Gayle Halperin

Dance Dreams

The second annual Dallas DanceFest provides artists and dance companies throughout the region with new opportunities to showcase their work. Here's a preview of the event.

published Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Photo: Natyananda
Natyananda: Joy of Dance


Dallas — Having talked to numerous dancers, choreographers and dance educators based here in Dallas it’s clear that the inaugural Dallas DanceFest (DFF) in 2014 impacted the local dance community in numerous ways.

For instance, DDF gives emerging choreographers another arena in which to present their work. “DDF offers me the chance to show a dance audience something new that’s not my every day style,” says Texas Ballet Theater Company Member Jiyan Dai. His work, Classical Theme B, will be performed at the second annual DDF which takes place Sept. 4-6 at Dallas City Performance Hall. “My dance is not a story; it is about music, movement and the dancer’s body joined together for an overall exciting piece. For the community, this festival displays how much North Texas values the arts and dance, making it accessible and growing our future.”

Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones
Gayle Halperin

Dance Educator Lily Cabatu Weiss adds “Dallas DanceFest, formerly the Dallas Dance Festival, plays an important role to the cultural landscape of Dallas. It provides a shared series of concerts allowing dance companies and institutions in North Texas to come together to give audiences a sneak preview of the coming season and more importantly to support one another and the diversity of dance. As former Chair of Dance and current Artistic Director of Booker T Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts I am proud that the school has been represented at this event for over 20 years.”

DDF also benefits the community by giving participants a convenient means in which to view works by other choreographers whom they wouldn’t ordinarily have the time to see and meet. This is one aspect that Bruce Wood Dance Project’s Artistic Director Kimi Nikaidoh has found particularly valuable. “Given the all-consuming nature of running an arts organization, it’s impossible to see what all of the many other groups in the area are accomplishing. Dallas DanceFest brings us all out of our respective ‘workshops’ and gives us the chance to be inspired and challenged by each other.”

DDF has also made an impression on the hundreds of aspiring dance professional across North Texas, not to mention providing new job opportunities for local dancers. “Dallas DanceFest is a chance to bring together dancers from around the area to both promote and educate the North Texas community about dance as an art,” says Claire White, a student in the professional division of the TBT School. “Personally it inspires me seeing other dancers enjoying their own forms of dance. White adds that the festival also gives her an opportunity to perform for other aspiring young dancers.

With less than a month left until the second DDF (Sept. 4-6), the excitement continues to build, especially after the Dance Council of North Texas (DCNT), in partnership with the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, released the names of the companies and artists who will be participating in this year’s event. And let's not forgot the woman who is largely responsible for the event, Gayle Halperin.

We will see some returning faces, including Bruce Wood Dance Project, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, METdance and Rhythmic Souls as well as some new names such as Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blues Dancers, Mosaic Dance Project of Dallas and NobleMotion Dance. There are also a few participants from outside the Dallas/Houston bubble, including Bell House Arts, Inc. (Owasso, OK), Natyananda: Joy of Dance (Birmingham, AL) and Austin-based choreographers AJ Garcia-Rameau and LaQuet Sharnel Pringle. Audiences can expect each performance to be an exciting display of dance styles including ballet, modern, hip-hop, classical Indian dance, contemporary, tap, and Ballet Folklorico.

The performances will take place on Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. with the 2015 Dance Council Honors awards ceremony and performance showcase occurring on Sunday afternoon. A full list of this year’s DDF participants, including biographies, can be found below. Look for full coverage of the DanceFest coming on TheaterJones.


The 2015 DDF participants include:


Ballet Ensemble of Texas (Coppell, TX) – Formed in May 2001 under the leadership of Lisa Slagle, the company’s goal is to present quality ballet performances for the local communities and to provide advanced ballet students with the opportunity to prepare for a career in dance. It is the official company of the Ballet Academy of Texas.


Bell House Arts, Inc. (Owasso, OK) – Founded by Rachel Bruce Johnson, The Bell House is a collaborative dance and art cooperative dedicated to creating opportunity for artistic exchange. At The Bell House, they are interested in the collaboration of ideas, people and movement language that challenge the status quo and conventional ways of making art by elevating art as a process. Its fosters meeting points for artistic connection between people rather than elevating the art as product in order to activate the transformative nature of movement that can be experienced both in the practice, performance and witness of dance.


Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts (BTWHSPVA) Repertory Dance Company I & II (Dallas, TX) – BTWHSPVA is “the cradle of the Dallas Arts District.” In 2015, the school was awarded the Texas Commission on the Arts Medal of Honor for exemplary training in Arts Education. The department’s philosophy is to provide a broad dance education that challenges the students artistically, intellectually and physically and to prepare qualified students for collegiate and professional careers in dance and related professions. 


Bruce Wood Dance Project (Dallas, TX) – BWDP was launched in 2011 to champion the vision, leadership and artistry of nationally acclaimed Texan dance-maker Bruce Wood. BWDP picked up where the successful Fort Worth-based Bruce Wood Dance Company left off. Under Wood’s direction the company has produced six world premieres and a TITAS Presents Commission for the Command Performance Gala. Currently in its fifth season the company is now under the direction of Kimi Nikaidoh after Wood’s passing in May 2014.


Chamberlain Performing Arts (Plano, TX) – Established in 1984 by Artistic Director Kathy Chamberlain CPA is a student ensemble dedicated to providing students a stepping stone to professional dance careers. Chamberlain is dedicated to serving North Texas and the surrounding community by providing professional quality performances and outstanding outreach programs. The company takes great pride in the ongoing efforts to expand its cultural diversity through performance collaborations.


Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones
Joshua Peugh of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

Dallas Black Dance Theatre (Dallas, TX) – Founded in 1976 by Ann Williams, DBDT consists of 12 full-time dancers performing a mixed repertory of modern, jazz, ethnic and spiritual works by nationally and internationally recognized choreographers. Over the years the company has grown from a community-based, semi-professional organization to a fully-professional dance company that is renowned in the U.S. and is noted for its rich cultural diversity, history of inclusion and high-level of artistic excellence in contemporary modern dance and educational programs


Dallas Black Dance Theatre II (Dallas, TX) – This semi-professional company created by Dallas Black Dance Theatre Founder Ann Williams in 2000 consists of eight aspiring artists from around the nation. Under the guidance of Nycole Ray, DBDT II provides an opportunity for young artists to develop their dance skills while serving the Dallas/Fort Worth community and touring across the nation. Going into its 16th season performing works by recognized and emerging artists, DBDT II performs a diversified repertoire of modern, jazz, African, lyrical and spiritual works.


Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blue Dancers (Irving, TX) – Founded in 2009, DCRB is a high-energy co-ed hip hop dance team and drum corps. Lead by Jenny Durbin Smith DCRB brings an innovative, unique and exciting element to the Cowboys legendary game-day entertainment line-up. The dance teams dynamic routines feature breakdancing and hip hop-based movement requiring both strong musicality and level of dance ability. Presented by Miller Lite, DCRB was conceptualized under the direction of Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President of Brand Management Charlotte Anderson and is the first and only entertainment concept of its kind in the National Football League.


Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (Dallas, TX) – Originally formed in Seoul, South Korea by Joshua L. Peugh and Cho Hyun Sang, Peugh started the USA branch of the company in 2013 bridging the gap between East and West. DCCD is dedicated to bringing the progressive work of international choreographers and dancers to a worldwide audience. It strives to educate the public on the power of movement in communicating ideas.


AJ Garcia-Rameau (Austin, TX) – AJ Garcia-Rameau is an independent contemporary ballerina based in Austin. AJ trained at Houston Academy of Dance and Austin School of Classical Ballet. She received additional training under scholarship with Alvin Ailey School, Joffrey Jazz/Contemporary and Complexions Contemporary Ballet. AJ earned a BS degree in Chemical Engineering and Dance Minor from the University of Texas. She has performed with Exclamation Dance Company, Austin Classical Ballet, and BHumn Dance Company.


