Monday, October 26, 2009

Motion without Passion: BodyVox

Sure enough , it poured--I'm talking deluged--last Saturday night. I predicted in my last post that rain forecast for the weekend would bring down the leaves right at the peak of their color. Well, I was wrong about bringing down the leaves (at least not all of them; there's still a lot of attractive foliage on the trees), but it sure as hell rained on Saturday evening, just as we were headed to see a performance by the Portland, Oregon-based BodyVox contemporary dance company. By the time we arrived at the theater, the torrent had slackened to moderate wind-driven showers, but en route we had to ford innumerable raging creeks and pond-sized puddles in the roadways where the storm drains couldn't handle the volume of water--and all for a fairly mediocre evening of dance. Perhaps, given the weather, it was fitting that BodyVox was performing its extended work called "Water Bodies." Each dance comprising the work ostensibly had a water-related theme, though the connection was tenuous in some of the compositions.

The compositions were, without exception, clever. Many were accompanied by video projected on a screen behind the dancers. A few pieces were exclusively video footage of dances performed in a swimming pool.

Unfortunately, the performers seemed to be going through the motions mechanically rather than dancing; there was no joy--or, if the dancers were enjoying the movement, they certainly didn't communicate it very effectively to the audience. It's not that the dancers were wooden or unskilled; it was more that the choreography was at fault. Furthermore, the music was an irritant; it was too loud (don't I sound like an old guy?), cacophonous, and uninspired. It seems to me that when I first started attending contemporary dance performances, the music often was minimalist dissonant bangs and shrieks, but more recently choreographers have chosen more appealing music. BodyVox is trapped back in the Dark Ages of dissonance. In fact, one of the pieces I enjoyed the most related to doomed couples dancing on the deck of the Titanic; it was set to Jean Sibelius's Valse Triste.

Probably the best piece of the evening was performed by one of the co-artistic directors and founders, Jamey Hampton. A bathtub rolled onto stage, and Hampton (who had been hidden inside the tub) stood up in the tub. A soundtrack began that sounded like dripping water, and the dripping came faster and faster. Gradually, the dripping morphed into dance music and Hampton boogie-oogie-oogied in the tub. It was great fun, very creative, and he had some wonderful dance moves.

The overall performance lasted less than two hours. I commented to my wife that the evening was short (compared to that offered by some other damce companies). Her response? "Thank goodness." I agreed.

Daniel Kirk, sexiest of the BodyVox performers

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