<em>Bettrohoffenheit</em>&nbsp;from Kidd Pivot and Electric Company Theatre

2016 in Review: Dance

Chief Dance Critic Margaret Putnam offers her Top 10 dance events of the year, focusing on new work.

published Thursday, December 29, 2016

This was a tough year for a dance critic: a raft of great works and only 10 to choose. I could easily stack the deck with about everything TITAS offered, but to be fair to the locals, they merit attention too. Why? So many compelling premieres.

For that reason only, SMU and Texas Ballet Theater are being left out despite the fact that SMU offered Martha Graham’s groundbreaking Appalachian Spring (1944) in April and Danial Shapiro and Joanie Smith’s equally brilliant To Have and To Hold (1989) in November. They simply didn’t fit the “new” category.

Ditto for Texas Ballet Theater, with Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante and Jerome Robbins’ comic The Concert in February, and Ohad Naharin’s whacky Minus 16 in May.

It was tough, too, to leave out Bodytraffic’s oddball And at Midnight and bleak Dust (TITAS); the TITAS Gala; Terrance M. Johnson Dance Project’s emotionally wrenching LYNCHED and Big Rig Dance Collective’s mix of everything from an exotic bird stalked by a photographer to breaking glass. Better than to have too much of a good thing that too little.

My Top 10 dance performances of 2016:


 1  Betroffenheit

Kidd Pivot and Electric Company Theatre

Presented by TITAS

April 21

Dallas City Performance Hall

Photo: Wendy D Photography
Betroffenheit from Kidd Pivot and Electric Company Theatre


One man’s tragedy transforms into two hours of nightmarish, chaotic and absurd theater. The guilt-ridden, shell-shocked protagonist carries on fragmented and repetitive conversations with an invisible presence in a control tower, opening a world filled with nonsense, fear, vaudeville decadence and comic relief. The tension seldom abates.


 2  SIX (June)

Bruce Wood Dance Project

June 17

Dallas City Performance Hall

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Joy Atkins Bollinger's Carved in Stone for Bruce Wood Dance Project


Making a stunning debut with Carved in Stone, Joy Atkins Bollinger’s haunting 25-minute piece had nothing to do with rigidity and everything to do with rebirth and discovery. A wash of pale blue light illuminates dancers in flowing dresses or skirts against a backdrop of Greek Doric columns in ruins. From slow and simple gestures, the movement grows and grows in grandeur, as the music from The Chopin Project wafts over the stage. The program included the premiere of Andy and Dionne Noble’s clever Skin and Bruce Wood’s giddy Anything Goes.


 3  Ce que le jour doit à la nuit (What the day owes to the night)

Cie Hervé Koubi

Presented by TITAS

March 25

Dallas City Performance Hall

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Cie Herve Koubi performs on the TITAS season


French choreographer Hervé Koubi recruited 12 male dancers with no formal training from Algeria and Burkina Faso, resulting in a dance dazzling and dizzying, a mix of break dancing, gymnastics, Whirling Dervish, b-boying, modern dance and who knows what else. Ce que le jour had a trance-like hold on the audience, glacially slow at times, whirlwind fast at others.


 4  The Great American Sh*t Show

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

November 18

Bob Hope Theatre at Southern Methodist University

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
The Great American Sh*t Show from Dark Circles Contemporary Dance


Choreographer and artistic director Joshua L. Peugh didn’t hold back the anger and despair, a departure from his usual disarming nuttiness. The title work was about as bleak and sinister as they come, while Coyotes Tip-Toe, inspired by the massacre of gay men in an Orlando night club, threw you off: two men chase and careen as though life is a mad romp.


 5  SIX (November)

Bruce Wood Dance Project

Nov. 11

Dallas City Performance Hall

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Kimi Nikaidoh's Bloom for Bruce Wood Dance Project


The company took a risk with the collaborative efforts of artistic director Kimi Nikaidoh and video artist Shane Pennington in a soulful Bloom, where sorrow gradually gives way to trust and hope. Costumes and lighting are gray, gray and grayer with a few streaks of white. Giving the dance even more dimension, black and white video productions portray dancers floating sideways and upside down and later images of cities and mountains. In a much jauntier mood, Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s rough-and-tumble Klezmer Rodeo was one long, heady romp as dancers catapulted in different directions, careened and tossed each other into the air.


 6  Les Arts Florissants

New York Baroque Dance with the Dallas Bach Society

Oct. 8

Caruth Auditorium at Southern Methodist University

Photo: Dallas Bach Society
Dallas Bach Society and New York Baroque Dance perform Les Arts Florissants


Ah, the charm of the French and the enchanted world of Louis XIV, to whom we owe the birth of ballet and its grace and elegance. The composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier was not Louis’s favorite, however, and was obliged to keep his ensemble to only eight dancers and eight musicians. In a delightful compromise, Catherine Turocy manages to get the singers with their exquisite voices to mimic with uncanny perfection the goings-on of the lithe and agile dancers, everyone tilting heads just so and widening their eyes in alarm. 


 7  BalletBoyz

Presented by TITAS

Feb. 13

AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House

Photo: Alex Whitley


Like Cie Hervé Koubi, the other all-male company presented by TITAS, BalletBoyz brought strength and masculine energy, but there the comparison ends. Murmuring shifted from combative and to cooperative, a constant tug of war amplified by grating and amplified electronic music, a vivid contrast to the aerial and luscious Mesmerics.  


 8  Dallas DanceFest

Presented by Dance Council of North Texas

Saturday, Sept. 3

Dallas City Performance Hall

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Meadows Dance Ensemble's Tomorrow and Tomorrow at Dallas DanceFest


Cut out the extraneous stuff (master of ceremonies, awards, dull dances) and you are left with one heck of a show. Best were SMU graduate Alexander Druzbanski’s Shakespeare-inspired Tomorrow and Tomorrow, tense and eloquent; Texas Ballet Theater’s hauntingly beautiful Cathedral and Bruce Wood’s zippy Anything Goes.


 9  Wanderlust Dance Project

Wanderlust Dance Project

July 23

Majestic Theatre, Dallas

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Wanderlust Dance Project


Thrown together in just two weeks and featuring 11 works, the show had ho-hum movements and bouts of brilliance. Best were David Cross’s comic Casually Irrational and the ending piece, Amy Morrow’s truly madcap Hireath, where, among other things, dancers struggle with tennis shoes all tied together in one long row.


Photo: Karlo X. Ramos
Delilah Muse in Buñuel Descending


 10  Buñuel Descending

2016 Dallas Flamenco Festival and the Ochre House

June 22

The Ochre House, Dallas

Luís Buñuel and pals Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca drink, carouse and dance in this very slight tale of Buñuel’s life just as the Spanish Civil War breaks out. That Buñuel wasn’t a boozer, wasn’t a flamenco dancer and was already famous hardly mattered in this charming little spin: it gave the characters (including Buñuel’s spitfire wife) an opportunity to let go with an arsenal of flamboyant flamenco steps and gestures. Justin Locklear’s puppets gave just the right amount of absurdity to the enterprise. (It premiered in 2015, but I didn’t see it until this remounting.)


» 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.



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2016 in Review: Dance
Chief Dance Critic Margaret Putnam offers her Top 10 dance events of the year, focusing on new work.
by Margaret Putnam

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