By Merilyn Jackson
FOR THE INQUIRER
The ever popular BodyVox returns to Annenberg
The 15-year-old Portland-based dance company BodyVox first appeared at Annenberg Center in 2001. This is now the group’s fifth visit as one of the Dance Celebration series' favorites — and one of mine as well.
BodyVox is a winsome company of a dozen top-tier dancers. Artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, both of whom still dance in the company, are alums of Momix and Pilobolus. That heritage shows best in certain sections of their eight-part paean to films and filmmaking, The Cutting Room, which the two conceived and choreographed. It opened Thursday night for this weekend run.
On film and in person, Jonathan Krebs (in a jogging outfit) chased Hampton (in suit and tie) throughout the show, crashing through screens to try to snatch back a mysterious canister of film — the MacGuffin that ties the often-unrelated sections together. The conceit was useful to buy time for costume changes. But some of the attention put into this running gag could have been better used to beef up the choreography.
When you think of big dance scenes in contemporary costume dramas, you know they are choreographed more for the modern eye. So it was with the first section, “Historical Fiction,” to a W. A. Mozart suite. Pregnant pauses and hands flexed Egyptian-style added wit to its foppery and courtliness, but it didn't live up to those grand ballroom scenes.
“Documentary” had David Attenborough’s “Vampire Squid” narration, and its choreography delivered the most Momix-y moments. In shimmering bodysuits, 10 dancers permutated in fancy, often beautiful, squid-like squirming. Three dancers pulled the others off stage as if they were one undulating sheet of seaweed.
A bluesy rendition of an operatic aria set a sexy tone for the ‘50s-era “Screen Kiss.” “Sci-Fi” riffed on the scene in Kubrick's 2001 when the computer HAL is decommissioned; it had the troupe again in spacey bodysuits — a requisite for flotation in sea or ether. They pulled off an inventive gravitational bit by placing straps under one dancer and floating him around between them.
“Americana,” set to the bluegrass music of Ralph Stanley, had some fine moments of clogging and legs expertly swinging out from immobile torsos.
Despite the gorgeous bare torsos of the men in “Bollywood,” I wouldn’t have minded if it and “Chase” were left on the cutting room floor.
Dec.14, 2 PM and 8 PM Tickets: $20 -- $55. Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut St. AnnenbergCenter.org 215.898.3900