The year began on a promising note with the prospect of more dance filmed lived from cities around the world. It didn’t happen. The audience was too small for local movie theaters to justify the trouble. The Angelika Film Center later picked them back up, though.
On the local front, one encouraging note is the prospect of live music for dance performances. Last year Avant Chamber Ballet gave us hope that even a small company will include live music. The music is almost entirely classical, and the musicians young and very well trained.
Collin County Ballet features live music for its performances of The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center, and for years so has Lake Cities Ballet in Lewisville.
But the most attention is going to Texas Ballet Theater, which, for budget reasons, was forced to cancel its contract with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra several years ago. Only this spring will the company feature the orchestra again—in Swan Lake. But don’t get your hopes up: unless there is a big change in the budget, the orchestra is not likely to become a permanent fixture any time soon.
Some signs that dance is not dying yet: TITAS is featuring far more dance for its 2013-14 season with eight programs; Bruce Wood is back in creating mode, his works visible in a variety of places; Dallas Black Dance Theatre is thriving; and not only are small companies like Avant Chamber Ballet, Beckles Dancing Company, Contemporary Ballet Dallas, Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth, Elledanceworks Dance Company, Muscle Memory Dance Theatre, 8&1 Dance Company and Simple Sparrow Dance Company holding their own, we have yet a new kid on the block: Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.
Here are my Top 10 Dance Events of 2013:
1. Jessica Lang Dance
Presented by TITAS
AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas
Photo: Takao Komaru
Many choreographers incorporate visual effects with dance, but perhaps no one does it with such clever effect as artistic director and choreographer Jessica Lang. Sheets of silk pool on the floor to make a barrier between lovers in Among the Stars; a grid in Lines Cubed separates dancers while long rolls of paper enclose others; and most dramatically, in i.n.k., a backdrop of black ink eddies and swirls in the background, as dancer on the ground either mirror or defy the turbulence.
2. Stars of American Ballet
Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts, Richardson
The stars pulled out the big guns in a program that so easily belonged to its rival New York City Ballet. Balanchine’s Rubies and Stars and Stripes and Jerome Robbins’s Fancy Free are NYCB fodder. Relatively new were Christopher Wheeldon’s Liturgy (2007) and Sergy Gallardo’s Piazzolla Tango. While Rubies showed a reckless Lauren Lovette and Stars and Stripes a delightful Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, it was really Fancy Free that stole the show. Three sailors on shore leave in New York City let loose in free-wheeling exuberance, trying their best to snag two lovely girls, to no avail.
3. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Presented by TITAS
AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House, Dallas
Yes, Revelations still works its feel-good magic, but no company can rely on its past. So new company artistic director Robert Battle threw a curve ball with Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16. After the first intermission, Mr. Battle explained “we want to mess with you,” and that he did, beginning with the house lights still on as Samuel Lee Roberts twitches and bobbles by himself on stage. Eventually a full cast gets into the action, and things turn wild and zany.
4. Bruce Wood Dance Project, My Brother’s Keeper
Montgomery Arts Theater, Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, Dallas
Bruce Wood always wanted to do a full-length piece portraying the complexity of male relationships, and his 90 minutes show, My Brother’s Keeper, does so with tenderness and poignancy. The work spans generations to include a grandfather embracing his grandson, an old man bemoaning the decay of his home, and two brothers turning play into a shoving match.
5. SMU Meadows Dance Ensemble, Spring Dance Concert
Southern Methodist University, Owens Arts Center, Dallas
One hundred years after Stravinsky and Nijinsky shook up the dance world with The Rite of Spring, the Dutch choreographer Joose Vrouenraets weighed in with his own disturbing version. This time it was not peasants but students in school uniform trapped in glass cages that—when free—pounded the earth with unbridled fury. Danny Buraczeski’s In the City provided a welcome antidote with his take on youthful exuberance, setting the action in a sky-lit Manhattan.
6. Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Spring Celebration
AT&T Performing Arts Center, Wyly Theatre, Dallas
Taking a swipe at Barbie and Ken doesn’t seem much of a stretch, but the Pope? Sean J. Smith’s hilarious Monologues tossed together 12 clever skits that included a spelling bee, a flight attendant and a peeved woman who’s just dumped her ex on the curb. On the sober front, there was Nejla Y. Yatkin’s Lost in Memory as well as her riveting Solo, where she needed only to sway backward to the plaintive voice of Nina Simons singing Ne me quitte pas to create an atmosphere of longing.
7. José Limón Dance Company
Latino Cultural Center, Dallas
Bracing in its purity of style and the seriousness of intent, José Limón Dance Company belongs to another era—long before irony and post-modernism took over. There was a simplicity in There is a Time (1956), (based on Ch. 3 of Ecclesiastes), boldness in Chaconne (1944) and a harrowing intensity to The Moor’s Pavane, Limon’s dramatic distillation of Shakespeare’s Othello where the action revolves around the four pivotal characters.
8. Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth, CD/FW Dance Exchange: A Choreographers Showcase
10th Annual Modern Dance Festival at the Modern
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Nothing suits a summer dance program better then a shimmering reflective pond behind a museum, for as dusk turns to night, the space inside goes from light pooling from outside to ebony black enclosing the dancers. CD/FW made great use of the free lighting effect in the sculptural Ahani; the romp on an imaginary lawn by a 7-year-old and her mother in Color Schemes; Ms. Birrane’s introspective Samskara, where the reflective pool intensifies her shimmering movement; and when it’s black outside, eight electric fans go into motion, at one point showering rose petals in the air.
9. Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
Fort Worth Community Arts Center, Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre, Fort Worth
Making its American debut, Dark Circles took bizarre to a new level. Artistic director and choreographer Joshua L. Peugh’s Cosmic Sword tossed so many fly balls into the mix—Peugh slathering his face with shaving cream, Jesse Castaneda’s walking on his hands, Peugh snipping a green mat with shears—that if the dance was meant to break barriers between reason and expectation, it did. The program turned serious in Peugh’s jjigae, set to a wild array of music and featuring a strange interplay between what seemed to be a tribal community.
10. Texas Ballet Theater, Romeo and Juliet
Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth
Ben Stevenson’s Romeo and Juliet moves with implacable force, fueled by Prokofiev’s music and spurred on by both playful and rapturous dancing. Everything happens in the space of just a few days, making the tragic death of the young and their hopes all the more poignant.
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The 2013 Year in Review series: