By JAMUNA CHIARINI
Opening night of BodyVox-2 was electric, a packed house that demonstrated that during the past 15 years the “junior” company of BodyVox has developed an enthusiastic following. And the momentum seems to be building. The show as a whole was a well-organized journey of emotions through a total of ten pieces, new and older ones, including two very funny films by Mitchell Rose. The lighting by James Mapes was magical, creating a unique atmosphere for each piece.
Because I had watched some early rehearsals of these dances, a small fear cropped up. Three of the choreographers—Jamey Hampton, Eowyn Emerald Barrett and Eric Skinner—work together at BodyVox, and I was afraid the dances might end up looking alike. Had they lost their individual voices? But I was totally wrong. Every choreographer had a distinct style of movement, and the dancers keenly picked up on the subtle differences of each style.
“Tuesday, 3:47 pm” by Anne Mueller, the interim artistic director of Oregon Ballet Theatre, was by turns quirky, playful and serious. Using a rectangular table, five tiny square stools and blender jars as props, the dancers, wearing dark blue, cuffed mechanics jumpers, moved to and from the table in robotic precision in a series of interesting solos, duets and trios. Was this a factory or a boardroom? And were the blenders oversized coffee mugs and perhaps a commentary on Portland’s addiction to coffee or representative of something bigger to come? My favorite section was a solo for Anna Marra: She moved backwards on the diagonal repeating a series of technically difficult extensions over and over, each executed beautifully.
“Alter,” a duet by Hampton, danced by Holly Shaw and Josh Murry, made me think he was trying to solve a complex mechanical puzzle through movement. The movement is very inventive and complex and finds its pathway very organically. It also happens to be athletic, powerful and sexy. The choice of footwear for the dancers was interesting to me. During rehearsals the dancers wore socks, and that became a point of debate: Should they be allowed to rehearse in footwear in which they wouldn’t be performing? The excellent solution on opening night: socks with the toes and heels cut out,
When “I Asked of You” by Éowyn Emerald Barrett began, there was a definite shift in the air and mood of the room; the audience ooh’ed and aah’ed. The lighting by James Mapes was gorgeous and the softness of the movement added to the ethereal quality of the piece. The dancers wore white lace leggings (women wore beige-colored sports bras) that were lovely in their simplicity and added a nice texture to the scene. The movement was weighty, smooth, soft, ample and emotional. “An intricate and yearning piece” as written by Bob Hicks. I am glad that the BodyVox performance space is small enough that I am able to connect with the dancers and emotions of the choreography.
“Feeling Unknown,” by Eric Skinner, was beautifully danced by Anna Marra, Holly Shaw and Katie Staszkow in cream-colored diaphanous sleeveless shirt dresses that flowed in tune with the movement. I am always so happy when a costume makes sense with a dance, accentuating the movement and allowing the body to be seen. Costumes can really mar the movement and form and can completely change the look of a dance and what the choreographer is trying to say. Sometimes I enjoy a dance more in rehearsal because the dancers themselves choose clothes that move well and are flattering, but costume designer Ashley Roland’s choice of costumes was perfect. The dance itself was swirly and curly, weighted and airy, sitting perfectly balanced between modern and ballet. The title of the dance, “Feeling Unknown,” helped to give me a context in which to look at and understand the dance.
I wish I could see the whole concert over again. Six minutes of dancing is a lot of work for a choreographer to make but for the audience it flies by in a split second and all we get is a momentary glimpse. Right as I was settling into a piece, it would end. I hope these new pieces are the beginning stages of bigger more developed works to come.
For five dancers to carry an entire concert of varied material is a very difficult task emotionally and physically, and the BodyVox-2 dancers did a fantastic job. These dancers are wonderfully varied in their movement qualities and abilities but are also able to come together as a unit, moving as one. It will be exciting to see how they develop as artists and how the BodyVox-2 company will develop as its own organization in the future. Keeping the integrity of the piece after a guest choreographer has left is due largely to the rehearsal director of a company. Kudos to Zachary Carroll, the director of BodyVox-2, for maintaining the integrity of each piece and for putting on a clean well rehearsed show.