Dance Review: A BodyVox Halloween

For most dancers, the laws of physics are constraints to be respected. For BodyVox, these are inconveniences to ignore. With mischievous joy, the contemporary dance company defies the limits of flexibility and gravity, pushing its dancers to kinetic heights that sometimes seem triumphantly impossible.

That spirit of defiance burns through the 2021 edition of Bloody Vox, BodyVox’s Halloween show. A marquee advertisement might read, “Life! The death! Dance on the walls! And the werewolves!” It’s maximalist entertainment and one of the most charming and stunning performances of the season.

Gentlecreatures, we have takeoff: “BloodyVox” from BodyVox. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Bloody Vox is divided into 15 dance pieces, most of which were choreographed by artistic directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland. Some have moments of real horror—in The companythe dancers move through a cemetery in a hauntingly funereal rhythm, but the show mostly settles into a playful rhythm.

Founded in 1997 by Hampton and Roland, who are married, BodyVox takes a remarkably simple approach to contemporary dance. It is an attitude personified by the Bloody Vox room Nightmare on Northrupin which Hampton and Roland set out to make themselves look as entertainingly ridiculous as possible.

In Nightmare on Northrup-the title is probably a cheeky nod to the BodyVox location on the corner of NW 17and and Northrup—Hampton and Roland play unfortunate characters taunted by mostly unseen threats. Their journey culminates in projections that feel like the theater has been turned upside down, a dizzying spectacle that is both awe-inspiring and hysterical.

Ashley Roland climbs the walls as Captain Tenacity. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

The physical adventure continues in Captain Tenacity, which Roland choreographed and performed. Dressed in a Captain America-style costume, she rushes onto the stage, repeatedly scaling a Velcro-covered wall. the main dish? She turns around and lands on the wall, her hand frozen in a salute.

While Captain Tenacity is recognizably human – or rather superhuman – many dancers use their bodies to become animals. They transform into fish, crickets and, in one case, a raven with dark, shiny wings that flap so gracefully that they appear to be made of liquid. It’s as if the performers are trying to escape not only from the limits of their bodies, but of their species.

There is a radical boiling in these developments. In Bloody Vox, nothing is truly monstrous or “other”; even werewolves attacking campers in the room First bite look less like killers and more like perverse pleasure seekers. It is a humanist vision that goes beyond humanity.

A macabre midnight frolic: This is a serious situation. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

One of the weirdest parts of Bloody Vox is Lockdown, a short that riffs on the indignities of quarantine by putting its Covid-affected characters in prison-style orange jumpsuits. It’s a rare moment when the whimsy of the performance feels forced: as much as I appreciate the wicked humor, personally, I’m not yet ready to laugh at social distancing and other post-pandemic rituals.

That, however, is a relatively minor gripe. Bloody Vox is a series of joyful inventions – I wish I had time to gush about the singing mummies – that let your soul soar and your funny bones tingle. Most years would be wonderful. After a year and a half, it’s a godsend.

***

  • “BloodyVox” kicked off Thursday night at the BodyVox Dance Center and concludes with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 29 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 30. Tickets and timetable information here.