From left, dancers Claire Porter, Don Halquist and Bill Evans will appear in two performances at Port Townsend’s Key City Playhouse this Friday and Saturday.

From left, dancers Claire Porter, Don Halquist and Bill Evans will appear in two performances at Port Townsend’s Key City Playhouse this Friday and Saturday.

Celebrating dance, friendship: Trio to give two PT performances

PORT TOWNSEND — The three artists love to move, share stories, laugh and go deep. And for once, they are in the same city for a performance together.

Internationally known dancers and choreographers Bill Evans, Don Halquist and Claire Porter will present “Celebrate the Comic and Poignant Genius of Claire Porter!” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday at the Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St.

It’s a rare occasion, since Evans and Halquist live in Port Townsend, Porter lives in Tea Neck, N.J., and all three teach, travel and dance far and wide.

But since they’ve been friends a long time, having attended dance festivals together, Porter thought it would be fun to visit this corner of the country — and make some new art while she’s at it.

Advance tickets to “Celebrate” are available at keycitypublictheatre.org and 360-385-5278, and range from $12 for students to $20 general. “Creation supporter” passes, which include an invitation to a reception with the artists Saturday afternoon, are $40. Come performance time, any remaining seats will be sold on a pay-what-you-can basis at the door 30 minutes before showtime.

Each of the six dances on the performance program is a story, with a spoken-word score. This is Porter’s specialty; ever since she was a student choreographer, she’s belonged to the “anything is fair game” school.

In a solo piece titled “Interview,” Porter explores the job interview process. In “See You Around,” she brings together two corporate men in a humorous and strange situation. And in “Witnessing Adverbs,” two dancers portray six characters, each with a different point of view.

There’s a layered quality in Porter’s work, said Halquist, that gradually reveals itself.

“She has this sophisticated ability to drill down to the essence, and find not just the humor, but the poignancy” of a story.

“She’s just a source of light and energy.”

“I am a great fan of Claire’s,” Evans added. He and Halquist have performed Porter’s duets before, and have marveled at “how flawlessly constructed they are. The moments add up to something that’s really profound.”

Porter has come to Port Townsend for the first time to collaborate with Evans and Halquist to both reinterpret existing choreography and bring alive new work.

The trio have been rehearsing together this week in the men’s home studio, a small, sunlight-filled space near Point Hudson, a few minutes’ walk from the Key City Playhouse.

The venue itself is cozier — just 66 seats — than some of the places these dancers have performed over the years. When Porter firmed up her plans to visit, Evans called Key City artistic director Denise Winter, though he wasn’t sure the playhouse would be available.

“It’s hard in this town to figure out what the right performance venue is,” he said.

“When I reached out to Denise, she responded immediately. She was just so open.”

“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” Winter said.

“It’s not that often that we get a chance to present dance.”

The performers bring a rich body of experience to the stage. Both Evans and Porter are recipients of Guggenheim fellowships, among other awards, while Evans and Halquist have performed and taught dance across the world, from Europe to Australia.

After living in Seattle and Albuquerque, N.M., for years, they chose to make their home in Port Townsend in 2018.

Since then Evans has traveled to workshops and events all over the Americas. And this month, he’ll at last teach close to home. Starting Jan. 11, Evans and Halquist will lead two five-week courses — beginning and intermediate-advanced — in Evans Somatic Dance Technique at the Madrona MindBody Institute at Fort Worden.

Then it’s more travel and teaching from mid-February forward; come spring Evans will celebrate his 80th birthday.

“He contributes so much to dance,” Porter said of her friend. “He has so much energy, that guy.”

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Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

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