For the 21-22 season, Portland Opera is delighted to collaborate with Shaun Keylock and Shaun Keylock Company on original choreography for When the Sun Comes Out. We asked Shaun Keylock to share about his company, his connection to opera, and this collaboration.
1) We’d love to know more about Shaun Keylock Company -- can you share more about your company's mission and the work you do?
Shaun Keylock Company is a contemporary dance company established in 2018 and based in Portland, Oregon. SKC advances new developments in contemporary dance while fostering an exchange of ideas between artists and communities. The company is known for its distinctive visual style that is at once both technically sound and radically subversive, often exploring the many facets of LGBTQ+ identity.
2) Tell us about your relationship with opera. Do you have an “opera story”?
This is my favorite question! I got introduced to opera by two of my good friends Geoffrey Wren and David DeMoss, who happened to be Portland Opera subscribers. My first opera was The Magic Flute by Portland Opera in 2016. Since then I’ve seen so many fantastic performances here in Portland. One of my favorites recently was Faust in 2018 with scene design by John Frame — which was amazing! The stop motion, the costumes, the set pieces. I still remember the final tableaux of Angel Blue as Marguerite climbing the ladder out of the underworld. This was a life changing production. It really showed me the power of opera and its ability to combine all of the arts into one big, knock out production. My other current favorites are: Thaïs, La Traviata, and Jenůfa. Clearly, I love the drama! As an opera fan, I feel very honored to be creating the choreography for this new production of When the Sun Comes Out and I can’t wait to see some opera magic happen on stage this January.
3) What is the process like for creating choreography and movement as part of a piece like When the Sun Comes Out?
The process has been very collaborative so far. The dancers and I are working closely with director Alison Moritz on her vision for the production. One of the most exciting things about working on a new production like this is how much freedom there is in the libretto by Rachel Rose and music by Leslie Uyeda. We get to create a whole universe from scratch and ask questions like: how might our three main characters move and interact with the world around them? Who else might exist in this universe or tableaux? These might sound like pretty basic questions on the surface, but I think it’s often something that can be taken for granted when watching how dancers and singers move on stage. We’ve been given an empty vessel and our job as directors and choreographers is to fill it; to give our three characters a place to be, a way to enter and exit the space, to know who they are, how they move, and what to do in this brave new world. This can be a choreographic challenge, but as Alison likes to say, When the Sun Comes Out and the imaginary country of Fundamentalia is like our own world, but just two degrees separate. For the dancers, I’ve been drawing a lot of references to secret flirtations and producing unfamiliarity in that which was once familiar, which I think are both very present in this story.
4) What is up next for Shaun Keylock Company?
We’ve been busy! We just wrapped up a major retrospective of works by choreographer Gregg Bielemeier last fall. I’m also currently working on our own dance opera with music by Handel, which we’ll start previewing this spring, plus later this summer, we’ll tour to Austin, Texas to perform at the Austin Dance Festival for the first time.
5) Is there anything else you'd like to share with our audience?
If you’d like to learn more about me and my company, you can find us on Instagram @shaunkeylockcompany, or follow me at @shaunkeylock, you can also visit our website at shaunkeylock.com