Tag Archives: Jamey Hampton

Pardon the interruption, s’il vous plait

Confessionals, Church Gesu Nuovo, Naples. Photo: Heinz-Josef Lücking/Wikimedia Commons.

By Bob Hicks

Bless us, Father, for we have sinned. It’s been six days since we entered our last post here at Art Scatter, which is just … embarrassant. Pardon, if you please. It’s not that we haven’t been busy. In fact, that’s the point. We’ve been so busy we haven’t had time to keep the faith and commit good bloggery. We’ll try to do better.

pandercatalogSo let’s play catch-up.


On Friday, having survived the Great February Blizzard of 2011, which dropped all of a third of an inch of snow on the Chez Scatter front lawn but managed to snarl the city and shut down its schools, Mr. Scatter took a tour down the valley to the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem to catch Memory and Modern Life, an expansive retrospective of the oils, watercolors and drawings of Henk Pander, the Dutch-born Portland artist.

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Stravinsky the hipster

By Martha Ullman West

So I put on my black leather jacket and my uncut corduroy black jeans, but balked at a nose ring, and attended the Dance Talks panel at the Pacific Northwest College of Art yesterday afternoon.  This outreach program for adults usually takes place at the Keller or the Newmark a week or so before Oregon Ballet Theatre opens a new concert series.

Stravinsky, by Picasso, 1920. Wikimedia Commons.This one, however,  was a panel discussion to introduce an audience that admittedly had more young people in it than usual to The Stravinsky Project, the middle piece on OBT’s all-Stravinsky evening opening at the Keller this coming Saturday night.

It’s a collaborative effort on the part of four choreographers with very different aesthetics and approaches to dance: Rachel Tess, Anne Mueller, and Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland of BodyVox.

Unfortunately, Hampton and Roland couldn’t be present (BodyVox is touring in Europe), but the two choreographers were joined by composer Heather Perkins, costume designer Morgan Walker, a painter who is on the faculty at PNCA; and OBT’s lighting designer Michael Mazzola.

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The big bounce: BodyVox’s ‘Trampoline’

Jamey Hampton's "Trampoline," at BodyVox. Photo: Michael Shay, Polara Studios

Feeling a little low? Need to bounce back from a bad day? This looks like a dizzy way to do it.

Una Loughran of BodyVox sent along this photo, by Michael Shay of Polara Studio, of Jamey Hampton’s new piece Trampoline, part of Smoke Soup, a program of new works opening tonight at the BodyVox Dance Center. Mr. and Mrs. Scatter are out of town and so won’t be there, but it looks like a real upper.

Trampoline started with six men and a woman,” Hampton says. “I wanted to see how high three men could throw a dancer if three men were going to catch her. Dramatically, it became a dance about how people can support and help each other.”

Sounds like the woman has more on the line than the men in this relationship. This is no time for butterfingers. Opening weekend’s sold out, but the show continues through April 10.

A dance critic at the opera: Move it, singers!

Remember the old days, when Cadillac-sized opera singers planted their feet among the scenery and belted beautiful music with no thought to the dramatic possibilities of the opera? Art Scatter’s senior correspondent Martha Ullman West does, and she shudders at the memory. What’s more, she sees the old style’s residual effects in the staging of “Orphee” at Portland Opera. Her message: Pay attention to the dancemakers. They have lessons for the musical stage.

Philip Cutlip as Orphee and Lisa Saffer as La Princesse. photo: Cory Weaver/Portland Opera

Philip Cutlip as Orphee and Lisa Saffer as La Princesse. photo: Cory Weaver/Portland Opera

First the disclaimer — my opera expertise is limited, although my opera attendance began when I was 10 when my father took me to a New York City Opera production of The Marriage of Figaro. I really got the bug when I was in college, and for the past 35 years or so I’ve been an off and on subscriber to the Portland Opera.

So I belong to a generation of opera-goers that has seen a paradigmatic shift in staging: Gone, mostly, are the days when Licia Albanese, say, as the tragic Butterfly, planted her feet, opened her mouth and sang (in heavenly fashion, I might add) her concluding aria; or Pavarotti, as the lascivious duke in Rigoletto, did the same. Today, opera singers have to be able to move. Body language is part of the art form.

