My name is Vivian, and I’ve come from Taiwan to study in America. Through my university, I’ve joined a program in which we take English language classes, then volunteer for non-profit organizations.
I arrived in America in September, and I am now an intern for Polaris Dance Theatre. I chose Polaris because I’m interested in dancing and seeing their unique performances.
When I was an elementary school student, I took ballet classes, but I stopped when I hurt my neck. Despite my injury, after a few years I wanted to try some jazz and hip-hop classes because I still wanted to dance.
When I saw the mission of Polaris, I felt so touched and excited that I eventually decided to volunteer. Through this opportunity, I have been learning about their administrative work and watched the dance company rehearse for their upcoming performance, Groovin’ Greenhouse.
It makes me cheerful and inspires me to continue to learn about dance. I have really enjoyed volunteering here, and look forward to helping with the performances!
Grateful and growing are the two words that come to mind when I think about 2014 at Polaris Dance Theatre. We’ve experienced amazing growth in our programming, performances and staff, and we look forward to continuing on this path towards collaborative outreach and community enrichment.
We face a time when funding cuts in the performing arts and education are increasing, but with the help of our board, staff, dancers, students, parents and most importantly, our supporters, we’re working to continue the important programming we provide to the local community and beyond.
This journey of discovery, which I share with these gifted individuals, is an exploration of passion, challenges, and strengths, which culminates in a rich artistic offering for audiences who overwhelmingly proclaim that they’ve been moved and forever changed by their experience with Polaris Dance Theatre.
The more I work with the unique, gifted, and giving group of students and dancers, the more touched I am to be included in such meaningful projects, many of which change lives, including my own.
I am ever-grateful to the wonderful body of students and parents who are drawn to the innovative classes we offer, and I am ever-humbled by the community support that continues to overflow within our organization. All this adds to the mission and spirit that is uniquely Polaris!
At Polaris, we believe that EVERY BODY can dance…no matter age or ability! We proudly reflect this mission in our programming, which additionally this year included tap classes, the launch of our SprindBoard program for teens, parent/child classes for ages 1 and up, and senior classes for ages 55+.
I am honored to be working with such a talented and hard-working group of artists, including Gerard Regot from Spain, one of two international dance company members this year. Regot’s unique movement style, both as a dancer and choreographer, broadens and enriches Polaris’ artistic vision.
Polaris has created 327 original dance works since our opening in 2002. We continue to develop progressive contemporary dance, demonstrated by our 2014 performances, including the much-anticipated annual Groovin’ Greenhouse in January, which brought in 8 guest dance companies; Homegrown in June, featuring distinguished, local choreographers, sound artists and performers; and Word, a riveting blend of dance to spoken word.
This year also brought us new staff, including our Marketing Manager, Mary Overman, with whom we’ve made new strides and strategies, and along with our board, have continued to develop organizational structure and growth. Polaris’ achievements and accomplishments would not be possible without their professional guidance, unwavering support, passion, and yes…a little elbow grease!
Exciting adventures are in store for Polaris, including our search for a new home. Our current home in downtown Portland, one we’ve called ours for the past 6 years, will transition to condominiums. We’re looking forward to the new relationships this move will bring, and hope you’ll remain with us on this new adventure!
As we move into our 13th year, I’m thankful for the opportunity to continue on this journey with you, our supporters. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel towards our many volunteers, collaborators, and contributors, without whom we would not succeed. With your support, we’ll continue flourishing in the city that we love.
To you and yours, may the new year bring you peace, love, and dance!
Dazzling from the start and engrossing the audience with powerful movement, emotional expression and a thought-provoking relationship between dance and word, “Word” did not disappoint on opening night. From simple strides across the floor to graceful, sharp dance phrases, to moving acrobatics built around the power of the poem, Trust, this show wowed the audience with a captivating performance including a tremendous mix of talented dancers who brought words to life in unique ways.
Strangers set the tone for a collection of pieces referencing togetherness with either familial, circumstantial, or comedic commonalities. Each piece had its own voice and was well-crafted and danced beautifully by company members and apprentices alike.
While the performance is intense and touches on some dark topics, it has more than a little comedic relief. Strangers, Trip Back Down, Censor Yourself, and Brain Damage had the audience smiling about more than just the beauty of the dance. The subject matter was sparkling with wit. The show’s ability to send viewers on an emotional roller-coaster ride, while concluding with two excellently choreographed, well-performed and incredibly humorous Bill Cosby pieces, was a perfect way to end the show.
Overall, “Word”, crafted by Artistic Director Robert Guitron, with choreography from company dancers M’Liss Stephenson, Kieraqmil Brinkley Geeter, as well as Briley Nuegebauer and Jocelyn Edelstein, takes viewers from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. It challenges us to form a connection between the beautiful dance and accompanying spoken word, the two mediums uniquely meshed here into one art form through the talent of 15 dancers and the words of renowned poets and playwrights such as Maya Angelou and Samuel Beckett.
As is especially the case in Ping, Strangers, One of Everything and Exam, it asks for individual interpretation of dance and how it physically, emotionally and choreographically embodies the dialogue. It’s the combination of the two that makes the powerfully constructed pieces so moving, and the show in its entirety, such a joy to witness.
Come see “Word” this upcoming weekend, Friday Nov. 14 and Saturday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 pm, or Sunday, Nov. 16 at 2pm. For more information on the show and to purchase tickets, click here.
- By Nick Poust
Opening night of Polaris Dance Theatre’s 2014-2015 season is on the horizon, with “Word” shows November 7th-9th and 14th-16th. The rehearsal process is well underway, as dancers are preparing an eclectic mix of pieces to spoken word under the direction of artistic director Robert Guitron and rehearsal director M’Liss Stephenson.
M’Liss Stephenson, who has been dancing with the company since its inception in 2002 says she’s excited about the show and the varying messages and emotions its individual pieces elicit–including “Strangers”, which is being brought back after its inclusion in Polaris’s first ever performance in 2003.
Dancing takes up time and energy, of course, but for Stephenson so does being on the other side as rehearsal director. She says the process differs from show to show, and that has a lot to do with the shape Guitron’s vision takes.“Most of our general process for a show that’s predominately choreographed by Robert has that life of its own,” she says. Stephenson sees which pieces need work and which others are clean or at least polished enough to wait until tomorrow making sure the show runs as cleanly as possible. Coming to grips with the reality that not everything goes as planned is key to the rehearsal process.
I had the pleasure to watch rehearsal unfold, and it’s progression with moments that are both calming and frantic. Cleaning was the prerogative, and Stephenson was busy making notes of what needed to be done in the coming days for each piece based off that day’s work, while Guitron studied the movement to decipher whether corrections or alterations were needed.
Watching the dancers, they were focused and intense, doing their part to create a fluid, visually stunning and entertaining show, heeding feedback along the way. There was a great level of communication among them, as they confer with one another on choreography and in turn create the chemistry and overall collective connection to the movement that is necessary.
Interwoven within the show are varying emotions that drew me in as I looked on, with moving pieces about loss, family, togetherness, as well as the world outside comfort zones and comedic annoyances within them. The connection between the spoken word’s powerful tones and meanings with the on-stage movement only enhanced the experience and heightened how each piece made me feel. And after witnessing this run-through, it can confidently be said that the rehearsal process’s goal of perfecting this exciting and emotional collection of pieces making up “Word” will be attained.
- By Nick Poust