Plano — Heart and Soul Dance Festival returned for its third year to the Courtyard Theatre in Plano. Hosted by 8&1 Dance Company and produced by its artistic director Jill S. Rucci, the annual benefit began as a desire to make a difference after a heartbreaking event in North Texas. Each concert’s proceeds go towards a different local charity, with Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center as the 2018 beneficiary.
Sixteen pieces plus a finale featuring all involved dancers leaned mostly to the contemporary side, with the vast majority using lyrical music. Each work featured a message of perseverance, hope, and/or joy. Since Dallas Dances occurred just a few weeks prior, three companies reprised pieces from earlier this month—8&1’s Waters of Emotion III & IV, Ballet Dallas’ Fortissimo, and impulse Dance Project’s excerpt of The Final Piece.
The host company had only two pieces, and independent choreographers Gina Sawyer and Baylee Lokey presented, as well. The performance involved quite a few youth dancers from studios such as Rowlett Dance Academy, Dance Company of Wylie, and Crandall’s Centerstage Dance Studio, plus a tap duet from Choreo Records. Audiences got a taste of rising talent, and the young dancers had the opportunity to share the stage with established and up-and-coming professional companies.
The newest troupe of the program, Urban Performing Company led by Stephen McMaryion, showed promise with a hip hop-inspired piece titled Trapped. The ten dancers’ commitment and passionate fulfillment of the choreography only heighten his use of timing dynamics. Judging from this strong crop of performers and McMaryion’s previous professional experience, they’re one to keep on the radar in the years to come.
Another group to look out for is Zion Dance Project, who delivered the most powerful work of the evening, Promised Land. Choreographer Vincent Hardy has a varied professional background that includes higher education, commercial dance, and some time with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, so his stage presence packed quite a punch. His use of space and ensemble work, combined with a clear narrative allowed his entire cast to shine with a combination of modern and African-inspired vocabulary.
6 o’Clock Dance Theatre proved that they’re not stuck in the contemporary ballet corner. After an impressive showing at Dallas Dances, they stunned once again with In the Mind of Athena, choreographed by artistic director Zach Law Ingram. His time with Ailey II and tours of The Lion King showed through with this earthy, Afro-modern piece that still contained complex technical maneuvers.
Even with a large number of dances on the bill, the evening ran smoothly, clocking in at about an hour-and-a-half. With the concert’s focus on supporting local causes and the platform it creates for new and veteran talent, the festival’s aim of unity through dance will surely continue to inspire.