A thousand points of light

Portland’s BodyVox dance company recently returned from a successful European tour, where they performed the original evening length dance piece “A Thousand Little Cities.”

Portland’s BodyVox dance company recently returned from a successful European tour, where they performed the original evening length dance piece “A Thousand Little Cities.” The company has now brought the show home to Portland, with performances at the BodyVox Dance Center continuing through May 21.

“A Thousand Little Cities” premiered in 2000, only the second evening length piece performed by the dance company, which is now in its thirteenth season, according to General Manager Una Loughran.

“It’s evolved a little bit,” Loughran said. “The performance takes you through a series of vignettes that describe American life. The idea being that when you fly over America, you see these thousand little points of light that represent the nation. It explores the idea that what truly defines us are the small things, that smaller cities really say more about America than our urban centers.”

One thing that helps to define BodyVox is their eclectic music accompaniment and mixed media stage presentations.

“It’s an incredibly musical dance company, with incredibly diverse tastes,” Loughran said. “From composers like John Adams, to electronic artists like Aphex Twin, whom we use a lot in our pieces, to outright pop music.”

“A Thousand Little Cities” expresses its deeply nostalgic sense of Americana partially through paying homage to 1960’s pop icon Roy Orbison.

“There is a recurring tribute to Roy Orbison,” Loughran said. “The company feels he’s an underappreciated ideal of the classic American artist from an important period. In fact, the show culminates with a wedding dance, and we have a rotating cast of guest performers who come onstage and perform the song ‘Mystery Girl’ in Roy Orbison costume.”

Artistic Directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland, who founded BodyVox in the late 1990s, attempt to capture the aesthetics of everyday American life in a performance that is both moving and entertaining.

“It’s not about flag waving and John Phillips Sousa,” said Roland. “It’s a sense of pride and recognition of the spirit of America. It’s about saying ‘these are my people.'”

Among the spirited performances in “A Thousand Little Cities” are those of its five child performers, whom General Manager Una Lougrhan said came to the show from classes and camps hosted by the dance company.

BodyVox has a dance center on 17th and Northrup in NW Portland, where original works are created and rehearsed, before being taken around the world when the company tours. As a compliment to their own creative process, BodyVox teaches classes that are open to the community. There are classes for children as young as fourteen, as well as parent-child classes and classes for adults. Loughran said one regular student is 70 years old.

“I think a lot of interest comes from the artistic aesthetic of BodyVox,” Loughran said. “It’s such a sense of joyful movement. The reaction to the show has been overwhelming, both here and abroad. There is a real sense that people have just seen something that is not only artistic, but entertaining and engaging as well. It’s an uplifting experience that carries through to the audience and I think that’s why people respond so positively to the class.”

In addition to a cast of eight dancers, five child performers, musical accompaniment and Roy Orbison impersonators, “A Thousand Little Cities” features the short films of Berkeley filmmaker Mitchell Rose. A frequent collaborator with BodyVox, and a former dance choreographer himself, Rose’s short film “Elevator World” features prominently in the production, according to Loughran.

“The core of BodyVox performances are the dancing,” Loughran said. “But there really are so many facets and layers that give the audience a nice entrée into the work.”

“A Thousand Little Cities” runs through May 21, with performances each Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and an additional 2 p.m. performance on Saturdays. Tickets prices start at $36, and are available at www.bodyvox.com. There is a 20 percent discount for PSU students. ?