And in a Philip Glass opera, they ought to be able to move a lot more dynamically than they were directed to do in Orphee, which I saw Sunday afternoon. In all other respects I thought Portland Opera’s production was stunning, from the score, to the conducting, to the set, to the singing, particularly by Philip Cutlip as Orphee, Georgia Jarman as Eurydice and Lisa Saffer as the Princess.

BUT, my esteemed colleague David Stabler complained in The Oregonian that the production was static, and he’s right. Only Cutlip and Jarman seemed really physically at ease onstage, moving naturally, and with a certain amount of impulse. Saffer did indeed prowl from time to time, but that’s all she did, except to smoke, and everyone else moved stiffly and self-consciously, when they moved at all, except for a bit of leaping on and off of sofas and the bar in the party scene.

I couldn’t help thinking how different it would have looked if it had been directed by Jerry Mouawad in the way he staged No Exit for Imago. In fact, speaking of French poets, are we in Portland this fall enjoying a Season in Hell? (That’s Rimbaud’s long poem, and come to think of it, it would make a dandy opera.)

Glass deserves better physical direction for his operas. He has collaborated with a lot of choreographers. In fact, the first review I did for Dance Magazine, in 1979 (an essay review on post-modern dance in New York) included the premiere of DANCE, a piece he did with Lucinda Childs, which included elegant film images and for which he performed accompaniment himself.

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BodyVox: Home again, home again, jiggity jig

BodyVox's Water Bodies, which helped inaugurate the new dance center and is going on the road. Photo: J. Dunham Carter, Polara Studios

BodyVox’s “Water Bodies,” which helped inaugurate the new dance center (minus the sand!) and is going on the road. Photo: J. Dunham Carter, Polara Studios

The downside of BodyVox’s ambitious move into its own new BodyVox Dance Center in Northwest Portland?

Jamey Hampton, co-artistic director with his wife, Ashley Roland, of the Portland-based touring dance and movement ensemble, paused to consider the question.

“We were closer to cold beer before,” he finally allowed.

The new BodyVox dance center from the mezzanine. Photo: Bob HicksSurely a heavy price to pay — and the pizza was good, too. For several years BodyVox kept house in sunny but cramped quarters on the top floor of the BridgePort Brewpub,  several blocks away from the company’s new digs at Northwest 17th Avenue and Northrup Street.

But as charming as the proximity was, it’s tough to think of many other drawbacks to the move, which gives BodyVox a much bigger and more sophisticated space that also has the potential to be a vital community resource. As general manager Una Loughran put it, “We want this space to be used.”

One evening late last week BodyVox threw a little open house-slash-open rehearsal to show off the new space, and everyone was pretty much in a celebratory mood. Beer (BridgePort, of course) and wine were flying out of the lobby. Bodies were flying just as rapidly around the new stage, which is 60 feet wide as opposed to 40 in the old space, a huge difference in terms of choreographic possibility.

The rehearsal was mostly for Water Bodies, which the company is taking on tour to Philadelphia and New York state in mid-October (the home season, which will be performed entirely in the new space, opens Nov. 12), and with a crowd on hand it was loose. Christopher Stowell, artistic director of Oregon Ballet Theatre, stood at the side of the stage with a microphone to talk about what was going on in the dances, and when Hampton and Roland weren’t out on the stage performing, they joined in on the chat, too.

I talked briefly with veteran dancer Eric Skinner, one of BodyVox’s artistic anchors. He and the company were getting ready for a quick trip to Minnesota for a performance tomorrow night (Sept. 24) at College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University near St. Cloud. I congratulated him on the company’s wisdom in scheduling a trip to the upper Midwest in September instead of January.

Eric grinned. “Coldest winter I ever spent was the year I danced with Milwaukee Ballet,” he said.

By the time everything’s finished BodyVox’s main performing space will hold 160 seats, up from 90 in the old space. “It really transforms the financial picture for us,” Loughran said.

