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October 16, 2015 06:03 AM

How can one possibly review a great artist like Twyla Tharp? Her work spans fifty years – this is the 50th anniversary of her dance company – which deserves its own accolades in the arts-funding parched USA. 50 years of collaborations, discipline, technique, of musical explorations, theatrical endeavors, of making her mark, of being herself, of being a woman in a male-dominated field, and a strong, focused and no-nonsense woman at that. She’s a role model for creativity and the shrewd confidence needed to sustain growth over time and space. She is one of a kind.

            Tharp’s presentation at the Arlene Schnitzer Performance Hall, produced by Portland’s Whitebird Dance, spanned a juicy aesthetic arc, from the past to now.

            The show opened with “First Fanfare” with music by John Zorn. Taught and provocative, the piece explored time and shape with Tharp’s blend of highly-articulated and uncompromising technique, and the toss-away vernacular that looks deceptively easy, but is likely one of the hardest aspects of her choreography to master.

            “Yowzie” was a fan favorite, with vibrant costumes by Santo Loquasto. Tharp’s movement style - her uncanny juxtaposition between the reverent ballet and classically modern work her dancers are all capable, and the bouncy, multi-layered percolating juggernaut – were delectably redolent in this piece.

            Tharp’s company is remarkable, spanning ages and sizes, shorter/taller, younger/older - a bundle of personalities and uniformly delightful stage presences. John Selya is especially compelling – and hilarious in “Yowzie!”, as is Rika Okamoto, whose slight physique cannot possibly contain her seemingly boundless exuberance, and pitch-perfect sense of humor.

            Tharp’s “Preludes and Fugues”, set to J.S.Bach, featured delicious duets and trios that flitted in and out of range, reacting and catalyzing the piece, as if dancers were bubbling over with new ideas as they discovered them. Here, Tharp’s penchant for pushing into the vertical space, without any wasted or romantic effort, her artistic facility over gesture and emotion - which she always holds a the reigns on -was apparent. And her musicality! Oh, to create in the pockets between the notes, in the spaces between the beats… To make dance that not only shows the audience more of the music, but does so by allowing the dance to tug at it sometimes, to serve as counterpoint, the way nature will sometimes grow at an angle away from itself, and in so doing, finds the real beauty.

            When “Preludes and Fugues” came together, the entire company in a circle, moving in unison with the slightest lift of the leg, the arm, the chin, my soul was restored. There is not a whiff of mediocrity here, of extraneous noodlings or space fillers.  There’s a purity of intention, a powerful statement of humanity, and it had to be arrived at through the multitude of little moments it took to get there.

            In that moment, as in so many more, Tharp reminded me why I love dance.

            A Q&A followed, with Tharp, along with the suggestion of the possibility of her return in 2016, which was met with wild enthusiasm from the audience. If the company returns, I’ll make the trip up I-5 for sure. 

October 13, 2015 03:47 PM

This unusual press release came in Oct. 8 in support of Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin, and we can't help but wonder if it's in response to the criticism Hanlin has received in Oregon and nationwide for his strident anti-gun-safety positions. But of course that issue is not even mentioned in the press release. Find the full letter with signatures at http://www.flashalertnewswire.net/images/news/2015-10/1230/88539/Hanlin_...

The Oregon State Sheriffs' Association (OSSA) supports Sheriff John Hanlin, his deputies and the entire community of Douglas County during this very difficult time. However, most importantly we support the victims of this tragic event.

The mission of OSSA is to support the Office of Sheriff in Oregon and to bring resources together in a time of need. In response to the incident at Umpqua Community College, Sheriffs from around the state pulled together to provide assistance, offers of resources and personnel from the inception of the incident and throughout the investigation.

We understand there is a great demand for immediate answers and change, but rushing an investigation or making snap judgments does a great disservice to the victims, their families, and the community as a whole. Members of the Roseburg Police Department, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Douglas County Fire agencies and many other supporting law enforcement agencies were the first responders on a very gruesome and horrific scene. Dedicated deputies, police officers and medical personnel have handled the situation with the utmost professionalism in the face of complete heartache. Sheriff Hanlin and the investigative team have made decisions based upon facts from the scene and with the advice of the many committed public safety partners that are assisting in the investigation.

We would like the victims' families to know that we share in your grief. May God bless and comfort each one of you.
Contact Info:
John Bishop
Oregon State Sheriffs' Association
330 Hood St. NE
Salem, Oregon 97301
(503) 364-4204

October 12, 2015 06:04 AM

Ballet Fantastique presented its season opener, Cirque de la Lune, in the Hult’s Soreng theater October 9-11. The closing show performed to a full, mostly rapt house.

