Is the Maine contemporary dance scene deep enough to carry its own festival? Damn near!
Stitched together as Portland Dance Month, a network of dance artists have rallied a trove of performances and productions in Greater Portland as a “beta test” for an official monthlong annual celebration. Beginning the second week of October — like, soon — those of us thirsty to witness more dance action will have 10 performances and six talks and workshops to dig into.
Per dance artist and co-organizer Riley Watts, the content of Portland Dance Month came together before the framing.
“I saw this as an opportunity to highlight the work our arts organizations have already been doing in Maine, and create an opportunity to think about our city’s art and cultural development as a complex ecology rather than a competition,” Watts says.
Watts launched the effort with Sara Juli, a Portland-based dancer and choreographer whose original piece Tense Vagina: An Actual Diagnosis turned heads when it was performed in Portland in 2015. Juli’s has said her work, exploring motherhood in the several months following childbirth, was inspired by moving to Maine. Originally from Bangor, Riley Watts returned to Portland in 2016 after studying and teaching in Bangor, Massachusetts, and New York. He is currently on tour with William Forsythe’s A Quiet Evening of Dance, produced by Sadler’s Wells Theater in London. Both are affiliated with the Bates Dance Festival, which takes place each July.
Here’s a calendar of Portland Dance Month events on the horizon.
Due to the intrinsic difficulties of writing about dance, let alone performances we haven’t seen, all descriptions here are promo copy provided by Portland Dance Month organizers.
"Equators," by Arien Wilkerson (TNMOT AZTRO)
Oct 12 7:30 pm | Oct 13-14 | 3 pm + 7:30pm
EQUATORS is a solo dance piece developed and performed by Connecticut choreographer Arien Wilkerson that explores environmental justice as a major form of racial injustice. EQUATORS touches on topics as wide ranging as the impact of zoning and gentrification, the deaths that take place within climate structures and how bodies react to human-made boundaries due to climate change and environmental unawareness. Wilkerson will be an artist-in-residence at SPACE from September 28 through October 15.
MIRA by Bare Portland
October 18-20 | 8 pm | $12-15
Directed by Tarra Bouchard with choreography by Liz Pettengill, MIRA is a movement performance and individual audio experience inspired by Tennessee Williams. A young woman finds an unexpected friendship in a shared love of poetry. Attendees are encouraged to bring a smartphone and headphones.
Jack the Ripper by Portland Ballet
October 19-20 | 7:30 pm
Westbrook Performing Arts Center
Jack the Ripper is the spooky story of the serial killer who haunted the streets of London in the 19th century aligns perfectly with the weeks leading up to Halloween! Previously performed in 2013 and 2014 in front of sold-out crowds, Artistic Director and choreographer Nell Shipman will add 30 minutes of choreography to 'Jack' this year, making it a full-length ballet.
"Places, Please!" by Nicole Wolcott + Larry Keigwin
10.25 - 26 | 8 pm | $40-43
One Longfellow Square
In this intimate new production, award-winning dancers Nicole Wolcott and Larry Keigwin invite audiences behind the scenes to experience the anxiety and playfulness inherent in the life of a performer. A provocative cabaret brimming with satire, personal anecdotes, quick-witted physical comedy, and moments of deep pathos, all centered around their desire to “belong” in the creative world. Special guests from Maine’s own dance scene: Gretchen Berg/ Gwyneth Jones, Sara Juli, and Kerry Constantino.
Promenade, by Laura K. Nicoll
Public Space Performance, traveling between Casco Bay Ferry and Creative Portland
November 2 | 3-5 pm | Free
Follow, find, or happen upon Laura K. Nicoll as she performs a 2 hour durational dance in public spaces on First Friday. Beginning at Casco Bay Line Ferry Terminal and ending at Creative Portland, she performs for and with incidental audience members as well as the city's natural audio and visual landscape.
Portland Dance Month Artist Gathering + Pop-up Performance with Riley Watts & Janoah Bailin
November 2 | 5-8 pm | Free
Creative Portland Office
Interested in performing a short work (~5 minutes or less) at Creative Portland on First Friday? Have some snacks, show us your pop-up performance, and meet the artists and organizers of Portland Dance Month! All low-tech performance mediums welcome. RSVP required to perform.
"Maine Moves II," New Dance + Performance by Maine Artists
November 3 | 8 pm | $10
Portland Ballet Studio Theater
A new dance series aimed at providing a performance opportunity for Maine-based dance and performance artists with an additional performance slot given to a rising student choreographer of Portland Youth Dance.
Colby/Bates/Bowdoin Moving Target + Student Works-in-Progress
November 4 | 2:45pm The Living Room
Moving Target Dance Workshop with Annie Kloppenberg, Dance Faculty, Colby College, followed immediately by Works-in-Progress performance of student work from Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin Colleges. Feedback and Q&A session to follow.
Arts in the Chamber featuring Riley Watts
November 5 | 5:30-5:35 pm
City Council Meeting at Portland City Hall
Mayor Ethan Strimling and Creative Portland p resent an artist showcase at the beginning of the city council meeting, featuring Riley Watts, who will perform "Zauberer," a 4-minute original solo piece.
"The Moving Body in SPACE," with Heather Stewart, Michael Figueroa, and Nora Petroliunas
November 8 | 7:30 pm | $10
The second installment of a regional performance of new contemporary dance/movement/performance series featuring three works in development by Heather Stewart (Boston), Michael Figueroa (Boston), and Nora Petroliunas (Portland). Curated by Sara Juli, Riley Watts, and Asher Woodworth.
Fundraising for Artists: Holiday Appeal Letters Sara Juli
10.10 | 12-1:30 pm
Creative Portland Office
"Moving Target Portland"
Sundays from 1-3 pm | $8-16 sliding scale sugg. donation
The Living Room
- October 14 - Carol Dilley, Department of Theater and Dance, Bates College, Lewiston
- October 21 - Ayano Elson, Living Room Artist-in-Residence, 2018 Van Lier Emerging Artist of Color Fellow at Movement Research, NYC
- October 28 - Asher Woodworth, Independent Artist, Lincolnville/Portland
- November 4 - Annie Kloppenberg, Department of Theater and Dance, Colby College, Waterville + C/B/B Student Works-in-Progress
- November 11 - Michael Figueroa, Artistic Director of Ruckus Dance, Boston