Dallas — If dance could be described in architectural terms, Bruce Wood’s Liturgy would be a gothic cathedral: grand, inspiring, with clean vertical lines, and designed to have the the eye turn upward to the heavens.
Performed Friday night by Bruce Wood Dance Project at Dallas City Performance Hall in a program called 5Years, Liturgy is constructed with an emphasis at first on the linear, and later departing into curves. Set to Bach’s Mass in B Minor, it honors the sublime music with understated and yet very defined movement, most eloquently expressed in arm gestures. In long dark dress, 12 dancers stand in scattered formation above a raised platform, and swing their arms straight and forcefully to each side, lift them up to form a perfect V, and bring them down again with fast, smart slaps. These gestures are repeated, with many variations, and with dancers swiveling heads to the exact same sideways angle. Much of the movement is very fast and ornate, executed with perfect unison.
The move from platform to ground suggests a move from heaven to earth, but once on earth the dancers become airborne, shooting skyward with soaring lifts and leaps that make their long, split skirts flap in the wind. Near the end, David Escoto tenderly embraces the fallen Albert Drake. Drake stands, his back to us and drops his outer-garment to the ground, walking slowly up the platform bathed in golden light. Those left behind lie slill on the ground.
Wood is the master of the soul-wrenching surprise.
On a much more earthy tone, the two new works—Bryan Arias’ My Heart Remembers and artistic director and former company member Kimi Nikaidoh’s Find Me—were fine companions for Wood’s aesthetic: to wit, dramatic without being pretentious.
Both of the new pieces dwelt with the messy relationships between the sexes, with an emphasis on the young and fickle.
My Heart Remembers was the darker and more wistful of the two. A storm finds pedestrians caught in the rain, and Eric Coudron finds shelter, slaps himself to dry off, and almost immediately discovers the dripping wet Austin Sora sidling to his side. The two embark in a complicated dance with legs entangled, slides to the floor and difficult lifts where Sora wraps her body around her partner. The rain stops, birds chirp, and Sora goes her own way. To make the encounter more poignant, the music is Debussy’s Clair De Lune.
The four vignettes unfold on much the same theme of vulnerability and longing, expressed in unexpected encounters, a startle response, a tiny wrestling match, long, complicated physical entanglements, a fruitless chase after a disappearing lover. The last section, set to Orange Sky, sizes up the dance as a whole: Drake manages from a prone position to lift Emily Perry up and around and back to the ground in one long spiral, only to lose her. Love—or just the possibility of love—is as fleeing and arbitrary as the wind.
There are just as many unresolved encounters in Find Me, but the tone is much lighter. Set to Van Morrison’s Moondance, young people meet in whatever places young people congregate and make quick and often fleeting connections. Men chase women, women shun them, occasionally a women gives in and some exuberant lifts result. No one goes away hurt. In one amusing episode, Harry Feril does just about everything to capture a girl’s attention—any girl—flipping backward on one ill attempt. When last he connects with Lauren Gonzales, it’s for a second—he walks off, leaving her stunned and he very pleased with himself. At the end, everyone joins in for freewheeling romp.
» Photos by Sharen Bradford of The Dancing Image. For more images, click the slideshow button in the floating menu at bottom left of your screen.
» 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.