            Tracing the experience of an innocent young gal, who joins a travelling depression-era circus, Cirque de la Lune played with color and light, weaving its narrative with stellar live accompaniment by Mood Area 52, Betty and the Boy and Troupe Carnivale.

            BFan’s collaborative spirit, and their insistence on live music always enriches the experience. The live music for Cirque was evocative and moody, carrying the shifts in emotional dynamic.

            Costumes and headpieces, too, by Jonna Hayden, Etain Wilday, Donna Marisa Bontrager and Mitra Chester were first rate. Clown-like in their vibrancy, they added a pop of brightness, perhaps suggesting the exotic allure of a circus to small-town America.

            The male dancers are consistent: Martino Sauter, Anthony Rosario stand out for their technique. Rosario is especially strong, dancing with his whole body, every moment he’s onstage. Jim Ballard may not have their ballet training, but he’s a terrific actor, bringing warmth and character to his role. And International Circus Artist Raymond Silos stole many moments with his gravity-defying trapeze, hoop and silks work.

            Among the women, technique is more variable. The dancers have a lot of heart, but for some, energy seems to drain out of their hands and feet, especially during any challenging petite allegro footwork. Timing is also an issue, as so much of the work demands precision in its unison, and a couple of the dancers are often at least one beat behind the others.

            Of the women, Hannah Bontrager has the strongest technique and the greatest stage presence. She is lovely onstage, emoting gracefully and delivering work that’s refined and passionate. But casting herself in a work she’s co-choreographing with Donna Marisa Bontrager may keep her from seeing the places where the corps work just needs more polish.

            Choreographically, Bfan feels comfortable. It’s easy to watch. But the accumulative effect, over the course of the full work, may be that we haven’t journeyed that far together.

            Multiple duets feel similar to one another, often at the same tempo, exploring relationships that seem almost like the partnering one would see in ballroom dance, rather than classical ballet. There aren’t a lot of ballet ‘tricks’ here –the pirouettes, the tour en l’airs, and the intricate movement across the floor or into the vertical space - that we love about ballet. It’s lovely. But it feels somehow safe.

            Unlike many BFan shows, this one did not have a narrator.

            Ballet is often meant to tell a story – it doesn’t have to, of course, in fact many dance-makers choose thoughtfully crafted exploration of line, shape and tempo over a plot - But relying on a narrator to thrust the plot forward seems incongruous somehow with the art form, that, in its elevation is ideally supposed to communicate volumes through movement and gesture only. 

            That said, without the program synopsis, this ballet would be challenging to follow. Easy on the eyes and enjoyable, but in terms of story perhaps a little thin. 

October 12, 2015 02:28 PM

This Sunday Falling Sky Brew Pub hosted their 2nd annual Worlds Shortest Bike Race. With about 150 in attendance racers took on a 13.05 foot course in heats of 4 with the goal of being either the fastest or slowest to complete the course. Here are some photos from the races. Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

Falling Sky 2015 Worlds Shortest Bike Race

October 12, 2015 03:37 PM

Willamette Riverkeeper has posted a video of photos submitted by volunteers at the annual Willamette Clean Up Oct. 3. About 800 people participated, half from around Lane County.

October 11, 2015 05:30 AM

The first-annual Northwest Screen Dance Exposition leapt onto the screen at the Bijou Cinemas Tuesday night (10/6), with a collection of short works that highlighted the burgeoning relationship between dance and film.

            Organized by producers John Watson and Dorene Carroll, the effort was sponsored by the UO and LCC Dance Programs, and served as a benefit for Danceability International.

            Dance and film have a long, intertwined history. A1896 film of Loïe Fuller’s Serpentine Danceby the pioneering film-makers Auguste and Louis Lumière, is a perfect example of that early marriage between dance – the most ancient, and most elusive of art forms – and film, a medium that artists are still experimenting with, more than a century later.

            “Working’ It” by writer/director Brad Burke was a crowd-pleaser. More like a short movie about a dancer, than a new dance work , the piece was nonetheless humorous and engaging. A great opener.

            Other standouts included choreographer/director and editor Shannon Mockli’s “Fluctuating Frequencies” - a tight, well-plotted, site-specific, interestingly choreographed, well-lighted piece - that placed dancers in an urban landscape, creating an effect of armature, with their spare, almost insect-like interconnected movement.

            Sarah Nemecek’s “In Here, Out There” explored local geography, contrasting artfully simple movement patterns in a variety of natural settings – the muddy beach, the forest floor, and a meadow, to strong effect.

