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Before moving to Eugene, Alseny Yansane danced for Ballets Africains, the most prestigious dance troupe in the West African nation of Guinea. 

But there’d be no mistaking his moves for anything from Swan Lake

Low squats, flips, rapid sideways motions, windmill arm movements — these are some of the most common hallmarks of the dozens of dances that can be found across Guinea and which Yansane and his wife Andrea Yansane teach at the West African Cultural Arts Institute (WACAI) here in Eugene. 

Choreographer David Parsons’ signature piece, Caught (1982), features more than 100 leaps in six minutes by a solo dancer who is repeatedly trapped in mid-motion by the strobe lights he controls, creating an illusion of flight. Seen live, the work is unforgettable; I saw it once here, in Eugene, at the Hult Center, danced by Parsons himself.

Caught seems an apt metaphor for dance: vital, powerful yet ephemeral, almost fragile. Dance requires a nutritive base to thrive, constant support and a collaborative spirit. Any dance venture is a leap of faith.

So often we accept the history served to us. We hold collective truths about our past to be self-evident: Jane Roe and her legal team were brave, honorable women fighting for reproductive rights. Vietnam was a worthless war the U.S. never should have been involved in. Classic theater works are important, but generally not very fun. 

Presently, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is in the business of shaking up our assumptions. The current lineup of 10 plays at OSF offers a cacophony of history and legend alongside classics reinterpreted for a modern audience. The season is smart, entertaining and worth the three-hour trek to Ashland.

Standing in a cavernous St. Vincent de Paul warehouse on Chad Drive, executive director Terry McDonald and I survey stacks upon stacks of identical cardboard boxes, each one the size of a watermelon crate. It’s quite a sight. The stacks tower toward the ceiling and stretch horizontally wall to wall, and their Lego-like arrangement creates the shadowy alleys of a deserted city at sundown.

All told, the boxes contain more than one million pounds of used books.

McDonald tells me matter-of-factly that St. Vinnie’s receives about 30,000 pounds of books a day. The discarded books are sorted and priced and placed and sold, each one turned for a small profit that eventually circles back as some form of help for the community’s needful — as housing, clothing, food, jobs.

The funny thing is, this time last year Emerald Empire HempFest founder Dan “DanK” Koozer was ready to call it quits. 

The 71-year-old pot activist launched Eugene’s annual cannabis celebration in 2003. With help from volunteers, Koozer — who hosts the weekly public access talk show Eugene Cannabis TV — lines up vendors, books three days of live music and arranges educational lectures. He even sets up a temporary employment agency for folks looking to join the state’s burgeoning cannabis industry.

After the fireworks, there’s still the smoke. The legalization of retail weed in Oregon — a real Fourth of July moment for potheads — has left in its wake an enduring fug of legal, political and commercial questions that can make prohibition look like a cheerful stroll to the neighborhood dealer in comparison.

One of the major selling points for going legal, at least from the legislative standpoint, was the notion that hauling weed aboveboard would put the screws to the black market, eventually paralyzing all the criminal shenanigans that come with the illegal distribution of drugs.

Contrary to Oregon’s generally retail-tax-free-and-proud lifestyle, Eugeneans pay sales tax on four common purchases: alcohol, tobacco, gasoline and pot. 

Since recreational pot sales went legit last year, Oregonians pay a whopping 25 percent state sales tax on recreational marijuana.

If renowned astrophysicist and admitted pot smoker Carl Sagan could toke up before expanding our grasp of the known universe, who’s to say you can’t lead a successful career while relishing the latest indica strain?

While planning EW’s second annual PRIDE issue, we made no deliberate decision to focus on trans women; the stories just emerged organically. Why? we wondered.

The answer was obvious to many trans women, scholars and activists who contributed to this issue. 

“Trans women are in the spotlight nationally, especially with Caitlyn Jenner and her entire show,” says Jam Tolles, a local artist beginning her transition. 

It would be cliché to say that transitioning is no day at the beach. It would also be wrong.

A painting by Jam Tolles reminds me of “Las Meninas,” the enigmatic 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez, even though visually the two have little in common.

Velázquez's oil masterpiece depicts members of the Spanish Court in a grand drawing room with a mirror, the figures peering back at you as if you were some sort of peculiar guest popping in. 

