DanceWatch Weekly: BodyVox celebrates a milestone

The company that Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland started turns 20, plus Physical Education stages a festival and Wobbly presents a new film

This week in Portland dance, BodyVox Dance Company celebrates its 20th anniversary with the opening of Lexicon, an electronically infused collection of dances and films; Physical Education hosts a three-day performance festival called Say When that includes performances by local and international artists working in performance, sound, sculpture, video, and virtual reality; and Wobbly Dance and cinematographer Ian Lucero unveil their new film Tidal, an exploration of the relationship between the rhythm of mechanized breath and the rhythm of the oceans in a fantastical underwater world.

BodyVox’s Carmina Burana. Photos by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Twenty years ago BodyVox artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland landed on the name BodyVox (a combination of body and voice) for their Portland-based dance company after trying out such alternatives as CODA (Contemporary Oregon Dance) and Hamroll, a combination of Hampton and Roland that “rolled right off the tongue and into the compost,” Roland said, laughing, when I interviewed her and Hampton several weeks ago.

This playful, collaborative nature between the two seems to be the secret to their success as artistic partners, their longevity in the business, and the general mood and mission of the company and the work it produces. For Roland and Hampton it has always been important that the work be driven by beauty and collaboration, not ego. “That is why I believe we’ve been able to make close to 20 shows in 20 years” Hampton said, “… because we don’t get hung up on the show being about us. It’s us being about the work.”

BodyVox co-artistic director Ashley Roland in Carmina Burana. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

Lexicon is highly collaborative. The collaborators include lighting designer James Mapes; long-time BodyVox filmmaker Mitchell Rose; Italian avant-garde composer Ludovico Einaudi, known for his scores for the films Doctor Zhivago (2002) and Sotto Falso Nome (2004); The Boxtrolls animator Mike Smith; and programmer Wade Olsen, known for the FoxTrax, a hockey puck tracking software that is used during televised games. Lexicon is about re-examining and expanding what is possible in live performance by marrying dance and technology. The dancers use infrared sensors, live video graphic generation, motion capture, and virtual reality.

Roland and Hampton originally met at a Pilobolus workshop in 1983. Hampton danced with Pilobolus for five years after college, and later they performed together in MOMIX where Roland and Hampton were both founding members. The pair later co-founded ISO Dance, which stands for “I’m so optimistic,” with Daniel Ezralow and Morleigh Steinberg. Around 1994 Hampton quit dancing and moved home to Portland to work for his family’s lumber company with Roland joining him later.

Alicia Cutaia and Brent Luebbert in the new BodyVox film Night Shine./ Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert.

“I moved back here (Portland) because my body was broken from all those years of touring, and I needed to rest and recover,” Hampton said. “I started working for our family lumber business because I felt like eventually I would have to know what was going on with that. So I stopped dancing for almost two years and just did yoga and rock climbing and working out.”

Twenty years is a long time, and in that 20 years BodyVox, Roland and Hampton have been written about too many times to count, which is a good thing. So instead of going over that ground myself, I thought I would share with you a couple of my favorite interviews/reviews by other writers, and a list of interesting things that jumped out at me in our interview together. If you have the time and love reading about dance, which I hope you do, you can peruse the collection of writing on the company’s press page on their website.

Photo by Steve Cherry, Polara Studio courtesy of BodyVox.

In describing BodyVox’s movement and choreographic style in a review of Fifteen, a two-part celebration of the company’s 15th anniversary in 2013 that included 22 pieces, ArtsWatch’s senior editor Bob Hicks describes the company as “something of an anomaly in the dance world, quirky and contemporary but outside the mainstream of both the traditional and experimental wings.” He continued: “With a deep affection for circus, mime, vaudeville, and silent film in addition to training in ballet and contemporary-dance techniques, it’s really movement theater–less dancerly than many companies but usually more dancerly than Momix, Pilobolus, and ISO Dance, the companies that artistic directors Ashley Roland and Jamey Hampton worked in before creating BodyVox.” You can read the full review here.

In 2013 Roland and Hampton were interviewed by Portland Interview Magazine in an intimate reflection on BodyVox’s first 15 years and the couple’s 30 year collaborative history together. You can read that interview here.

