The world premiere of Twyla Tharp\'s&nbsp;<em>Preludes and Fugues</em>&nbsp;at the Winspear Opera House

The Year in Dance

Chief Dance Critic Margaret Putnam's favorite dance events in 2015 includes lots of TITAS, Bruce Wood Dance Project and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.

published Monday, December 28, 2015

Dallas — 2015 was a great year for dance, thanks in part to TITAS for bringing so many outstanding touring companies and for the continuing pleasure of discovering what’s next for our two talented modern dance companies, Bruce Wood Dance Project and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Texas Ballet Theater can do no wrong. After years in mothballs, a new and revamped Dallas DanceFest (once the Dallas Dance Festival) got more picky about what groups to invite with some quite happy results. Dallas Black Dance Theatre remains a powerhouse when it comes to strength and agility. And thanks to Southern Methodist University, the Arts Magnet and several dance schools there is a steady supply of new talent. Wait a few years and you will see some of them on stage with local companies or perhaps with Paul Taylor or David Parsons.

Here are my 10 favorite dance events of 2015:


 1  50th Anniversary Tour

Twyla Tharp Dance

Presented by TITAS

Sept. 18

AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas

Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones
The world premiere of Twyla Tharp's Yowzie at the Winspear Opera House


For Twyla Tharp’s 50th Anniversary tour, TITAS (and several other national organizations) commissioned two new works, with the first stop the Winspear. And what a delight they were: a breezy Preludes and Fugues (set to Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier) and a rambunctious Yowzie. The scattershot effects of Preludes sent dancers flying and fanning out in different directions. Outlandish costumes in a riot of color suited the fairground atmosphere of Yowzie, where fairgoers staggered, pranced, and fell on their faces, making odd and fragile connections.



 2  Paul Taylor Dance Company

Feb. 7

Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts, Richardson

Photo: Paul Taylor Dance Company
Cloven Kingdom performed by Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Eisemann Center


Age has its advantages, and for Paul Taylor, age 85, that means a deluge of great works.  Cloven Kingdom (1976) begins in a glamorous ballroom only to turn dark, strange and chaotic as the dancers become anthropomorphic figures. In Diggity (1978), dancers maneuver around an optical course comprised of painted tin dogs, some lying, some tipped over, others standing. The dancers caper like puppies. Beloved Renegade (2008) uses lines from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass to guide the poet/protagonist through a journey of love, art, joy and death.



 3  Artistic Director’s Choice

Texas Ballet Theater

June 30

Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth

Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones
The world premiere of Jonathan Watkins' Crash performed by Texas Ballet Theater in June


The company gambled on commissioning a new work, Jonathan Watkins’s wistful and melancholy Crash. A motley crew of 17 dancers gather and regather, repeating the same steps, but at different angles. Among the many arresting images was one where dancers create long, surging sea-anemone-like waves. The program included Jiri Kylián’s clever Petite Mort and Balanchine’s flashy Rubies



 4  5Years (Part 1)

Bruce Wood Dance Project

June 19

Dallas City Performance Hall

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Albert Drake's Whispers performed by Bruce Wood Dance Project in June


Stepping into the breach after Bruce Wood’s death last year, company member Albert Drake offered a quiet and mysterious Whispers, full of curious images and a complicated mix of music.  The dancers in Wood’s glorious Requiem are troubled and contained before they break free to soar like eagles. Wood’s giddy Polyester Dreams takes us back to the ’70s where youths relished freedom while disgrace and riots lurked in the background.



 5  Aimless Young Man

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

Oct. 9

Texas Christian University, Erma Lowe Hall Studio Theatre, Fort Worth

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Joshua L. Peugh's Aimless Young Man performed by Dark Circles Contemporary Dance in October


Joshua L. Peugh has an odd take on life, and a vivid and imaginative one at that. You would never confuse his works with anyone else’s. There is something always slightly off-kilter—and this is true of Slump, a battle of the sexes where the men are wary and the women contemptuous, as well as the romantic and tender It’s a Boy, where two couples use canes as outer reaches of themselves. The circus setting of Aimless Young Man, with its fanciful costumes, master of ceremonies, acrobats and nonsensical encounters, reveals that underlying the merriment is jealousy and boredom.



