PERFORMANCE ART DRIVES DANCE
Portland native Heidi Duckler always wants to "think outside the box" — which, when it comes to dance, it means thinking outside the building.
Almost all of Duckler's dance performances in 34 years of owning a company in Los Angeles, and 10 years of doing shows in Portland, do not take place on a stage in a theater — not even close.
Her most recent show, "Rush Hour," takes place inside and outside vehicles in a parking lot, literally. If you want to attend, it's at Marine Artists Studios Northwest, 2516 N.W. 29th Ave., on Saturday, May 18. If you happen to drive by, don't call the police, it's just performance art.
On-site dance has been Duckler's specialty for Heidi Duckler Dance, since she put on a show at a laundromat in Los Angeles when she worked on her master's degree at UCLA.
"It's what we do," says Duckler, who attended Wilson High School, Reed College and the University of Oregon. "In LA, even though we have our administrative offices, we never work in a studio. All the rehearsing and creating is done on-site, mostly public places but sometimes private, and rarely in a theater. If it's in a theater, it's in a nontraditional way, like creating a performance in the seats or something, using the theater in different ways."
Duckler was influenced by artists Robert Rauschenberg and Trisha Brown and others of the 1960s and '70s who combined art forms, "creating work at the intersection of art and life," she says.
"I was fascinated by that, conceptually." So she created a dance in a laundromat.
In Portland, Heidi Duckler Dance/Northwest has performed in a lumberyard, a creative office space and a couple warehouses. Last year, she made "Rush Hour," and it went so well, she wanted to keep doing it.
In fact, it sounds like it might be a staple of the company's repertoire.
"I love this idea,and I'd like to keep expanding on it," says Duckler, who lives and works in Los Angeles but also maintains an apartment and dance company in Portland, and it's where her daughter and grandson live. "The possibilities are endless, and what do you consider a vehicle? I see it developing into a festival. The work can go anywhere."
In "Rush Hour," an assemblage of cars and trucks provide the setting for a collection of narratives about human relationships and identities. Each story is told in, on or around a mode of transportation.
Performances have been choreographed by Duckler, Carla Mann, Conrad Kaczor, Kiel Moton and Jennifer Wright, and involve vintage horse trailers, motorcycles, cars and bicycles — six vehicles in all, arranged in a big circle. Street dancer Kaczor does dance called tutting, in which he makes geometric shapes with his hands and arms on a bicycle. Musician Wright plays a piano, called a Skeleton Piano, on wheels.
"We expanded the definition" of vehicle, Duckler says.
To explain the concept behind "Rush Hour," which is supported by a Regional Arts & Culture Council grant, she says:
"We spend so much time, especially in LA, in our car. They become our second home or office. We live in our cars; even in Portland, the traffic is crazy. Portland wasn't built for so many cars. We're living so much in our cars, we can all relate to what this is as an environment. It seemed to me it would be an interesting venue to create in and for an audience to see work."
She plans to continue "Rush Hour" next year. Duckler also is working on a dance telenovela (Spanish for "soap opera") that will be live and filmed. She's also working on a film with a cinematographer about the Nite Hawk bar in North Portland.
Nontraditional, outside work "never gets old for us. We really love doing this," Duckler says.
She adds: "It is refreshing and experimental, and it's good to think outside the box. That's never a bad thing. It does take a certain type of dancer and personality to confront those risks and be in a situation where you don't have full control over something, or any control."
What about rain? Well, it could happen, and "dancers have no problem with it. Sometimes the audience might have to bring umbrellas."
Heidi Duckler Dance/Northwest's "Rush Hour" takes place at 6 and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at Marine Artists Studios Northwest parking lot, 2516 N.W. 29th Ave. Tickets: $25, $15 students/seniors, www.eventbrite.com. Read more about Heidi Duckler Dance on Facebook and www.heididucklernorthwest.org.