Whatever magic Lillian Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett are stirring up in Los Angeles, it’s working. The artistic directors and co-founders of BodyTraffic have concocted the perfect recipe for a concert dance company that not only thrives in the commercial hubbub of our nation’s second largest city but has raced to the top of the global dance community’s must-see list in a short amount of time. Their second appearance in Dallas at the Moody Performance Hall presented by TITAS/Dance Unbound on Oct. 25, proved why.
They opened the evening with a heavy dose of theatricality, an element that set them apart from other dance troupes with their 2016 Dallas debut. (d)elusive minds by Fernando Hernando Magadan navigated the invisible and blurring lines between reality and fantasy, inspired by the true story of a schizophrenic. Berkett and Guzmán Rosado went from acting out scenes and vignettes from radio and television recordings to dancing a tense duet against classical music. Piles of papers, a chair, and a suspended window contributed to the uneasy feeling of life not being quite right.
Micaela Taylor’s Snap takes the music of James Brown and melds in original music by SCHOCKE, almost sounding like a deconstruction of the King of Soul. It’s funky and bright at the start, with effortless turns that ended in isolations and popping. Reality morphed into something otherworldly as the lighting and music shifted, and the vocabulary found a nice balance between contemporary modern and an afro-modern/hip hop mix. The dancers exhibited an incredibly precise sense of timing and musicality, even when the soundtrack strayed from typical melodic and rhythmic structures. Their athleticism combined with swift and precise execution proved why they’ve achieved their status as a highly sought-after company.
If the first half wasn’t enough to stun audience members, then the second definitely got them on their feet. Resolve, choreographed by the genre-bending group Wewolf, consisted mostly of a liquid style of hip hop with some unique athletics and contemporary maneuvers. All eyes were glued to Rosado and Joseph Davis for this mind-blowing, articulate duet set against a thrumming electronic beat.
To close out the evening, Matthew Neenan’s A Million Voices brought a distinct balletic tone with the music of Peggy Lee. While theatrics and the free-flowing nature of hip-hop and its contemporary variations require certain skills, this highly technical work demands a completely different set of abilities. The dancers attacked this one with the same style, determination, and excellence as the other three pieces. Voices has its quirks and some of the same sassiness found in the second piece, but overall it contained more virtuosic movement and precise shapes. It’s perhaps the closest piece to the usual contemporary modern style seen in many TITAS companies, and its humor, positivity, and joyous mood ended the already stunning evening on a high note.
Stylistic diversity was the most remarkable quality of the evening, and while many contemporary companies can boast a range of styles in their repertoire, this company comes the closest to achieving the largest. Just about every concert dance genre was represented throughout the evening, with the exception of tap, although one could argue that some of the percussive movement in Snap would qualify.
I said this at the end of 2016, and it’s still true now. As the dance world navigates the future of contemporary, BodyTraffic leads the way.