Fort Worth — Ballet Frontier gave another strong season opener with Director’s Choice, presented at the W.E. Scott Theatre in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center on Sept. 10. Artistic Director Chung-Lin Tseng enlisted a host of guest artists to bolster the quality and variety of the performance, but his young dancers stood quite nicely on their own.
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Tseng’s mentor Roy Tobias, the company danced Mozart K. 379, one of Tobias’ more beloved pieces. Because the late choreographer had such a profound impact on the directors of BF, his neo-classical works appear in almost every mixed repertoire concert, so audiences are used to seeing his influence. This one, however, was more enjoyable than most, thanks to more varied choreography.
A strong men’s cast (including Tseng himself) ably partnered five ladies through multiple sections of pas de deux. While much of the beginning choreography was simple and quaint, stellar performance qualities brought a refreshing lightness to the opening. Guest dancers Carly Hammond and Dan Westfield created the best moments, but all couples delivered impressive moments throughout.
First guest company of the night was DBDT: Encore! (formerly Dallas Black Dance Theatre II), with Richard Freeman-Carter’s stunning Unsettled Thoughts. The company premiered the work at its Spring Fiesta concert in April, and a second viewing was no less spectacular. Red fabric, crimson costumes, and alluring light design by Milton Tatum, Jr. combined with brilliant choreography, breathtaking lines and an emotional score to bring the struggle between heart and mind to life.
Guest dancer Aldrin Vendt (a former dancer with Ballet Ensemble of Texas and current ballet major at TCU) showed his versatility during two works of the evening. After displaying his technical skills in the first piece, he showed off his contemporary chops with fellow DanceTCU performer Kirsten Reynolds in Caroline Morales’ Seeking Ground. Minimal music, stark costumes, and a lack of emotion made for a less exciting dance than the others, but the dancers’ strong execution and precision were admirable.
The younger dancers of the company got their chance on stage after intermission with Jay Kim’s Remembrance, a work that proved Kim needs to be here to stay. His beautiful mixture of classical ballet and modern allowed the budding professionals a unique chance to hone their technical skills while developing a sense of artistry through more contemporary movement.
Last year, the group delivered the best performance I had seen from the younger dancers, and they didn’t disappoint this time around. The Mozart choral music haf a potential to overpower the dancers, but strong shapes and a remarkable attention to precision and timing kept that from happening. They attacked the work with gusto and fierceness. Nicely done, ladies.
The only odd work on the bill came from a company known for its quirkiness: Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Founder and artistic director Joshua L. Peugh has a distinct aesthetic, yet his works can be quite varied. Of everything in his repertory, though, Coyotes Tip-Toe seems a perplexing choice for this concert. But that’s probably the point.
Emily Bernet and Taylor Rodman donned baggy tan shirts, black leggings, and loose black skirts for somewhat of an androgynous look. At times, movements were floppy, but then sharpened to create more of a balletic air. Random intimate moments kind of suggested a romance, but the intention was so vague, it became difficult to discern the relationship between the dancers. Add in some humorous howling at the end (which gave a bit of meaning to the title and garnered some chuckles), and the dance becamee a mish-mash of disparate elements meant to confuse. Interesting? Oh, yes. Other Peugh works are better, though.
Tseng’s Variations on a Rococo Theme (a 2012 work inspired by Tobias) closed the evening. With a heavy Balanchine influence in movements and costuming, the dancers maintained a playfully sweet mood throughout. Anastacia Snyder grows more effortless in her movements each year, and Caylee Diggs has improved on her footwork. Guests Mason Anders, Kenta Taniguchi, and Libby Kroeger brightened up the stage as well.
Overall, it was another solid start for Ballet Frontier of Texas. Let’s hope the momentum keeps up.