BodyVox's "Reverie"

May 16, 2007

BodyVox’s “Reverie”
Newmark Theatre, Portland, Oregon

May 16-19, 2007

Reviewed by Heather Wisner

What do you do when the world you knew crumbles before your eyes? That was the question posed to BodyVox founders Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland during the first installment of “Reverie,” a program of live and filmed contemporary dance works showcasing the company’s innovative, whimsical movement style. Midway through the rehearsal process, in the fall of 2001, terrorist attacks rocked the U.S., leaving artists wondering how to respond.

Tragedy of such magnitude is a creative minefield, and many dancers understandably chose to sidestep it completely. Although “Reverie”—revived and reformatted this season—lacked direct 9/11 references, the company described it as a celebration of art and beauty in defiance of disaster. The comedy and plasticity of Hampton’s training ground, Pilobolus, kept the mood generally light.

The funny business began with Hampton’s operatic, twitchy-limbed solo Moto Perpetuo, and threaded through the Mitchell Rose film Treadmill Softly, in which a besotted gymgoer (Hampton) fantasized about a bicycle built for two and a romantic rowboat excursion with an attractive workout woman (Roland) while she used the stationary bike and rowing machine. A second Rose film, Case Studies from the Groat Center for Sleep Disorders, spoofed psychological experiments as a doctor analyzed various company members he observed acting out in their sleep.

“Reverie” leans on crowdpleasers—thankfully, without the mugging or glitz that gives the term a bad name—and even the more serious pieces on the program didn’t strain viewers too much. (The possible exception was the puzzling Falling for Grace in which a lovers’ lyrical pas de deux was cut short by what looked like gangsters). A highlight was Lane Hunter and Hubbard Street alum Laura Haney jazzily riffing over Dave Brubeck in Squared. The remaining works were visually rich, from the trompe l’oeil costuming of the title piece to Night Thoughts pas de quatre for angelic figures in harnesses. Another of the company’s strengths, it became clear, was prompting us to reconsider how we see things: A skirt isn’t just a skirt—it could also be a funnel or a flower petal; sometimes, the best place to begin is upside-down. Perhaps that perceptual shift is the best course to take when disaster strikes.