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Crowded stage

Ballet showcase grows and grows
By EMILY PARKHURST  |  August 27, 2008

ON THEIR TOES This year’s Showcase program will include If you can’t get there from here . .  . 
Stand Still, choreographed by Sasha Soreff. Photo credit: Hope Davis.

This weekend, the most trusted source for dance in the Portland area, the Portland Ballet Company, will present its annual Portland Dances! New Works Showcase, a sampler of original jazz, modern, point, and experimental choreography. The Showcase is an opportunity for choreographers to develop original works using free studio space at Portland Ballet, and then see them performed on stage at Portland High School.

August 15 and 16 at 8 pm | John Ford Theater at Portland High School, 284 Cumberland Avenue, Portland | Advance tickets are $15 | call 207.772.9671
"It's so nice to have the opportunity to do whatever you want," says Portland Ballet resident choreographer Nell Shipman. "This event rallies people together around the dance community."

Shipman, whose work Si je t'aime . . . Beware will have its premiere this weekend, has enjoyed the festival-like atmosphere of the New Works Showcase in past seasons. This year, however, she says the Ballet received more applications from choreographers than ever before.

This could be in part because of the growing popularity of reality shows such as Fox-TV’s So You Think You Can Dance. The hit show, now in its third season, gives talented dancers the opportunity to show off their stuff in a dance-off competition. In last year’s ratings, it finished number one in its time slot.

"Our dance students are interested in all different types of dancing now," Shipman explains. "The reality shows have made some of the less popular dances more accessible."

Choreographers selected for this year's New Works Showcase include several former Portland Ballet students as well as choreographers from around Maine, New York, Ohio, and even Mexico. With 20 choreographers presenting their work, the dances are sure to cover a wide range of styles and influences. Seven of the 20 are new to Portland Dances! this year.

"Mine is a fun, flirty little piece," says Shipman. Set to the familiar music of the Habanera from Bizet's Carmen, Shipman's Si je t'aime . . . Beware is set for six dancers, including Shipman. She describes the process of choreographing a new work as "finding a piece (of music) that speaks to me, one where I can see the imagery." She hopes her choice of this well-known piece will encourage the audience to relate immediately to the dance the music inspired.

"We really leave it open to the choreographer, and because we're not all under one roof, there will be many different points of view. This will be a showcase of everything you could possibly see in Maine," she explains.

The music selections run the gamut as well — from Damien Rice to Willie Nelson to recordings of Tibetan monks, plus a number of original works.

Due to the large number of choreographers participating this year, the presentations will be mostly short works, to give the audience a fair sampling of the variety without dragging things out. Thanks to the program’s newfound popularity, there has been, however, some discussion of developing the New Works Showcase into an extended event similar to the nationally recognized Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston.

"We want to present as many choreographers as possible," says Shipman. "You never know. This could definitely turn into something larger in the future."

Emily Parkhurst can be reached

  Topics: Dance , Entertainment, Media, Television,  More more >
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