British Choreographer Jonathan Watkins

The Year in New Dance Works

2015 saw a lot of premieres from the area's major dance companies. Dance writer Katie Dravenstott picks her favorites.

published Monday, December 28, 2015

Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones
Jonathan Watkins

Looking back on the last year I couldn’t help but notice the increase in the number of new dance works that were produced in North Texas by both local emerging artists and internationally known choreographers. Out of the dozens of reviews and previews I have written over the last year more than half of them were centered around the premiere of a new work, something I have not encountered in my dance writing since moving to Dallas six years ago. If this trend holds, it would further demonstrate that Dallas is becoming an ideal place to foster local choreographers and dancers. This year we saw many well-known faces in the dance community make their choreographic debuts, including Bruce Wood Dance Project’s Kimi Nikaidoh and Albert Drake as well as Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s own Nycole Ray and Richard A. Freeman, Jr. We also saw new works by some more established local choreographers such as Joshua L. Peugh and Katie Cooper.

On the pre-professional side choreographers Shannon Beacham and Madelaine Boyce gave viewers a fresh perspective on some classical ballet and modern techniques at LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s Spring Show Music in Motion and the 13th annual Plano Dance Festival. Audiences were also introduced to a few rising stars in the national and internationally dance scene, including British choreographer Jonathon Watkins who staged a work for Texas Ballet Theater last spring; New York-based choreographer Bryan Arias who was invited to set a piece on Bruce Wood Dance Project this fall and New York-based choreographer Jamal Story who set Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s first ever aerial work last spring.

I had a wonderful time reflecting on all these all these works and it was a welcomed challenge narrowing them down to my Top Five Premieres of 2015. I can’t wait to see what the dance community has in store for us in 2016.


 1  Crash by Jonathan Watkins

Texas Ballet Theater

Bass Performance Hall (June)

Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones
Jonathan Watkins' Crash at Texas Ballet Theater


Texas Ballet Theater (TBT) did a beautiful job interpreting British choreographer Jonathon Watkins’ spellbinding new work CRASH at the company’s Artistic Director’s Choice series last May. Watkins danced with the Royal Ballet for 10 years before leaving the company in 2013 to pursue his career as a freelance choreographer and director. In this piece Watkins took on various personal, technological and political crashes which were represented through solo, duet and large group numbers in a 25-minute circular tale that featured original music by Dallas-based composer Ryan Cockerham and costumes by Austin-based Kari Perkins, who also did the costuming for Richard Linklater’s Oscar-nominated film Boyhood. TBT also recently completed a new work created by Val Caniparoli which the company will premiere at its First Looks performance this coming May.



 2  It’s a Boy by Joshua L. Peugh

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

Texas Christian University, Erma Lowe Hall Studio Theatre, Fort Worth (October)

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Joshua L. Peugh's It's a Boy


During Dark Circles Contemporary Dance’s (DCCD) Fall Series in October, Joshua L. Peugh made audiences reminiscent for their childhood in his new work, It’s A Boy. Sporting Tuxedo shirts and tailcoats Peugh, David Cross, Kelsey Rohr and Alex Karigan Farrior explored their inner child with the help of four unassuming canes as they chased one another around the stage. Rohr beautifully captured a child’s innocence with her methodical body movements as she skimmed the cane down her body while Julie London’s haunting rendition of the “Mickey Mouse March” played on. The program also included the premiere of Peugh’s Aimless Young Man, which contained all our favorite Peugh mannerisms, including compulsive gesturing, topsy turvy partnering and primitive posturing. Next up, Peugh’s reimaged take on Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which DCCD will perform in a joint showcase with Avant Chamber Ballet at Dallas City Performance Hall this March.



 3  Metropolis by Christopher Dolder

Collaboration between Dallas VideoFest, SMU Meadows School of the Arts and Dallas Chamber Symphony

Dallas City Performance Hall (October)

Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones
Rehearsal of Christopher Dolder's dance component for Metropolis


In October Southern Methodist University dance professor Christopher Dolder got together with the Dallas Chamber Symphony and the organizers of Dallas Video Fest 28 for an unique screening of Fritz Lang’s science fiction classic Metropolis (1927) that was out of this world. With live music composed by Brian Satterwhite and performed lived by the Dallas Chamber Symphony and movement, set design and video projection created by Dolder, the big question on everyone’s mind was would all these elements be too much for viewers to handle. Thankfully they were not mainly due to Dolder’s ingenuity when it came to the stage set up. By incorporating different set structures, including platforms of varying heights and a 32-foot tall raked stage, Dolder was able to bring to dancers’ closer to the action happening on big screen, effectively adding new dimension to the film. Dolder also successfully elevated the story line with his subtle gesturing and regimented formations in the group sections and by inserting some of the main character’s mannerisms from the film into the central choreography.



 4  My Heart Remembers by Bryan Arias

Bruce Wood Dance Project

Dallas City Performance Hall (November) 

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Bryan Arias' My Heart Remembers


New York-based Choreographer Bryan Arias entranced audiences at Bruce Wood Dance Project’s 5 Years fall performance in November with his blend of modern and hip-hop dance styles in his new work, My Heart Remembers. In this piece the dancers explored the mystery and magic of love though various coupling and a climatic group section set to Alexi Murdoch’s “Orange Sky.” Like Wood, a lot of Arias’ movement choices were driven by the music and the momentum of the dancers’ bodies, thus opening the dancers up to experience the piece in a very raw and unbiased way. “The movement is grounded and emphasizes vulnerability and humility,” Arias said in an earlier interview. “Qualities, which through the dancers’ chemistry, amplify the underlying theme of love.” The final result was both heartwarming and technically progressive.



 5  Endless Arc by Katie Cooper

Avant Chamber Ballet

Performed as part of Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Soluna: International Music & Arts Festival

Dallas City Performance Hall (May)

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Katie Cooper's Endless Arc


Avant Chamber Ballet’s Artistic Director pushed the company’s artistic range and musical awareness in her new work Endless Arc, part of the SOLUNA: International Music & Arts Festival last May. Set to Bela Bartok’s String Quartet No. 4, Endless Arc was an exhilarating display of curvaceous arms, hard-hitting leg extensions and continuous stop and go action. By breaking the piece into five parts the audience could fully appreciate Cooper’s interweaving formation changes, complex petite allegro sections and push-and-pulling partnering skills. The movement was complemented by the expert accompaniment of guests from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. As the only ballet company invited to participate in the inaugural SOLUNA festival, ACB is proving to be an invaluable asset to the local dance community with its use of live chamber music at every performance.


» Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at


 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 New Dance Works
2015 saw a lot of premieres from the area's major dance companies. Dance writer Katie Dravenstott picks her favorites.
by Katie Dravenstott

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