"You spin the wheel. They dance."
When Jamey Hampton, artistic co-director of BodyVox, explains the modern company's latest show, the premise seems simple.
But with 25 dances on a big, game show-style wheel—and up to nine dancers onstage—The Spin is not at all simple. But it is fun.
"A study in controlled chaos," is what Hampton, who serves as the show's exuberant game show host, calls it. He calls audience volunteers onstage to spin the "wheel of chaos," featuring shows from BodyVox's 18-year repertoire. As dancers wearing only bathrobes huddle on either side on the wheel, they jump and wiggle, either out of anticipation or cold. The wheel spins. It stops. They scatter, running to get in costume and into position onstage.
They did seven pieces on opening night, 10 on Saturday, and every show promises something different. In the grab bag of BodyVox's colorful, contemporary and even whimsical lineup, highlights include a tango and sheep—separately.
In "Urban Meadow," a playful piece with six dancers huddling together like sheep, their fear and shaky legs transform into bourree-style flutters and they "baaa" comedically when the big bad wolf arrives to snatch them away from each other.
The tango-influenced number "Stop," from BodyVox's 2010 show Smoke Soup, epitomizes the company's whimsical playfulness. Hampton is a mischievous, smirking puppeteer who hypnotizes a couple and makes them dance. Dancers Brent Luebbert and Katie Scherman—both talented newcomers—throw themselves around the stage like rag dolls, spinning awkwardly and limply holding each other in a believably hypnotic trance.
But not all the dances are so fun. Vital context seems missing from "Bollywood," an all-group piece that poses the questions, "Why are these modern dancers trying to dance Bollywood?" and "Are they serious?" and "Why are two characters fighting?" After baa-ing sheep and Eric Skinner's wonderful, ballet-influenced solo in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," sentimental and somber dances like "Intimate Yellow" fall flat.
Very little else about The Spin can be called flat, though. There's too much enthusiasm for that, and too many comic, memorable moments that make us all feel like winners.
SEE IT: The Spin is at BodyVox, 1201 NW 17th Ave., 229-0627. 7:30 pm Thursday-Saturday and 2 pm Sat., Dec. 17-19. $25-$64.