Patrick Neas, Special to The Kansas City Star
In dance the human body is living clay, which the choreographer uses to create his or her art.
Flesh and bone are transformed into an idealized body that can leap into the air and land without a sound. It can engage in the most vigorous movement without huffing and puffing.
Choreographer Jennifer Owen and her husband, composer Brad Cox, aim to turn this paradigm on its head with their latest collaboration, “A Body of Work.” The Owen/Cox Dance Group will offer three performances beginning Thursday at the La Esquina gallery.
“A Body of Work” is a celebration of the human body, and as such, does not seek to obscure its very natural sounds and exertions when dancing. In fact, Cox’s score, which will be performed by soprano Victoria Botero with Cox manipulating various looped recordings, draws attention to those very sounds.
“I wanted to use sounds that would normally be hidden in a dance performance, like breathing hard or landings that are not so silent,” Cox said. “Victoria Botero is singing and engaging in sounds that are not singing, just vocalizations. And the dancers are part of the sound as well.
“There are certain areas under the stage that have microphones that amplify certain rhythmic aspects of what they do. During the performance I will record those sounds and then loop them and use them percussively to create rhythmic textures.”
Owen says that the 50-minute work, which will be performed without intermission, is without a plot but not without meaning.
“There’s definitely a theme to it and a progression, and people can take away whatever arc they want,” she said, “but it’s just a work about the human body. The choreography is very much inspired by how the body develops movement from the very basic to very intricate and complex ways of moving.
“Nate Fors is creating video art that will be projected throughout the performance which highlights images of the human body.”
If this all sounds like a head trip best appreciated by advanced dance connoisseurs, Cox begs to disagree.
“There’s a lot of beautiful dancing and beautiful music, as well as some very lighthearted and quirky humor,” he said. “It’s a very accessible piece. Even though it’s unusual in approach, there’s nothing that should frighten anyone off.
“That’s something Jennifer and I try to do, create pieces that will give people plenty to think about, but at the same time won’t leave them scratching their heads.”