by MICK LLOYD-OWEN & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & mbrace me, Deere! With BodyVox, the contemporary dance company from Portland, even a John Deere backhoe is a potential partner for a romantic pas de deux.
"We look at our dance as having no boundaries to it," says Jamey Hampton, who co-directs the company with his wife Ashley Roland. "We have a very broad definition of dance, and that comes through in our production." A film of Hampton's duet with the excavator will be shown as small part of "A Thousand Little Cities," BodyVox's multimedia dance production (to be presented this weekend at the Bing and at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman).
Acclaimed by critics for their imagination, physicality and humor, Hampton and Roland have choreographed MTV music videos for Sting, U2, Soundgarden, Pat Metheny and John Fogerty. They also choreographed David Bowie's arena concert production, "The Glass Spider." BodyVox has five full-length stage productions to their credit, they've won an American Choreography Award for their short film Modern Daydreams and they've collaborated with opera groups around the country. Hampton and Roland even choreographed and performed at the 1998 Academy Awards.
Eight of BodyVox's 11 principal dancers are on tour with "A Thousand Little Cities," a show that Hampton describes as "sort of an homage to the spaces in between big thoughts, big stars, big cities and big heroes." The title plays on the expression "A thousand points of light" and is "very American," according to Hampton. It was created with the help of filmmaker Mitchell Rose, set designer Michael Curry (Lion King) and visual artist, playwright and urban design consultant Tad Savinar. The show opens with "Maelstrom," in which a suspended Roland dances slowly and hypnotically within a virtual tornado of fabric bathed in purple light, then joined by the ensemble, who evoke the ferocity and chaos of a raging tempest. Some 13 scenes follow in a tapestry of dance, film and theater, conveying a range of places and emotions.
Critics have called the troupe "stubborn optimists" with "a talent to amuse" and consistently remark on their witty performances. It should come as no surprise that the previous company Hampton and Roland directed was called ISO, an acronym for "I'm So Optimistic."
"Our work has a sense of positive projection to it," Hampton says. "If you don't retain hope, even in the midst of this unacceptable political climate we're in right now, you're doomed."
Don't expect Up With People, however: BodyVox isn't afraid of appealing to the full range of human emotions. But "there is always a kind of release -- a kind of redemption -- and a joyous feeling at the end of our shows," Hampton says. Most of their productions have some type of narrative, and the name of the company suggests that they tell stories through movement and music, body and voice.
Hampton and Roland have worked together since 1983. Hampton was formerly a member of Pilobolus, an internationally renowned, Connecticut-based dance company known for creating striking images through close, contorted physical interaction among dancers. Hampton and Roland both worked together in Momix -- a troupe spawned by Pilobolus. Momix is also based in Connecticut and has toured the world. Hampton and Roland were later artistic directors of ISO.
After a short hiatus and a move to Oregon, the pair assembled some ballet-trained dancers for a commissioned production of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana -- a show that included "13 dancers and one boa constrictor," according to Hampton. "We realized that using the training of ballet -- line and strength and clarity in motion -- was very different. It brought a new vocabulary to us -- a new way of working with the body," Hampton says. Soon after that, in 1997, BodyVox was formed.
BodyVox members also teach, and several of them will conduct classes this weekend at the Inland Northwest Dance Association's annual Fall Workshop. INDA, which is promoting the BodyVox show, will have several other high-caliber instructors at the event as well, including tap dancer Mark Schell and Pilobolus choreographer Darryl Thomas, among others. A series of "junior" workshops will also be offered on Saturday for youth (age 7 and older) and for beginning adults.
BodyVox presents "A Thousand Little Cities" at the Bing on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 8 pm. Tickets: $17-$27. Also at WSU's Beasley Coliseum on Sunday, Oct. 21, at 3 pm. Tickets: $16-$28. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT. INDA'S 16th annual Fall Workshop will be held Saturday, Oct. 20, from 10:20 am-6:20 pm, and on Sunday, Oct. 21, from 9 am-5 pm at the Dance Emporium, 7410 N. Division. Cost: $150; $120, one day; $55, junior workshops; $25 per class. Visit www.indaspokane.org or call 922-4493.