Okay, the dancers last night did not in any way resemble this walrus - they were intimidatingly fit, in fact - but they did, indeed, dance with buckets. Or sort of big black plastic bucket-like things that they sat on, and danced around, and ended up sticking their heads into. It was part of the Complexions Contemporary Ballet program through White Bird, and the first work on the program, an excerpt from "Mercy" ("an epic work with abstractions depicting passion and kindly forbearance with a yearning for grace and permanence in the sacred and spiritual deliverance of mankind." And buckets.) Danced to a sometimes jarringly discordant score (though I liked the singing of Huseyin Erek) and with both subtle and overt religious imagery, it was a lot of energy with not a lot of direction that I could see, and though I liked the way some of the phrases repeated across the length of the work, it didn't really speak to me. Maybe if I saw the whole thing; this was only an excerpt. You can see a bit of "Mercy" in this old promotional video, in the part where they're all wearing flowing white garments.
The middle portion of the program was great. Four different works (or excerpts from larger works) with hazy lighting, spotlights coming down from the top of the stage or diffuse lighting from no apparent source, but with some sort of particulate matter blowing around, like thin smoke or heat haze, that made the stage seem depthless and the dancers slightly surreal. Sometimes there were a dozen spotlights, each stabbing many-legged dim rays downward, giving a three-dimensional look to the otherwise bare stage, so that the dancers seemed to move in and around the beams of light. Each of the four short works had a different signature color: "Gone" was a green-lit trio of men who, I believe, were breaking out of jail; "Momentary Forevers" was an orange-lit pas de deux for a space alien's broken music box. The opening movements of this piece were very familiar, and I'm thinking that I've seen it before, maybe even at White Bird, danced by another company.
"Moody Booty Blues" started out with only the dancer Gary W. Jeter II on stage, and frankly I wouldn't have minded if he'd been the only one until the end. Yum. A sexy blue and bluesy piece that got everyone's, um, blood moving. I still get a little hot and bothered thinking of Jeter's muscular ... legs. Legs. And arms. And the precise way he used them. Ahem! No, actually one of the things I was thinking (besides that!) was that I wished my brother and his son could have been there for that particular piece, because they have this ooh-dance-is-sissy attitude and man oh man, that was the opposite of sissy. And any of those dancers - the women included - could kick either of their butts in a fair fight. Well, their loss. The final short work, "Moonlight," was danced by Dwight Rhoden, co-director of the company (the other is Desmond Richardson). Melancholy movement under a single white light, very nice.
The last part of the program was "Rise," all danced to bits of U2 songs. It was pretty, and entertaining, but struck me as kind of commercial, in the sense of "to be performed as a show on television." But it was fun, and a good way to end the program. White Bird posted a brief and somewhat out-of-focus excerpt here:
White Bird's 2010/11 season has been announced and I'm definitely resubscribing. Get your tickets now and support this fantastic Portland resource!