From Paganini to William Orbit, tiptoes to trapezes, the dancers of BodyVox know how to utilize music, talent and motion to create moods. The Portland, Oregon, based company will bring its blend of contemporary dance theater and distinctive choreography to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on July 31, complete with plenty of multimedia tales to tell.
BodyVox was founded in 1998 by cofounders and co-artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, who have danced together for 26 years in a number of different companies, including their own. Mr. Hampton graduated from Dartmouth with a BFA in drama and joined the Pilobolus Dance Theater in 1978, while Ms. Roland studied dance at the David Howard and Alvin Ailey Studios, as well as at the North Carolina School of the Arts. Independently, the two made their way to Momix Dance Theater, which led to their joint formations of ISO Dance and BodyVox, as well as to their marriage.
Mr. Hampton explains that BodyVox isn’t a typical theater company. There are no scripts or dialogue; nothing is spoken. Dance and movement incorporating stunning costumes, artistry and sets are all that are used to communicate on stage. The company’s work can’t be considered avant-garde performance art either, he said. “It’s never completely abstract,” he said, unlike the work of post-modernist choreographer/dancer Trisha Brown, to cite one example. Instead, he calls much of their work “mischievious,” along the lines of his prior work in Pilobolus, and says that their aspirations for the company are simple.
“BodyVox has an aesthetic that, at its root, is beauty,” he said in a telephone interview last week. “And while a lot of our work may be humorous, athletic, melancholy, metaphysical, or emotional, it almost always tells stories. And not ‘Swan Lake’ kind of stories—human stories,” he said with a laugh. “There’s always something going on, always characters, always shenanigans.”
The show that the company will offer at the Westhampton Beach PAC, dubbed “Reverie,” is also the show, Mr. Hampton says, that “defines the company” more than any of the others.
“It showcases a very wide range of emotions, and is crafted with an arc that really appeals to people,” he said.
Mr. Hampton further explained that the program can best be described as a collection of shorter dance/performance pieces that are meant to mimic the progress of a perfect meal.
“You have the appetizer, the salad, the dinner, the dessert, and the coffee. Then, after the meal, the conversation, the heated debate, maybe even the fistfight,” he said, laughing. “But like in a good Irish novel, everyone, of course, ends up friends in the end.”
Mr. Hampton thinks that one of the dances the audience will particularly enjoy will be a “delightful” piece performed to the extreme musical gymnastics of technically-fantastical Italian composer Paganini. Another standout is sure to be the show’s namesake dance, also titled “Reverie,” in which the dancers “become giant lilies and bamboo,” Mr. Hampton said. “It’s our version, our take on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’”
Inspired by Impressionism, other dance numbers will be accompanied by works from the likes of Giuseppe Verdi (“La Traviata”), and have been assigned such titles as “Moto Perpetuo,” “Falling for Grace,” and “Rip/Tide.” Short films and comedy will also be part of this eclectic mix. But it’s important not to give too much away, in order not to spoil BodyVox’s all-important surprise element.
As Mr. Hampton said, the audience can expect to leave the show “feeling that they’ve seen something beautiful, well-crafted, and inspiring.”
It’s all part of what makes him tick, he suggested, what makes BodyVox such a success, and what makes his and Ms. Roland’s travels with the company worthwhile. He also hopes the show itself will transport the audience to a new artistic world through the forces of culture, humanity, and dance.
“I love bringing the work on tour, because you feel like you’re an ambassador,” Mr. Hampton concluded. “It’s like a vacation with greater purpose.”
BodyVox present “Reverie” at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Saturday, July 31, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $45, $60, or $85, available online at whbpac.org, in person at the Arts Center at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach, or by calling the box office at 631-288-1500.