Dallas — Summertime generally marks the off-season for dancers. It’s a time to relax, recuperate from a season full of back-to-back performances, demanding teaching commitments, and injuries. It’s a time to seeking training opportunities elsewhere, or to work on developing your own productions. But sometimes, you need a creative outlet to keep the artistic juices flowing, and to keep your body in shape. And sometimes, you need that outlet to be in the city you call home. Dallas has stepped up to offer such an opportunity with the Wanderlust Dance Project.
(The Metroplex offers several dance opportunities this weekend, including Muscle Memory Dance Theatre’s Made in a Day on July 22-July 23 at LIFE in Deep Ellum; Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth's annual Modern Dance Festival at the Modern, July 22-30 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; and House Party Theatre's Sack Lunch July 22-23 at two bars in Dallas).
Wanderlust Dance Project will take place on Saturday, July 23 at the Majestic Theatre in downtown, and is a choreographer showcase set to “fill a summer void for the DFW dance community.” The projects’ philosophy aims to bring together local talent and provide a creative performance opportunity to work with a range of choreographers.
Professional dancers from Texas Ballet Theater, Bruce Wood Dance Project, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Avant Chamber Ballet, Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet, Dallas Black Dance Theatre 2, and Contemporary Ballet Dallas will be sharing their talents and the stage with students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Chapman University, New York University, and Southern Methodist University.
Wanderlust Dance Project is under the Artistic Direction of Addison Holmes and her associate Brian Stevens. Holmes, a local dancer, choreographer and newly appointed Assistant Artistic Director of Contemporary Ballet Dallas, found the motivation to create this new performance opportunity after looking back into her past.
“As a young dancer, I was blessed with the opportunity from my mentors Joyce Seaborne Bader and Lyndette Bader Galen [founders of Texas Ballet Theater’s Dallas Campus] to perform with the professional company. At 15, I began performing in their full-length ballets with the corps de ballet. To rehearse and perform with professional dancers was a life changing opportunity that I never took for granted. I knew that someday I would be able to give this opportunity back to the next generation of dancers.”
That opportunity blossomed into Wanderlust Dance Project. Holmes’ goal is to open up a platform to allow young dancers the chance to perform with professional artists and to learn from professional choreographers in a non-competitive setting—and that won’t cost their parents anything in fees. She began developing and researching how to create and produce a performance like this with her peers Ellenore Scott (currently on Broadway as an assistant choreographer for Andy Blakenbuehler’s revival of Cats) and Brian Stevens (a local choreographer), both of whom are also choreographers for this project. Together, they secured a location, the historic Majestic Theatre in downtown Dallas, selected choreographers, and hosted an audition for more 90 dancers.
“After securing Ellenore and Brian, who also is the show’s Associate Artistic Director, I reached out to my colleague and friend Terrill Mitchell, former principal dancer with Met Dance in Houston, and Kobi Rozenfeld, Israeli born and Los Angeles based pop-artist choreographer. I knew I wanted a variety of styles and backgrounds to offer the dancers, and why not reach out to an extremely talented group of choreographers I am lucky enough to call friends,” Holmes said in describing how the choreographers were selected. “From there, I knew I wanted to complete the show with local DFW artists, so I advertised on social media seeking submissions for choreographers. I kept my philosophy of not charging the artists, so no fee to submit to the festival. We were overwhelmed by the talent that submitted. Our four local choreographers were chosen based upon their unique voice, and the different styles they could bring to the show.”
The dancers were then selected through a rigorous audition process that lasted hours and tested their mental capacity for learning movement quickly and efficiently. “We had over 90 dancers at the audition, so it was a daunting task…we were humbled by the caliber of talent; yet, we were limited financially and stressed by the small amount of professional contracts we could offer. In the end, we followed the choreographers’ wishes as best as we could, and had to make some hard decisions…the pre-professional dancers we chose are incredible, and they dance beautifully with the professionals. Everyone is growing and maturing each rehearsal. It’s a stunning process to watch.”
