Addison — 6 O’Clock Dance Theatre continues to build momentum with their second evening-length concert Glance Back, Fall Forward, presented at Addison Conference and Theatre Centre on March 30. Seven works featuring various forms of contemporary dance and a range of moods and energies culminate in a cohesive production with quite a few eye-popping moments.
Opening the evening is a repeat of their successful presentation of Ingram’s Brush to Canvas in 2018’s Dallas Dances. Even with a more intimate performance space, it looks just as stunning. The dancers’ consistent performance qualities make the work’s dynamic vocabulary appear even more fierce.
A somber duet with Ingram and newcomer Mai Uesaka slows down the energy in Awakening. Uesaka’s breathtaking use of suspension and elegant lines prove that she’s a welcome addition to the Dallas dance scene and one to watch in the coming years.
Ingram’s world premiere of the evening In the Mind of Athena expands on the exciting excerpt they presented at the Heart and Soul Festival last year. Set in four parts with music that consistently holds a sense of urgency regardless of tempo, it exudes a sense of boldness, defiance, and ferocious power. Clad in black, shift-style dresses, the dancers execute contemporary vocabulary that veers towards the jazzy spectrum for the first trio. In the second part, Katricia Eaglin fills the space for a suspensive solo. Even though the swelling music (not listed in the program) could easily drown out a lone dancer on stage, she holds her own with intense gazes and compelling movement dynamics.
A quick-moving quartet continues the energy build, conveying a sense of competition. Body percussion and precise gestural phrases add a new movement dimension, and their expressions display the intensity of wild felines. Strong shapes with smooth transitions heighten the passion for the final exhilarating segment with the full company.
The mood flips after intermission with Sophie Morass’ One More Time, With Feeling. Dancers wearing navy velour dresses and beaming smiles skip and skim across the stage, while acting out backstage routines like fixing costumes, hair, and makeup. Cutesy but still classy, a bit vaudevillian with an underlying elegance, it uplifts and entertains with changing energies. Laura Pearson’s luxurious solo provides a softer moment before the big finish.
Guest choreographer Claude Alexander III’s pensive Certitude offers a vastly different essence than Morass’ cheery dance and Ingram’s powerful pieces. Quite a few elements make it work, most notably, the pictures he creates with dancer placement and timing. He often combines a quick-paced solo with a smaller, slower ensemble and additional dancers in stillness. Against quiet strings, the performers find a calmer quality in movement that’s a bit more free-flowing than what they’d done previously. His use of timing dynamics is thoughtful, rather than arbitrarily changing the movement tempo, and Sarah Cat especially shines in her solo.
Overall, though, it needs a little more time to simmer. With a little more precision in timing and a bit more attention to clarity in gesture, focus, and transitions, the work will sing. It’s definitely one to keep in the repertoire.
After a promising solo from up-and-coming dancer Kaleb Smith, the company ends with Elements. Donning black leggings and shimmering sleeveless shirts of varying colors, the dancers enter with a hunched-over prance, setting the tone for earthy vocabulary with fierceness we now expect from Ingram’s choreography. Timing falters a bit throughout, but the work’s strength lies in its expansive shapes, intriguing arm patterns, and use of thrilling suspense. Overall, it seems too short, as the choreographic material allows for more creative opportunities and possibilities than what’s present. Perhaps we’ll just have to be patient as we wait for more.
Artistic director and co-founder Zach Law Ingram strikes a successful balance with his company and its philosophy. Highly skilled performers boast impressive training and performance resumes, and even though Ingram’s focus is a strong technical foundation, his choreography brings out something special in his dancers. Pearson, especially, seems to find a greater sense of freedom, risk, and nuance in this company.
The company’s name comes from their vision of bringing diverse professionals together to dance after the typical workday. As executive director Marielle McGregor says, “From nine to five, we work our jobs. At six o’clock, we come together to dance.” Whatever is going on at that magical evening hour, it’s working. Keep it up.