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No One Puts BodyVox in a Corner 

Portland dance company defies traditional labels

Witty, theatrical, otherworldly, athletic, humorous and rich are all adjectives not necessarily associated with describing traditional dance performance. But in the case of Portland's modern dance company, BodyVox, those themes braid together to form a textured and truly unique show.

Artistic directors Jamey Hampton and his wife, Ashley Roland, are in their 17th season of BodyVox specific performances. Formed as a freelance project performing with Portland Opera, the group of a dozen or so dancers have since collaboratively developed eight award winning films, 20 original shows and three operas, featuring nearly 200 original dances.

"We now have our own building with a theater and two studios, a robust performance calendar, and classes for all ages and we tour around the country," explained Hampton.

BodyVox has become known for their nonconformity as a company and their particular sense of humor, athleticism, and their combination of specifically theatrical elements into dance. Some of this hybridity may come from the fact that Hampton himself has a BFA in drama from Dartmouth College and Roland's dance training began at the Alvin Ailey and David Howard studios in New York, two innovators of modern dance. BodyVox has retained a similar makeup and unconventionality over its decade and a half existence, a rarity in the world of dance companies.

"There are nine dancers, five women and four men. Some of them have been with us since we started the company," said Hampton. "We are a very different kind of dance company. We take what we do very seriously, but we don't take ourselves so seriously that there isn't a levity."

As far as technique and training go, BodyVox isn't traditional there either.

"Part of it is that we're a modern company a lot of our work requires a ballet line. We do ballet two times a week but our training is cross training," said Hampton. "We do jazz and modern and ballet and we work out a lot outside. It's not strictly ballet. A lot of dancers float through companies, leave after a few years and go somewhere else. We tend to have people stay because it's a good place."

In Bend, the group will perform excerpts from its most popular touring show "Reverie" one they've been performing for over a decade. The piece was choreographed as a reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Rather than sit at home and watch it and be horrified, we decided what we needed to do was go in the studio and do what we do, which is create beauty and that was the strongest statement and act that we could make," said Hampton. "In midst of all of this, to go into that studio and build something we think is beautiful, it is transformative and healing and positive."

Although the traveling pieces may not be the newest of the company's repertoire, "Reverie" is some of the group's most powerful work. Further innovation from the company is in the works as they prepare to debut "Fire Wall," a performance combining dance and technology, in December at their Portland theater.

"It has elements of technology in it that we haven't used before. We are doing live green screen dancing and using powerful lasers that are in inch in diameter that you have to dance around and avoid," explained Hampton excitedly. "There is a piece being performed and captured by a camera and re-projected simultaneously."


7:30 pm. Thurs., Nov. 13

Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St.


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