Camille A. Brown and Dancers presented <em>Black Girl: Linguistic Play</em>

The Year in Dance: Part 1

Chief Dance Critic Cheryl Callon on her favorite dance performances of 2018, from local and touring companies.

published Saturday, December 29, 2018

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Yin Yue's begin again performed by Bruce Wood Dance


My arts-going year, by the numbers

  • 33 local dance performances
  • 11 touring dance/physical theater productions
  • 6 touring musicals
  • 1 local musical theater awards show
  • 1 dance film festival

So much talent, so little space. Let’s start with the outsiders, in order of appearance.




Compagnie Hervé Koubi

TITAS Presents


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

The first TITAS show of 2018 left me almost speechless, and most definitely awestruck. Maybe it was the Swarovski crystal-studded masks under the lights at the Moody Performance Hall that opened The Barbarous Nights, or the First Dawns of the World, or perhaps it was the utterly fantastic yet completely relatable aura of these street dancers from the Arab world.


Photo: Courtesy Mummenschanz
Mummenschanz presented you and me at the Eisemann Center


Eisemann Presents


Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts, Richardson

Not a word was spoken, not a musical note played (sort of), and not a single human face appeared on stage until the bows. And yet, the Eisemann Center’s presentation of you & me in Richardson by the Swiss physical theater troupe Mummenschanz proved to be the most delightful show of 2018. Appealing to our universal sense of body language and how all humans make sense of visual patterns in our world, the artists manipulate everyday objects and create short tales the span a multitude of emotions.


Les Misérables

Dallas Summer Musicals


Music Hall at Fair Park, Dallas

My favorite Dallas Summer Musicals tour, ironically, was the one with perhaps the least amount of dancing. However, the musical’s staging, the performers’ vocals and line delivery, and the intricate design made the story’s theme of redemption, bravery, and forgiveness come to life and brought several rounds of tears throughout the three-hour show that went by way too fast.


Camille A. Brown & Dancers

TITAS Presents


Moody Performance Hall, Dallas

Despite the numerous physical feats and displays of athleticism that appear on North Texas stages, simplicity still counts. Brown’s BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, the 2018-2019 TITAS season opener, delivered an intimate yet powerful. Her use of vernacular vocabulary stretches the perception of what counts as concert dance, proving that universal emotional appeal can speak volumes more than virtuosic movement. (Photo on the cover by Christopher Duggan.)



TITAS Presents


Moody Performance Hall, Dallas

…But that doesn’t mean that awe-inspiring physicality loses its impact, as evidenced by a company that appeared on the TITAS roster just a few weeks after CABD. Bringing their signature work Trajectoire and their new piece Voyage, it was a dazzling, heart-stopping evening of jaw-dropping maneuvers.


Complexions Contemporary Ballet

TITAS Presents


Moody Performance Hall, Dallas

Two words: Star Dust. It was everything I’d hoped for and more. Choreographer Dwight Rhoden included his signature vocabulary to the highly-anticipated David Bowie tribute, but stretched his dancers’ sense of theatricality, as well. Covering a wide range of emotions and qualities, the work was poignant and uplifting.




As usual, trying to rank the best local performances or even choose ones with that superlative is impossible, as the different genres and qualities of the companies vary way too much. What catches my eye and stays in my mind long after the performances are changes, growth, a different type of excellence, or unique takes on the craft. Ballet is on my mind, due to the multitude of recent Nutcrackers, so I have some ballet-inspired awards to give out.

First up is the Grand Jeté Award. Most dancers know a grand jeté as a large leap, the literal translation of jeté being “thrown.” The following three companies/choreographers presented works that represented a great jump from the norm, all for different reasons, and listed in order of appearance.


Photo: Brandon Tijerina
Little Match Girl Passion presented by Avant Chamber Ballet and Verdigris Ensemble


8&1 Dance Company


Courtyard Theatre, Plano

 The heartbreaking tale of addiction and its consequences left the audience in tears, myself included. Using familiar music and contemporary jazz and modern choreography as its medium, the production likely hit teens and young adults in attendance a bit harder than those in older generations. Artistic director Jill S. Rucci and her dancers also proved that they can mold and shape their commercial-style aesthetic to have a great impact.

