BodyVox blends film and dance in ‘The Cutting Room’

BodyVox takes inspiration from sci-fi movies in one portion of BodyVox takes inspiration from sci-fi movies in one portion of “The Cutting Room.”
Credit: Blaine Truitt

Since its inception in 1997, Portland-based company BodyVox has bridged dance with that other movement-based medium, filmmaking. Drawing on three decades of experience with highly physical dance troupes like Pilobolus and MOMIX, co-artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland marry that athleticism with the proscenium-shattering possibilities of movies.

Most of the time, that has entailed escaping the stage via short films. “Integrating film into our performances enables us to show dance in an environment that’s not available in the theater,” says Hampton. “We’ve done dance on heavy machinery, underwater, on rock-climbing cliffs. We like to take the audience on a journeythroughout our shows, and part of that is to get out of the theater that they’re sitting in and see dance somewhere else.”

In “The Cutting Room,” which BodyVox will bring to the Annenberg Center for its Philadelphia premiere this weekend, the company looks to film itself for inspiration as well as escape. The evening-length piece patterns each of its eight dances after a different cinematic genre, all linked by a filmed chase scene. As Hampton’s character is pursued by company member Jonathan Krebs, the company presents scenes based on documentary, romantic comedy, action, Bollywood, sci-fi and other familiar film styles, set to an eclectic score that includes pieces by Mozart, Miles Davis, Ralph Stanley and James Newton Howard.

The various genres give BodyVox leeway to indulge in their particular brand of acrobatic playfulness. The documentary portion sees the 10-person ensemble transform into a giant, undulating vampire squid; the Bollywood segment allows them to dust off opulent costumes originally worn for a wedding in India. Each genre engenders its own distinctive approach to movement.

“Let’s take a chase scene,” Hampton says. “What’s the vibe of a chase scene? A lot of bodies flying around, a lot of big physicality, people hitting the ground. So we do all that while keeping up the theatricality.”

While both dance and film allow real people to move in space and time, Hampton says they are completely different yet complementary mediums. “One’s 2-D and one’s 3-D. You can do things with film that you can’t do with dance, so it’s a wonderful adjunct to our shows to have this element where things happen that just couldn’t happen on stage. People go into a film differently than they go into a live performance because you have an empathy for real humans on stage.”

BodyVox: ‘The Cutting Room’
Dec. 12-14
Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
3680 Walnut St.
$20-$55, 215-898-3900

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