Serious fun in Portland's Pearl District

Oregon dancers make their work their play
Bonnie Henderson
Light ricochets off whitewashed walls at the BodyVox rehearsal studio, a former hemp factory in the lower end of Portland's Pearl District. Four male dancers move about the sprung floor, each holding a female dancer aloft like an exquisite human puppet. Co-artistic director Jamey Hampton prowls the floor's periphery, grimacing and grinning, while his wife and collaborator, Ashley Roland, consults with the company's costumer.

Beauty, humor, and a sense of the spectacular are as present in the studio as they are onstage with BodyVox, the eight-year-old Portland dance company whose directors ― veterans of innovative companies Pilobolus and Momix ― are as serious about dance as they are lighthearted in their choreography. "It's not angst-y like so many modern dance companies," says BodyVox dancer Lane Hunter.

The need for more playfulness was partly what drove Portland native Hampton and Connecticut-born Roland to found their dance troupe. They settled in Portland in the mid-'90s, and after a brief foray into the family lumber business, Hampton returned to his passion. With Roland, he joined five like-minded dancers to form what has become a world-class dance company.

Early this month, BodyVox will choreograph the witches' scenes in Macbeth for the Portland Opera. Their take isn't so much sinister as it is "kooky and darkly comedic," as Roland puts it. "It's going to be exciting," she adds ― a prediction no BodyVox watcher would dispute.

Info: Portland Opera's Macbeth (Feb 4, 7, 9, and 11; tickets from $37; www.ticketmaster.com or 503/241-1802)