I am, by no means, an expert — or even really an aficionado — of dance. As performing arts go, most of my exposure has been to music, and to a lesser extent, theater. As a matter of fact, the last time I had more than a passing interest in following dance as a performing art was in middle school. This interest was fueled, in part, by a friendship I forged with a lanky White guy named Aaron Wheeler-Kay, who ended up being one of my enduring homies over the years.
So it was with great pleasure that I watched him in a production of “Do Jump! For the Holidays” a few weeks back. For he and the other members of the Do Jump! dance troupe awakened something in me that I hadn’t felt since I saw a production of “Stomp” at the Lyric Opera House in downtown Chicago. It was a sense of wonder and admiration, mixed with… what’s the word I’m looking for…oh yes:
“Do Jump For the Holidays!” is, besides being a kinetic marvel and theatrical experience, a big, bubbly ball of fun. It’s full of dancers, contorting and flinging themselves around the stage, using all manner of props and costumes to create scenes of of alternating beauty, poignance, and gleeful silliness. Sitting there, taking it all in, I couldn’t help but be amazed.
And a little jealous.
Not because I ever wanted to be a dancer. I learned early on that the good Lord blessed me with many attributes, but physical grace and dexterity wasn’t part of the package.
No, I couldn’t help but be jealous of the dancers because it was evident just how much fun they were having with the whole thing. One cannot appreciate the full extent of just how grueling a workout they get from sitting in the seats, because it just looks like they’re having a ball out there, bending and swinging and jumping and floating and kicking and sliding and doing other -ings that I can’t think of.
And it’s not just in the troupe itself, but it’s also in Klezmocracy, the live klezmer band that accompanies them. The three-piece outfit provides a kaleidoscopic backdrop of rhythm and melody that transcends culture and ethnicity. They take the form of traditional klezmer, Jewish wedding dance music, and morph it bit by bit. A little bit of jazz, a little bit of funk, a little bit of polka, a little bit of this and that, and pretty soon you can’t really tell what’s going on except that people are moving around and having a lot of fun.
I don’t mean to demean the artistic quality of this show, because it’s just as much of an artistic achievement as it is an entertaining diversion. But art is meant to be appreciated, not just by critics and artsy people, but by average folk. And by that standard, it was a rousing sucess.
So if you’re looking for something to do that’s beyond your average holiday fare, go check it out.
Do Jump! For the Holidays runs at the Echo Theater until December 23. For more information, call 503-231-1232 or visit the website.