Do Jump! swings into town

Posted: Thursday, September 16, 2004

The acrobatically inspired dance pieces performed by Do Jump! often start with a simple concept.

For instance, there was the time that artistic director Robin Lane and two friends began riffing off the idea of renovation. Somehow, this turned into a short piece involving hand trucks - two-handed dollies.

"We played on these hand trucks for weeks - individually, two people on one, three people on one," Lane said. "We were trying to figure out every possible thing you could do on a hand truck. After weeks and weeks, we had a vocabulary. You take that vocabulary and a set of movements, and you put them in order to create the art."

Do Jump!, based out of Portland and run by Lane since 1977, comes to the Juneau-Douglas High School auditiorium at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18. The group, five dancers and one musician, will perform its touring one-act.

"It has a lot of humor and illusion and acrobatics and dance and music," Lane said. "It's more physical theater than dance, but everyone is a dancer. There's a lot of pedestrian movement made fantastical."

"Our main thing is to really connect with the audience," she said. "It's not an artsy-fartsy thing, where you think, 'What did they mean by that?' We're very interested in communicating with the audience and inviting the audience in."

Do Jump! has a residency at the Echo Theater in Portland, Ore. The group also offers workshops and master classes, including circus skills, trapeze, improvisation and tap dance.

The five dancers have differing personalities, which come into play when Lane writes a piece. One performer has a strong ballet background; another is well-trained in tap dance. One other is versed in Brazilian martial arts.

The shows include routines with furniture, dollies, tables and chairs.

"We mess around with everyday objects and make them fun," Lane said. "Each time we do the show we add things. The scenes are set, but someone will discover a new thing and add it in. Because we're an ensemble and we work together every day, and travel togther, there's constantly new things emerging."

The first piece in the show is an excerpt from a larger work about monkeys.

"We went to the zoo and spent a lot of time watching the monkeys," Lane said. "Then we improvised for months, being monkeys for hours. It's not just an imitation. It's not like people dressing up in cat costumes. We really tried to become monkeys gesturally and feel what it felt like to be a monkey. Then we started making up tricks, and putting together a naturalistic monkey dance."

Lane wrote another piece, "Something or Nothing," when she was feeling "out of sorts."

"A lot of times I'll work with a metaphor or an emotional situation," she said. "You get angsty feelings, and then you do it larger than life, and it turns out to be funny."

The Juneau performance may include some spinning aerial work on a triangular, single-pointed trapeze. Do Jump! performs its full aerial show when it has time (a few days or more) to set up.

Lane has written 16 full-length works for Do Jump! over the last 20 years. The company has several composers that write music to the pieces. All of the music in the Juneau show (Klezmer, percussion, jazz and classical) is original, except for one work by Bach.

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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