Do Jump Very Physical Movement Theater

May 19, 2000

Do Jump Very Physical Movement Theater

Newmark Theater, Portland Center for the Performing Arts
Portland, Oregon

May 19?20, 2000

Reviewed by Martha Ullman West

Fresh from the rigors of a highly successful season at New York’s New Victory Theater, this tireless company of dancer-actor-acrobats mounted a completely different show for the hometown, but not where Do Jump has been resident for twenty years: the Echo Theater in Southeast Portland.

That is a funky converted movie theater seating about 150 people; the Newmark, with its warm cherry wood and 1200 teal blue plush-upholstered chairs, is Portland’s most elegant auditorium and makes very different demands on both the performers and the artistic director of this uncategorizable company.

Not that Robin Lane, Do Jump’s founder and artistic director, isn’t capable of maximizing whatever setting in which she finds herself. That was clear from the moment the lights went up on What You Make of It, a highly ambitious piece featuring fifty?count them?pvc pipes and six performers. Third on a program with the umbrella title of Up in the Air, a sampler of pieces that spans twenty-seven years of making work aimed at delighting multigenerational audiences, What is a summary of Lane’s eclectic training in visual arts, circus skills, dance and theater, all directed at expressing her lyrically zany world view.

It begins with the pipes arranged vertically on the stage, suggesting a bamboo forest or a tropical jungle, with dancers, their movement neither entirely human nor beastlike, playing a game of hide-and-seek. Dancers enter on stilts and instantly the mood changes, as those on the ground drop, in simian fashion, low to the ground, seeming to comment on the invading stilt-people.

As the piece progresses, the pipes are used as giant Tinker toys, batons, even stick horses. A solo danced by Alex Cyril with one horizontal moving pipe is as nimble and quick as a woodsman rolling a log. The versatility of the design, both of props and movement, is mind-boggling, all of it in the service of the bemused take on humanity that has become Lane’s trademark. Three aerial pieces are remarkably different from each other, but then Lane has been choreographing for airborne dancers for more than two decades. Air features three dancers on rings who seem to be randomly drifting in space, until the lulled audience member realizes they are making tightly controlled patterns in the air. Autumn Flight, accompanied by a marvelous choral score by Portland composer Joan Syzmko?all music at Do Jump’s shows is performed live?is equally tightly crafted, the five performers on trapeze moving rapidly so that the heart leaps with them. Braided Light is highly sculptured and athletic, the four acrobat dancers changing shapes and switching partners kaleidoscopically.

Lane is willing to try anything, even choreographing for kites. Fly, with David Brittain manipulating his creations is quite scary, as the kites sail out over the audience, threatening to sideswipe a spectator. But then circuses, even very sophisticated ones, which this program resembles, are like that?edgy, fearsome and funny.