A front studio with big inviting garage-door windows onto the street was in use during the reception and already is attracting dancers for lots of classes. “That’s nice, too. Gets us back to that revenue flow,” said Loughran, whose job it is to worry about such things.

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Remembering Merce in his element: the vast Northwest

Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Nearly Ninety. Photo: Anna Finke/2009

Dance critic and historian Martha Ullman West has spent a lot of time thinking about Merce Cunningham, the great 20th century dancer and choreographer who rethought what dance means by  introducing chance as a primary element in the mix. Cunningham, who was born and raised 90 miles from Portland in the small town of Centralia, Wash., died July 26 at age 90. Martha considers, among other things, the effect that the Pacific Northwest had on Cunningham’s art.


Merce Cunningham. Photo: Mark Seliger/2009 Merce Cunningham died the other day, in his sleep it is said, which means he was still hard at work at the age of 90. Artists do, you know, work in their sleep, as well as their waking hours. There is no rest for the psyche.

He died in New York on Sunday, July 26, at his home in Greenwich Village. In his obituary for the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay, who is working on a book on Cunningham, called him “always a creature of New York.”

That’s not untrue, at least from 1939 on, when Cunningham joined Martha Graham‘s company. But it’s only part of the story.

Merce, in fact, was one of ours. So was Robert Joffrey. So are Trisha Brown and Mark Morris, who, thank God, are still around. All are natives of the Pacific Northwest, specifically Washington State.

I believe that Merce’s use of space, his sense of infinite possibility, his connection to nature, his conviction that you can do anything that pleases you on stage as long as it works aesthetically, came from the ethos of this part of the world. You see those elements in the poetry of Gary Snyder, who like Merce and composer John Cage, Merce’s long-term partner in life and art, was influenced by Zen thinking. You see them, certainly, in the work of Trisha Brown.

And, to bring it home to Portland, you see it in the choreography and technique of Mary Oslund, who studied with Cunningham and several members of his company, including the late Viola Farber. Oslund remembers being at dinner with Merce when White Bird presented the company (which, God love them, they did twice, in 2001 and 2004). Merce talked with her about Farber, Mary says, in his “diminutive and humble way.”

“He gave us a lot of permission,” Susan Banyas told dance maker Gregg Bielemeier when she heard the news of Merce’s death.

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Martha Ullman West on Dance United: a personal take

Like so many great art forms, dance is a series of interlinked relationships and memories, a tradition that continually redefines and reinvents itself. It lives in the past, and the present, and the future, and its story is written in the memories and associations of open-hearted observers as well as the muscles of dancers and the patterns in choreographers’ minds.

Dance writer Martha Ullman West, one of our best observers, took in last Friday’s Dance United, and for her it was like biting into a madeleine: The reminiscences and connections just began to flow. Somehow, no matter how far-flung, they all looped back to Oregon Ballet Theatre, its history and successes, and this extraordinary event to keep the company alive and vital.

Here is the link to Martha’s review in The Oregonian of the performance. And here, below, is her more personal report on what it all meant:

Daniel Ulbright, New York City Ballet. Photo: BLAINE TRUITT COVERTReally, it was a cross between a potlatch and an Obama rally, a gathering of the clans.

Dancers came from Texas, Utah, Massachusetts, Canada, Washington state, California, Chicago, Idaho, and that other geographical location, in New York called Downtown, here designated as Portland’s modern and contemporary dance community.

The gifts they brought were generous: their talent and their time. And they were welcomed to Keller Auditorium with the same enthusiasm as Obama’s supporters do and did, reaching into their wallets with many relatively small donations to keep Oregon Ballet Theatre alive. On Tuesday, OBT had in hand $720,000 of the $750,000 it needs to make up THIS season’s deficit.

I’ve been watching dance in Portland and elsewhere for more decades that I wish to reveal, and professionally since 1979, when I wrote an essay on postmodern dance in New York for Dance Magazine. In so many ways, this gala triggered some Proustian moments, also making me think of all the ways that dance and dancers are connected to each other.

