If you take nothing else from The Cutting Room, the latest production from Portland dance company BodyVox, at least appreciate that the dancers look like they’re enjoying themselves. I wish that were the norm, especially in more ebullient dance performances. But—despite the grins many performers wear—it’s often apparent just how seriously they take their work. Considering the concentration it takes to remember every last detail of choreography, and the control dancers must have to interact with each other on stage, a furrowed brow or a less-than-convincing smile is understandable.
What distinguishes this new BodyVox work is how loose it feels and how that freedom leaves room for the performers to slip on expressions of pure joy, especially artistic director Jamey Hampton. Hampton dances the lead in the production—which celebrates the history and tropes of cinema—as a man pursuing a can of film, connecting the otherwise disparate premises of Bollywood productions, romantic comedies, and science-fiction scenes.
When Hampton joins the rest of the dancers for the big showcase pieces, like the giddy Bollywood tribute that kicks off the second half of the show, or the hootenanny that closes the night, he looks positively giggly, throwing his hulking figure into the fray. That spirit trickles down to the rest of the performers, to positive and negative effects. When it comes to the romantic comedy section, the lax energy reflects the furtive couplings and bashful advances being played out across the stage. However, in the Amadeus-inspired number, Daniel Kirk and Ashley Roland’s silly evocation of a drunken couple wrestling lustfully works fine for them, but the unformed nature of the larger piece leaves the rest of the performers looking slack. (And it left one without their Capezio dance shoe. The shoe popped off midway through, only to be kicked about the floor until the end of the scene.)
There are also lovely introspective sections where the show's co-choreographers, Hampton and Roland, create intricate group dances, bundling eight bodies together into thrillingly beautiful shapes and synchronized movements.
At times, Cutting Room suffers from the overemphasization of its film references. The sci-fi homage, for instance, uses an unnecessary amount of dialogue from 2001: A Space Odyssey, almost entirely undercutting the mood. But at every point, the spirited, fully committed efforts of Cutting Room’s dancers dampen those minor distractions and buoy the performance back into a place of carefree celebration.