2019 delivered a full calendar for dance-lovers of all genres. From new companies, to fan favorites, this year provided a glimpse of artists from all over the world — giving the DFW area one of the most diverse seasons yet. In my “Best of” list for 2018, my one request was for a more culturally varied representation of movement. Thankfully, the dance gods heard my cry. At least half of this list includes choreographers from outside the U.S. — calling places like Canada, Japan, and India home. And yet, the homegrown American artists mentioned below also maintain an important role in re-shaping the “American Identity” during a cultural time of division, hate, and confusion.
For this list of 2019 favorites, I’ve decided to organize my picks according to genre in order to highlight the growing assortment of DFW dance. In no particular order, here are my “best of” pieces for 2019:
Best Ballroom Dance
88 Keys Unlock Joan Miro’s Flamenco Dancer’s Heart
The Flame Foundation
AT&T Performing Arts Center, Elevator Project
Hamon Hall, Dallas
Passion. Drama. Intensity. All these things and more comprised The Flame Foundation’s presentation of 88 Keys Unlock Joan Miro’s Flamenco Dancer’s Heart — a collaborative production of flamenco music and dance that perfectly captured the sensual fervor behind the Spanish art form. Perfectly timed to open on Valentine’s weekend, this feisty couple dance took audiences on a journey of love, jealousy, and devotion that showcased the seductive rhythms of the live musical accompaniment and performers Antonio Arrebola and Delilah Buitrón Arrebola’s steamy choreography. Their sensuous bodies intertwined seamlessly before breaking apart for slicing confrontations and aggressive stomps. The precision of these movements were just the foundation for the most memorable moments of the night: the fierce chemistry between the couple. Piercing eye-locks, undeterred focus, and devoted stage presence set these dancers apart—leaving audiences mesmerized by their climactic exchanges.
Best Contemporary Ballet
Moody Performance Hall, Dallas
Honestly, choosing just one piece from this concert proved to be one of the most challenging things about writing this article. The two works that comprised Ballet BC’s triumphant return to Dallas arrested audiences with breathtaking technical feats and surprising choreography. BUSK is a shining example of both. Choreographer Aszure Barton described her work as a “return to the ecstasy of pure movement” — readily apparent in the vibratory gestures, furious spatial shifts, and moments of whimsical facial expressions. Ballet BC’s brilliant cast showcased their ability to quickly move in and out of rich emotional states — taking audience members on a journey through hypnotizing worlds.
Best Hip-Hop Dance
Caravan: A Revolution on the Road
SOLUNA: International Music and Arts Festival
The Majestic Theatre, Dallas
Let’s start by saying that this SOLUNA performance was truly an immersive sensory experience. By employing a multi-disciplinary approach, the production featured phenomenal jazz music from trumpeter Terence Blanchard, projections from multi-media artist Andrew F. Scott, and theatrical street dance from the Puremovement American Street Dance Theater Company with choreography from Bessie Award winner Rennie Harris. Beautifully blended, these various forms worked together to describe themes of racial tension through African American genres of art. A striking tribute to the black experience, Harris’ choreography combined traditional African stomps and body percussion with smooth street dance glides. The Puremovement dancers’ fearless acrobatic flips and tricks added an extra level of awe to this seamless production. Original yet reflective of the past, Harris’ movement reaches beyond the confines of commercial hip-hop dance.
Best Indian Classical Dance
Tejas Dance with guest artist Bijayini Satpathy
MCL Grand Theater, Lewisville
Classical Indian dance is booming in the DFW! From Bharatanatyam, to Kathak, to full-length musicals, productions presenting Indian forms of movement sprouted up throughout the metroplex this year. One of my favorite groups, Tejas Dance, had one of their busiest seasons with at least five performances—including several collaborative shows. For their second summer program, Shivalaya and Kalpana, they welcomed the brilliant Bijayini Satpathy from India to share the stage. During the second half of the evening, Satpathy provided a stark contrast to the sharp, symmetrical principles of Bharatanatyam through the slithering fluidity of Odissi movement. Her deliberate, coy eye-contact and twisting hips offered a more mysterious feel to the art of Indian storytelling. Spreading her limbs in precarious balances, Satpathy’s movement yielded an athletically impressive representation of Odissi dance.
