The White Bird dance company will host the Russell Maliphant Company at Lincoln Hall from Jan. 22–24, starting each night at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $25–30, but Portland State students will be given a discounted price of $20.
Along with the performance on Jan. 23, there will be a question-and-answer panel with the company, which was established in 1996 by Russell Maliphant, one of England’s leading modern dance choreographers.
Maliphant and his troupe of four dancers will make their Portland debut with “Still Current,” a new program featuring duets and trios. Maliphant, who was classically trained at the Royal Ballet School, will also take to the stage in some performances.
Joining Maliphant in the production is Michael Hulls, a lighting designer Maliphant has worked with since 1994; composers Armand Amar, Andy Cowton and Mukul; and costume designer Stevie Stewart.
“[Maliphant] likes working on a very small, intimate scale. Ten dancers would be somewhat of a stretch for him,” said Walter Jaffe, one of the co-founders of the White Bird dance company.
Jaffe launched White Bird in 1997 alongside co-founder Paul King after moving to Portland and seeing the potential the city had. Portland has become a hothouse for dance, with companies such as Oregon Ballet Theatre, BodyVox, Northwest Dance Project and Polaris Dance headlining what’s new and current in dance.
PSU had its own dance program before it was axed in the 1990s. Jaffe wanted to bring dance back to PSU and created White Bird’s Uncaged program, which regularly brings dance to Lincoln Hall and other local spots like the Newmark Theatre, a location accessible to the PSU community.
Uncaged got its name from the feeling White Bird was attempting to convey, a program that is out of the box, innovative and aware of artists and creators that aren’t well-known to Portland or other parts of the world. Maliphant’s work, while a part of this program, is highly regarded and established in England.
Later in the spring, White Bird will host New Israeli Voices in Dance for its American premiere.
“Maliphant is very contemporary, combining different forms of movement. I saw the program a year ago in London and I was immediately struck by the intimacy and the fluidity of movement,” Jaffe said.
There is nothing fancy about Maliphant’s work, no bells and whistles to make the productions ornate. The lighting, according to Jaffe, is one of the most important aspects. Because the sets are so minimal, the interaction between dancers and light is what sets Maliphant apart from the rest. He is also continually exploring the relationship between dance, music and light.
“You connect with the dancers because they are very individual. They look like us, but they don’t move like us,” Jaffe said.