Meet our Featured Artists and Organizations
Here is a fun tidbit about each and how they contribute to the eclectic Portland dance scene:
Rebecca Kimble Morse - Dancing at Any Age!
In her sixties herself, Rebecca Kimble Morse is going strong and wholeheartedly believes that there is no such thing as being too old to dance, though her career spans decades.
“I started out as a laundress in a big theatre in London, then became a dresser, then after some encouragement from the dancers, began auditioning for shows myself.” The stage seemed to suit her well. She began with the “Black and White Minstrel Show” in London, then went on to dance with Ballet Maxims and Leon Grieg. She even worked as a magician’s assistant, touring Canada with Ray Pierce as part of the levitation and slice box acts. After a move to Los Angeles, she started picking up more musical theatre roles in shows such as “The Entertainer”, “Guys and Dolls”, “Fiddler on the Roof”, and “Much Ado About Nothing”. She now competes in latin dance competitions and recently won the Portland championship in Pro Am Latin in her age group. A forever student, Rebecca is currently studying acting at Scott Rogers Studios in Portland, and will also be appearing in “Chicago” at the Brunish Theatre this spring.
When asked what has changed over her expansive career she says “For me, what changed is how I dance. Earlier in life I was more concerned about how it looked. Now, I dance from the inside out and see what I can bring out.” Adding acting to the mix has transformed things as well. “I love the artistic mash. Dance and acting compliment each other so well, having a bit of both helps me excel in each discipline.”
Rebecca’s current mission is to encourage more seniors to dance. “I think the biggest obstacle for seniors is that they believe that everyone in class is at a very high professional level, but there are actually plenty of classes for all ages and levels. And once they go, they realize that everyone is absorbed in their own process anyway.” Ballroom is her favorite place to start as she insists any age can do ballroom group classes. Dance With Joy has really great latin classes, as well as Ankeny Street Studio, DanceSportNW and Ballroom Dance Co in Tigard. Polaris has a classes specifically for seniors and she also recommends Stretch Appeal at BodyVox. The bottom line is that Portland has plenty to offer, and for someone who has lived 60+ years and been all over the place, Rebecca says “I think the arts in Portland are amazing, I can’t inhale them fast enough.”
Unlike a painting which can be seen forever, the masterpiece of classical ballet needs to be passed down and that’s what Xuan and Ye, directors of Oregon International Ballet Academy, intend to do. Xuan describes ballet as an elusive treasure, something you can’t learn from a book. Training and discipline are generic terms in relation to what OIBA is seeking to provide their students. Instead, they are focused on drawing out the heart, the passion and the intangible. During their training, Xuan and Ye had an amazing teacher that they say “had a magical quality that allowed us to embody whatever character we were playing, while truly being ourselves.” Ye emphasizes the nuance of character. “If you are a prince, you need to do a pirouette like a prince, if you are a jester, the pirouette needs to embody a jester.” A strong foundation of technique is key to being able to add the nuance and really move the audience and that ability is just one of the things they hope to pass on to their students.
Their interest goes even deeper than the experience of ballet itself. Each with extensive success in their own careers, they have traveled the world learning from a variety of teachers and experiencing different styles and ideas all along the way. That experience is not something you can teach, so OIBA started a Cultural Exchange program so the students could be exposed to those things themselves. This past summer they went to China and the students took class right alongside the Chinese students. Xuan emphasizes that "Class in China is very different - very strict.” In China training is much like bootcamp. In America students want freedom and creativity. “But each experience allows us to grow and to see the world from a new perspective.” Xuan and Ye have connections all over the world with top notch ballet companies, so each year may be a different adventure. And in Portland, they hope to live up to their name of the Oregon International Ballet Academy by maintaining a culturally diverse group of students - anyone looking for top notch ballet training welcome.
The final component that drives OIBA’s mission is giving students the opportunity to have a professional experience. Whether or not they go on to be a professional is not the idea, the goal is to get their students on a professional stage in front of a substantial audience, so they can feel that feeling, the one that captured Xuan and Ye's hearts long ago.
If SubRosa were an element, they would most certainly be water. Water is known as a cleansing, healing and loving element, which pretty much sums up SubRosa’s approach artistically as well as their collective perspective on life. The dance company formed out of a group of women who were craving a nurturing environment and the opportunity to simply explore their own visions. “Artistically what we are channeling is just ourselves.” says Jess Evans, one of the Co-Directors. “We all want permission to change as we change, and we support that sentiment in other artists as well.” SubRosa doesn’t have a specific aesthetic their trying to portray, but rather, project to project, different choreographers emerge and the dancers just flow along with it. When making company decisions Jess says “Usually everyone feels about the same but sometimes one or two people feel the exact opposite. Working with the different ideas and perspectives is a constant reminder that there is never ‘right’ just different.”
The opposite of a trickling stream, their fluidity is often what amplifies their power. “We have found that our perceived limitations have actually been a service to us, sometimes it’s where our best creativity comes from.” A perfect example is their production Living the Room. Living the Room was a show that originally came about because as a small company with minimal funds and limited rehearsal space, they were making up choreography in their living rooms. Soon their limitation turned to inspiration and Living the Room became a evening length stage production before evolving further into a dance for film. The film was a huge collaboration between multiple artists and was shot in three days in a hundred year old house. The scenes range from touching to quirky to delightfully carefree and in true SubRosa fashion, the film is artistic but relatable. “We don’t really ask our audience to be any more intelligent than they are, we’re not trying to be high brow. Everyone wants to make art that’s valid. But what makes something valid? For SubRosa, it’s valid because it’s a process.” The initial screening for Living the Room was in March and the film is now being prepared to be sent out to film festivals.
In addition to producing their own shows, SubRosa has performed in numerous Portland events such as Fertile Ground Festival, The Galaxy Festival, the ONE Festival, the Someday Lounge Incubator, and Green Valley Music Festival.