Richardson — In highly populated areas like North Texas, finding reliable, professional dance instruction can be a challenge—simply because of the never-ending list of options. I admire programs that focus on both classical and contemporary techniques while also emphasizing performance training through the establishment of pre-professional companies. From my experience at their presentation of Focal Pointe, Chamberlain Performing Arts (formerly known as Chamberlain Ballet) meet each of these requirements. Through nine works from both faculty and guest artists, the pre-professional company displayed the bright beginnings of these young dancers and established choreographers.
Katie Martin’s Green Valley provided a promising opening to the night. Dancers in flowy dresses scooped their arms and unfolded their bodies with a gentle quality. They exuded confidence and strength through intense focus and sharp diagonal lines. Uplifting and hopeful, Martin’s work showed her expertise in bringing out the best qualities in her dancers.
Gardens of Aranjuez offered Chamberlain Performing Art’s Junior Company a chance to perform. Another of Martin’s pieces, the choreography featured clean turns, soft wrists, and cheerful facial expressions. Accompanied by plucky Spanish guitar sounds, the ballerinas pricked the floor with buoyant steps.
Moving out of classical ballet and into modern techniques, One Fell Swoop invited a serious tone through the straight, rigid lines of the dancers. As sounds of an old record player played in the background, dancers pushed, pulled, and fell with weighted manipulations. Set on the company by Emily Bernet and Taylor Rodman of Bombshell Dance Project, the piece embodied the choreographers’ unique movement ideas by contrasting robotic, repetitive gestures with a rather upbeat musical accompaniment. These inventive gestures were the highlight of the piece and reflected Bombshell Dance Project’s quirky style. With more rehearsal and tighter execution, the work has the potential to push the dancers into more mature movement expressions.
Guest artists from Texas Ballet Theater graced the stage in their cheeky rendition of Esmeralda. As always, Samantha Pille performed the pas de deux with a whimsical, mischievous dynamic. Partnered with Jiyan Dai, Pile captured her wild yet precise characterization of Esmeralda in exquisite balances and flashy turns. In contrast, Dai provided solid support and a softer quality to counter his partner’s boisterous nature.
Post-intermission, the Senior Company returned to the space for a lovely presentation of Lady Soubrette. Pink romantic tutus flooded the stage as dancers swirled in and out of weaving formations, producing a lush, enchanting visual. Smooth upper body lines and fluid transitions brought an elegant quality to the work. More enthusiasm in the solo sections would have created an even dreamier atmosphere.
In their last duet of the evening, Pille and Dai performed the stunning End of Time. A dramatic shift from her previous role, Pille’s sweeping drags and weightless lifts emitted a controlled fatigue. Once again, their effortless partnering displayed complimentary dynamics through melty bends, elongated holds, and gliding lifts that barely left the floor. Beautifully performed, the duet was both captivating and technically impressive.
The Last Breath furthered the velvety atmosphere of the previous piece as Chamberlain Performing Arts entered with circling arms and twirling jumps. Choreographer Amit Katz matched the tense cello sounds of her musical accompaniment in the angsty face swipes of her dancers. However, just as the viewers entered into Katz’s carefully curated world, the piece ended with an abrupt fall. The work deserved an more developed conclusion.
Scanning the program again, I was excited to see a restaging of guest choreographer Brandi Coleman’s What We Do With Time. I’d previously seen the work at last year’s Dallas Dances event and had included this performance in my list of Top Dances of 2018. With that said, expectations were high. And, to my delight, the talented students recreated Coleman’s work with surprising maturity and skillful characterizing. Dependent on theatrical gestures and dramatic dynamic changes, the piece embodied jazzy, musical theatre themes with sprinkles of comedic moments. I was truly impressed with the company’s ability to embrace Coleman’s heavy stylistic movements while also revealing their own personalities.
Choreographer Lisa Hess Jones’ Veni Emmanuel returned to the uplifted atmosphere of the opening piece—bringing us full circle in the conclusion of the production. Dressed in sheer white skirts, the dancers waved their arms in ebb-and-flow patterns while they twirled to the angelic lullaby sounds. In a tight clump, they swayed softly before pushing their arms through the space with circular motions.