JAMEY HAMPTON in concert with Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. Snowbird, July 22 at 7 p.m.
It is immediately evident that Jamey Hampton has come a long way, baby, since he was last here. That was in 1982, when he substituted at short notice for Momix on an Ririe-Woodbury program, and he was still dancing very much in the fluidly developing, tensile, plastic style of his Pilobolus beginnings. If one remembers correctly, he also had then a sort of apple-cheeked charm and boyishly raw, limber look.
Today Hampton, now a founder and dancer in the popular troupe ISO, is still fluid and limber and just as outgoing and funny; his smile comes quickly and he crackles with charisma. He still has a lot of the Pilobolus style, with amazing control down to the tips of his fingers and out to the most minute muscle, any one of which seems quite ready to work in isolation at any time, and his body is constantly alert. But his dancing is much more mature and individual, with more options, as the two solos he danced indicated.
In "Chemistry," an improvisation set to Jon Scoville's mostly electronic accompaniment, you saw at once that he is a quick and ready wit, or perhaps even more - a dancing creature in whom the instinct to move, motivated by the sound, goes almost involuntarily to the body, bypassing conscious thought. A better name for this dance might be "electricity," since the reactions did flow so kinetically, with many apt, fleeting reactions.
To interest an audience in improvisation, you have to make them react positively to two questions: What's he going to do next? and do I care? Hampton does indeed arouse positive reactions, and when he grabs a tent support and chins on it, then disappears behind the little masking curtain, it's a master stroke of audience leading.
"Rubber-Dubber" is a funny solo set to Jimi Hendrix's twangy music. Clad in what appears to be a freaky wetsuit, with rubber cords stretching under his feet to his hands, Hampton gave his entertainer instincts free reign. "Rubber-Dubber" is not a true nerd, but he projected an all-American earnestness about the things he did, like a kind of fresh air fiend or exercise nut, whether goose-stepping across the stage or keeping himself miraculously clear of the cat's cradles he made with his cords.
One hesitates to even comment on "Devouring the Bunyip," a piece Hampton is setting on the company - but when did that ever stop me? The score by Henry Torgue often gave one a sense of the space, freedom and energy of the Australian Outback where the Bunyip dwells, always on the lookout for people he can seduce and devour if they venture too close.
The dance is at its best when bodies dash about in reckless, free-wheeling energy, narrowly avoiding collision. Grouping in clumps and interacting as a body is interesting, with fluent molding and shaping. Clearly Ririe-Woodbury is ready to speak Hampton's language.
One trusts that this experimental showing included every possible dance idea, to see which ones worked. It was much too long, especially in the slow, hypnotic section. And one never gained from the dance itself any sense of the piece's philosophical premise - that our desire for power and control can ultimately consume us. It may be that such a premise cannot be expressed in terms of movement. At any rate, the next week's work should concern itself with sculpting away everything that doesn't belong to the "Bunyip."