In 2014 Hampton was interviewed by Emmaly Wiederhold and photographed by Gregory Bartning for their book Beauty Is Experience, Dancing 50 And Beyond, a beautiful and moving collection of stories and photos of dancers still dancing past the age of 50. In his interview with Wiederhold Hampton talks about finding dance at Dartmouth College with dance teacher Alison Chase, dancing for Pilobolus, burning out at age 40, rebuilding himself, measuring success, and considering the “end.” You can read that full interview here.

Interesting bits from my interview with Roland and Hampton

1. Hampton grew up in Portland. Roland grew up in Connecticut.
2. BodyVox was the first Portland dance company to be commissioned and produced by White Bird, The Big Room in 1998.
3. Jamey was 43 when he and Ashley started BodyVox. He is now 63, and he and Ashley continue to perform with the company.
4. The company’s first home was at the old home of PCVA, Portland Center for the Visual Arts, 117 NW Fifth Avenue, which featured so many notable visual artists (Agnes Martin, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Lynda Benglis, Sol LeWitt and Andy Warhol), site-specific installations (Donald Judd, Christo and Robert Irwin), and performance (Allan Kaprow, Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer).
5. Ashley gave birth to her first baby in the second year of the company. That baby is graduating from high school this year. Their second child is in 6th grade. Both kids have made appearances in several of the companies dances and films and have gone everywhere with the company.
7. At one point all the women dancers in the company had babies, and Ashley hired someone to watch the kids during rehearsals.
8. The original company members were Eric Skinner, Daniel Kirk, Robert Guitron, Cristina Patricelli-Betts, Eric Oglesby, Jamey Hampton, and Ashley Roland.
9. The company’s second home was over the Bridgeport Brewery where they were for ten years.
10. The company moved into the BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave., in 2008.

At the end of our interview Roland said, “Our mission is to enlighten people, to inspire people of all ages. With that in mind WE have to be inspired. So we’re are always looking for those things that give us inspiration. I love the root of the word inspiration: it’s having the spirit within.”

Performances this week

Lexicon (world premiere)
November 30-December 16
BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave.
See above.

TRANSCENDENTAEROBICOURAGE with Allie Hankins. Photo courtesy of Physical Education.

SAY WHEN -a mini festival
Hosted by Physical Education; keyon gaskin, Allie Hankins, Lu Yim and Takahiro Yamamoto.
December 1-3
All events FREE and ADA accessible
See below for the full schedule.
“PE’s vision is to offer audiences, artists of all mediums, and curious individuals immersive modes through which to engage with multi-disciplinary art practices and performance. PE acknowledges and scrutinizes the perceived illegibility and messiness of the performing body. PE organizes and hosts READING GROUPS, ARTIST SHARES, curated PERFORMANCES, AEROBICS classes, and straight-up sweat-it-out DANCE PARTIES.”

Allie Hankins and DJ Allan Wilson
5-6pm December 1
Flock Dance Center, 8371 N Interstate Ave. Studio 4
“Traditionally, TRANSCENDENTAEROBICOURAGE is a movement/embodiment event. We breathe, vocalize, bounce, sweat, push, rest, DANCE, and work as individuals & as a group in actions that help us access the pleasure of effort. This special Say When edition of TRANSCENDENTAEROBICOURAGE will focus on sensation and perception.”

SAY WHEN-Day 2-Performances + VR + Dancing
Performances by sidony o’neal, Seanna Musgrave, coast 2c,
and Nadia Granados (Mexico City)
9 pm December 2
S1, 7320 NE Sandy Blvd.

SAY WHEN-Day 3-Performances + SPA
Performances by Hannah Piper Burns, Linda Austin, and Jin Camou
5pm December 3
High + Low Gallery, 936 SE 34th Ave.

Tidal by Wobbly Dance. Photo courtesy of Wobbly.

Tidal-the first cut
Wobbly Dance
Collaborators; cinematographer Ian Lucero, costume designer Jenny Ampersand and musicians Sweetmeat. Additional animation was created by Kurtis Hough. Make-up by Sumi Wu and Jenny Ampersand. Photography by Kamala Kingsley.
2 pm and 7:30 pm December 2
Q&A following the 2pm showing
The Headwaters Theatre, 55 NE Farragut #9
Both screenings will be Audio Described and ASL Interpreted.

