Sara Juli has a simple goal: inspire and expand dance in Maine.
The performance artist takes a significant step in that direction with “Maine Moves,” a new dance showcase featuring up-and-coming choreographers and dancers at 8 p.m. Saturday at Portland Ballet Studio Theater. The program is a collaborative effort among Juli, Portland Youth Dance and the Bates Dance Festival.
“There’s a lot of bubbling up of activity,” said Juli, a performer who tours around the country with her own work. “We want to help create more opportunities for artists.”
The new series is designed to help artists in lasting and meaningful ways. In addition to giving them performance opportunities, the series gives artists the chance to show their work, receive feedback from their peers in the dance field and participate in grant-writing workshops.
Juli, the 2017 Maine Art Fellow for the Performing Arts, received a grant from the Maine Arts Commission to pay for the professional development program. Artists receive a performance stipend, a video of their work and photographs they can use to promote their art. A panel of dance leaders met late last year to select artists for Saturday’s program.
Kristen Stake, director of the Living Room dance collective based in South Portland, said Saturday’s program “represents a welcome change in the dance culture of southern Maine. The choreographers chosen represent a level of artistic maturity and ingenuity that the Maine dance scene has been craving for a long time.”
One artist performing in this show, Aretha Aoki, uses her dances to research memory, uncover where it resides in the body and commune with ghosts from the past, “the effect of which is otherworldly and absolutely arresting,” Stake said. “Another choreographer-dancer, Riley Watts, uses the ‘technology’ of the great William Forsythe, with whom he danced for professionally for years, by expanding upon his radical, ballet-infused improvisations while maintaining a palpable intensity of focus and intricacy of movement.”
Saturday’s program will include six artists and five pieces.
“Yellow Orchard” is an interdisciplinary dance piece by Aoki and Ryan MacDonald, and it involves dancing, memory, video animation, sculpture and the Noh theater play, “Matsukaze (Wind in the Pines).” It centers on Aoki’s Japanese family history.
“The Truth (Maybe),” choreographed and performed by Rebecca Bass, is an ode to her late grandmother, who was a storyteller and embellisher. Rebecca’s sister, Hayley, recorded their grandmother’s stories at Hanukkah parties and Passover seders, resulting in the score for this solo performance.
As she read “The Invisible Man” in high school, Emily McConnell was struck by a section in the introduction in which the narrator listens to Louis Armstrong and transcends the music. For her, “Between the Lines” explores the emotional ride that occurs when one hears powerful words or music.
The dance company Kreilkamp Nicoll will perform “For the Hearts and Brains and Bodies of ME people,” described as a low-tech work involving one or more performers and one or more duffle bags, maybe some rope, flashlights and “other not-dangerous oddments.” In our current culture, we are supposed to fear mysterious bags and boxes on the side of the road, on sidewalks, subway platforms, baggage terminals and elsewhere. This piece celebrates the boxes and bags that Mainers work with and their contents: sand, cement, sacks of coffee, boxes of bait fish and contractor bags stuffed to near bursting.
Watts will present “idea ii (coming of mage)” as a real-time performance of thoughts, memories and the kinesthetic awareness of the artist.
Aoki is a choreographer, performer and assistant professor at Bowdoin College. Bass moved to Portland from New York City last fall, and graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University in 2015 with a degree in dance and economics. She co-founded Columbia University Ballet Ensemble.
MacDonald has worked in sound, text, video and dramaturgy and is the author of the story collection “The Observable Characteristics of Organisms” and the winner of the 2012 American Short(er) Fiction Award. He has developed a wide variety of animation and media art. He has a master’s in studio art and an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he taught new media and animation before moving to Maine and working in the theater and dance department at Bowdoin.
McConnell is a senior at Falmouth High School and will attend Dartmouth College in the fall. She has danced at Casco Bay Movers, and she attended the Bates Dance Festival in 2016. Kreilkamp Nicoll was founded by performers and siblings Laura Kreilkamp Nicoll and Rufus Morgan Kreilkamp Nicoll. Their collaborative performance projects include found objects, movement, text, illustration, light, projection, sound and more.
Watts is based in Portland, and his work explores consciousness through movement. He trained at Bangor Ballet and Walnut Hill School for the Arts and received a bachelor’s degree in dance from The Juilliard School in 2007. He has danced across Europe and works as a freelance teacher, choreographer, researcher and performer. Watts is on the faculty at the Bangor Ballet, a member of the advisory committee for the Bates Dance Festival and a dance and performance advisor for Space Gallery. He is the recipient of a Princess Grace Award.
WHERE: Portland Ballet Studio Theater, 517 Forest Ave.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
HOW MUCH: $10