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Dance: before, after, during

April 4 - May 15, 2011

The Art Gym presents two projects about dance — one historical and one contemporary.

Past Moves: Selected Archival Footage of Dance Performance in the 1970s and 1980s, focuses on video documentation of the work of the Portland Dance Theater and the companies that grew out of it. It will be presented in The Art Gym's Gallery 2.

Dance: before, after, during presents preparatory materials, documentation and performances by four Portland-based choreographers: Linda Austin, Susan Banyas, Tahni Holt and Linda K. Johnson. It began with curiosity and the questions that follow. How do choreographers work? Do they have visual scores like composers? Do they have sketchbooks and notebooks, like artists and writers?

These questions led to a series of conversations with choreographers and an idea for an exhibition of visual preparatory materials. But it was soon apparent that visitors to the gallery would want to know where those preparatory materials led. So we added documentation. And then came the quite obvious realization that there had to be dance. Because in performance, we may have evidence of the before and documentation of the after, but without the during, we have nothing.

This is the most ambitious dance project The Art Gym has undertaken. We are hoping it is just the beginning.

— Terri M. Hopkins, Director & Curator, The Art Gym

Tahni Holt
Performance Sunday, April 3, 4:45 pm (approx.)
Dancers: Tahni Holt and Robert Tyree

For Dance: before, after, during, Tahni Holt will present a work in progress — SUNSHINE. The basic elements are two dancers, the space and a huge pile of cardboard boxes. Holt's intent is to expose "the inner sanctuary of the rehearsal process" and leave "visual remnants and artifacts from the performance behind, less as construction of visual clarity and more as a reminder of performance." The performance will be recorded and once edited that video will be included in the exhibition. SUNSHINE will be performed in its entirety in the fall of 2011.

Holt writes that "resourcefulness is born from a world with limited resources..." and that "SUNSHINE's visual economy is driven by principles of fashion, minimalism, glamour and mass production."

Tahni Holt is a dancer and choreographer who is interested in body as cultural symbol and universal form, dance as brand of identity, space as locator or non-locator. Her work has been presented in Portland at PICA's TBA Festival and PORTLAND 2010; in Austin, Texas at the Fusebox Festival; Seattle, Washington at On The Boards and Bumbershoot, and Boise, Idaho. She has performed in collaborative works in Atlanta, Georgia; Vienna, Austria; and St. Erme, France. She has worked with Dance luminary Deborah Hay as well as Eszter Salamon.

Linda K. Johnson, Terra Cognita: Walking to Know — Satellite. Performed at The Art Gym on April 3, 2011. Video by In The Can Productions.

Linda K. Johnson
Performance Sunday, April 3, 3:15 pm
Terra Cognita: Walking to Know — Satellite
Dancer: Linda K. Johnson
Composer: Gretchen Jude

Linda K. Johnson writes that she walks to know. Often during her walks Johnson uses wax paper bags to collect plants and other things that catch her attention. In 2005, a month-long residency at Caldera in Central Oregon led to what remains...requiem. The landscape around Caldera was charred from the 2003 B&B Complex forest fire. Johnson collected charred wood on her walks, ground it and used it in performance/drawings. Documentation of past projects and one of Johnson's ten-by-ten-foot drawings are included in Dance: before, after, during.

Satellite, Johnson's new work for The Art Gym, also integrates the acts of walking, collecting and creating dance. In addition, it is important to her to invite others to the experience. For Satellite, Johnson is mailing more than 150 wax paper bags to friends and colleagues with an invitation to "take a walk somewhere as a process of getting to know it, and then to send me back some piece of that experience—a thought, an object, a drawing, a photograph, etc..." The artist will use these pieces of experience as the score for creating the new work. Johnson has also invited Oakland composer Gretchen Jude to use the same materials to create a sound score for Satellite.

Linda K. Johnson is a dance-based, cross-disciplinary artist based in Portland, Oregon where she has taught, performed, created and produced for over 25 years. Her concerns as an artist are social and environmental, and her 15-plus large-scale, site-relevant projects have addressed these interests in hybrid and unconventional forms, formats and venues. Her work is informed by her interest in visual art, architecture, horticulture, improvisation and sustainable stewardship of place. An Oregon Artist Fellow, she has received fellowships from Yaddo, Sitka and Caldera, and is honored to be a repetiteur in perpetuity of Yvonne Rainer's seminal post-modern dance, Trio A.

