Pendulum Aerial Dance Theatre, PCC Sylvania, 12000 SW 49th Ave, 790-0729, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 & 7 pm, $22.50
Portland's dance world is an ocean of esoteric, under-funded modern dance (the Conduit Studio, Performance Works, etc.) punctuated by islands of over-funded, spectacle-oriented fluff (Do jump!, White Bird, etc.). It's hard to think of another respective fine art scene in town so stringently divided. If one likes the glitter of a Do Jump! show, there is little chance they will like the arty ambiguity of, say, a Mary Oslund production.
The Pendulum Aerial Dance Company means to bridge this gap. Grounded by a death-defying style ripped almost directly from the circus, Pendulum tempers its potentially overwrought sense of glitz with a darkly narrative sensibility.
"The whole evening is about relationships," says Pendulum artistic director and founder, Suzanne Kenney, of Pendulum's show, On the Fly. "It moves from innocent love to the death of love... to the afterlife, which takes place in Fairyland."
Hanging arrangements of long, colorful strips of fabric represent each phase of this romantic cycle. The material is stretchy, yet strong. The dancers climb it like animals, use it as a hammock, swing from it as if on a trapeze. It is amazingly malleable material; the dancers can engage in the same level of sophisticated movement that they do on the ground, but from incredible heights. In one steamy movement, Kenney and a male partner, Bill Holden, enact an abstract love affair through a sea of red cloth. They intertwine and body language-flirt in that way dancers do... only they do it from thirty feet in the air. Then, back on the ground, Kenney transforms into a temptress, turning the fabric into a majestic cape and hood. The cloth's shift from limp rope to vibrant costume piece is dazzling.
This kind of technical innovation is nothing new in the Portland dance world. What's unique about Pendulum is its devotion to theatrical storytelling. Its show this weekend will undoubtedly exhilarate visually, but it will also provoke cerebrally. Pendulum wants to make our world a harmonious one; a world where at last suburban, SUV-driving families can sit hand in hand with ethereal, inner-Portland dance neo-hippies. JUSTIN SANDERS