Linda Austin’s thoroughly postmodern “anybody-can-dance, any-movement-on-stage-is-valid” Boris & Natasha Dancers (on catnip) took me back to New York’s SoHo and a performance created by Karole Armitage consisting of a group of dancers on their hands and knees, painting stripes on the floor, in humorless silence. They were not skilled at either painting or dancing, but it was the same democratic approach to the art form as Austin’s new dance, which featured such pillars of the Portland community as two Bragdons (Peter and David), Scott Bricker, James Harrison and Peter Ames Carlin galumphing across the stage, one of them wearing red sneakers that I wondered if he’d borrowed from White Bird’s Paul King. (Armitage, you may remember, also made work on OBT’s dancers on James Canfield’s watch.)

Sarah Van Patten Damian Smith, SFBallet. Photo: BLAINE TRUITT COVERTThe Joffrey Ballet’s Aaron Rogers, performing Val Caniparoli’s Aria, recalled for me the profound pleasure of watching Val work with Portland dancers, first at OBT’s precursor Ballet Oregon, and then at OBT. Caniparoli’s kindness and courtesy in the studio turned out to be extremely productive when the company performed his Street Songs and other work. Rogers looked like he was enjoying himself, flirting with that mask, and certainly seduced the audience in the process.

And I thought about Mark Goldweber, ballet master at OBT under Canfield, then for some years at the Joffrey, and now at Ballet West. (He gave the only authentic performance in Robert Altman’s dance film The Company, in my view.) I wondered what Mark thinks about the way Adam Sklute, now Ballet West’s artistic director, staged this version of the White Swan pas de deux.

When I encountered this ballet’s real-life Prince Siegfried, Christopher Ruud, at OBT’s studios earlier in the week, I spoke with him about his father, who had helped Todd Bolender at Kansas City Ballet (Bolender is the subject of a book I’m working on). Ruud told me he had staged one of his father’s pieces on the company several years ago.

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BodyVox jumps for joy about its new home

While we’re all worrying about arts organizations going bust (let’s just hope there’s life and vitality in the Portland Jazz Festival yet) and arguing about whether the city needs a covered plaza as a gateway to the downtown arts district, let’s take time out for a spot of good news.

BodyVox has a new home.

OK, right now it’s a big old mostly empty warehouse with 1890s brick walls reminiscent of a 1970s restaurant rehab (Art Scatter happens to be fond of old brick walls and brawny posts and beams, if not necessarily hanging ferns). But Jamey Hampton, who runs the popular dance and movement troupe with his wife and fellow performer/choreographer Ashley Roland, says the space will be ready for the company’s spring show, and adds that the troupe’s architects, Portland’s BOORA, are estimating a complete makeover by next June. Well, maybe some of the office spaces won’t be quite done by then, Hampton says: Depends on the money.

Portland is a talk-big, think-small town, and that’s both bad and good. The bad part is that it supports its large organizations poorly and doesn’t really think, despite its sometimes fawning press notices, that it can play in the big leagues. The good part is that modest-sized organizations such as BodyVox have learned how to get the most bang for their buck and have an impact far beyond the size of their budgets. It’s a corrolary to our economic self-image: We define ourselves as a small-business-friendly city because we don’t have much in the way of big businesses, and then turn that into an advantage.

BodyVox’s new building, which it rolled out in a convivial tour/party late Monday afternoon, is at Northwest Northrup Street and 17th Avenue, a nice, relatively quiet urban stretch that’s tucked neatly between the Pearl District and the city’s more traditional Northwest neighborhoods. Easy to get to, relatively easy to find a parking space, and a mortgage, not a lease. Nice work if you can get it, and BodyVox did.

The building, which began life as Portland’s Wells Fargo building (the main space was for carriage storage, and there were also stables and a dormitory for the drivers) and more recently was the printing and publishing space for Corberry Press, came to BodyVox through Henry Hillman, the arts supporter, photographer, glass artist and owner of several properties. As Roland tells the story, Hillman had been advising BodyVox in its hunt for a new, bigger space, and kept pointing out the shortcomings of several possibilities: too small, not at street level, too hard to rehab. Finally, Hampton said, “Well, what about your building?” And Hillman said, “Hmmm.” Hillman keeps his glass studio next door, and as a bonus has a decent parking lot that BodyVox can use in the evenings.

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