            Other pieces had moments of arresting quality that I wanted to see more of: Mary Fitzgerald and Brad Garner’s “Nearby Far” featured one moment, when Garner tumbles down a sand dune, that was exquisite. Cinematographer Dmitri Von Klein captured the fluidity of the sand’s reflection, and the refreshingly human fall.

            In “Late Afternoon Sunshine”, filmmaker Antonio Anacan featured footage of choreographer and dancer Suzanne Haag’s feet. Haag is a ballet dancer, and here are these feet, the size of action heroes. I could have watched a piece that was only close-ups on feet –  with all the nuanced, varied and amazing things that a dancers foot can articulate. (And if s/he’s doing them well, we’ll likely lot notice.) 

            Likewise, choreographer Barbara Canal, Director Michele Manzini and Director of Photography Luciano Perbellini and Editor Valeria Lo Meo’s “Snags in Palladio” offered unusual settings (filming in Italy helps) and piquant relationship inquiries, like a chilling duet with one dancer facing away from the camera, her long hair obscuring her back, with the arm of another dancer reaching around her. Gives me willies just thinking about it. Evocative and moody. I liked it.

            This “screen dance” form asks a lot of the artist(s). In order to work, start to finish, a piece has to have stellar choreography, be well-lit and well-filmed, it has to have a sound component that enhances the experience, and then, probably most important, it has to be well-edited. In writing, we’d call it “killing our darlings” – the painful ritual of cutting extraneous words. (If it doesn’t develop the overall effect, it’s outta there. )

            Editing in dance is powerful. And it seems even more essential in this hybrid dance/film platform than it does three dimensional, live performance.

            As dance pioneer Doris Humphrey famously said, “Alldances are too long. Monotony is fatal; contrasts should be used.”

            All the pieces selected for this year’s Expo had merit. Each had a unique something to share, and moments of real clarity and interest.

            ButHumphrey’s advice may apply to the works that tended to pool into repetitive eddies, either with movement that lacked dynamic structure, or film techniques that started fresh, but became a little gimmicky.

            Perhaps these works may have benefitted from greater exploration of possibilities in speed, shape and relationships. 

October 11, 2015 05:38 AM

Teatro Milagro’s national touring production of ‘Searching for Aztlán’, written & directed by Lakin Valdez, (son of Luis Valdez), was a rare treat.

         Presented by Lane Arts Council, he performance took place Friday, Oct 9th at Oregon Contemporary Theatre to a sold-out (and enthusiastic) house.

         The bilingual play, Searching for Aztlán, begins in 2012 with the Tucson school board’s acceptance of HB 2281, shutting down Mexican American Studies and removing its books from classrooms. A giant dust storm, or “haboob,” strikes the city and leaves Dolores Huelga (played with aplomb by Monica Domena), a teacher, unemployed and in an alternate reality. Lost in the desert, Dolores sets out on a quest for the mythical city of Aztlán.

         The play brilliantly interweaves Huelga’s story with the familiar ‘Wizard of Oz’, as subtle musical cues and clever narrative structure help us to find the road map that Huelga’s not in Arizona anymore…

         In her search for the mythic land, Huelga encounters updated versions of Dorothy’s friends. The scarecrow is an illegal immigrant (Giovanni Alva). The tin man is a woman who’s of Mexican-American origin, but who doesn’t speak Spanish, and whose family has completely negated their own cultural past (Shenekah Telles). The cowardly lion is a militant Chicano organizer who’s been piddling around Aztlán since the 1970’s (Ajai Terrazas-Tripathi). Together, this motley crew set off on a journey towards self-discovery and societal change.

         The cast is remarkable. With not much more than a hand-painted backdrop and a few costume changes, they create a variety of settings and moods. From the State Board of Education, where Huelga attempts to defend the purpose of teaching Mexican American history and literature to predominantly Mexican American students, to the borderlands between the US and Mexico, to the mythical land itself, each step is populated by fully-developed and relatable characters.

         As playwrights, the group employs humor, an ease and comfort with the material that makes their work human and accessible. And seeing a show that slipped, so effortlessly, between Spanish and English, was a remarkable experience. I understand a little Spanish, my date – my 13-yr-old daughter – not a word. Yet she comprehended the entire show, and loved it.

         On the way home, she asked me to let her know the next time something that Teatro Milagro would be in town.

         “Because I’m into activism and education, mom,” she said.

         I hope that the group would consider a return trip soon.