Houston Repertory Dance Ensemble (Houston, TX) – The ensemble is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization, and is led by Artistic Director Amy Blake. This ensemble was designed for the dancer seeking collaboration with exemplary worldwide professionals in the industry to help them obtain greater levels of achievement in the arts through classical training in ballet, jazz, modern and contemporary. The ensemble provides dancers with a positive working environment and opportunities for master classes, private coaching, YAGP participation and multiple international showcases and performance venues.


LaQuet Sharnel Pringle (Austin, TX) – A Booker T Washington HSPVA alum, Pringle attending the North Carolina School of the Arts before making her Broadway debut in 2005 in Sweet Charity with Christina Applegate and Dennis O’Hare. She has also performed in productions of The Lion King and Memphis. Today, Pringle is an adjunct professor at Texas State University teaching Jazz Dance in the Musical Theater Department. She is also the artistic director and founder of Fearless Young Artists (FYA) and was the headliner of Dance Planet 19.


METdance (Houston, TX) – Founded in 1995, Houston Metropolitan Dance Center Inc. strives to educate and revitalize a passion for dance through the finest instruction and performance. Under the direction of Marlana Doyle MET Dance Company has performed throughout the United States in dozens of theaters receiving high acclaim, performing works by some of the most influential and talented choreographers of our time. The company is the sister organization to the MET Dance Center.


Mosaic Dance Project of Dallas (Dallas, TX) – Created in 2014 by Giovanna Godinez Prado, Mosaic Dance Project’s mission is to create, educate and inspire individuals that desire to grow not only as dancers, but as artists as well, along with our cultural and ethical awareness and values.


Natyananda: Joy of Dance (Birmingham, AL) – Founded in 1978 by Sheila Rubin, Natyananda performs both traditional and original choreographic works in the classical Bharatanatyam style of Southern India. Through student, professional and guest artist presentations Natyananda promotes understanding of universal artistic and cultural themes while showcasing the rich and unique heritage of Alabama’s Asian Indian-American community.

Photo: Juan Irizarry
AJ Garcia-Rameau


NobleMotion Dance (Houston, TX) – NMD was co-founded by Andy Noble and Dionne Sparkman Noble in 2009. Over the last five years it has distinguished itself as one of Houston’s most important dance companies. NMD brings a fresh perspective to their community with its mission of integrating technology and dance, and is a Resident Incubator at the Houston Arts Alliance and is currently on the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) touring roster.


Rhythmic Souls (Dallas, TX) – This small company of wicked fierce rhythm tappers is captivating local audiences with their unique blend of style, charisma, innovative choreography and rapid-fire foot work. Rhythmic Souls is on the cutting-edge of dance choreography with cross-genre repertoire that fuses rhythm tap dance with body percussion, sand dancing, contemporary movement, flamenco, swing dance and anything else that might lend itself to their rhythmic persuasion. The company strives to bring the spirit of tap dance back to the stage and continue the legacy of an American art form.


Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts Dance Division (Dallas, TX) – The SMU Division of Dance offers both conservatory dance instruction and a liberal arts education. The dance program develops disciplined, versatile artists through professional training in ballet, modern and jazz techniques, and theory. Undergraduates can earn a B.F.A. in Dance Performance or a minor in Dance Performance. Students perform masterworks of the great choreographers of the 20th century, as well as works by contemporary masters.


Texas Ballet Theater School (Fort Worth, TX) – Training the next generation of dancers and arts patrons is the mission of TBT Schools. Starting with the very young, they nurture aspiring artists to discover their greatest potential and to develop a love of movement, a passion for creativity and an appreciation for the beauty and athleticism of classical dance.


