By GARY FERRINGTON
Two of Oregon’s sturdiest dance institutions, Eugene Ballet Company and BodyVox, have built loyal and enthusiastic followings in their hometowns. But both are increasingly looking to collaboration to expand their audiences, and to bring a wider range of dance to their current fans. That’s why Eugene Ballet is bringing BodyVox, one of the country’s most innovative dance ensembles to its home stage the Hult Center for the Performing Arts on May 14.
Eugene audiences can expect a program that includes 11 individual dances, plus two award-winning short films, all selected from different productions spanning many years of creating dance, theater, film, and opera — “kind of a greatest hits show,” suggests Daniel Kirk, BodyVox’s tour manager, in an email interview. The show tours with the full company of nine dancers, including BodyVox founding directors and award winning choreographers Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland.
Last seen in Eugene in 2003, BodyVox now joins a growing list of dance companies hosted by the EBC that has included the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, The Israel Ballet, ODC San Francisco, Joffrey 2 Dancers, and Ailey II. “Having groups such as BodyVox as part of the season’s programming is of great value in exposing our audiences to works they might otherwise not see,” says EBC Artistic Director Toni Pimble. “BodyVox can be fun and wacky but their work can also be thought provoking.”
For example, the show’s title, Urban Meadow, taken from one of the pieces in the program, “is a bit of tongue-in-cheek commentary on how we are all part of a herd — a kinder, gentler take on the urban jungle,” Kirk explains.“The directors, Hampton and Roland, have always found dance and movement in everyday settings, from the shifting dynamics of a crowded elevator, to the way people move about an art gallery, so the title also suggests that the origins of the work come from our surroundings.”
BodyVox has always been a collaborative company, renowned for its ability to blend contemporary dance, music, theater, video and multimedia imagery into critically acclaimed theatrical experiences on stages around the world and in award winning films. “Right from our very first production titled ‘The Big Room,’ we have used short films, as well as film imagery as backgrounds to propel mood and setting for our dances,” Kirk recalls. “We have used live-action film in some of our shows, where the audience sees both the live performance, and a live-feed video offering a unique perspective on what they are seeing [as in] ‘Kaleidoscope’, where an overhead camera gives an entirely different view of the dance.”
Modern Daydreams, a collection of BodyVox short dance films made in collaboration with filmmaker Mitchell Rose, won the prestigious American Choreography Award for Outstanding Achievement in Short Film in 2002. (See these films on the BodyVox web site.)
The company also collaborates with composers. “The title piece, ‘Urban Meadow,’ has music commissioned by Vivek Maddala, a composer based in Los Angeles,” says Kirk. “He created the score to the entire show that piece was taken from, called ‘Horizontal Leanings.’ One of the two films we will show has a score by William Goodrum, who has written music for many of our short films by director Mitchell Rose. The rest of the music is varied, and reflects the eclectic tastes of the directors. There is music from Portland-based 3-Leg Torso, as well as Jean Sibelius and Tom Waits.”
New Partners, New Audiences
While BodyVox is a Portland institution, it’s important to take its show on the road. Collaboration, as with the Eugene Ballet company allows BV to share rental, production and marketing costs, and helps expand its audiences.
“Although BodyVox has spent the last 18 years touring the U.S. and the world, it is very important to us to stay grounded in our home area,” Kirk says. “We feel that there is a definite Northwest perspective in our work, and we would like to share that with the people who make the NW and BodyVox who we are. We have been working very hard to develop relationships in communities in the Northwest. We perform regularly in Bend, Hillsboro, Roseburg, and Olympia, we were in Monmouth last year, and hope to create something deeper in Eugene.We also tend to do a lot of outreach including performances and residencies in schools throughout Oregon and SW Washington, as well as dance classes and children’s dance camps.”
After the Eugene show, BodyVox will perform Urban Meadow next year in Portland, Olympia, Italy, Greece and Germany. “We are also the only American company that has been invited to participate in the first Shanghai International Contemporary Dance Festival this Summer in China,” says Kirk. “We are excited to be performing ‘Urban Meadow’ there. The exchange of cultures and artistic ideas feeds the work. What’s always really fun is when a new audience in a foreign place reacts like our home audience in Portland. It makes us feel at home and reaffirms the power of communication through the arts.”
The Eugene Ballet Company presents BodyVox: Urban Meadow at 7:30pm on Saturday, May 14 at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.
Gary Ferrington is a Senior Instructor Emeritus, Instructional Systems Technology, College of Education, University of Oregon. He is an advocate for new music and serves as project coordinator for Oregon ComposersWatch.
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