Best Modern Dance
Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, Division of Dance
Bob Hope Theatre, Dallas
Known for their high-caliber dance program, it’s no surprise to find SMU on this list. Featuring world-renowned guest artists and impressive technical versatility from their students, their Spring 2019 concert showcased a continued excellence from this group. One particular work from guest artist Takeiro Ueyama (who made my ‘best of’ list last year for his work on Dallas Black Dance Theater) turned out to be the perfect example of the school’s professionalism and maturity. With plenty of partnering, lifts, and falls, Heroes oozed with all the best qualities of modern dance: weightiness, sweeping floorwork, and a balanced number of repeated themes. Ueyama is a master of pairing calm, satisfying atmospheres with elements of serious physicality—a hard combination to pull off as a performer. Yet the dancers from SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts embraced Ueyama’s whirlwind choreograph with the ease and expertise of professional movers.
Best Classical Ballet
Texas Ballet Theater
Winspear Opera House, Dallas
Classical ballet has never looked better than Texas Ballet Theater (TBT)’s run of Sleeping Beauty. This just goes to show that one doesn’t necessarily need to travel to the Big Apple to or the City of Love to see world-class ballet companies. Sitting in the audience at the Winspear Opera House, I found myself transported to the moment I fell in love with ballet as a child—spellbound by the light, pricking pointe shoes, the elaborate glittering costumes and expansive sets, and the zealous spins and lifts of the dancers. TBT provided a luscious combination of theatrical pantomime, jubilant interactions, and stunning balletic finesse. While the company is no stranger to producing large story ballets, this particular show perfectly balanced the magical themes and fairytale qualities with impressive technique and appealing visuals.
Best Evening-Length Production
Beijing Dance Theater
AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas
Besides the brilliant technique of the dancers, my favorite aspect of Beijing Dance Theater’s interpretation of the Shakespeare’s beloved Hamlet was how Artistic Director and choreographer Wang Yuanyuan curated a deeply emotional, abstracted version of love, power, and betrayal. Packed with expansive, dramatic choreography and subtle, sensitive gestures, the evening accessed a deeper, emotional adaptation of the play. Rather than adhering to a strict narrative structure, the company’s ambiguous approach centered on immersing the audience within a carefully cultivated world. Elements of magical realism penetrated the theater through brooding music, a dim, minimalist set, and bursts of athletic rolls, jumps, and kicks from the cast. Enigmatic and bewitching, this blend of theater and contemporary ballet sat with me long after the performance concluded.
Best Jazz/Musical Theater Dance
The Bippy Bobby Boo Show
Danielle Georgiou Dance Group
Theatre Three, Dallas
Experimental dance theater enthusiast Danielle Georgiou’s Halloween themed, ’50s and ’60s inspired variety show was easily the most anticipated production on my fall schedule. Always pushing the boundaries of dance, theater, and performance art, the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group stretched their investigations into a realm far from the post-modern, abstracted movement of their recent productions — in the best of ways. Recalling classical jazz and social dance forms, director and choreographer Georgiou invited participants to laugh, scream, and dance along with out-of-this-world characters in celebration of ghosts, Theatre Three, and variety shows from an era long gone. Together with writer Justin Locklear (the hilariously cheesy Bippy Bobby himself), Georgiou and her cast invented a hugely entertaining mix of outrageous comedy sketches, satirically placed cultural references, and exuberant jazz hands. From a spirit-summoning-sorceress to a bloody rendition of “Jingle Bells,” The Bippy Bobby Boo Show provoked roars of laughter from viewers and cast members alike.
What’s in store for this new decade of Dallas dance?
Throughout my reflection, I noticed some of my most memorable experiences surrounded collaborative productions. Artists working with artists. This seemingly simple concept can easily go awry. However, when the blend of senses is just right, an interdisciplinary approach to dancemaking crosses into revolutionary territory. Even though Christmas has come and gone, please tell Santa that multi-disciplinary dance performances are high on my 2020 wishlist.
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