Carl Coomer’s Henry VIII

Texas Ballet Theater


Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth

 It’s been a few years since Coomer appeared on a Texas Ballet Theater mixed repertoire program as choreographer, and this one displayed a huge surge in complexity from previous works. With brilliant performers to work with, his well-thought-out portrayal of England’s King Henry VIII through his different wives was only heightened intricate set, costume, and projection design. He’s definitely on his way to creating evening-length ballets.

Little Match Girl Passion

Avant Chamber Ballet and Verdigris Ensemble


Moody Performance Hall, Dallas

 This collaboration resulted in a vastly different aesthetic for ACB, and a new type of performance for Verdigris, founded by Sam Brukhman. The minimalist, modern David Lang score of the same name conjures a much different vocabulary than artistic director Katie Cooper’s usual musically-driven neo-classical style, but she and her dancers rise to the occasional for a somber, introspective holiday performance. The singers are as much a part of the staging as the dancers, since they perform barefoot and move around the stage, as well.


Tendu Award

Next is the Tendu Award. It’s a seemingly simple ballet step (translated as “stretched”), but foundational and of the utmost importance. A beautifully executed tendu doesn’t always provide the sudden dazzle as a large leap, but its satisfying nature equally matches a grand maneuver, and much of concert dance is lost without it. The following three companies, listed in order of appearance, demonstrate this gratifying artistic stretch with the presentation of a piece that offers a simple but mighty and unique growth from their usual works.


Photo: Brian Guilliaux
Chadi El-Khoury in Aladdin, حبيبي  from Dark Circles Contemporary Dance


LakeCities Ballet Theatre


MCL Grand Theatre, Lewisville

The appearance of American Ballet Theatre principal Sarah Lane wasn’t the only thing that made this ballet shine, although she was absolutely brilliant as the titular character. High school students impressively executed the precise Romantic vocabulary, and all performers carefully balanced the contrasting acting and technical qualities of the first and second acts with utmost diligence. I left the theater in awe, wondering “Is this really the same LBT I’ve been watching all these years?”

Yin Yue’s begin again

Bruce Wood Dance


Moody Performance Hall, Dallas

 Not only is this one of the best choreographic works of the year, but the New York-based choreographer managed to pull an exciting quality not typically seen from the well-trained BWD cast. Unexpected and absolutely stunning, its premiere at their June show is a highlight for the company.

Joshual L. Peugh's Aladdin, حبيبي 

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance


AT&T Performing Arts Center's Elevator Project

Wyly Theatre, Sixth Floor Studio Theatre, Dallas

 With its elaborate, thoughtfully-designed narrative and stunning original music by Brandon Carson, the evening-length show provided an intimate, almost immersive experience for Joshua Peugh’s take on the tale and concept of the well-known character. The unexpected moments still have me baffled, but Chadi El-koury’s performance has me convinced that he is the most developed dancer of 2018.



To answer this question, one only needs to look at this year’s Dallas Dances festival, presented by The Dance Council of North Texas. The increased number of Indian dance companies foreshadowed the inclusion of more classical Indian dance at prominent venues. Hopefully this trend continues.

Zach Law Ingraham’s Six O’Clock Dance Theatre made waves with notable festival appearances. They’re one to continue watching in 2019, and I’m optimistic we’ll see more excellence from them. Maybe a full-length concert this coming year?





Friday, December 28

Saturday, December 29

Sunday, December 30

  • The Year in Music and Opera by Chief Music and Opera Critic Gregory Sullivan Isaacs
  • The Year in Music and Opera by Robin Coffelt
  • The Year in Music and Opera by Wayne Lee Gay

Monday, December 31

  • The Year in Performing Arts Books by Cathy Ritchie
  • The Year in Classical Music Recordings by Andrew Anderson
  • The Year in Theatrical Recordings by Jay Gardner
  • The Year in Film by Bart Weiss
  • The Year in Performing Arts News by Mark Lowry

Tuesday, January 1

  • The Year in Theater by Frank Garrett
  • The Year in Theater by Jan Farrington
  • The Year in Theater by Janice L. Franklin
  • The Year in Theater by Martha Heimberg
  • The Year in Theater by Jill Sweeney

Wednesday, January 2

  • The Year in Theater by Mark Lowry

Thursday, January 3

  • A challenge for our readers

Friday, January 4

  • Looking ahead to 2019
 Thanks For Reading

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The Year in Dance: Part 1
Chief Dance Critic Cheryl Callon on her favorite dance performances of 2018, from local and touring companies.
by Cheryl Callon

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