LET'S DO THE 'TETRIS,' THE LATEST DANCE CRAZE
Growing up in Portland, Erik Kaiel enjoyed reading and excelled in dance and, oh, stayed up all night sometimes playing "Tetris."
"My first gaming love," he says.
"Tetris" is a puzzle, tile-matching game first brought to the public in the 1980s. By the end of the decade, it was on Game Boy and it has since firmly established itself in the world of video games. A few years ago, it was made for Xbox and Playstation 4, and it's still popular even among the younger generations.
So, Kaiel thought: Why not create a dance inspired by one of the most popular video games of all time?
Kaiel, who now lives in The Netherlands, and his company Arch8 bring his family-friendly dance "Tetris" to his hometown, staging it at Multnomah Arts Center, April 27-29. It's Arch8's Portland debut.
It's an interactive, physically supercharged quartet of dance, focusing on connecting people — much like you connect the tiles in "Tetris."
"'Tetris' (the dance) is about belonging — how we fit in, create community, connect with one another," Kaiel says. "It's a pendulum between wanting to belong and wanting to go wild and be ourselves. It abstracts what it is to be human."
The 45-year-old Kaiel began dancing for the famed Jefferson High School dance program, graduating in 1990.
Kaiel looks forward to staging the dance in his hometown.
"It's special to me," he says. "We've done this work on six continents, so it's really nice to be finally be able to share my work with the friends and family I grew up with."
Arch8 describes itself as "an everyday dance company," which views theatrical traditions as a resource to use to create new forms. The company has toured around the globe, stopping in such places as St. Petersburg, Istanbul, Cairo, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver (B.C.), Senegal and throughout Europe.
"Tetris" was the first large commission for Arch8, and it's received high acclaim and been toured extensively.
"It somehow touches a nerve universally, and we are really awed to see how it deeply moves people," he says.
"We play a lot of school shows, and around the globe in different cultures. Young people laugh, learn and enthusiastically join at the end. Adults enjoy it, too. But part of the joy is seeing the way it sparks the imaginations of its young audiences. It's joyful, playful and fun."
Boom Arts presents the work. It's an organization known for putting on cerebral political shows, but it's building a new stream of programming for families.
Ruth J. Wikler-Luker, the Boom Arts curator for the show, says perhaps more older people might be interested in "Tetris" the game, but the dance appeals to young people.
She welcomes Kaiel returning home and bringing his work with him. The show is on a 10-week tour.
"He's very motivated to be here," she says.
"The other nice thing is the event is at the Multnomah Arts Center and they have been interested in what we're doing and looking for an opportunity to partner. They have a jewel of a theater, great lighting, holds about 200 people, raised stage. They were interested in getting more innovative shows, and it works with what 'Tetris' needs."
It's the second time this season that Boom Arts has featured a returning local artist. Soomi Kim, a Korean-born former Beaverton resident who now lives in New York City, performed here in December.
If it looks like a trend, you're right.
"Boom Arts is sort of figuring things out. We're six years old, but where do we fit in?" Wikler-Luker says. "A lot of artists touring around have never brought work back to Portland. They get to come home. It's a sweet story."
"Tetris" will stage at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 27, and 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, April 28-29, at Multnomah Arts Center, 7688 S.W. Capitol Highway. Tickets are $20 for adults and $8 for children and available at web.ovationtix.com.
There'll also be workshops with Arch8 in partnership with Multnomah Arts Center. The fee is $10. There's a workshop for teaching artists at 1 p.m. Friday, April 27, and a creative movement workshop for youth and families at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 28. For info: www.apm.activecommunities.com.