\"Life\'s Canvas,\" by 8&1 Dance Company

More Thoughts on the Year in Dance

Dance writers Cheryl Callon and Katie Dravenstott offer perspectives on the dance they saw in 2012.

published Thursday, December 27, 2012
1 comment

Editor's note: Here are some thoughts on the year in local dance from dance writers Cheryl Callon and Katie Dravenstott.


First, Cheryl's piece:

Looking back at all the performances I saw in 2012, it seemed to be the year of ballet and entertainment for me. I saw more musicals this year than I have in the last 10, which reawakened my longtime secret dream of performing in one. 

My other secret aspirations have to do with a certain dancing reality show, which was my first assignment for January. One cold, dark morning I ventured to the campus of SMU for the So You Think You Can Dance auditions. That behind-the-scenes experience led me to review every single episode for a very diverse Season 9 and finish out the year with the live tour.

Being immersed in SYTYCD all season and reviewing three other on-screen performances (Pina 3D, Step Up Revolution, and the Mariinsky's Nutcracker on film) illuminated the stark differences (good and bad) between live and recorded performance and only made me appreciate the former more.

Now for the ballet. Texas Ballet Theater as usual rocked the house, but this year was more enjoyable (even though the calendar year spread across two half-seasons). Ben Stevenson's Dracula was hands down my favorite ballet performance of 2012. Beautiful scenery, thrilling wire-work, electrifying pyrotechnics and exquisite dancing abounded. Mr. Stevenson, please bring it back soon. Its run was way too short. And while I wasn't too wild about October's run of Peer Gynt, the sensual, thrumming "In the Hall of the Mountain King " segment ranks up there with my favorite moments of the year.

I also had the honor of reviewing six productions of The Nutcracker this year (five local), so the bulk of this reflection is an awards list, hereby known as the "Nutties."

Favorite visuals: Texas Ballet Theater, with set design by Eduardo Sicango, costume design by Jorge Gallardo. You knew that was coming. The new sets and costumes really did live up to the hype. 

Favorite Snow Scene: Ballet Frontier of Texas, choreographed by Chung-Lin Tseng. I've been watching some of those dancers for almost two years and I can't help but be amazed at their progress. It was such a delight to see those young dancers come alive on stage.

Favorite Snow Queen: Courtlyn Hanson, Ballet Ensemble of Texas. TBT's Betsy McBride (a finalist in this year's Helsinki International Ballet Competition) runs a very close second, but Hanson's technical skill and depth of movement amazed me considering her age.

Favorite Party Scene: Texas Ballet Theater: Thoughtful, well-rehearsed, purposefully layered and humorous. It was the only party scene that didn't make me wonder when it was going to end.

Favorite "Waltz of the Flowers": LakeCities Ballet Theatre, choreographed by Kelly Lannin, Madison McKay and Steven Loch as Dewdrop and Cavalier. Everything about this scene worked beautifully—the costumes, the choreography and the performances of all involved.

Favorite Sugar Plum Fairy: Carolyn Judson, Texas Ballet Theater. This was difficult to choose, because no company would dream of placing a mediocre dancer on stage for one of the most coveted roles in the ballet world. Judson's charm and elegance elevated her performance above the rest.

Favorite Grand Pas de Deux Cavalier: Tyler Angle, principal dancer New York City Ballet, guest artist for Chamberlain Performing Arts. Absolutely mesmerizing. The way he connected with the audience each time he reached out his hand probably made every female in the audience feel as if he was gesturing to her alone. I hope they bring him back next year.

Favorite Snow Scene and Act II Choreography: Chamberlain Performing Arts, choreographers Lisa Hess Jones, Mishic Liberatore. Read my review for a description of the outstanding moments.

Favorite Battle Scene: LakeCities Ballet Theatre, choreographed by Kelly Lannin. The battle between the Mouse/Rat King and the Nutcracker with their respective armies usually feels like the party scene—chaotic and sometimes cumbersome but can be redeemed with clear choreography and strong performances. LBT excelled at both of these, and hats off to Robert Stewart for a fantastic Mouse King performance. 

