A quick glance at Tuesday night's dress rehearsal for Elevate’s debut performance, Eleven, reveals the utter diversity and harmony of the young local dance collective. One dancer wears acid-washed jeans over a ballet leotard, a symbol of the stark contrast between the classically trained and self-taught street dancers who inhabit the cast of Eleven. A piece titled “Joy” features violinist Chibia Ulinwa and three dancers with bluntly contrary styles: street-worn foot and handwork from Damion Middleton, clean and classical technique from Lashae Lewis, and krumping from Joshua “Big Snubb” Dudley.
Led by 24-year-old Bb DeLano, who both choreographs and dances in the production, and producer Huy Pham, Elevate is an ambitious new nonprofessional company. The team is building Eleven with both a thrifty, DIY mentality and a carefully curated eye, bringing together a wealth of talent from around the country. "We're fusing the more traditional model of theater and dance with the very dynamic style of club and street shows in a way that no one's seen before," says Pham, who runs an experiential design company called Pineapple. "This show is created to bring a non-typical dance attendee into the audience."
55 N.E. Farragut St. #9
Tickets $20-$25 Through cross-country travels, DeLano and Pham befriended and commissioned 11 choreographers from as far as Miami and New York to create short dance works around 11 different emotions. They then invited 11 local dancers, many from Nonsense Dance Company, to dance the eclectic works. There are delicate and personal performances like “Complicated,” choreographed and danced by Daniel Giron and Nicholas Petrich, who crafted the dance around their own breakup. And there are more theatrical works, like "Everything," choreographed by NW Dance Project’s electric Ching Ching Wong and performed to a reading of Jenny Hollowell’s short story "A History of Everything, Including You."
As part of its goal to reach a millenial audience not drawn to traditionally staged dance shows, the company is designing the night as a fully immersive experience in the intimate black box at the Headwaters Theatre, tucked away in the back of a warehouse along the train tracks in far North Portland. "You'll be walked through a series of primary sensory experience, where you'll get to interact with each piece and be primed for that emotion before you watch the show," says Pham. "For example, there's a piece called 'Joy,' and the sensory experience is going to be a hugging booth. There's a piece called 'Remorse,' where we'll have audience members record themselves saying 'I'm sorry' for any reason, which will be played during the piece."
As all 12 dancers (the entire company plus DeLano) take the stage during rehearsal for the final piece of Eleven, "Fulfilled," the company's collage quality comes to the forefront. The music is emphatic, and for a phrase each body moves in its own world, challenging the audience to consume 12 distinct movements—or one complex, mosaic-like company in dynamic unison. The choice is yours.