BodyVox does Shakespeare, delightfully
BodyVox retold the stories of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream in an exceptionally entertaining double bill called Death and Delight.
Working with Prokofiev's suite played on a bare stage by pianist Susan Smith, a cast of nine produced a stunning take on the star-cross'd lovers' well-worn story. Pared down to just the key scenes, and stripped of language except for a few projected titles, the tale was borne aloft by the athleticism and sheer joy of the dancers, who depicted violence and grief by projecting power and energy. The fight scenes from West Side Story hang over every dance version of this story. Here the dancers added parkour and slow motion to their battle moves, in welcome addition to the signature BodyVox mix of classical and gymnastic gestures.
Ashley Roland, the company co-artistic director and den mother, aced her comic role as the Nurse trying to get the elusive teen Juliet to stay away from that boy. Roland danced with her face as much as her limbs, in contrast to the unstoppable Jillian St. Germain who played Juliet.
The minimal staging worked superbly, with the nine dancers combining to make a balcony for Juliet, like a gothic cheer team, and later a sarcophagus on which she was laid while in a poppy coma. When Romeo discovers her, thinking her dead, his grief is physical and he gorges on poisonous white flowers, dying in a spasm, still reaching for her hand. When Juliet wakes and finds him dead, she eats the same flowers from his mouth. By candlelight the dancers lift her up for a moment and slowly rotate her before laying her to rest on Romeo, and they lie like two sleeping lovers.
The lifting and rotating in the second half, A Midsummer Night's Dream set to Mendelssohn's famous score, ranged from saucy to bawdy, and that's fine given the farcical love-making plot. Co-artistic director Jamey Hampton played the patrician Theseus as a ringmaster/music hall MC, stretching his role to include messing with the musicians, at one point covering them in white wedding gown tulle as they played. When the spell is cast between lovers, it is done by freezing the dancers and moving their arms so they point at each other. In a wonderfully comic moment Hampton then carried one over to the other until their fingers magically touch, and the point was made.
Yoko Greeney excelled as the second pair of hands on the keyboard, bring a fantastic attack to the energetic dancing, which included ironic jigs and twerking fairies. The final 10-minute dance off with pink sparkling wine shared with the audience went on too long, but no one can deny the rest of the evening was original, energetic and moving. BodyVox, Portland's 22-year-old dance company, still has legs.
Death and Delight
Final show: 7.30 p.m., Saturday Nov. 23, 2019
1201 N.W. 17th Ave.
Phone: 503 907 9868
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)