PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Downtown Beaverton’s new Patricia Reser Center for the Arts has been open for eleven days now and is in full swing this weekend. After shows by the Count Basie Orchestra and a weekend community celebration, the theater hosted Portland’s own BodyVoxand Chamber Music Northwest with Akropolis Reed Quintet for NINETEEN*TWENTY, a colab show of flapper dancing and I-beam acrobatics representing the boom-and-bust 1920s. In the 1920s, the rich were fabulous, and so were the poor, given a chance.
BodyVox cofounder Jamey Hampton said the show was ready to go in 2020 but the pandemic put paid to that. Finally everyone could breathe a little, although masking was required to ward off pandemic backslide. Hampton and Ashley Roland choreographed the show but didn’t dance in it, although Hampton did pick out a tune on the side guitar. (The show also plays Friday and Saturday March 18 and 19.) The evening was a perfect coming together of food processing and timber fortunes: Reser and Hampton.
The Reser Center is in The Round between Beaverton Creek and Beaverton Central MAX Station. The 550-seat theater is comfortable with wide seats and gently sloping aisles. A plaza overlooks the creek and is already prepared for warmer weather with café chairs tables, shackled together, in the glow of a magnificent silver spiral sculpture ‘Ribbon’ by Jason Klimoski and Lesley Chang of StudioKCA. With mirrored surfaces and white light beaming from its edges, the sculpture even better when beaded with rain.
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Executive director Chris Ayzoukian was at the door greeting guests to the L-shaped lobby. It has a signature chandelier and a trim balcony with good sightlines for people watching. One much-talked about feature was the parking. It is housed next door in a new structure and takes payments by phone as well as plastic. Upstairs are meeting rooms and The Lab, for community events. This should keep the building lively when the theater is dark. There are views into the neighbors’ apartments, showing just how crowded downtown Beaverton is becoming. Its citizens may find they never need go to Portland again.
NINETEEN*TWENTY has some of BodyVox’s finest work: dancers could be suffragettes or party girls from one move to next in their stretchy white dresses, while the men wore trousers patterned with newsprint. As usual the director made good use of digital images. There was an urchin-infiltrates-the-toffs short film, which was shot in the Bliss House museum in Portland. A montage of newspaper headlines traced history back from now through a hundred years of American history, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the Spanish Flu pandemic. And skyscrapers were evoked by a large selection of classic photos of ironworkers lunching or goofing about in the air, showing that life before Instagram wasn’t so different.
The show included some aerial dance on a swinging girder, but the best work came in the form of duets, especially featuring is Skye Stouber and Theresa Hanson. Dancers filled the generous stage with a mixture of ballet, contemporary and ballroom styles as they laid out the sights and sounds of the once-roaring decade, from speakeasies to mobsters to 19th Amendment politics, all brought to life by the willowy woodwinds of Chamber Music Northwest’s Akropolis Reed Quintet.