There are no strangers in Do Jump!'s 'Ahhh HA!' dance show
For more than 30 years, Robin Lane, founder of Do Jump!, has taken Portlanders on a journey through her mind, full of wonder and beauty. Her ideas are what make up the theatrical troupe's shows, which blend theater, dance, acrobatics and live music to capture the audience's imagination.
'It's about breaking down the barriers between the stage and the audience - to take off and forget where you are,' Lane says.
Do Jump!'s newest show, 'Ahhh HA!,' is headed to New York City early next year, as it's been chosen to run at the New Victory Theater - where coincidentally Portland's Imago Theatre played last year - on 42nd and Broadway. Lane has seen the small ensemble she originally created in high school as an outlet for her dance and theater ideas turn into a nationally recognized production company.
'I was just thinking about the thing I loved; all that mattered was how I got to do it,' Lane says. 'I just followed my dream wherever it took me.'
To attend a Do Jump! show is to be drawn back to a simpler time, when worries could be solved with laughter and curiosity was the basis of everything. Lighthearted humor is mixed with the philosophy of human intention - why people do the things they do - to create an experience that will make you feel both giddy and reflective at the same time.
Each show's concept is different, as it all depends on what is going through Lane's head at the moment - from the relationship between her two kittens, to a village in war-torn Columbia, to the work of Russian-French artist Mark Chagall.
'Ahhh HA!,' which runs in Portland at the Echo Theatre (1515 S.E. 37th Ave.) from Nov. 26 to Jan. 1 ($32 for adults, $26 for seniors, $20 for children 12 and younger), is a collection of some of the best scenes the company has performed. During the show, the audience will see a shaggy dog played by two actors in a costume prancing happily on stage, a group of acrobatic clowns befuddled by a ladder that doesn't touch the ground and two characters named 'Ah' and 'Ha,' who you sing along with as they bounce back and forth.
'It's definitely one of our more lighthearted and fun shows,' says Brittany Walsh, one of Do Jump!'s core ensemble members. 'Pretty much anyone can sit and enjoy this show.'
Part of a community
Although a lot of the company's work is humorous, there is also a tremendous amount of technicality and physical discipline put on by the performers as they swing from rafters, coil their bodies into odd shapes and somehow balance on points the size of a pin. This unique style of movement has drawn dancers from across the country to join the show.
'I was begging them to give me an audition,' says Lindsay Fischer, who moved from North Dakota to Portland to join Do Jump! last year. 'It's very big in characters with broad movements, yet sometimes we can be very simplistic, clear and lovely. I feel very fulfilled to be here.'
Putting on great shows is only part of what Lane has accomplished with Do Jump!, though. Ever since the company moved into the historic Echo Theatre in 1983, Lane and her troupe have been an artistic mainstay in the city, putting on performances that deal with local issues and feature local dancers - many from Jefferson High School's esteemed dance program. As a result, a community has formed around their work.
'To have something big and magical happen where every single person is necessary - that is something we all long for,' Lane says. 'It's not about the 'star' thing; it's about the process of people working together to make things that express your humanity and bring people together.'
The same year Do Jump! took over the Echo Theatre, Lane opened the Do Jump! Physical Theatre School, which teaches classes in creative movement, acrobatics, trapeze and juggling for people of any age. The school's focus is to encourage 'physical confidence, freedom and grace' in a creative and non-competitive atmosphere. Thousands of children have taken classes through the school since its creation, opening multiple generations of Portlanders to Lane's special form of art.
'Our style is basically breaking things down so much that someone who has no sense of themselves as a mover could eventually learn some really amazing things and change their opinions of themselves,' Lane says.
Even if people don't take Do Jump!'s classes, just being in the audience will make them feel a part of the show.
'They actually feel a part of the other strangers in the theater,' Lane says. 'They're all having an experience together and enjoying themselves. It's the opposite of feeling alienated - it's an experience of community.'