Water Bodies

BodyVox at Schnitzer Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 224-4400, Thurs-Fri 7:30 pm, $18-39

A couple weeks back, I attended a special press luncheon for a new piece called Water Bodies, by BodyVox, a local dance group that's been producing critically acclaimed works since 1997, but for some reason I had never seen before. On this day they performed two pieces. In one, five scantily clad dancers hit the stage to a sexy surf-rock groove. They moved and bobbed, each one beaming a giant smile, genuinely thrilled to be there. For the second piece, they were costumed like colorful sea creatures. While their incredible accompanying string quartet 3rd Angle played a haunting score behind us, they floated languidly about, finally dipping slowly, surreally out of sight. I went back to the office feeling like a glo-stick, sure that dance just doesn't get better than that.

Later, over the phone, BodyVox co-artistic director Jamey Hampton tells me that dance does get better than that; seven times better, in fact. "There are 14 pieces in the evening," he says. "It's a huge show. It's two 50-minute halves. There's video and live music, and the musicians are up on this scaffolding. At times they look like they're in an aquarium above us."

He pauses. "I'm never premiering a show around tax time again."

But for all of the multimedia elements mentioned by Hampton, what resonated at the performance I saw was, as it should be, the movement. This isn't surprising, considering Hampton began his dance career with the amazing group Pilobolus, while his partner and BodyVox co-founder, Ashley Roland, got her start at the Alvin Ailey studio in New York. These folks have some serious credentials under their belts, and have managed to attract come of the best dancers in the Northwest, including Eric Skinner, Cristina Betts, and Daniel Kirk.

"[Watching this group] is like watching a group of people that have a sixth sense," says Hampton. "They're not just eight people that happen to be doing the same movements together. The level of physical communication is just incredible right now."

It shows. I saw a mere fraction of Water Bodies at that fateful luncheon, and I'm more excited for the full production than I've been all year. JUSTIN WESCOAT SANDERS