Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble

Shapes and sculptures, deconstructed.

SHAPE-SHIFTERS: Dancers channel Russian Constructivism.

The essential building blocks of dance—shapes—are deftly deconstructed in a new contemporary dance program from the Skinner/Kirk Dance Ensemble. Co-founders Eric Skinner and Daniel Kirk (also founding members of BodyVox) dance the program's two works alongside their BodyVox colleagues Holly Shaw and Zachary Carroll, and former Oregon Ballet Theatre soloist Brennan Boyer.

Skinner's new work, Juxtaposition, unfolds in and around two conical, corrugated plastic structures set at center stage. They first appear lit from within, glowing luminously in the dark, but as the lights come up, their exteriors gleam. The title refers to the contrast between two types of lines: soft (the human body) and stark (mechanical sculpture). But these sculptures, created by Sumi Wu, have a softness of their own, floating gently upward, contracting into mushroomlike caps, then lengthening and hovering just above the floor. Seated at a piano, musicians Tim and Max Ribner create a spacey, atmospheric sonic backdrop, blending trip-hop with live accordion and piano playing (and piano thumping).

The sculptures present a choreographic challenge—what can be done with them? A lot, as it turns out: As they constrict, the dancers' movement constricts, getting leaner and more vertical; as they expand, the dancers slip through them or travel between them en masse, with jumps, turns and fleeting poses that evoke the structures' changing shapes.

Suspended in Mid-Air (And About to Collapse), the program's second piece, is inspired by the Russian Constructivist philosophy of art (if you're not intimately familiar, a program note describes its "bold shapes and geometric lines" and its use of art for social purposes). Wearing Mondrian-style jumpsuits—white, with primary-color blocking—the dancers begin with a passage that looks like group calisthenics done in a modern-art museum: a series of deep knee bends and plank positions set against a projection of circles, squares and triangles on the back wall.

Some sections have a balletic formality, others the playful feel of abstract forms springing to life. A highlight is the duet between Skinner and Kirk, an exercise in sculptural partnering, imbued with acrobatic strength and quiet grace. There is a pleasing geometry to this piece as well as to Juxtaposition, a combination of well-structured dance performed with musical and technical rigor. Geometry itself should be so enjoyable.

SEE IT: Skinner/Kirk is at BodyVox Dance Center, 1201 NW 17th Ave. 7:30 pm Thursday-Friday, 2 and 7:30 pm Saturday, Dec. 6-8. $36-$59.

WWeek 2015

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