As we close out another decade, a toast is in order for the dance community.
To its movers and shakers!
To its loyal patrons and new ones welcomed into the fold!
To artists, stage crews, and volunteers for every performance!
To those who make dance education possible!
The last 10 years have seen explosive growth in the dance community. Live music is making a return, homegrown companies and choreographers are making names for themselves outside the Metroplex, and North Texas is attracting more attention and talent from around the world.
Here are some moments of 2019 that stayed with me throughout the year:
The Hamilton Phenomenon
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sensational hit musical Hamilton finally made it to Dallas, part of Dallas Summer Musicals 2018-2019 season, and it was every bit as glorious as the hype made it to be. Love it or hate, one cannot deny its influence and significance. The unparalleled success proves that hip-hop culture has weaved itself into yet another traditional stage form, and Andy Blankenbuehler’s thoughtful choreography melds seamlessly with every aspect of the staging. Fort Worth gets its chance at the hottest ticket in town this summer when it travels to Bass Performance Hall in June.
The Eternal Flame of Bridget L. Moore
All I can say is “YAAAS, QUEEN!” Her company B. Moore Dance held their debut concert 3D Vision at the Addison Theatre Centre in September. Moore’s well-developed, evening-length work NISSI had a sizzling combination of intricate staging, exciting vocabulary, and impeccable performance and technical delivery. It was just as much of a fashion show as a dance concert, with Fernando Hernandez’s costumes lighting up the stage.
Mixing It Up
Texas Ballet Theater artistic director Ben Stevenson is a master ballet storyteller, and while the company produces exquisite full-length productions, their most exciting performances are usually with a mixed repertoire. With multiple works on the bill from a variety of creators, a concert stretches the dancers’ abilities, allows them to refine and grow with other choreographers’ works, and gives budding choreographers a chance to shine. TBT’s first such show of March began with the surprising rollercoaster ride 11:11 by Andre Silva. Various props and randomly odd costumes heightened the eclectic choreography that seemed to include everything but ballet. After a jazzy finish, they switched gears for Christopher Bruce’s hauntingly beautiful Ghost Dances, which premiered in 1981 but proves timeless.
Wood You Like to Dance?
Bruce Wood Dance has never failed to enchant their patrons, but they had especially compelling offerings this year. June’s concert Embrace featured artistic director Joy Bollinger’s previous standout Carved in Stone and the delightfully odd Wood work Dark Matter, but it was guest artist Garrett Smith’s Forbidden Paths that absolutely blew me away. Earthy and visceral, his images and vocabulary paired perfectly with the dancers’ intensity and precise execution. That vibe continued with Bollinger’s premiere in November’s Harvest. After Wood’s beautiful tribute to armed forces and veterans and Bryan Arias’ light-hearted Live, Love, Laugh, Bollinger channeled relentless desperation with her premiere In My Your Head, set to Radiohead. No doubt they’ll make North Texas proud with their NYC Joyce Theater debut in January.
The Right Ingredients to Bloom
Like baking the perfect confectionary delight, it takes the right amount of ingredients at the right time for success to happen. Ballet Dallas’ spring concert Bloom proved that the ideal elements are coming together for the company, formerly Contemporary Ballet Dallas. Carter Alexander joined as co-director, and they delivered an impressive performance. George Skibine’s Romantic Encounters was the highlight, and the dancers absolutely stunned with their dancing and performance qualities.
Top of the TITAS Tours
TITAS/Dance Unbound artistic director Charles Santos has an uncanny ability to seek out a variety of groundbreaking troupes in the international dance community. He pleasantly balances the performance seasons to include frequent flyers such as MOMIX and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater while providing North Texas with plenty of debut companies. One standout this year was Ezralow Dance. The evening-length work took audiences on a delightful journey with creative uses of props, costuming, projections, musicality, and contemporary vocabulary. It was thoughtful, warm, inviting, and proved to be an utterly joyous evening.
One from the History Books
We all need a sprinkle of traditional modern dance. The dance world evolves and morphs so quickly, especially with an art form like modern/contemporary that has very few boundaries and definitions. We need to be reminded of our roots. This year’s homage to the classics came in February with another visit from Paul Taylor Dance Company at the Charles W. Eisemann Center. An eclectic evening of four dances from the late choreographer not only sampled the range of his career but reflected the path and journey of modern dance.
Sparkling Sugar Plums
Staging a full-length ballet is difficult, to say the least, and even the quality of something as stalwart as The Nutcracker can vary from year to year in many companies. Troupes whose ranks lean heavy into the youth population often find less predictability in technical execution and performance qualities, even if production and narrative elements are consistently successful. Collin County Ballet Theatre delivered a Nut this year that came together almost perfectly. They had the strongest set of guest artists I’ve seen in a while, and their youth ensemble delivered especially remarkable performances. Add in their usual successful elements, and it made for a winning combination.
» Looking for more on the year (2019) and decade (2010s) in the performing arts? Here's a guide to our special section.