Susan Banyas is a dancer, storyteller, and writer whose artistic roots as an improviser, dancer, and experimental performance artist led to collaborations through SO&SO&SO&SO Inc. Her current performance projects, No Strangers Here Today, and The Hillsboro Story, are centered in Highland County, Ohio one hundred years apart and dance between memory and American history from the Civil War to the early years of the Civil Rights Movement. It's Been a Busy Week is in development as a performance ensemble using practices from Everyday Dancing to make dynamic, witty dance poetry from the residue of our busy lives.
She co-founded Dreams Well Studio (1991-2003), a low tech performance and teaching laboratory, where she produced and directed poetry shows, Soul Stories evenings, dance/theatre pieces, and gender-inspired shows in collaboration with some of Portland's finest theatre artists, poets, musicians, and dancers. The studio was home to her innovative classes and workshops, which she continues to offer in various venues. She has also taught extensively in schools, colleges, and universities and is a creative consultant to organizations and individuals.
She has published essays on art and politics and is currently a member of the Maya Angelou Writers Guild in Portland and the International Society for the Study of Time. Music/spoken word CDs, visual books and image cards from her scripts, short stories, paintings, and photography emerge from the improvisation experiments at the heart of art practice. Her work fuses movement, language, and music into physical images that "speak" about the times we live in, the encounters we experience, and the memory places we inhabit.
David Ornette Cherry
David Ornette Cherry, Collaborator and Performer for No Strangers Here Today, is a composer, arranger, and band leader as well as the winner of the "2003 ASCAP-Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music." David was born the same year Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry recorded their first album, Somethin Else. The ambient music streaming through his childhood was generated by the early collaborations of his dad, Don Cherry, with Coleman and the musicians who visited his parents' Mariposa Avenue home in Los Angeles.
Cherry studied music composition at Bishop College in Dallas and concentrated on world music at California Institute of the Arts. He spent challenging and unforgettable summers attending the Creative Music Studio at Woodstock, New York. These summer experiences gave him the space to compose and create music with Trilok Gurtu, Olatunji, Jai Deva, and Foday Musa Suso and to explore the relationship of jazz and music from other cultures. While jazz remains both the root and sustenance of his sound, he often incorporates the sounds of the world in what he calls "multi-kulti" music.
His background includes performances with Don Cherry, Ed Blackwell, Charlie Haden, Billy Higgins, Nana Vasconcelos, Olatunji, Hassan Hakmoun, Carlos Ward, Jim Pepper, Collin Walcott, Wadada Leo Smith, Phil Ranelin, Ralph "Buzzy" Jones and Justo Almario.
David forges ahead with his own invigoratingly fresh sound punctuated by driving rhythms, memorable lines, and improvisational space. David states, "The music never stopped. Jazz is dynamic. It's not about JUST referencing the past. It's about keeping the momentum going like a ball that keeps rolling along. My compositions are a musical fusion of cultures laid firmly down on a foundation of purely garage-style beats. It's a union of textures, sounds, lifestyles, surroundings, and messages in a universal language emphasizing a positive state of mind."
Acoustic piano, electronic keyboards, melodica, wood flute and douss'n gouni are his instruments. Recent releases are available on-line: Organic Roots/Diatic Records and Ensemble for Improvisors/Big Fish. For additional information, please visit: davidornettecherry.com.
Gregg Bielemeier is an Oregon-born dance artist who has worked on the West Coast and in Europe as a featured choreographer, performer and teacher for over 35 years. He is a frequent improvisor/collaborator with musicians, actors and visual artists, creating suave, witty dance works that have been described as "wonderfully inventive," by the Los Angeles Times, and as "marvelously goofy," by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
A founding core artist at Conduit Dance in Portland, Oregon, Bielemeier's work has been presented in Los Angeles by Dance Kaleidoscope, in Seattle at On the Boards and Northwest New Works Festival, at Holland's International Dance Festival, and in Portland by PSU's Contemporary Dance Season, Portland Art Museum, Imago Theater, Performance Works Northwest, and for White Bird's inaugural subscription series, a dance work titled, "Odd Duck Lake."
Recent projects have included the critically acclaimed Poodle Farm: City Boy Born in a Country Boy's Body, collaborations with Susan Banyas, including No Strangers Here Today and It's Been A Busy Week (in process), choreography for the Jefferson Repertory Dancers, Polaris Dance Theater, Tere Mathern Dance, and his most recent dance creation, Half of Some, Neither of Either, commissioned by dance presenters White Bird, with lighting sculptures by Hap Tivley, and music score by David Ornette Cherry, which premiered in December 2008.