Dallas — In his relatively short time as a dancer and choreographer, Chadi El-Khoury has had some serious setbacks, including a broken back and injured shoulders during his five years dancing in Kansas City. But with every step back, there have been at least two forward, including acceptance into the only two festivals to which he has applied, so far, under his organizational name Chado Danse. (“Chado” was his childhood nickname.)
The first one was the Dallas DanceFest; he found out he was accepted right after relocating to his hometown of Dallas this summer. His work, to be performed Saturday night, is a duet called Knead Me Whole.
“I decided to move back here and pursue dance and the scene here,” he says. “Part of what Dallas has to offer is very appealing. The risk I think will be rewarding. The DanceFest, that was a great affirmation that the decision I made was the right one.”
Next week he has another work, the six-dancer ballet Words in Motion, being performed in the fall program for Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Then he heads to San Francisco for PushFest, Sept. 19-20, the other festival to which Chado Danse was accepted.
El-Khoury was born in Beirut, Lebanon, into a family of Marianist Catholics. When he was in middle school in the late 1990s, his parents moved him and his two brothers to Mesquite, following family that had relocated to Texas to escape civil war in Lebanon in the 1980s. Although no one in his family was a dancer and he wasn’t exposed to the arts growing up, the dancing bug was always in him.
“I started dancing at 21 or 22, so I was much older than most dancers, who had more experience at that age,” he says. That didn’t deter him from exploring this art form for which he had such passion.
“It comes from wanting to dance for a very long time. Having these ideas but not being able to pursue it because I was in a place where it wasn’t possible,” he says. “I would imagine how I would move. My movement for me is emotion coming to life, it comes from a very honest place, it’s an attempt to share something with someone. …It’s like when you’re in a relationship and there’s a spark between the two of you, but you don’t know how to explain it, it just happens. Dance is like that for me.”
Without having much training, he was accepted to the Conservatory of Dance and Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and was later selected for a yearlong residency at K.C.’s Charlotte Street Foundation.
“[I] was working with local dancers and composers, everything was live,” he says. “That allowed me to explore the type of work I want to make, I got to explore the process. They would give me samples and we’d work together and build a ballet that corresponded with the movement, the movement corresponding with the music.”
He also studied at the American Dance Festival in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. There, he sustained another injury. But that couldn’t keep him down; two surgeries later and he was back in the game.
He has performed in some classical and contemporary ballet, but his desire to create work started to simmer. “I feel like I’m built for ballet, but the opportunities haven’t been there,” he says. “But as a choreographer, no one can take that away from you.”
“For me it’s about trying to be as honest and sincere as possible, and using my whole body, whether it’s the tips of my fingers, or anything,” he says. “My movement is through breathing; it’s being visceral and expressive, but not being literal in the expression in your face.”
His piece for DanceFest, Knead Me Whole, is inspired by the act of making bread.
“[It’s about] the process the dough has to go through to be made strong so it doesn’t collapse on itself,” he says. “I see being in a relationship with your significant other the same way. That expression two people complete one another, that’s not part of mentality or view. You’re whole by yourself, and other people build you up and make you stronger and prepare you for life. You can be needed further, you’re able to take that leap of faith into the fire.”
Before Kansas City, while in college studying business, he met Joshua L. Peugh, a dance student at Southern Methodist University. They became fast friends, and stayed in touch over the years as he was in Kansas City and Peugh was in South Korea. In fact, it was at Peugh’s urging that Chadi decided to return to Texas.
El-Khoury’s hope, as the newest dance company on the scene, is for Chado Danse to catch on at a time when the dance community is growing. Dallas DanceFest is a major indicator of what’s to come.
“I have something to offer that’s unique,” he says.
» Companies performing Friday night are: Dallas Ballet Company, Ewert & Company, Rhythmic Souls, Dallas Black Dance Theatre II, Indique Dance Company, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Texas Ballet Theater, Southern Methodist University Meadows Dance Ensemble, Dallas Black Dance Theatre.
» Companies performing Saturday are: Chamberlain Performing Arts, Chado Danse, Houston METdance, Avant Chamber Ballet, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Rep I and II companies, Tarrant County College Movers Unlimited, Mejia Ballet International, Bruce Wood Dance Project
» The Dance Council Honors are Sunday at 2 p.m., honoring Nita Braun, Ann Briggs-Cutaia and Joe Cutaia, Buster Cooper, Dylis Croman, Suzie Jary and Beth Wortley, with performances by Ballet Ensemble of Texas, Bruce Wood Dance Project and 2014 Dance Council Scholarship Recipients.
» Look for more stories about the Dallas DanceFest this week. Below are links to profiles of some of the dance companies we've published: