Contemporary ballet

PDX Contemporary Ballet will open its second season with an enigma

On the second day of rehearsals PDX Contemporary BalletIn the company’s new show, two dancers from the company attempt to perform an almost acrobatic feat. Kaileigh O’Neill does a kind of slow, backward cartwheel that requires pivoting in the air, while Sari Hoke slides into a deep slot under the arc of her flip. At the other end of the room, four dancers rehearse only the arm movements of another sequence, pausing to make adjustments to the choreography as they go through the movements.

But in the lobby of the Southeast Portland studio they rented, company founder Briley Neugebauer readily admits she doesn’t quite know where the show is going. “It’s kind of like a weird puzzle that I have to solve in my head,” she says. “I haven’t figured it all out yet.”

Neugebauer does not seem particularly concerned by this fact. Uncertainty is essential to his process – Neugebauer assembles his works through meticulous collaboration with his dancers. “They all take a lot of creative liberties with the choreography,” she says. “I give them tasks, but I don’t know how it will end.”

At least, Converge, the first show of the company’s second season, has a premise. The four new works created in Convergeare all based on literary works by local authors. Two of the dances will be choreographed by Neugebauer herself, the others by Micah Chermak and Alicia Cutaia. “I just randomly paired a writer with a choreographer and said, ‘OK, you’re going to create something,'” says Neugebauer. “I have no idea what they are doing.”

But perhaps another reason Neugebauer is so comfortable with uncertainty is that it’s built into the story of PDX Contemporary. The company formed last year after Moxie, the former contemporary ballet company of which Neugebauer was a member, virtually closed overnight. Less than a month after arriving, owner Gina Candland left town amid accusations that she made up references and with a wad of dancers’ money in unreimbursed tuition.

After rising from the rubble of Moxie, Neugebauer and company embarked on a very ambitious first season. They performed in the round, added an extra show to their regular season that promoted female empowerment, shared a bill with an improv troupe, and premiered at least one new work at each of their four shows. . A single show debuted with five new works.

Yet they faced a common challenge in the Portland dance scene: finding a space in which to perform. “They are very expensive,” says Neugebauer. “You can have a theater that seats 20-25 people or 200-250 people. There just isn’t that kind of in-between.”

In addition, ballet sur pointe cannot be performed on any surface. You need something that gives more than concrete, but hardwood floors don’t work either. “It’s like death,” says Neugebauer. “Once you put spikes on, you slip all over the place.”

So the dancers spent the last season performing their shows wherever they could find space, including as far as Mount Hood Community College in Gresham.

For this season, they have a house. All of their second season shows will be presented at the location of New Expressive Works in the central southeast. Once again, each show will premiere several unreleased pieces. Rightly so, the company amplified the collaborative spirit of its choreography. Each showcase will involve a different faction of the Portland art scene. The winter show will be based on works by sculptor Michele Collier, who will create new art specifically for the show. For the company’s spring show, the dancers will collaborate with the Northwest Piano Trio.

In the rehearsal studio of Converge, rented through crowdfunding, Neugebauer decides to try one of the top duos. The soundtrack begins with a poem by Lorelei O’Connor.

“We are a breath through time, steadying ourselves daily during the night’s dream flight,” reads O’Connor.

With hands on each other’s shoulders, O’Neill and Hoke lower their heads like graceful rag dolls and sweep their legs as they swing to the side, looking like they’re about to. to fall. Then the music kicks in – soft, happy chimes – and the choreography picks up speed in whimsical leaps and dips. At the end of the sequence, Hoke nearly sticks the wheel.

The current plan is for this sequence to open the show. But Neugebauer points out that the dancers’ contribution by November could take Converge just about anywhere.

“It’s easy for me to get stuck in my head,” she says. “I’m going to communicate something to them and say, ‘Wow, that’s not what I was thinking, but that’s pretty awesome.'”

TO SEE : Converge will be at New Expressive Works, 810 SE Belmont St., 7:30 p.m. Friday to Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday from November 3 to 5. $5 to $25.

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PDX Contemporary Ballet will open its second season with an enigma

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