For most, a morning ritual consists of brushing one’s teeth, eating breakfast, maybe a cup of coffee or two and, of course, getting dressed before heading out the door. But imagine not being able to put on clothing that expresses who you  really are. 

Jane Andres isn’t religious, but she has a lot of what she calls “woo-woo ideas.” She’s really into astrology, for one. And she’s fascinated by Norse mythology — especially the goddess Freyja.

“Most people don’t know this,” Andres explains, “but only half of the warriors went to Valhalla, the realm ruled by Odin. The other half went to Freyja.”

Pride 2016 is slated to be bigger than ever. 

“Both the Wayward Lamb and the Pride festival are working together to expand events around Pride,” says Vincent Mays, an organizer for the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival that celebrates its 25th anniversary this year at Alton Baker Park.

They grow up so fast. The Whiteaker Block Party turns 10 this year and it’s bound to be one for the books — more than 120 years after Oregon’s first governor, John Whiteaker, procured 10 blocks in the neighborhood. To celebrate, EW pays homage to some of the people who keep the Whiteaker weird, whimsical, wayward and wonderful, as well as offering some tips to squeezing the most out of your block party experience. Here’s to the next 10 years.

The greatest cultural riches of the Whiteaker reside in the neighborhood’s nooks and crannies and offbeat details — the funky designs on a painted mailbox, the kitschy pop art on a hillbilly porch, a makeshift lounge plopped along the sidewalk. 

The same goes for the Whiteaker Block Party, returning for its 10th year noon to 10 pm Saturday, Aug. 6; FREE. If you stick to the beaten path of the hoi polloi trudging between Ninkasi and Oakshire, you’re going to miss just about everything that makes the Whit so unique. Be an urban adventurer: Keep an eye out for renegade backyard parties, check out the side streets and alleyways, and stay alert to what’s behind the hedge and down the path least taken. 

we live in a very pet-friendly area with many restaurants that allow customers to dine with their dogs … or cats. When I first got my dog a little more than a year ago, she was an 8-week-old rescue puppy with a boxer face and blue heeler paws, and I never wanted to leave her home alone. So she went everywhere with me.

Chihuahuas weigh an average of 4 to 6 pounds — that’s about the size of a large bunny. The puppies tip the scale at only a few ounces, and yet, Chihuahuas are all canine, descendants of Canis lupus, just like huskies, malamutes and Irish wolfhounds. 

I own a tiny grey alpaca named Shimmer. I bought her for $250 two winters ago and she hasn’t stopped costing me money since. I’m building a small fiber business, selling Oregon yarn and hand knits online. I’m about wool. One year into my ambitious little alpaca fiber program, I thought Shimmer would be 1) pregnant by now 2) friendlier to me and 3) well … friendlier to me. 

Seventeen-year-old Courtney Scott stands by the arena at a well-maintained stable in Goshen, a few miles southeast of Eugene. She’s on crutches, her left leg in a cast due to stress fractures from dancing, but her eyes sparkle as she waits for her horse to be brought out for her to ride. The crutches make her weekly ride a little more challenging, but Scott doesn’t care.

“Here kitty, kitty. Come put on this rosary and sit next to this golden chalice like you’re taking communion.”

So it goes for BooBoo, a 17-pound Eugene tabby whose dress-up antics have earned him five million views on the website Pretty 52 and his own greeting card Etsy shop (79 sales and counting!). 

Readers, you’ve outdone yourselves. We asked for pet photos, and did we ever receive. With more than 200 submissions, it was incredibly difficult to choose the absolute best.

Pets are kind of like practice kids for some of us or, for people like me, they are straight up in lieu of bearing children — just please don’t call them fur-babies; that’s gross. 

In 2014, Crystal Webb left Alabama, landed in Eugene and moved in with a friend to kick her opiate and crystal meth addiction. 

Making the decision to get distance from an environment in which she found herself intertwined with drugs and dealers was a significant step if she wanted to get clean. Webb says she locked herself away for a month and slept. 

“It was painful, but so was using, so I guess maybe I might have been a little conditioned,” she says. “When using, every come-down was painful, so I knew what to expect, just not how long it would take.”