Addison — In my review of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance’s Winter Series earlier this year, I predicted that this company was headed for great things in 2019. I wasn’t wrong. Just a few months later, DCCD continued to push the boundaries of contemporary dance in their Spring Series at the Addison Theatre Centre. This particular production welcomed guest artists Sidra Bell and Tejas Dance for a spectacular evening of creatively compelling choreography and thought provoking themes. Composed of two works, the series showcased two contrasting sides to DCCD that both focused on exploring relationships.
Known for her innovative movement research and unique choreographic approach, Sidra Bell exceeded expectations in her two-part work on DCCD: nervosa. A study of relationship, Bell focused on the “nervous system and how it affects the way a person feels or moves.” These concepts of feeling and tactile stimulation emerged in the manipulation of body parts by the dancers in black and gray bodytards—creating a sense of dependency. Contorted arches, sudden breakdowns, and abrupt holds complimented the ominous musical accompaniment in section one: making you. Despite the themes of manipulation and relationship, the dancers scanned the space with indirect focus that hinted at detachment and indifference—a striking contrast to the frequency of physical contact. Whistling sounds and buzzing whispers heightened the tension while the dancers transitioned from slinky, gliding steps into twitching upper bodies and shaking windmill arms. Almost no stillness occurred in the first half, causing the audience to constantly scan the stage—similar to the way the dancers fluttered their gaze from corner to corner.
Section two, making me, offered more instances of distorted movement with a renewed sense of intimacy—in both the choreography and the costuming. In slow, calculated walks from the back of the audience, Shelly Cochrane passed through the audience in a sheer nude unitard with only a thong underneath. She then faced the audience and engaged in the scanning motif—confronting her viewers head-on. Bell gradually stripped down her dancers until a line of topless figures entered stage left as Nicholas Heffelefinger popped and bounced—seemingly unaware of the cast around him. In one of the more powerful visuals of the work, this line of almost naked movers ventured into the space one by one, spiraling their arms and floating their lower bodies back and forth. Their vulnerable nature joined forces with tactile sensations in a mesmerizing duet between Eric Lobenburg and Victoria Daylor—which honestly felt too short. Their rise and fall momentum evoked a tender tone, yet the aggressive throws, carries, and partnering highlighted their physicality—especially because of the skin-to-skin contact. In nervosa, Bell captured a raw sense of feeling through her organic choreography and the vulnerable yet trusting state of her dancer’s bodies. My only disappointment was the abruptness of the ending.
In collaborating with Tejas Dance’s Chintan Patel and Bhuvana Ventatraman, Dialogue presented a different approach to relationships. One of the leading Bharatanatyam companies in the DFW area, Tejas Dance fuses classical Indian techniques with contemporary themes and styles—bridging old and new worlds. These values clearly surfaced in the collaborative work between the two companies. Throughout the piece, angled elbows, deep pliés, and hand gestures combined with mudras showed traditional Indian motifs in the midst of contemporary jumps and turns. At first, the DCCD dancers embodied a jazzy style of three-step turns and group spatial patterns while Ventatraman and Patel crossed the stage in sharp, rigid poses and traditional sarees. The groups were interwoven but distinctly separate—showing more complimentary phrases than integrated movement. Through this back and forth dynamic, the dialogue was born. In Patel’s duet with Daylor, the two used the negative space to move in, through, and around their partner’s shapes as a way to build rapport and comradery. Tejas Dance’s precise, articulate holds balanced the circular fluidity of DCCD’s choreography. Although the visuals invited a calm, satisfying atmosphere to the space, I questioned the success of the varied music choices. From nature sounds, to jazzy brass, to Gregorian chants, to an upbeat piano score, the auditory accompaniment felt a bit chaotic. I was relieved in the end when the nature sounds returned and cast a serene spell upon the space. Speaking of the ending, it captured the beauty of difference, similarities, and togetherness as both companies circled the stage in meticulous hand gesture walks. Their phrase continued for several passes around the circle—the perfect amount of time to settle into comfortable, cohesive closure.