Dallas — The risks paid off Friday night at Dallas City Performance Hall, where the Bruce Wood Dance Project took a gamble with Kimi Nikaidoh’s Bloom and Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s Klezmer Rodeo, the first poignant and the second wildly off-kilter. As for the opening work, Bruce Wood’s tense No Sea to Sail In, that was a no-brainer.
Fueled by Steve Reich’s driving, minimalist score, No Sea to Sail In surges and calms like the sea. On a dark stage, shafts of dim light isolate Marrory Ketch who stands in perfect fifth position. Others cluster to the side, disperse, stride purposely in different directions and slow to a halt. Eric Coudron peers into the distance, holding imaginary binoculars.
Everyone wears black, and in an imaginative touch, the women wear short black tutus, looking especially odd when a row of women lie prone and the tutus bob up. Except for Emily Drake’s flying leap into Albert Drake’s arms, and Ms. Ketch’s elegant rotation with limbs at an angle, the action is low to the ground, suggesting at time buoys, pulleys and bobbing anchors.
In slow, gradual increments, Bloom moves from ambivalence and distrust to togetherness, from painful loss to healing. Lit by a gauzy wash of muted pearl and with two slanted walls on opposite sides of the stage to enclose dancers, our first view is of two pairs of dancers tugging and pulling a limp body, dragging and yanking it up. As Gabriel Speiller stands with one foot on Brock Henderson’s prone back, Ms. Drake holds a lifeless Néstor Pérez.
To intensify the effect, Shane Pennington’s oddly beautiful video projections feature flying dancers. Against a plain background, a dancer floats upside down; in the next section, mountains of city buildings loom in a murky, foggy, gray mist. Suddenly from nowhere, much smaller images of a throng of dancers tumble and spiral in the air.
On the ground, the mood has changed to tender embraces and high, suspended lifts. Dances form a line and walk back toward the buildings and look up in wonder. Hope has replaced sorrow, and at the end, all but Ms. Drake fly away. Slowly she resumes the walk, her back to us as the light fades, a haunting image that life goes on.
For a dramatic switch in gears, Ms. Skarpetowska’s rough-and-tumble Klezmer Rodeo takes on the boisterous air of a fairground. Set to the equally wild music of the Cracow Klezmer Band, 10 dancers in jeans and skirts catapult in different directions, careen and toss one other in the air.
It could hardly get more unruly, but that it does when Mr. Coudron, Mr. Drake, David Escoto, Mr. Henderson and Mr. Speiller poke, shove, scramble, dive and fling one another skyward in one unending skirmish.
The music calms a bit. Like the men, the women (Joy Bollinger, Ms. Drake, Ms. Ketch, Olivia Rehrman and Austin Sora) bunch up and spin off into swooping solos, but the tone is cordial.
And then it is off to the races: in one exuberant flourish, all ten dancers let loose to spin and run and leap. At the end, the women had the last say: the women walk off, leaving the men stunned and flat on the floor.
» Photos copyright Sharen Bradford of the Dancing Image. To see more photos, click on the slideshow icon in the floating menu at the bottom left on 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.