Dallas — Even as the first piece began, I knew that this performance would go down as one of my favorites of the year — and perhaps even of all time. Ballet BC brought all the best aspects of live performance to Dallas audiences for a two-night stay at the Moody Performance Hall, on the TITAS/Unbound series. One of Emily Molnar’s strengths is cultivating an environment that absolutely envelops the audience, while also showcasing an immensely physical, athletic movement quality. More theatrical in their approach to expression, European dancemakers differ with contemporary American artists who embraced the more postmodern, minimalist values at the turn of the century. With a teaching lineage that includes William Forsythe, it’s no wonder that Ballet BC’s Artistic Director Emily Molnar carried these European influences into her own choreography.
The first of only two pieces, BUSK opened with a single man in a suit waving his hands frantically before contorting his body with hard hits along to the musical accents of a Spanish guitar. Hidden between sumptuous body rolls were split seconds of comical pantomime with suggestive innuendoes. Choreographer Aszure Barton brilliantly combined serious, vibratory gestures with hyperbolized facial expressions to create a bewitchingly strange visual — from which it was impossible to look away.
Emotionally rich performances are sometimes hard to stomach for long periods of time — but Barton mastered the art of designing a world that doesn’t take itself too seriously — even amidst the dim lights and solemn sounds.
Even in stillness and minimal movement, the cast commanded unyielding attention. One section featured the dancers clumped together on the floor as they shifted their gaze in synchronized darts — eventually building into a mesmerizing solo of deliberate rebounds and ferocious footwork as a disco ball cast distorting images across the stage.
Sliding along the floor in socks and dark hoodies, the dancers heightened the tense atmosphere with furious exits and entrances — stopping suddenly by snapping their necks into bending swivels. BUSK planted seeds of mystery through gratifying visual-sensorial cohesiveness and whimsical surprises.
Sustaining the pensive atmosphere of the first piece, B.R.I.S.A.’s tactile set included bumpy flooring reminiscent of dirt and hanging wires arranging the stage into grid panels. With downcast heads, dancers entered the stage in rigid shuffles — crossing paths in harsh angles yet managing to avoid contact. Spontaneous duets and small groups erupted in brief, synchronized waves of swirling bodies — establishing a striking contrast between the continuous, gooey movements and the robotic jabs of the skittering dancers.
And, like the first piece, Johan Inger’s choreography also employed playful motifs — namely in its use of props and scenery. Air served as almost an additional cast member when it evolved from a fan, to a hairdryer, to a leaf blower, and even bigger fan. The dancers clamored over these items — basking in their windy wakes with relieved expressions and lazy collapses.
Emulating the aggressive force behind these devices, they engaged in reactionary partner-work — exploring negative and positive spaces with curiosity and confidence. In a seemingly relentless battle between giving-in and pushing against these gusts, the cast dispersed into frantic clusters.
In a well-developed finish, the flurry of movers sulked offstage; leaving one giant fan in the center as it blew straight through the stage and into the audience — leaving us with a visceral memory of their blustery explorations.