Wanderlust Dance Project’s mission is unique in and of itself, but doesn’t deviate too far from what a similar festival in Dallas is trying to accomplish, the Dallas DanceFest. In its new iteration, and back for its third year, the Dallas DanceFest’s mission is to “showcase excellence in dance and celebrate the outstanding contributions of distinguished leaders in the field.” But what Wanderlust is adding to the community is an awareness and exposure to choreographers who are new to Dallas and who are (hopefully) pushing the boundaries of concert dance.
“I hope [Wanderlust] brings artists together, and that they realize that they can learn so much from each other. It really is our differences as artists, and ultimately humans, that makes us so beautiful. The would be an incredibly boring place without the beauty of art and the power of community. This is the time to hold on and work with each other, and grown from each other. The world needs it now more than ever,” said Holmes.
Sentiments that were echoed by Stevens, who has worked alongside Holmes for almost seven years as a teacher and dancer. “Personally, I hope [Wanderlust] helps me find a new appreciation for our dance community and concert work. The dance industry is very competitive, so it’s extremely refreshing to join together in this project…and honestly, all I hope that the audience takes away is a sense of happiness, because there are so many hateful and stressful things going on in our lives. I want the audience to relax and enjoy a nigh to dancing and coming together as a dance community.”
So who are the creative minds behind the movement that will be presented? There is Stevens, Scott, Mitchell, and Rozenfield, as well as University of Texas at Austin professor and certified Gaga instructor Amy Morrow and local choreographers David Cross, Krista Langford, and Giovanni Allen. We spoke with some of the choreographers to get an idea of what works they created on our Dallas dancers.
Scott, whose credits also include So You Think You Can Dance?, working for Janet Jackson, and the TV shows Smash and Glee, has created a contemporary ballet duet centered around time. “Playing with tempos and dynamics is one of my favorite things to do as a choreographer. [In this piece] the female character only moves in slow motion, while her male counterpart is in real time…creating a juxtaposition between the two. In the end, due to the relationship and time spent together, the male dance starts to move in slow motion and the female vice versa.”
Further Dance Fort Worth co-founder Krista Langford’s new work was inspired by an Alfred North Whitehead quote: “Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.” The dance explores the never-ending creative process; what it means to have or discover an idea and then do something about it.
Local dance teacher and frequent performer with Pedestrian Dance Movement Giovanni Allen’s piece will explore the grieving process and how we cope with the many feelings that come from losing something or someone in our lives. “The dance is an introspective look of a broken and tattered heart and how we find hope despite our inevitable setbacks.”
Choreographer David Cross wants his work to be “unexpected and enjoyable,” both for himself and the audience. That being said, what he has created is very eclectic. “I'm inspired by just about anything. For example, I’ve been watching lots of baseball lately so that made its way into the piece. My b-boy background also made for more floor work than what is usually seen. The movement is very weighted and relaxed with blends of sharp gestures. It’s also completely ridiculous at times. I also wanted to use this platform to address social issues that I see on a daily basis.”
At the point that we talked with the choreographers, Houston-based Terrill Mitchell, a former principal dancer and current choreographer with Met Dance, was still playing around with his title. “‘With one, but a few,’ it’s a working title, but the idea is to have a duet, trio, and ensemble piece that encompasses the group energy of the dancers with that one entity questioning the community of things. My choreographic style is often aggressive with quick movements. The dancers are going to be stunning!”
They all agree that one of their favorite aspects of Wanderlust has been the opportunity to create something entirely new for themselves and the Dallas dance community. For Scott, it has also been about presenting her work in Texas for the first time. For Langford, it has also been about solving the puzzle of how these different dancers and bodies move together. And Cross, has just loved the whole process, “The idea to bring together all the professional and pre-professional dancers in the DFW area is fantastic. It allows great networking opportunities as well as working alongside fellow dance friends. Also, the fact that it gives paid work to the dancers that are off company contracts during the summer.”
Moreover, added Mitchell, “I truly hope that the audience is left with an expanded view on how different the concert dance world is and how much support it takes to make dancers and choreographers dreams a reality.”