Dallas — Powerhouse company Dallas Black Dance Theatre and special guest Dark Circles Contemporary Dance came together to produce a show filled with surprises, comedic elements, and stunning technique in Spring Celebration. With three world premieres, excitement saturated the Wyly Theatre and bled onto the stage as dancers embraced this challenge and opportunity.
The first world premiere of the night was Ray Mercer’s Undeviated Passage. A spotlight fell on three men in black pants covering their mouths with one hand before diving into a progression of fast-paced turns, falls, and undulations—all while remaining inside the circle of light. The rest of the 12-person cast entered the stage for the second movement involving partnering and quick lifts. Throughout these first two sections, I was left wanting more—more dedication from the performers, more togetherness in unison sections, and more cohesion amongst the cast. However, as two women sat on a bench in the downstage right corner to begin the third movement, I immediately became entranced. Their duet finally recognized the intimacy the piece craved, while showcasing their spectacular technical abilities. Quirky details like a heel wobble with hangman arms reappeared, just to be quickly dismissed by swirling turns and controlled falls. The remaining sections harnessed the energy from this duet and ended as a more connected unit.
Under the artistic direction of Joshua Peugh, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance premiered Rattletrap. A twangy soundtrack led two dancers in a casual slow dance. The movers rocked from one foot to the next as the woman kept a hand over her partner’s eyes. Two other couples swayed into the space, with every woman covering the eyes of her partner. Despite the symbolization of hiding or covering, the couples managed to touch one another with tight embraces, gentle finger drags, and skin to skin contact—leading to the development of intimacy and desire. As the piece progressed, the men added pelvic thrusts and grinding motions to their repertoire and the women negotiated these advances by pushing or pulling away and continuing to cover both their partner’s and their own body parts. Culminating into a series of sensual grabs, rolls, and hugs; the tension between the couples eventually exploded as the blackout fell. The gooey, juicy movement quality combined with the innuendos and comedic insertions provided a dreamy, yet complicated look at blooming desire.
DBDT’s Spring Celebration would be incomplete without a revival of Ulysses Dove’s Vespers. Sierra N. Jones and Hana Delong’s duet in the first movement set the stage for an intense, sacred, and awestruck tone. The dancers maintained a tense rigidity throughout their bodies that allowed them to jolt to and from a single chair in sharp diagonal lines. Visually stunning, the second movement began with six chairs in perfect alignment, waiting to be occupied by six women clothed in black dresses. The unyielding stress throughout their bodies allowed the dancers to leap from their seats at any given moment. In Vespers, the waiting/sitting was just as valuable as the fierce, slicing movement phrases. In between bursts of inspiration, the women sat upright; waiting and listening. Their dedication to the tension of every muscle in stillness was perhaps the most impressive element within the piece.
Company member Claude Alexander III closed the show with his DBDT choreographic debut: Face what’s facing you! Three horizontal lines of dancers in white tops and red bottoms cast a new, electric energy across the stage. Wasting no time, the dancers burst into jumps, 180-degree extensions, and multiple turns. In addition to the technical challenge of the piece, the movers also conquered the theme of control versus chaos/loss of control. A complicated series of turns would suddenly end in jerky, twitchy reaches, then shift back into perfect balances and lengthy leaps. The pounding, percussive beat of the music propelled the dancers until silence hit the theater and they proceeded in unison through a pattern of snaps and breath cues.
Action-packed, Spring Celebration filled the evening with dynamic performances and captivating choreographic choices. Both DBDT and DCCD delivered an impressive collection of movement—and stillness.