Michele Russo

Still ‘Wild’ after all these years

Jamey Hampton's 1991 'Wild Man' returns as restless and dynamic as ever at BodyVox-2

When Wild Man premiered in Oregon Ballet Theatre’s 1991 American Choreographers Showcase, I thought it was a knockout. Created by Jamey Hampton in collaboration with Portland painter Michele Russo, with music by Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi, it was laced with wit provided by Russo’s set pieces. Russo’s paintings of hats, faces, and skulls in his boldly outlined style  were as much a part of Hampton’s choreography as Isamu Noguchi’s sets were for Martha Graham’s Cave of the Heart.  I was present in the studio when Hampton was creating the piece, as was Russo, and Carol Hampton, Hampton’s mother.  At that rehearsal, Hampton told the dancers that the piece had no story, “but it’s an homage to the creative spirit, the spirit that makes you able to break boundaries.”

Hampton's "Wild Man" reborn. Photo: Randall L. Milstein

Hampton’s “Wild Man” reborn. Photo: Randall L. Milstein

Hampton was billed at the time as an “emerging” choreographer, which he wasn’t.  As a member of Pilobolus, and then Momix, he had been choreographing for close to fifteen years.  For Ballet Oregon, which had originally commissioned Wild Man, he had made Kara’s Litost, an eloquent, tender duet in 1982 for Donald Logan and Deborah Wolfe. Wild Man, too, contains some quiet tenderness, which balances some hard-driving physicality –  abandoned, headlong movement that was extremely challenging for OBT’s  classically trained dancers.  

Not, however, for the dynamic sextet that is BodyVox-2Jeff George, Samuel Hobbs, Anna Marra, Josh Murry, Holly Shaw, and Katie Staszkow – on whom Hampton has revived the piece. Wild Man‘s latest incarnation opened a week ago Thursday, just in time to be wiped out by the Great Blizzard of 2014, at least for two performances.  I made it, along with 200 other people, the second Thursday, and had the profound pleasure of witnessing a performance that engaged both the mind and the heart.


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