October 5, 2015 12:38 PM

The Jayanthi Raman Company performed for a small but appreciative audience Saturday night, October 3. The performance featured choreography, design, costumes and lighting design by Raman, to varying effect.

         The strongest piece, Swagatham Krishna, choreographed and danced by Raman, explored classical and folk elements as it told the story of Lord Krishna, in the three ages of his life. The piece was gentle and lilting, evocatively communicative, and Raman’s exposition before the piece provided a helpful narrative guide, allowing greater accessibility into what is for many in the audience, likely an unfamiliar tale.

         Overall, the program could have benefited from a simple handheld program, with a bit of background information, the names of the dances and the dancers themselves. Without such written word, audience members were left scratching their heads a bit. (When I inquired about a program, I was told I could by Raman’s textbook on classical Indian dance, for upwards of $30…)

         Dancers Shradha Vinod, Soujanya Madhusudan, Sweta Ravishankar, Mugdha Vichare and Ramya Raman were all excellent, each demonstrating a strong technique and performance quality.

         Tillana, choreographed by Guru Adyar Lakshman performed by Jayanthi Raman Company dancers led by Raman, spoke to the dancers’ abilities. Colorful costumes enlivened the experience.

         Lighting added emotional resonance, but was in constant struggle with the projections of slides behind the dancers, which alternated between the same celestial image, translations of Vedic texts, and symbolic images from nature, such as a peacock. If Raman is going to incorporate visual elements such as these, as backdrops for her work, they need to be more finely tuned to the pieces themselves, or they threaten to take away from, rather than enhancing the experience.

         Raman is the recipient of numerous grants, including an Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Grant, and has received support from the Oregon Cultural Trust and the National Dance Project.

         Though Raman successfully articulates, in her marketing and in development, the need for more light to shine on this underrepresented art form, the company’s somewhat stilted presentational style could benefit from more polish in order to become more universally resonant. 

October 3, 2015 01:37 PM

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has issued this statement from the shooter's family: "We are shocked and deeply saddened by the horrific events that unfolded on Thursday, October 1. Our thoughts, our hearts and our prayers go out to all of the families of those who died and were injured. "

October 2, 2015 04:32 PM

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office released the names today of those who were killed in the Oct. 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College.

Officials identified them as Lucero Alcaraz of Roseburg, 19, Quinn Glen Cooper of Roseburg, 18, Kim Saltmarsh Dietz of Roseburg, 59, Lucas Eibel of Roseburg, 18, Jason Dale Johnson of Winston, 34, Lawrence Levine of Glide, 67, Sarena Dawn Moore of Myrtle Creek, 44, Treven Taylor Anspach of Sutherlin, 20, and Rebecka Ann Carnes of Myrtle Creek, 18.

It appears most of those killed were students at the college. Larry Levine was an instructor.

The sheriff’s office says that nine other people were injured, not seven as originally believed. The death toll is 10 people, including the shooter, Chris Harper Mercer. The Douglas County sheriff is among some of the many people and groups who will not mention him by name as part of an effort to decrease copycat killings and the motivating factor of fame.

The school has cancelled classes for next week and President Obama has ordered flags to be flown at half staff.

It has been put out that the Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket the funerals of the victims. A Facebook group has formed to bring together community members working to prevent that and to shield and aid the families.

UCC student Chris Mintz has received acclaim after his family told the media that he was shot while charging the shooter. 

The sheriff's office also released family statements on behalf of several of those killed.

Jason Johnson Family Statement

"Jason Johnson, age 34, was proud to be a Christian. Jason recently enrolled in school at Umpqua Community College. Jason's mother said that Jason was proud of himself for enrolling in school, and so was his mom. They felt that Jason had finally found his path. His family says that he will be loved and missed."


Lucas Eibel Family Statement

"We have been trying to figure out how to tell everyone how amazing Lucas was, but that would take 18 years.

Lucas loved Future Farmers of America volunteering at Wildlife Safari, and Saving Grace animal shelter. He was an amazing soccer player. He graduated Roseburg High School with high academic marks. He was a Ford Family Foundation scholarship recipient. He was a Umpqua Community College scholars award recipient. He was studying chemistry.

Memorial donations can be made to Roseburg High School FFA and to the injured victims."

Quinn Cooper Family Statement

"We are in shock this happened. Quinn was only 18 years old. He just graduated in June from Roseburg High school. Yesterday was his fourth day of college. Quinn was funny, sweet, compassionate and such a wonderful loving person. He always stood up for people. Quinn and his brother Cody are inseparable. Quinn was going to take his brown belt test on October 10th. He loved dancing and voice acting and playing Ingress with Cody, my oldest son. I don't know how we are going to move forward with our lives without Quinn. Our lives are shattered beyond repair. We send our condolences to all the families who have been so tragically affected by this deranged gunman. No one should ever have to feel the pain we are feeling.

