The procrastinator in me has typically waited until almost Christmas to think about the best moments of my reviewing year, but this year I was smarter than that. I had a running list throughout 2017. What follows are the specific works, entire concerts, or events that were remarkable enough to make me think as I walked out of the theater, “I should write that down.”
Entirely random, never in order. Here you go.
Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet
Artistic director Emilie Skinner knows how to deliver an experience, and two shows this year displayed their best ones yet.
Their spring offering of Futurisme à Pied was one of the coolest dance concerts I’ve ever been to. I knew going into it that it would be weird, but I walked out feeling so educated. If you didn’t catch it, it was a collaboration between DNCB and musicians from SMU that covered Dadaism, surrealism, futurism, and other early 20th century aesthetic ideas. The dance history nerd in me loved the restaging of the Ballet Russe work Parade, and other works demonstrated some choreographic growth.
Fast-forward to Halloween, and they delivered a thrilling event at the Sammons. Emceed by Phil Parsons as Pennywise, the concert took audience members through various interpretations of horror and suspense movies. Set in the round, the patrons received an intimate yet chilling encounter with the dancers. And blood. Lots of blood.
Dallas Summer Musicals
An American in Paris was the best musical of their 2016-‘17 season. Choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, it boasted a large ensemble of professional ballet dancers, yet knocked it out of the park with acting and vocals, as well.
But despite its stunning run at the Music Hall at Fair Park, saying that it was the “best” of the season isn’t saying much. No one was excited about the season lineup, settled when the previous president Michael Jenkins was at the helm.
However, when the 2017-’18 group of musicals was revealed late January—including the bombshell announcement of the organization’s Hamilton acquisition in 2018-’19—there was much rejoicing across the land. Add to that the hiring of new president Ken T. Novice (formerly of Pasadena Playhouse) and another stunning High School Musical Theatre Awards, and it’s safe to say that DSM has had a pretty good year.
Red Bull Flying Bach
Another hip-hop group makes my list, and I couldn’t be happier. It was my first show of the year, and the crew’s seamless mix of breakdancing with Baroque music exceeded the hype. Even more astonishing were the amount of non-performing arts friends commenting on my Facebook post about how much they loved the show, too.
Ballet Frontier of Texas
Artistic director Chung-Lin Tseng’s Andate, presented at their season opener in August, was the best thing I’ve seen from the company in a long time. It’s exhilarating, spacious, and incredibly demanding, but the dancers proved worthy of the task. A solid, confident cast delivered a jaw-dropping performance, one that my little critic-in-training and me agreed was the best of the evening.
Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
Joshua Peugh keeps the hustle going. Festivals, commissions, and guest appearances all provide a busy season for him and the company, but he still churns out the good stuff and has a keen eye for outside talent. The spring concert saw three stunning premieres, but the one that stood out the most was Greg Dolbashian’s Evermore. Stunning choreography, brilliant spatial patterns and transition, and the dancers handle everything with such reverence and care.
Peugh’s Les Fairies presented in the fall displayed the most intriguing vocabulary. It’s like a dream, where things are just a little off. The maneuvers were contemporary, yet they had enough ballet in them to make you think it was possibly ballet. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In Josh’s world, though, this could be classical ballet. The dancers almost pointed their feet, yet they deliberately did not finish the line. But it completely and totally worked.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
You knew I couldn’t complete a list without a TITAS concert on here. Many of their season performances were outstanding, but this one in particular had a piece that truly stands out. A collapsible fence and Maurice Ravel’s Bolero form the canvas of Johan Inger’s Walking Mad, a work that’s dazzling, heart-wrenching, and viscerally entertaining all at once. With party hats and a range of theatrical displays of emotion, the dancers execute Inger’s piece with an intensity and depth that gives audience members much to chew on long after the curtain falls.
And as they perform Revelations to close out the show, I’m reminded of the need for more historic companies to grace the Dallas stages. Keep the classics alive, yet move ahead, without forgetting where you came from.
Bridget L. Moore, artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre
This woman is on fire. With an exquisite Uncharted Territory and a fall Director’s Choice concert unlike any I’ve ever seen, she is taking DBDT to new places. Her new commissions in 2018 are definitely on my must-watch list. Watch out, Dallas.