I love watching dance in unexpected places, and fortunately, Portland offers up a lot of it. Example: POV Dance's performance last month in the Leftbank building, which was great. And, this past weekend, Heidi Duckler Dance performed Ragnarok in the burned out old Taylor Electric Supply Company Building (SE Clay and 2nd), which was fun, strange, and, chaotic. The building is scheduled to be torn down this week, February 6, which seems like somewhat of a shame (click here for an interesting history of the building). In the meantime, the building has been the source of artistic inspiration—primarily to a lot of (impressive) graffiti, but also Ragnarok.
Several bonfire pits lit the open-air space last Friday night for the opening of "Ragnarok," with the audience in their fluffy winter coats, huddled together within the confines of orange construction cones that had been laid out. The performance was about a Nordic myth, andRagnarok opened with a witchy lady in a long curly blonde wing, intoning in a cryptic voice, “An axe-age, a sword-age, shields will be gashed: there will be a wind-age and a wolf-age before the world is wrecked.” The troupe really used the entirety of the burned out building, for better or worse: the show was scattered. You were constantly turning your head, as the dancers moved all around the space, climbing up pegs sticking from the walls. At one point there was someone on a Razor scooter in the background, puttering around in circles.
The costumes had a similar scatteredness. The dance was about an ancient Norse myth, but anachronisms abounded; ancient trolls wore Pippi Longstocking wigs, the flame handler was, I’m pretty sure, wearing a "Star Wars" costume (btw, YES, there was a flame handler! Who was very good). Basically the costumes looked like they were found in the sales bin at Goodwill the day after Halloween—they didn't come together. It was a show about chaos, yes, about the end of days, yes, but there can be order in chaos, and there needs to be. Otherwise the audience loses patience and interest, and is generally confused. Understandably.
These things aside: this show was really enjoyable. Seeing performances outside of traditional venues generally has the effect of bringing the audience together. You’re standing, you're huddled, and the proximity between you and your neighbor is a lot closer than at a theater. You're probably more likely to talk to your neighbor than at an auditorium, because it feels like a community experience, and, in the case of Ragnarok, because you are a little confused by what you're seeing. One of my companions at the show said Ragnarok was the strangest performance she had ever seen, but also that it was a totally unique experience, and that she was glad she'd gone. With the building scheduled to be torn down later this month, it was indeed a one-of-a-kind experience. Heidi Duckler Dance will perform in Los Angeles later this month. If you have some hankering to see some skilled graffiti, the remains of the Taylor Electric Building will remain for a couple more days, go check it out.
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