We are hearing so many people talk about gun control and taking people's guns away. If the public couldn't have guns it wouldn't help since sick people like this will always be able to get their hands on a gun(s). We need to be able to protect ourselves as a community and as a nation. Please don't let this horrible act of insanity become about who should or shouldn't have a gun. Please remember the victims and their families. Please remember Quinn."

Thank you. The Coopers.

Treven Anspach Family Statement

"The Anspach family would like to thank everybody for their heart felt thoughts and prayers during this most difficult time. Treven was one of the most positive young man always looking for the best in life. Treven was larger than life and brought out the best in those around him.

In Justin's and Kim's words Treven was a perfect son."



October 1, 2015 10:20 AM

According to newly released data from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), the rate of students without a home has increased by 8 percent from the 2013-14 school year. Oregon school districts identified 20,524 homeless K-12 students during the 2014-15 school year.

From the ODE: 

The number of children and youth in shelters has remained steady in recent years, a sign that capacity has been reached and new shelter beds are not available.  The largest increases came from the numbers of children living in motels (a 14% increase) and the number of unsheltered youth (a 19% increase). The number of homeless students who are unaccompanied by parents or guardians also increased by 6.5%, to 3,321. The vast majority of homeless youth, both in Oregon and nationally, are living in doubled up housing due to economic hardship.


In Lane County, ODE reported 722 unhoused students in 4J, representing 4.24 percent of 4J's student population. Bethel had 407 unhoused students, or 7.21 percent of its student population, and Springfield had 491 unhoused students, or 4.44 percent of all students.

Eugene and Bethel's numbers have grown from the 2013-14 school year, while Springfield's numbers have dropped, from 580 in the 2013-14 year to 491 students in the most recent data year, 2014-15.

For the full data list, see ODE's website.

October 1, 2015 05:57 PM

Oregonians are reeling from the news of a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg. What is known is that a shooter opened fire at classroom at the community college killing at least 10 people and injuring seven.

The Oregonian,which is maintaining live updates on the shooting reports that the shooter, said to be a male in his 20s, is dead. His identity and motive are unknown. 

Witnesses report the shooting was in Snyder Hall in a writing or speech class.

What isn't known is whether this latest shooting will press Oregon and the nation to finally do something about gun control and the state of mental health care. As President Obama said today, when speaking on the shooting:

"… each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It's not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. It does nothing to prevent his carnage from being inflicted some place else in America next week or a couple months from now."

After the Newtown shootings at Sandy Hook where 20 kids and six adults were killed, the Douglas County Sheriff came out strongly against any new gun control legislation.

Twitter updates on today's shooting can be found at The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has been using the #UCCshooting hashtag. 

There will be a candlelight vigil at Roseburg's Stewart Park tonight. At 2 pm Oct.2, Lane Community College will  be providing an opportunity for "people to share their thoughts and feelings and support one another" at Bristow Square on the main campus.

According to the Register-Guard, a student told the Roseburg News-Review (accessible only to paid subscribers) that "she saw her teacher get shot in the head. The shooter was inside the classroom at that point, and he told people to get on the ground, she said. The shooter was asking people to stand up and state their religion and then started firing away, she added. Moore said she was lying there with people who had been shot."

Three students who were injured in the shooting were brought to Sacred Heart Medical Center RiverBend in Eugene for treatment. Sacred Heart hospital, at its previous location, has dealt with the victims of mass shootings in the past. It treated some of the 25 victims of Kip Kinkel's 1998 shooting spree at Thurston High. 

Lane Blood Center has put out a call for emergency blood donors due to the sudden need for blood as a result of the injuries.

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office said via Twitter that the reason it hasn't released the victims' names is because the shooting is "deemed 'mass-casualty event'; brings specific protocols into play. Protocol/notifications mean no name release for 24-48 hrs." 

A 4Chan posting purportedly from the shooter warning of the incident has been circulating on the internet but has not been verified. The New York Times says the FBI is investigating but also says "messages found on 4chan have a history of being false, misleading and intentionally wrong." 

Obama's White House address on the Umpqua shootings

September 29, 2015 01:53 PM

Local band Steel Wool goes a little nuts over sweet stuff.

September 29, 2015 01:23 PM

This rally against Nestle's water extraction plans happened at the state Capitol Sept. 16. Video by Daniel Dronsfield <salshakes@gmail.com>.