Linda Austin
Performance Sunday, April 3, 4 pm (approx.)
Dancers: Linda Austin, Philippe Bronchtein, Jin Camou, Keyon Gaskin, Esther LaPointe-Jensen, Danielle Ross
Video: Linda Austin & Karl Lind
Sound: Linda Austin & Seth Nehil

In Linda Austin's installation and performance for of "A head of time," the "before" is suggested by displaying 12 months of Austin's video movement diary—a type of dancer's sketchbook—on television monitors. The "before" is also a stack of 250–300 blankets, afghans, throws and quilts, which will be used in the performance "A head of time."

Austin is interested in "the layering and stretchiness of time—in its accumulation as lived or imagined experience, as fleeting perception, as everything-everywhere-all-at-once, and as an unpredictable slippery medium that shapes and is shaped by each of us." She writes that the performers' "sometimes moving and sometimes still bodies whose singing, muttering, moving, gesture, stillness, reclining, eating, drawing, laughing are all framed as dance."

As "A head of time" draws to a close, the blankets will be re-stacked. This residue of materials combined with video documentation of the performance will form the "after" of Austin's work for the exhibition.

Linda Austin, co-founder & director of Performance Works NorthWest in Portland, Oregon, has been making dance and performance for over two decades. Her works have been performed in New York, Mexico and the Pacific Northwest supported by numerous fellowships, grants and residencies. Recent projects include the 2010 Paired Spectacular, an homage to dance pioneers Yvonne Rainer and Deborah Hay, and the 2009 Bandage a Knife, a collaboration with Seth Nehil inspired by a Japanese cult noir film.

Susan Banyas
Performances Saturday, April 30 and Saturday, May 14, 2 pm
It's Been a Busy Week — An Everyday Dancing Experiment
Dancers: Gregg Bielemeier (April 30 only), Dorinda Holler, Elisabeth Tschalaer, Stephanie Schaaf, Susan Banyas
Photographer/dancer: Christopher Rauschenberg (May 14 only)
Music: David Ornette Cherry

Susan Banyas is interested in what she calls Everyday Dancing, the dances we all perform consciously or unconsciously as we go about our lives. Her "before" includes photographs of these "dances," notebook pages, and the lexicon of images she has painted and drawn for decades. She writes, "I have been painting and drawing images on 4x6 cards for years as a way to notate the complex stories and dance processes I practice and teach. The cards break dance language into images and energy to shape immediate Everyday Dances—compositions of movement and words."

For Dance: before, after, during, Banyas will perform with the It's Been a Busy Week Ensemble, a group of dancers who meet weekly. Using Banyas's image cards, photographs and notebook pages, the ensemble will offer two performance experiments in The Art Gym: "...fragments from a busy week — that expose what lies below the surface of our busi-ness." At the conclusion of the performance, the cards and photographs will remain, ready for future use.

Susan Banyas is a dancer, storyteller and writer whose artistic roots as an improviser, dancer and experimental performance artist led to collaborations through SO&SO&SO&SO, Inc. In addition to the It's Been a Busy Week Ensemble, she has several current performance projects, including No Strangers Here Today and The Hillsboro Story. Both center on Highland County, Ohio, one hundred years apart, and dance between memory and American history from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.

Gallery 2: Past Moves: selected archival footage of Portland dance performances in the 1970s and 1980s

In the small world of Portland modern dance, almost everyone has had at least a brush with Portland Dance Theater and its dancer/choreographers in one way or another, even though the company closed its doors at the end of the 1970s. The company's alums include several important teachers and choreographers — among them, Judy Patton, Gregg Bielemeier, Jann McCauley Dryer, Catherine Evleshim, Pat Wong and Bonnie Merrill — whose innovative, athletic, humorous approach to dance is still an important part of Portland's dance DNA today. At the same time, a movement-based group, founded by Susan Banyas and Louise Steinman, SO&SO&SO&SO, was at the heart of the performance art movement in the city, working with Elaine Velazquez on early video/performance works.

Past Moves gathers some of the best surviving video from the early days of modern dance here, so we can take a peek at the spirited work of the time and start to understand how much we owe those pioneers of dance and performance art in Portland.

— Barry Johnson

Special thanks to Portland State University dance professor Judy Patton for her work gathering the video documentation and to Barry Johnson for his writing and help on the project. —TMH

 

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