Favorite Nutcracker for 2012: Texas Ballet Theater — Even after reviewing six total Nuts this season, I wish I could have rearranged my busy December schedule to drive an hour and catch a second performance at Bass Hall. 

After reviewing a multitude of holiday shows and witnessing a brilliant beginning to the TITAS season (especially Stephen Petronio), I can sum up my thoughts of 2012 with two statements. Dallas-Fort Worth has some extraordinary talent and its dance community is extremely well-connected. The Nutcrackers proved both true; I was pleasantly shocked by the plethora of brilliant young performers and the number of internationally known ballet stars who year after year descend on our region to dance with them.

Also awe-inspiring is the service of the very well-connected Charles Santos, Executive Director of TITAS. In many of his introductions, he mentions how he's personally known the artist(s) for a number of years. We're lucky to have him as an advocate for the dance community in the Metroplex, and I can't wait for the rest of the season.

— Cheryl Callon


And now, Katie's:

It was another jam-packed year for dance in North Texas. From TITAS and Texas Ballet Theatre to Ballet Concerto and 8&1 Dance Company, Texas is proving that it can be a mecca for dancers and choreographers alike. I got to experience a lot of different dance stylings from the larger more well-known companies to the smaller local dance companies and all I can say is that there is talent all over the place.

Here are a few of my most memorable moments from 2012:

A Valentine Treat

Epiphany DanceArts brings a spiritual touch to the often secular art form of ballet. The company's Valentine production "Dawn" – A Love Story carried audiences through a range of emotions with its soulful music choices and lyrical dance stylings. It's hard not to be affected by one of Epiphany DanceArts performances.

New Kid On the Block

8&1 Dance Company burst onto the Dallas dance scene in March 2012 with its debut performance "Life's Canvas." Company founder and choreographer Jill S. Rucci had put together a program that displayed her eight-member company and guest dancer's technique, athleticism and versatility. 8&1 expanded its range emotionally this past September with a touching tribute to the heroes of 9/11. The company's fresh concepts and professionalism make 8&1 a welcomed addition to the DFW dance community.

Summer Standout

While most dance companies take the summer off to gear up for next season, Ballet Concerto of Forth Worth uses this time to put on its Annual Summer Dance Concert. Ballet Concerto breaks the stuffy stereotype by taking ballet out of the theatre into a more open setting. With its audience in mind Ballet Concerto had put together a lively and diverse program in 2012 that included Fernando Bujones' Jazz Swing, Luis Montero's Carmen and Michael Vernon's Western Sweet. The Texas heat won't hold me back from going again next summer.

2013 Expectations

2013 is promising to be just as exciting for the DFW dance community thanks in large part to TITAS which has raised the bar with more dance performances, including the Joffrey Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. And don't forget that the Paul Taylor Dance Company will be coming to the Eisemann Center in April.

— Katie Dravenstott, who is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas.

Visit her blog at

◊ The following are also in TheaterJones' Year in Review series:

  • The year in comedy by comedy writer Amy Martin here
  • The year in theater by chief theater critic Mark Lowry here
  • The year in dance by chief dance critic Margaret Putnam here
  • More thoughts on dance by critics Cheryl Callon and Katie Dravenstott here
  • The year in music and opera by chief music critic Gregory Sullivan Isaacs here
 Thanks For Reading


Sonya Spencer writes:
Thursday, December 27 at 7:48PM

Do not fail to mention the commissioned work of Princess Grace Choreography Fellow Bridget Moore - a ballet that will depict the life of artist Romare Bearden that is being set on Dallas Black Dance Theatre and will premiere in February during the Cultural Awareness Series. Also, DBDT will feature Dayton Contemporary Dance Company member Sheri "Sparkle" Williams and 2008 Princess Grace Award winner Nejla Yatkin in May during its Spring Celebration.

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More Thoughts on the Year in Dance
Dance writers Cheryl Callon and Katie Dravenstott offer perspectives on the dance they saw in 2012.
by Cheryl Callon and Katie Dravenstott

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