Fort Worth — As daylight changes to twilight to pitch black, the view of the reflective pond seen in the distance changes from a shimmering to a glow and then to nothing at all. Space expands and slowly recedes, so that at the end, the viewer exists in a contained world. Such was the experience Friday night when Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth Dance Exchange: A Choreographers Showcase performed in the Grand Lobby of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth on closing night of the 11th annual Modern Dance Festival at the Modern.
The nine works all capitalize on the shifts in light and receding space. The evening opened on a quiet note with New York-based Bill Evans Dance Company’s Three Bach Dances, where Kathy Diehl, in long flowing black lace dress, slowly makes her way across the floor with long stretched-out limbs, pausing to fold them in. The dance is a “Sarabande.” She pauses, holds an arabesque, arches back, and then falls, repeating these movements in many slightly different variations. At the end, she faces the audience, drops her arm and simply stands. Her remarkable control and fluidity gave an extra charge to her dance.
How different then was the next part of Three Bach Dances, “Saintly Passion,” performed by choreographer William (Bill) Evans. Seated at first, he writhes, shutters, slumps and curls into himself, an image of a man in spiritual agony. Even on his feet, every movement suggests turmoil.
The last movement, “Gigue,” performed by Ms. Diehl and Don Halquist, has a baroque flavor with its quick little leaps and serpentine flow across the floor, but with a very modern expansive use of the body and space.
Susan Douglas Roberts’ Distant Songs (performed by wild goose chase dance) had a playful feel, with five friends spiraling, running, catching one another, and holding hands.
For playful, Michele Hanlon’s …so it goes for Elledanceworks Dance Company was even more bouncy and giddy, buoyed on by The Mamas and the Papas’ “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”
Bill Evans Dance Company’s Tango was a tango in only the broadest definition, capturing its tension with opposite shifts in weight. Again and again, Mr. Halquist, on his knees, leans back and reaches out for Ms. Diehl with one hand as she stretches out as far as she can in the opposite direction. When he lifts her, it is straight up, and when they meet face to face, she wraps her legs around him, scissor-like.
Kerry Kreiman’s Just Because (performed by CD/FW) brings together friends to exchange letters, dream, romp, and at the end, try in vain to catch a man’s attention.
By the time the evening has turned to twilight, it’s still possible to see Tina Mullone flatten herself against the glass wall at the rear of the Museum and then make her way into the Lobby. Trouble brews. When she circles around Mel Mobley—who is seated with his drum set—one can sense their mutual antagonism. (The work is called Love and Violence in America 2014.) They skirmish; she goes wild with a frantic look; he falls flat on the floor; she takes his place on the drum set. Violence plays a much larger role than love.
Now that it is almost dark and the lighting low inside, the sweep of Mr. Halquist’s movement in Bill Evans Dance Company’s Climbing to the Moon glistens as though rays of light are bouncing off him. His diaphanous silky outfit, the atmospheric music (a commissioned score by Michael Cave), and his way of propelling himself across the floor cast a dreamy glow, and no more so when he spins and spins, faster and faster, arms flailing like a human starburst.
Whether Ms. Diehl is twitching and shuddering in Pleasure Garden, or staring at the audience, or holding a long balance in arabesque, everything she does is riveting.
The program ends on a comic note in See You Around with Mr. Evans and Mr. Halquist in coat and tie taping a small section of the room, an elevator, before the two pick up stacks of vanilla folders. The text has to do with friends—especially “Bob”—and where he might be. The text in nonsensical, and so is the movement—the men alternate crawling under each other’s legs, stuffing paper into the other’s coat, or giving way to an outburst of temper, only to stiffly regroup.
One other note: Mr. Evans is 74, a poster child for the benefits of dance.
» 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.