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BodyVox

By Heather Wisner

BodyVox Cafe Blanc by David Krebbs

 

BodyVox

BodyVox Dance Center

Portland, OR

May 2–18, 2013

 

 

 

In the beginning—in this case, the late 1970s—there was Pilobolus, the Connecticut- based company where Jamey Hampton got his start. Then there was MOMIX, where he met fellow dancer Ashley Roland. The pair went on to cofound ISO Dance and later, BodyVox, a Portland, Oregon–based contemporary company which just celebrated its 15th anniversary this spring.

 

“In 15 years, you make a lot of work,” Hampton said before the opening of the company’s anniversary show, “Fifteen.” “And,” he added, “you make a lot of friends.” “Fifteen” did feel like a reunion of sorts, with a greatest-hits repertoire that encouraged reminiscing, a few home movies from years past, and a warm response from the crowd.

 

“Fifteen’s” two programs underscored the DNA that BodyVox shares with its predecessors, particularly the trompe l’oeil style that won Pilobolus and MOMIX acclaim. If you’re looking for edge, angst, or politics, well, keep looking: With BodyVox you get wit, whimsy, and well-mannered emotion in pieces performed by a dozen dancers with solid technical chops.

 

Program A featured BodyVox’s early work. Among the highlights were 2001’s X-Axis, a sinuous aerial duet between Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk, and 2005’s Hopper’s Dinner—a moveable feast of tipsy tabletop antics set to Tom Waits. Filmmaker Mitchell Rose has collaborated with the company on several movie shorts, most of them comedic, and two of the best were included here: 2000’s Deere John (which captures Hampton's loving pas de deux with a backhoe) and 2002’s Case Studies From the Groat Center for Sleep Disorders, which investigates, in a clinical setting, such medical anomalies as Disappointing Offspring Ballet Affectation Syndrome.

 

Program B opened with an excerpt from 2005’s Leave the Light On, in which a Keystone Kops–style chase interrupts a Bollywood number; it’s one example of the company’s occasional tendency toward the cartoonish. Better were the 2010 numbers Write My Book (Skinner’s lyrical piece for one man and four car tires), followed by The Man I Keep Hid, in which the ensemble makes a surprise entrance by sliding down a chute. Both programs featured one new piece: Café Blanco, which begins with a short film of the dancers, dressed in tennis whites, exiting a coffee shop on Razor scooters. The dance begins as they enter the stage on those same scooters before breaking into jazzy pairings.

 

If there’s one piece that sums up the company’s last decade and a half, it might be Rose’s film Advance, which follows Hampton and Roland dancing the same choreographic phrases in different locales and seasons, from bridges to beaches, in sun and snow. It’s a reminder that in 15 years, BodyVox has toured the world, grown roots, and built repertoire. It has even produced offspring: the junior company BodyVox 2, and Skinner/Kirk, a contemporary collective led by two of the company’s earliest members. “Fifteen” offered a welcome moment to pause and reflect as the company enters the next phase of its life.

 

At top: BodyVox dancers (L to R) Daniel Kirk, Zachary Carroll, Eric Skinner, Jamey Hampton, Ashley Roland, Jonathan Krebs in Café Blanco.
Photo by David Krebbs; Courtesy BodyVox