Brent Luebbert

Darvejon Jones Dance Ensemble: Light and shadow

Darvejon Jones dances love and joy, but he understands the darker shadows, too, in his company's first concert

Ashley Roland, the co-artistic director of BodyVox, did the introductions for the first concert by Body Vox’s  resident artist and his new company, Darvejon Jones Dance Ensemble. “He emits extreme joy,” Roland said, almost as if Jones was a force of nature.

Roland’s observation held true as the company and Jones moved through the  program. But though joy rang out loudly in the virtuosity and pizzazz of the choreography and the dancers, there was shadow, too. Jones, whose work shared the eight-dance program with company dancers/artistic associate choreographers Brent Luebbert, Jillian St. Germain, and Sara Parker, transmits his account of the darker rumblings of American culture clearly as well.

Javan MnGrezzo and Paige Moreland in Darvejon Jones’ Allegiance/Annika Abel Photography

Think of this first concert as a sampler platter, perhaps: a little sweetness, then a helping of something more complicated. That’s how both Acts of the show played out. The sweet came first, then the longer commentaries of Parker’s The Reckoning and Jones’ Allegiance acted as closers, adding depth and social context to the evening.

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ChamberVox shakes things up

Chamber Music Northwest and BodyVox dance to the music of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

At heart, dancing is moving to rhythm, and that means it’s almost inseparable from music. There are exceptions and variations: experimental cases when dances are created without sound; the Merce Cunningham/John Cage partnership, in which movement and music were created deliberately in isolation from each other so one would not influence the other, but were performed together; contemporary pieces with more or less arbitrary music that might better be described as “specimens of sound” (which, of course, can make their own sort of music); dances in which extended periods of silence are part of the score. But on the whole dance and music are pretty much happy bedfellows, cohabiting almost by instinct.

A fairy queen cavorting with a donkey: Anna Mara as Titania and Brent Luebbert as Bottom in "Midsummer." Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

A fairy queen cavorting with a donkey: Anna Mara as Titania and Brent Luebbert as Bottom in “Midsummer.” Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

So the relationship between Chamber Music Northwest, Portland’s premiere summer music festival, and BodyVox, one of the city’s leading contemporary dance troupes, seems like a natural, and it’s beginning to be a tradition. This year’s collaboration, which opened Thursday night at the BodyVox studio in Northwest Portland and continues through July 23, brings a third player into the mix, too: that musically savvy playwright, William Shakespeare. Titled Death and Delight, the program pairs a version of Romeo and Juliet set on Sergei Prokofiev’s R&J Suite with a new version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream danced to Felix Mendelssohn’s ravishing score.

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