BodyVox, non-dancers stage Pearl Dive Project
Imagine observing what you do, and then turning it into dance — it wouldn't be easy, but it's something that BodyVox Dance Company now does with people from various backgrounds in the Pearl Dive Project.
There'll be chef John Gorham, roboticist/author Daniel Wilson, painter Sherrie Wolf, photographer Susan Seubert and more involved in the second Pearl Dive Project in the first three weeks of April. They have ideas, shared them with BodyVox's Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, and the company's dancers perform special nights of themed dance.
"It's a great format for a show, it's been successful both artistically and for the audience," says Roland, BodyVox co-artistic director with Hampton. "It gives them a different look at the company, gives us variety and many different positives."
The first show happened in 2016, featuring the likes of Oregon Symphony Music Director Carlos Kalmar and indie musician Jeremy Wilson.
"It was so interesting and successful we knew we would do it again," Hampton says. "There'll be seven pieces this year — and each process is completely different. It puts us on our toes when they walk into the studio for the first time. It's literally a fresh start. We don't know what's going to happen."
The dance developed by Gorham, executive chef/owner of Toro Bravo, Tasty n Sons and others, recreates the daily life of a top-tier restaurant — the opening, the preparation, the serving and the cleaning, that Gorham described to the BodyVox dancers as "controlled chaos ... but there's a rhythm to the day."
"We have to balance pantomime with dance," Roland says. "We found humor in it, and he loved that and brought in some great musical choices."
The Portlander Wilson has a PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University and is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Robopocalypse" and its sequel "Robogenesis," as well as recent release "The Clockwork Dynasty."
The show involves drones flying to create patterns like the American flag and Mickey Mouse's face. There's a setup idea where there is a controller who has created policies that dancers follow, and he can change policies with hand and sound signals.
"He stood up only once to show us a movement, other than that he sat and spoke and laid down the world and universe he's operating in," Hampton says. "It's a large-scale group improvisation that becomes very intricate ... (Robots) have a series of policies that they follow, and it makes for interesting choreography, and there's an emotional context."
Wolf, an American photo-realistic painter and printmaker based in Portland, went outside her realm of creativity and helped develop a dance, "Elegy," that pays tribute to her late brother, who died from AIDs in 1992, and others who have passed away.
"When people pass away when they're younger, it's really hard to accept that they're not around," Wolf says. "We used music important to me — early Appalachian music, folk music of our youth, Pink Floyd 'Dark Side of the Moon' — and it has a narrative that reflects my brother's life and how you remember someone and deal with that memory."
She doesn't use her paintings; rather, she uses historic art paintings that influenced her and speaks to the theme of the show.
The dance by Susan Seubert, a commercial and editorial photographer for National Geographic, focuses on still images and examines five stages of grief, stemming from a World War I photo.
"She looked at us and said, 'I have no idea how to make movement out of this,'" Hampton says. "OK, let's take the photograph and put it on stage and think how a still photograph can become film; what happens before and after the still photo? You create historical fiction. That's fascinating. We're storytellers."
Other people involved in Pearl Dive Project are: Matt Mahurin, an illustrator, photographer, film director and teacher; Ryan Noon, a Portland citizen who believes in everyday alchemy and finds inspiration from everything; and Portland Crowd Source, audience members who danced in a video booth for a video element in the show.
Wolf has been a long fan of BodyVox's work, and likes the idea behind Pearl Dive Project.
"It's very brave of them," she says. "It's very theatric and multimedia. They get to know different kinds of artists."
BodyVox's Pearl Dive Project takes place at BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 N.W. 17th Ave., through April 20. The first shows are 7:30 p.m. April 4-6, April 11-13, and April 18-20, and 2 p.m. April 13. For tickets (starting at $30), see www.bodyvox.com.
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