Dallas — You need not fear: Bruce Wood is gone, but his company Bruce Wood Dance Project lives on. The dancers look better than ever and to keep the momentum going, June 19’s program at Dallas City Performance Hall, called 5 Years in celebration of the companies five years in Dallas, featured a new work by company member Albert Drake.
Quiet and mysterious, Drake’s Whispers opens on a dim stage where yards of magenta fabric hang from above and tail off to enclose four women. Their faces and heads are obscured in mesh, their bodies almost still except for a tilt of the head or a slump. They suggest something between ghosts, mannequins and puppets. The scrim disappears and the faces are unmasked, and behind the women, men peek out, curious.
Solos, duets and ensemble sections follow, some romantic, some agitated, all full of longing. The music is a mix of works by J. Cole, Peter Broderick, Steve Reich and Max Richter. Much of the movement suggests Wood’s taste for easy lifts, soft arms and fluid dispersals in direction. Despite the dramatic touches offered by Tony Tucci’s lighting and John Ahrens’ sets and costumes, the ballet seemed a bit incoherent. Each section was bathed in mystery, and yet as a whole, did not fit together. Still, Whispers is a brave beginning from a very talented dancer.
The program also included Wood’s glorious Requiem (2003) and his giddy Polyester Dreams (2002). Requiem features dancers clad identically in black caps and pants, split so to create panels black on the outside and silver on the inside. To Mozart’s haunting Requiem Mass in D Minor eight dancers sit on a long, low bench far to stage left. In perfect synchrony, they lift arms, bend over, change places and again and again, curve arms over in windmill formation. Eventually, they leave their bench to fly through space, their split panels flapping in the air. They move like noble eagles swooping and catching each other in easy scoops, only to regroup in narrow formations. At the end, they return to the bench, their troubled spirits now calmed.
At the other end of the spectrum in seriousness was Polyester Dreams, a romp in the glory days of disco and psychedelic polyester. Against a backdrop of shimmering discs and wearing dress that is a riot of color, dancers shimmy and shake, leap and swirl. They do this with the unleashed energy of the young.
Every once in a while to put the giddy era in perspective, we hear the crackling voice of President Nixon (“I will not resign”) and the screams of Kent State students. Mostly, however, life is nothing but fun as attested by James Brown’s “I Feel Good,” the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” and Holly Cole’s “I Can See Clearly Now.”
Polyester Dreams is perfect for the title: this dance makes you yearn for the ’70s.
» 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.
» Photos by Sharen Bradford of The Dancing Image. To see more images, click the slideshow icon in the floating menu at the bottom left of your screen.