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Quirky dance party shows up late in Uncaged
- Eric Bartels
- Portland Tribune - Features
REVIEW • White Bird's performance series takes a while to get to the unexpected
Credit the dance collaborative Skinner/Kirk + Bielemeier with this much: its principal members aren't afraid to try some things.
That should come as no surprise to those who know Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk as longtime members of the local company BodyVox, an outfit that has been winning hearts with its vividly imaginative take on dance for more than a decade.
And Gregg Bielemeier, who is pushing 60, is like the light-hearted eminence grise of Portland dance, a man who has been stamping the local scene with his whimsical choreographic vision for even longer.
So when the three came together as part of White Bird's 'Uncaged' series, which resumed at the Hampton Opera Center Wednesday night, it made sense to expect the unexpected.
It didn't happen initially. The first piece of the night, Skinner's 'Hear and There, Now and Then,' felt constrained. Its five dancers had some mildly interesting choreography to work with, but felt corralled into a space made smaller by the theatre in the round configuration, with audience members on four sides.
The accompanying soundscape - a rather emotionless noise-art pastiche - wasn't much help. It offered some sonic intrigue, but it dictated a rather dour aspect to the performers on stage, dimming their humanity. It took a final flourish involving dancers Heather Jackson, Elizabeth Burden and Margo Yohner to provide a hint of carefree vibrancy.
Kirk's short 'Semita,' which followed, stayed in the same somber vein, with Kirk's taut, horizontal figure suspended dramatically from the ceiling and beatified by Peter West's bold lighting as the piece unfolded.
It was Bielemeier's contribution, a quirky circus called 'Half of Some, Neither of Either,' that fully animated the proceedings. The piece revisited Skinner's opening choreography, bringing back its performers, but added more: more dancers, more humor, more life.
With vocalist Lyndee Mah prowling the perimeter, embellishing the recorded soundtrack with scatty jazz riffs and other improvisations, guest dancers Dorinda Holler and Habiba Addo jumped into the mix, one that showed flashes of the gleeful approach for which BodyVox is known.
Holler is the more conventional of the two, a pixyish dynamo with a non-stop smile. But Addo is the showstopper, a short, round woman about as far from the idealized image of a dancer as can be imagined.
Yet it was her full-bodied embrace of the joy and mischievous spirit of the dance - a one-woman celebration, it was - that imprinted itself on the memory. And she can move. It's an almost sure bet that none of the performers on stage, not even the ageless Bielemeier in a characteristically animated turn, commanded more attention.
It doubtless made some in the audience wish the fun had started a little sooner.
8 p.m. Friday-Sunday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4-7, Hampton Opera Center, 211 S.E. Carruthers St., 503-245-1600, www.whitebird.org, $16-$26