DDF will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 6 with the 2015 Dance Council Honors, a 27-year-old tradition that celebrates the accomplishments of individuals the DCNT has selected whose passion and commitment to the dance community has greatly impacted the art form in North Texas. The afternoon includes an awards ceremony, performances by 2015 DCNT Scholarship recipients and professional dance companies as well as a silent auction. The 2015 Dance Council Honors Recipients include: 


Pat and Tanju Tuzer - Mary McLarry Bywaters Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance

Founders of both a local ballet school and a pre-professional company, this couple has had a profound influence on many students aiming for a performance career. Patricia (Machette) Tuzer was born in Dallas where she began her studies at age 3. During her early teens, she received scholarships to study with the New York City, Joffrey and Harkness Ballets, joining the latter’s New York company at 18, where she danced as both soloist and principal dancer. It was during her tenure with Harkness in 1973 that she met and later married, fellow Company Principal Tanju Tuzer. He was already establishing a career that would take them across Europe to dance leading roles with major companies, including Hamburg Ballet. Tanju is from Istanbul, Turkey where, at age 9, he began his dance training at the Ankara State Conservatory. At 18, he joined the Turkish Ballet and continued his studies with a scholarship to the Royal Ballet in London, later dancing in Europe before moving to Harkness Ballet NY. Tanju and Patricia Tuzer opened their first ballet school, the Tuzer School of Ballet, in 1977. In 1985, as their reputation spread and enrollment grew, they designed and constructed a new facility in Richardson, where they remain the principal teachers. For 30 years, students of Tuzer Dancenter have danced in Tuzer-choreographed versions of classic ballets, with the annual Nutcracker always an audience favorite.


Gwen Owens - Mary McLarry Bywaters Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance

From having danced in musicals in the West End of London and touring throughout Britain and overseas in chorus lines, to a long-term stint in the famous line-up of the BBC Television Toppers, to founding the London School of Dance in Dallas, Owens has always been immersed in dance. In 2016 her studio will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Owens’ lifelong affiliation with the Royal Academy of Dance in London began with studying ballet as a child in post-World War II Britain and later, incorporating its exacting standards as the foundation of her school. Tap training with the Imperial Society Teachers of Dance is reflected in Owens’ sparkling choreography. Her students can be seen performing all year at different DCNT community events such as Dance Planet and National Tap Dance Celebration. For more than 15 years, Owens has acted as children’s coordinator for the Moscow Ballet Company’s production of The Nutcracker in Dallas. For 25 years, Owens has been a certified member of the Texas Association of Teachers of Dancing. Her students have gone on to pursue professional careers in dance as performers, teachers, choreographers and studio owners. Owens’ legacy is most easily seen in her daughters, Michele and Misty. Both are accomplished, professional dancers and instructors in many forms of dance, including Adaptive Dance, a program for those with physical and cognitive challenges.


Ronelle Eddings - Larry White Dance Educator Award

Ronelle Jock Eddings, co-founder and co-artistic director of Elledanceworks, is an outstanding dance educator bringing her professional career into the dance classroom. She earned a BFA in Dance Education and a MEd in Secondary Education from Arizona State University.  In Arizona she was assistant director, contributing choreographer and performer in The Movement Source Dance Company, Inc. Since coming to Dallas in 1996, Eddings has been a vital participant in the dance community. She has served on the executive committee of DCNT as Vice President of both Membership and Volunteer Committees. Locally, she has performed as a member of NOVA Dancing Company and as an independent artist. Eddings’ choreography has been commissioned locally and nationally. An exemplary educator, Eddings has taught at Collin College, University of Texas Dallas, and T. C. Marsh Middle School. In all, she has been teaching in public schools for more than 22 years. In her twelfth year at Creekview High School, she is Fine Arts Department Manager and director of both the dance department as well as the Moving Ground Dance Company.


Susan Savarese - Larry White Dance Educator Award

Susan Savarese has been a dedicated dance educator in the Dallas area for the last 25 years. Providing a means for self-expression inspires her work. Savarese began dancing at age 3 and decided to teach to share her love for personal expression through dance. Savarese completed her Master of Fine Arts degree in Dance and Related Arts at Texas Woman’s University, Denton Texas and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance and Liberal Arts at Rutgers University-Mason Gross School of the Arts in New Jersey. She has taught, danced and performed at Rutgers University, Texas Woman’s University, Collin County Community College, Dance Express and private dance studios.  She co-owned Dance Depot in Plano, Texas and taught at Stevens Park Elementary School. Susan has many dance interests, but places special focus on the dance program and dance students at W. E. Greiner Middle School and Academy for the Exploratory Arts where she has taught for the last 15 years. Her dancers have been invited to perform at the South Dallas Cultural Center, TAHPERD conventions and with NOVA Dancing Company.


