explained, a gross mystery. An act of submission by the performer to the audience. The holders of the keys of masculinity never knowing what the rules are.
Bayanihan: A Collection of Physical Tales Created by the Captivating Cheryl Delostrinos

Simplicity, Something Known and Exquisitely Personal. The Vulnerability and Intimacy of Cheryl’s body as it bounces between something akin to violence and expanse. Too much to recognize in the dance between two lovers as they direct their bodies through their need for and dependency on the other. Foot dances. Seeing a group of woman dancing simply; a quieter, more reserved “party style” movement that allowed each dancer to both self express and to stay singular. I loved seeing these female identifying bodies on stage claiming space in an act that embodied both joy and simple independence; they dance for themselves.

Guest Blog: Katie Piatt

Response by Katie Piatt: Accidental storyteller,
seasoned performance artist
and comedian (stay up to date on their work at http://katiepiatt.com/)

I love the performance community in Portland. It’s small enough that at this year’s Risk/Reward, I was hugging performers from Seattle who I met when I was part of the NWNW festival last summer, but big enough that my friend and fellow comedy troupe member, Shannon, who was sitting next to me, hadn’t heard of the festival but was delighted I invited them.

Risk/Reward #11 this year was full of comedy, melancholy, courage, salt, movement, storytelling, and confetti. These among so many other tiny and large emotions that popped up for me as the pieces played on and as always when attending this festival, I felt the itch of inspiration to start writing down ideas, and I couldn’t fully stay still in my seat. The air was electric.

Britt Karhoff’s piece WONDER FULL at first glance made me feel as though I was seeing perhaps what a stock photograph of a woman would go through if she were to come alive before me: always sort of smiling, always answering “yes” and “uh huh” while describing her rich inner life to me in a way that made me feel as though she was trying to convince herself just as much as she was trying to convince me. The piece moves deeper and becomes emotionally charged when, standing on a table that she built at the beginning, the performer starts talking about loss and trying to make sense of it all. My favorite part was when Britt began dancing to “I’m Every Woman” and throwing up confetti in a bit of aggressive celebration or an act to keep strong, only then to be the one to clean up the confetti after the dance was over. As a newly out nonbinary person, who has lived a life being clocked as a woman for 30 years, it really touched me in feeling that unspoken strength women/nonmen are often forced into by themselves or patriarchy where we’d literally have to clean up the confetti from our own triumph dances because no one else will do it.   

Planet Pink by Bouton Volonte is the bold bit of realness and transfemme self-love we all needed for the night. Actually I won’t speak for anyone else here, my baby nonbinary feels NEEDED this piece. Putting on different pieces of soft feminine props — a dress, a wig, using flower petals — and dancing for us while simultaneously looking at a mirror and dancing for themself, I found my nonbinary genderqueer self inspired and empowered to be exactly who I am. My favorite part of this piece and possibly this year’s festival was when, after stripping down to a pair of tiny shorts and dancing for a song, Bouton — a QTPoC performer, asked the audience for someone to shout out what they thought their [Bouton’s] gender was. Silence grasped the audience. I definitely didn’t even try to say anything — gender is but a construct and not to be defined for someone except by themself. Someone said “femme” but not loud enough for the performer to hear. An older cis man finally said, “you’re a man.” Bouton responded by saying, “Oh. I’m a man? What makes you say that?” The audience member replied with a, “because you’ve got a great man’s body!” At this point, Bouton asked the man’s name and to be escorted from the room. “I’m not mad at you. You can say hi if you see me at the grocery store, but this next part of the performance is not for you,” Bouton said to them. I do a show about educating men on how to get over their own male fragility and often it takes a lot of emotional labor on my part. The idea of asking a man to leave the room — what a dream! How powerful! Bouton’s dance felt all the more freeing and triumphant after this moment. The piece ended with them dancing, the lights going down, and eventually them dancing in the dark holding onto a softly-lit lantern. They left the room being lit only by the lantern, and I felt as though this was most symbolic of the beacon they had been for us all that night.

Angel Alviar-Langley (aka Moonyeka)’s piece In the White Frame is one of the first performance art pieces I’ve ever seen live that involved children participating. Through a series of dances and a reading of the ABC’s, the performers — aged 3 through middle 30s — describe for us a life lived as a mixed race person and all the violent micro-aggressions/white racial framing faced on the daily via white people and their “No, but really, where are you from? Can I touch your hair?” questions. The sharpest part of the performance, for me, was the usage of light during the different dances: a mix of stark white light squares on the floor as well as the flashing red-blue purple lights that remind us of the police. The dances involved performers being in the light as a focus of the piece but also avoiding the light and the very real violence it represents. In an American society where literally just this last week, armed Portland State University security guards murdered a man of color in the street while he was trying to break up a fight outside of a bar, In the White Frame is a stark, blunt illustration — or possibly new information for some white Portlanders/citizens — of the violence people of color are facing every day and a question of the possible erasure or exploitation of mixed race people in these black and white conversations.

Air Objects #3 by John Berendzen happened during the intermission and as an artist who loves to blur the line between audience and performer — I was delighted. The loops of sound created by John’s ElectroHorn — an “original hybrid instrument” — were brassy but meditative, sharp but soothing. My emotions went from harmony to anxiety back to harmony. John walked around the intermission space, creating a wave of sound amongst people mingling with their drinks and their snacks and I can only wonder what he was thinking as he was performing for us all.

Eli Steffen’s WAR is an audience participatory-based (yay!) piece. Choosing an audience member named Clifton to play, the rules were as such: using the general rules of the card game WAR, and a deck of cards that Eli had written different sayings both said by them and that were said at them, the audience member is put in a position of picking who “wins” each round. To me it became a game of “which remark is less damaging?” The statements come from a place that questions how society socializes men and could be as general as “potty training with G.I. Joe” to the very harsh, very violent “only faggots do ballet” and “we need a space for white people to feel safe.” The statements were read aloud constantly every single round, the audience caught in a bit of uncomfortable laughter when the two would finally get the same statement and yell, “WAR!” All the while Eli has covered their arms with Elmer’s glue and with each reading has begun slapping their arms until red and flaky with dry pieces of glue hair flying over the audience like pain lanterns. For me this piece was at first hard to swallow, but then easy to digest over time — fitting into my own recent work and research. The performance contained violent statements that I have heard before by white men often growing up around me or in places of power. Eli’s visible slow burning self-inflicted pain represents being raised in a society where patriarchy socializes men to literally dominate things instead of have feelings (other than anger and aggression) and the invisibility white supremacist patriarchy maintains to be able to exist. Only in the slapping of arms with each damaging phrase, do we start to see the real violence and pain that is being caused.

Cheryl Delostrinos/Au Collective’s piece Bayanihan: A Collection of Physical Tales is an ethereal, empowering dance piece of multiple pieces that created a storytelling atmosphere. Simultaneously modern as well as with a hint of some Midsummer’s witch folktale, Bayanihan captures feelings and movements of self-love, empowerment, fight, emotion, and beautiful Black joy as well as Queer joy. Coming out in costumes that create a literal deep-toned rainbow, the dancers command their space and ended this year’s Risk/Reward festival with a glorious shout of identity/corporeal-based jubilation. 

I wrote this last year and I’ll say it forever until it happens — there are not enough festivals or platforms for performance artists like this. We are so fortunate to have a festival that connects performers across a region and also across individual worlds. 

Love,
Katie