BloodyVox

Pilobolus family tree has Portland branch

BodyVox co-founder Jamey Hampton recalls his early days in Pilobolus as both companies prepare to stage local shows

When the dance and movement troupe Pilobolus comes to the Newmark Theatre Thursday through Saturday to kick off the White Bird dance season with its two-hour extravaganza Come to your senses, you’ll see a little bit of Portland dance history in the act – and, a week later, a little bit of Pilobolus history when BodyVox kicks off its new season with the latest version of its popular Halloween comedy horror show, BloodyVox.

Jamey Hampton is the connecting tissue. He and his wife, Ashley Roland, founded BodyVox in Portland twenty years ago, after putting together a successful dance collaboration with Portland Opera for its pairing of Pagliacci and Carmina Burana. But twenty years before that, Hampton was performing with Pilobolus and the original group of artists who famously formed the company at Dartmouth College, the Ivy League school in small-town Hanover, New Hampshire.

Pilobolus brings its “Come to your senses” repertory show to Portland this week. Photo courtesy White Bird

What Pilobolus was doing at the time was something new – not so much contemporary dance as choreographed athleticism, with an overlay of visual spectacle and playful anthropomorphism. (The company name comes from a fungus co-founder Jonathan Wolken’s father was studying that, as Wikipedia puts it, “grows on cow dung and propels itself with extraordinary strength, speed and accuracy.”) Pilobolus has evolved a lot over the years, and changed personnel, but a lot of its original vision remains in the current company.

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BloodyVox: Family friendly laughs and scares for Halloween

BodyVox's annual Halloween bash is back for another set of humorous takes on the rituals and characters of the holiday

Don’t let the title fool you: “BloodyVox,” the semi-annual Halloween-themed show by Portland dance favorite BodyVox, really isn’t bloody at all. Unless your idea of macabre entertainment features orthopedic surgery, dance and slippery fluids aren’t a great match.

But if we had to determine the production’s blood type, we’d have to assume it’s O positive: O, for the deep Oregon roots of this company. And positive, because—for all the nods toward the darkness and danger that typify Halloween fare—the artistic disposition on display here remains unmistakably sunny.

Bodyvox has opened a new version of its Halloween special, "BloodyVox"/Blaine Covert

Bodyvox has opened a new version of its Halloween special, “BloodyVox”/Blaine Covert

“BloodyVox” first stalked the autumn night in 2010 and has been re-animated every couple of years since, each time re-stitched with a somewhat different collection of spare parts. The latest 75-minute lark-in-the-dark is subtitled “Blood Red Is the New Black,” but don’t come expecting anything remotely grim. These folks just aren’t the guts-and gore type. (Once asked by Willamette Week’s Heather Wisner what scares dancers specifically, company co-founder Ashley Roland replied, “Maybe poundcake.”) BodyVox has never been strongly associated with children’s audiences, as, for instance, Imago Theatre is. But this show feels like a lure for that market.

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Doing anything Friday night? How about hanging out on 82nd Avenue?

The East Side strip, which runs north-south for many miles, was once considered a barrier of sorts between the city and the sprawl, and also an economic barrier, with a richer urban population to the west and a poorer, semi-rural population to the east. East County didn’t get in the game very much, and when it did, it was often as a political football. 82nd became neon central, home to everything from used car lots to Southeast Asian restaurants to massage parlors – and, increasingly, a rich stew of ethnic and immigrant cultures.

Signs of the times: Sabina Haque's 82nd Avenue.

Signs of the times: Sabina Haque’s 82nd Avenue.

That’s what makes it interesting to Portland artist Sabina Haque, a very good painter and collagist whose work in recent years has moved also toward installation, film, and cultural and cross-cultural projects, including her provocative series on drone warfare in Pakistan, where she grew up.

Haque, as artist in residence for the Portland Archives & Records Center, has been digging deeply into the area’s long and complicated history, finding a cultural through-line to match the strip of concrete that divides culture from culture and east from west. From 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday she’ll unveil what she’s created in Annexation & Assimilation: East 82nd Ave, a giant exhibition/event in the 8,000-square-foot APANO/JADE multicultural center at 82nd and Southeast Division Street. The free event will include video projections on 20-foot screens, oral histories, shadow theater, poster installations and more – for some, a rousing introduction to a part of Portland they hardly know; to others, a simple statement of the place they live.

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