Dallas — Dallas Black Dance Theatre II let loose Wednesday night at Dallas City Performance Hall with a solid—and sometimes even an inspired—performance. Now in its 12th year, the company benefited by having substantive works to draw upon after years subsisting on pedestrian fare.
The program opened with company director and choreographer Nycole Ray’s romantic Echo, set to the soaring music of Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio for Strings. Four couples in dark pants or short flaring skirts dash in and out as though propelled by the wind. The soft light casts a warm golden glow. In a series of brief encounters, one couple after the other runs into each other’s arms, with each woman lifted high and swung in one slow, sweeping movement. The ballet ends as all four couples return and dramatically each woman jumps into her partner’s arms while he catches her and holds her straight up, like a talisman.
Guest company Dark Circles Contemporary Dance offered a section of Joshua L. Peugh’s White Day, a work that celebrates the Korean and Japanese version of our Valentine’s Day. Men and women are to offer gifts, but in this shortened version what comes across is how delicate and tenuous new relationships can be.
Darryl B. Sneed’s Conversaciones, set to the music of Miles Davis, was as taut as a rubber band stretched to its limits, a ménage à trois that ends, as most do, not well. Jasmine White-Killins and Kayah Franklin, in red flamenco dress with red roses in their hair, first inhabit the stage alone, each one dipping and arching backward with arms curling above. The dynamic changes when Kimara Wood appears, taking the exaggerated, imperious stance of a matador. His coolness never abates, even when he dances first with one woman and then the next. Alone, later, each woman explodes in a frenzy of inner turmoil that finally dissipates into calm determination. As the matador/lover, Mr. Wood commands so much attention that it is impossible not to focus entirely on him.
Bridget Moore’s To Love From: Marvin is jaunty but lightweight, while Christopher L. HugginsTears of War makes a point that war brings heartache. It opens and ends with women in black dresses and headscarves kneeling in front of fallen soldiers. In between, lovers meet for one last stolen encounter before the men go off to war. They run, run, run, frantically, making sudden abrupt turns, but the bullets begin to fly, and one by one, each falls.
While the program ended on a high-spirited note with Jamie Thompson’s Afro-Caribbean inspired Carib Verbiage, the most fun came with Mr. Peugh’s Shuffle, set to a wild variety of music ranging from Van Halen to Johnny Cash. It is indeed a “shuffle,” as Jonathan Langley and Mr. Wood try to get Daijhia Kirt’s attention and she makes it clear she’s no easy catch. But what is so much fun about the piece is the crazy movement: lurches, wobbling, strutting, sinking to the ground and grabbing the girl by her feet. It’s all nonsense, and clever nonsense at that. While Ms. Kirt was a charmingly arch catch in yellow dress, it was again Mr. Wood – strong and supple – that commanded the most attention.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.