 6  Ballet Biarritz

Presented by TITAS

May 4

Dallas City Performance Hall

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Ballet Biarittz performed in Dallas on the TITAS season


The costumes for Cinderella lay stranded somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, so this French company winged it with three quite dissimilar works. There was the arresting Estro, where 20 five-gallon tin cans (acquired from Home Depot) serve as resting place/obstacle course/summit for a Christ figure and 19 others. In the quirky and tender Une Dernière Chanson, clothes lie in a heap behind dancers wearing everyday dress, who later trade outfits and finally disrobe. Choreographer Thierry Malandain capitalizes on Bolero’s repetitive, driving force, with 12 dancers moving in tandem in diagonal rows.



 7  Winter Series

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

Jan. 29

Texas Christian University, Erma Lowe Hall Studio Theatre, Fort Worth

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Joshua L. Peugh's Critics of the Morning Song performed by Dark Circles Contemporary Dance


Choreographer and artistic director Joshua L. Peugh is the master of surprise. He is great at the comic, evident in Critics of the Morning Sun where he and Alex Karigan Farrior are full of tenderness at one moment and ready to go at each other’s throats at another.  He is equally good at the nonsensical, evident in You & Me, where the dance suggests a moving deck of cards—with dancers cascading, sliding away, toppling and being put back in order.



 8  5Years (Part 2)

Bruce Wood Dance Project

Nov. 13

Dallas City Performance Hall

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Kimi Nikaidoh's Find Me in Bruce Wood Dance Project's November program


Bruce Wood’s sublime Liturgy shows his gift for expressive and ornate hand gestures as well as his gift for silky lifts. The new works—Bryan Arias’ My Heart Remembers and Kimi Nikaidoh’s Find Me—explore the complicated relationships between the sexes. My Heart Remembers was the darker and more wistful of the two, but like the sunny Find Me, each discovers that love is as fleeting as the wind.



 9  Kaash

Akram Khan Company

Presented by TITAS

Nov. 7

Dallas City Performance Hall

Photo: Jean Louis Fernandez
Akram Khan Company was one of the year's highlights for TITAS


The single work on the program, Kaash, blended modern dance with classical Indian Kathak, giving us a very abstract version of the cyclical theories of creation and destruction.  Standing in front of an arresting backlit backdrop with a black, rectangular shape, a dancer representing the Hindu God Shiva unleashes all sorts of chaotic events. We witness men and women spinning, leaping or moving on a grid pattern, only to whiplash in another direction. The dance is short (55 minutes) and remarkably cohesive, thanks to the collaboration between choreographer, lighting designer and composer.



 10  Dallas DanceFest 2015

Presented by the Dance Council of North Texas

Sept. 5

Dallas City Performance Hall

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Olga Pavlova performs The Dying Swan at the second night of the Dallas DanceFest


The second (and last) night of this annual festival brought a delightful variety in dance, performed mostly by professional companies. We had a rapturous Serenade; a delightful classical Indian dance; Joshua L. Peugh’s dreamy White Day; a subtle Dying Swan performed by the incomparable Olga Pavlova and Jessica Land’s Solo in Nine Parts. Three Houston-based companies offered drama and sophistication that ranged from pensive to agitated.


» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine


 2015: Year in Review 

  • Monday, Dec. 28 Margaret Putnam's Year in Dance
  • Monday, Dec. 28 Cheryl Callon's thoughts on the year in dance
  • Monday, Dec. 28 Katie Dravenstott's thoughts on the year in dance
  • Monday, Dec. 28 Columnist Danielle Georgiou's Year
  • Tuesday, Dec. 29 Gregory Sullivan Isaacs' Year in Classical Music and Opera
  • Tuesday, Dec. 29 J. Robin Coffelt's thoughts on the year in classical music
  • Tuesday, Dec. 29 M. Lance Lusk's Year in Shakespeare
  • Wednesday, Dec. 30 Jan Farrington's thoughts on the year in theater
  • Wednesday, Dec. 30 Martha Heimberg's thoughts on the year in theater
  • Wednesday, Dec. 30 David Novinski's thoughts on the year in theater
  • Thursday, Dec. 31 Amy Martin's thoughts on the year in comedy
  • Friday, Jan. 1 Mark Lowry's Year in Theater
  • Sunday, Jan. 10 TheaterJones writers look forward to 2016
  • Monday, Jan. 11 The top performing arts news of the year
 Thanks For Reading

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The Year in Dance
Chief Dance Critic Margaret Putnam's favorite dance events in 2015 includes lots of TITAS, Bruce Wood Dance Project and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.
by Margaret Putnam

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