In collaboration with cinematographer Ian Lucero, costume designer Jenny Ampersand and musicians Sweetmeat, this one day showing of Tidal-work in progress, will screen next to Wobbily Dance’s “Waking the Green Sound: a dance film for the trees” and a short film by Cheryl Green called “In My Home.”

Tidal is “a fantastical film, where breathing masks transform into diving masks, ventilator tubing morphs into costumes, and an ancient diver who calls the ocean home, draws us into his world. We fall, we dream, we dive. We transform from human to jellyfish and everything in between. This film is a continuation of the exploration of Wobbly’s dark, dream-like and sometimes absurd aesthetic. Starring Yulia Arakelyan and Erik Ferguson as the Dreamers, Nathan H.G. as the Diver, and Grant Miller as the Forager.”

Upcoming Performances

December 7-9, Bolero + Billie, Ihsan Rustem, NW Dance Project
December 8-9, The Nutcracker with Chamber Ballet of Corvallis, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
December 9, Winter Dance Concert, Reed College Performing Arts
December 9-24, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Oregon Ballet Theatre
December 13-17, a world, a world (work-in-progress), Linda Austin Dance, PWNW
December 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance, Crystal Jiko, Tere Mathern, Madison Page, Wolfbird Dance
December 17, The Nutcracker, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
December 17, Fiesta Navideña, Hosted by Espacio Flamenco Portland
December 22-24, The Nutcracker with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene


January 12, Love Heals All Wounds, Lil’ Buck and Jon Boogz, Presented by Portland’5 Center for the Arts
January 18-28, Fertile Ground Festival of New Work/Groovin’ Greenhouse
January 25-27, Rennie Harris Puremovement, presented by White Bird
January 28, Garden of Earthly Delights with Salem Concert Band (World premiere), Rainbow Dance Theatre, Independence

February 1-10, The skinner|kirk DANCE ENSEMBLE, presented by BodyVox
February 4, The Lady Of The Camellias, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
February 17-18, Pink Martini, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
February 21, Mark Morris Dance Group, presented by White Bird
February 23-25, Configure, PDX Contemporary Ballet
February 24-March 4, Alice (in wonderland), choreography by Septime Webre, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre

March 1-3, Urban Bush Women, presented by White Bird
March 4, The Flames Of Paris, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
March 8-10, Jessica Lang Dance, presented by White Bird
March 14, Compañia Jesús Carmona, presented by White Bird
March 15-17, World Premiere’s by Sarah Slipper and Cayetano Soto, NW Dance Project
March 22-24, To Have It All, choreography by Katie Scherman, presented by BodyVox

April 4, iLumiDance, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5, Earth Angel and other repertory works, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Corvallis
April 5-7, Stephen Petronio Company, presented by White Bird
April 8, Giselle, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
April 12-14, Contact Dance Film Festival, presented by BodyVox and Northwest Film Center
Apr 14-25, Peer Gynt with Orchestra Next, Eugene Ballet Company, Eugene
April 12-21, Man/Woman, choreography by Mikhail Fokine, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Nicolo Fonte, James Canfield, Jiří Kylián, performed by Oregon Ballet Theatre
April 19-28, Early, push/FOLD, choreographed and directed by Samuel Hobbs
April 20-29, X-Posed, Polaris Dance Theatre, Robert Guitron
April 24-25, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by White Bird
April 24-25, The Wind and the Wild, BodyVox and Chamber Music Northwest

May 4-5, Current/Classic, The Portland Ballet
May 10-12, New work premiere, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Western Oregon University, Monmouth
May 10-19, Rain & Roses (world premiere), BodyVox
May 11-13, Compose, PDX Contemporary Ballet
May 16, Ballet Hispȧnico, presented by White Bird
May 17-20, CRANE, a dance for film by The Holding Project
May 23-June 3, Closer, original works by the dancers of Oregon Ballet Theatre

June 8-10, Up Close, The Portland Ballet
June 10, Coppelia, Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema Live from Moscow
June 14-16, World Premiere – Ihsan Rustem, MemoryHouse – Sarah Slipper, NW Dance Project
June 15-17, New Expressive Works Residency Performance
June 24, Salem World Beat, Rainbow Dance Theatre, Salem


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