Oslund + Co.

January 8, 2004

Oslund + Co.
Lincoln Performance Hall

Portland, Oregon

January 8–10, 2004

Reviewed by Martha Ullman West


No Portland choreographer has been more misunderstood by the local press than Mary Oslund, whose highly intelligent, meticulously crafted work has been dubbed, quite mistakenly, robotic, alienated, and inaccessible. While there are elements of alienation and disengagement in Behavior (a section of which was reprised in the company’s January season), to suggest that her dancers are mechanical or inhuman, or that nuanced, gestural detail and space-devouring movement cannot be understood except by the cognoscenti, is not only unfair but misleading, serving neither audience nor art form.


, premiering in its complete form (a section premiered last fall), with an atonal score by Australian composer Darrin Verhagen that matches the dynamics of the movement, showed choreographer and dancers at their best and features gentle, shapely choreography juxtaposed with Oslund’s trademark edginess. A duet for company stalwarts Rinda Chambers and Margretta Hansen, the latter a classically trained dancer who has magnificently internalized Oslund’s Cunningham-based movement, is both charming and elegant as the dancers weave their way through intricate partnering. Former dancer Katherine Gray designed the flowing brown and rust costumes and is also responsible for the regrettably unworkable ones for Volant, the closing premiere commissioned by White Bird/Tiffany & Co. New Works Fund.


Danced to a more lyrical score by Daniel Bernard Roumain, with guest artists Michele Ainza and Eric Skinner, who along with the company regulars seemed underrehearsed and uneasy with both costumes and movement, Volant is uncharacteristically sentimental, although crafted with Oslund’s customary logic. The costumes, some in welcome, bright colors, are made of a stiff fabric that detracts from these dancers’ smooth, easy line, making them look awkward. On the other hand, the gently waving fringed set conceived by Katherine Gray and lighting designer Jeff Forbes is fantastic, moving with the dancers as the costumes fail to do, completing an elegant picture. Forbes lighted the evening with his usual skill at supporting Oslund’s visually oriented work.


For Portland performances and touring schedule: