Ranging far + wide

Vivid Motion drinks life to the lees
By KELSEA BRENNAN-WESSELS  |  June 6, 2007
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TOILING SOULS: Vivid Motion dancers.

Vivid Motion, the dance company that morphed the classic Christmas ballet into Nutcracker Burlesque, now is turning Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey on its head.

Music by contemporary musicians from a variety of genres including Moby, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Elvis Costello, Frank Sinatra and local goth-rocker Aepril Schaile will be used to enact the years-long homeward journey of the Greek hero Odysseus. And if mixing a handful of trained dancers with two handfuls of untrained ones (plus a one-eyed, oversized puppet) doesn’t push the envelope enough, how about ten different choreographers working on one show?

“It’s a fusion of dance,” says Colleen Cole, the dancer/actress who plays Odysseus’s wife, Penelope. “I get to express myself through a lot of [styles] of dance.”

Fusion is exactly how this version of The Odyssey came to be. It began with artistic director Brigitte Paulus’s choice to do The Odyssey before opening it up to a variety of choreographers – Vivid Motion’s standard way of doing a show. The story was then broken up into 12 dance sequences and divided among ten local choreographers. The result is an unconventional series of performances, ranging from modern dance to puppetry. This otherwise jarring approach to collaboration is transitioned smoothly from one scene to the next with “water,” or girls dancing with long blue and green scarves.

“So many different areas of interest are mixed up here, it never gets boring,” says Jamie Diggers, who choreographed two dances. Diggers teamed up with Gerry Shannon (who also plays Odysseus’s son, Telemachus) on the dance sequence of Circe. For those of us who need to brush up on our ancient Greek literature, Circe is the sorceress who offers food to Odysseus’s sailors after the angered sea-god, Poseidon, tosses their ship on her island. While they eat, she turns the men into animals. This part of the story is interpreted with the comical funk dance to the song “Eat It” by “Weird Al” Yankovic (a spoof off of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”). When Odysseus finds out what happened to his crew, he convinces Circe to undo the curse with a pas de deux (i.e., they dance together and she gives in to his slick moves). On the eve of their departure, a high-energy techno dance party ensues, with some poppin’ and lockin’, booty shakin’, and a conga line.

“I only took two months of ballet in high school,” says Diggers. “I learned to dance from going out to the clubs.”

Surprisingly, the lack of technical dance experience doesn’t distract from the enjoyment of the production. It’s the combination of choreographers coming from a variety of performance styles that makes Vivid Motion’s production so unique. If Brigitte Paulus’s jumps, lifts, and gymnastics performed in Alcinous’s Court don’t suit you, Lisa Jade’s belly dance just might. Jade makes her choreographic debut by turning the Cyclops’s sheep into white, fluffy Shakiras.

Byron Nilsen’s fluid movements depict the underwater scene of Ino’s Veil, where the naiad played by Aepril Schaile wraps Odysseus (Trevor Bean) in her veil to save him from drowning.

The theatrical finale includes an extensive stage fight and ends with Odysseus and Penelope reunited and dancing to the tunes of Frank Sinatra.

The Odyssey | with Vivid Motion | 7:30 pm June 8 & 9; 1:30 pm June 10 | at St Lawrence Arts and Community Center, in Portland | $12 | 207.453.6350 | www.vividmotion.org

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Kelsea Brennan-Wessels: portland-feedback@phx.com

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