Photo: Amitava Sarkar
Tony Tucci

Shalini Varghese Chandragiri - Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence

Shalini Varghese Chandragiri is a powerful artist of the exquisite and intricate classical Indian dance, Bharata Natyam. She began dancing at the Arathi School of Dance under guru Revathi Satyu at the age of 5 performing in various legendary dance dramas with the school. She has trained intensively with other accomplished gurus, including the legendary Padma Bushans-The Dhananjayans, Padma Shri Adayar K. Lakshman, Priyadarsini Govind, Padma Bushan Kalanidhi Narayanan, Padmini Ravi and Nirupama and Rajendra. Chandragiri made her arangetram (debut) in Bharata Natyam in 1997. She has performed extensively in the United States, internationally and, in 2004, was formally presented in India. Chandragiri is a founding member of Indique Dance Company, whose mission is to take Indian classical dance in contemporary creative directions. The Arathi School of Dance has always been Chandragiri’s home. She has been teaching there for many years. Her students have performed widely within the DFW Metroplex. Chandragiri serves on the board of the Indian Cultural Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes intercultural awareness through workshops and performances.


Tony Tucci - Mary Warner Award for Service to Dance

Tony Tucci’s brilliant lighting designs have enhanced the visual drama and beauty of productions worldwide. Residing in Austin, Tony has been resident lighting designer for Stephen Mills’ Ballet Austin repertory for more than 25 years. He is currently also resident lighting designer for Ben Stevenson’s Texas Ballet Theater and Bruce Wood Dance Project. Other companies include Mejia International Ballet, Washington Ballet, Houston Dance Salad, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Colorado Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet and Cirque Ziva, the Golden Dragon Acrobats. Past designs include University of Texas Opera productions and Austin musicals such as Damn Yankees, Carousel, West Side Story, Annie, Gypsy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Music Man, and others. Tucci has received two B. Iden Payne Awards and Critics Table awards for lighting in Austin. He designed Charles Duggan’s productions of Dames at Sea in San Francisco and at the Goodspeed Opera House. For the 1996 Summer Olympics, his designs for the Cultural Olympiad showcased six national and international companies. Tucci has worked with National Ballet of Canada, Royal Danish, Winnipeg, Hong Kong and Swedish Ballet companies as well as Singapore Dance Theatre, Ballet Contemporaneo de Caracas and Christopher Bruce’s Kingdom-Geneva Ballet, Flemming Flindt’s Caroline Mathilde and Lucifer’s Daughter for the Royal Danish Ballet.


Lane Alexander - Buster Cooper Tap Legend

Lane Alexander, Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s co-founder and artistic director, is a pioneer in the tap dance community. He helped form the first presenting institution in the United States dedicated to American tap and contemporary percussive arts, the American Rhythm Center in Chicago. Within his long dance career, Alexander performed Morton Gould’s Tap Dance Concerto at Carnegie Hall, at Royal Festival Hall and Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, among others. He co-directed the Emmy nominated PBS/ITVS documentary, JUBA! Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance. Alexander produced the first full-length tap concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and directs the tap/percussive dance ensemble, BAM!, which represented the United States at the 5th Beijing Contemporary Dance Festival in Caracas and toured for Lincoln Center’s regional jazz program. He received an NEA American Masterpieces grant, the Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Field, the Chicago Dance and Music Alliance Award for Outstanding Solo Performance and a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Award. Alexander is a faculty member and senior advisor to the Beijing Contemporary Music Academy, the American Rhythm Center, and has taught at Northwestern University, Columbia College, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He also serves on the board of the International Tap Association.

Tickets for both events are available through TICKETDFW: online at, by phone 214.871.5000, or in person at the box office 2353 Flora St., Dallas, TX 75201. For more information, go to Thanks For Reading

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Dance Dreams
The second annual Dallas DanceFest provides artists and dance companies throughout the region with new opportunities to showcase their work. Here's a preview of the event.
by Katie Dravenstott

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