Dallas — When it became clear that arts reopenings wouldn’t happen as soon as we thought they would when the pandemic shutdowns started, artists and presenters began the contingency portion of their art-marking plans. For many, not creating art is not an option.
B. Moore Dance had a July performance in AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Elevator Project, The Neglected Heart of Soul: An Ode to Donny Hathaway. But changes had to be made. This weekend, B. Moore Dance makes one of the first performances at the mostly closed AT&T Performing Arts Center since March. The new one-night event, Rooted: Envisage Dance Installations, happens Friday, Sept. 25 on the outdoor stage at ATTPAC’s Strauss Square. Safety protocols, including social distancing, will be in place and masks are required — they are still mandatory in Texas, after all.
We chatted with the company’s founder, Bridget L. Moore, about changing course, rehearsal and creating work for the show. It began, as with many performing arts creators, with strategy sessions and rehearsals via Zoom — the latter is obviously more challenging for dance, which begins with movement work rather than words or notes on a printed page.
TheaterJones: How do you rehearse dance on Zoom?
Bridget L. Moore: Initially I would create phrases and the dancers would learn the phrases. Because we had started working on [the Donny Hathaway piece] prior to the pandemic, we had some on video and we were re-learning material. Without access to space I started to wonder how to put it together. I started to minimize movement so we could fit it in the structure of a solo or a duet.
Were you able to find a physical rehearsal space?
Eventually ATTPAC opened the space for us, and Center for Dance has provided space. Now that we’re in the studio, we want to make sure everyone is safe.
What was behind the switch from The Neglected Heart of Soul to Rooted?
We just felt that it was best to do [Neglected] at a later date. We want to honor the legacy and life of Donny Hathaway; but we want to give it great attention and detail.
So, we decided to go another route and create another project based on choreographic work I’ve created over the span of my career. I transposed those into solos and duets.
Many of them were instrumental in my journey and career as a choreographer, and a lot of them received national and international attention. Just to see them in one program has been eye-opening for me. There is a group work that opens the program, it’s symbolic of being able to come together. But I am mindful of how many people we have on stage. The dancers have been tested.
Are they wearing masks?
For rehearsals, yes. In the dances, some pieces have masks and some do not — depending on the dance.
What were the challenges of transposing your group works for solos and duets?
It’s rare that I create duets or solos; most of my works are group works. The most challenging part for me was trying to ensure that they’re just as dynamic as a larger work is. The music is big, the work is structured and crafted in such a way that you have the same experience as if you were watching a full work. Trying to emulate and transpose that is challenging.
What other changes were made for Rooted?
I decided to work with a cinematographer to provide a contrast and a background for the work, and I think that has complemented the dance. I would never have done that before.
Tell me about the film footage?
I took the dancers to site-specific places for work. That wasn’t my original idea. Working spontaneously is very different for me, because I like to have things in place; I’m very structured in terms of how I put things together. It provides a new dynamic when you can come up with new work on the fly.
What locations did you use?
We used Turtle Creek park; and Dragon park [in Oak Lawn] — there are huge statues of dragons and creatures; and on the bridge that crosses from Oak Cliff into downtown Dallas [the Jefferson Boulevard Viaduct] — there’s not a lot of traffic on that bridge, for whatever reason.
How many dances are in Rooted?
There are 15 works. One of the works I set the work on the students at Booker T. Washington [High School for the Performing and Visual Arts] prior to the pandemic. They were going into performance the week of the shutdowns and didn’t get to perform the work. I took that work, called Blood Diamond, and made it into a solo. [That piece was also performed in March for the TITAS/Unbound Festival Preview.]
As an artist in an artform known for physical contact among its performers, how is the pandemic affecting you? We know a lot about the virus, but there’s still a lot that we don’t know — and we still don’t know when performance can return to full capacity in our usual spaces.
I’m very conscious of my interactions and my surroundings and how I’m engaging, and how I’m choosing to use my craft in what I do on a daily basis. As challenging as it is right now, and the uncertainty of if things will really reopen, I’m just trying to stay positive and continue to do what I’ve always done. We are artists, and we’re one of the most resilient people on this earth. Collectively, there are other ways to present work, it doesn’t always have to be in a theater, even though we want to be in one. I have full faith we’ll get to a new normal. I’m very adaptable; this is just where we are, and we just have to go with what’s happening.
Rooted: Envisage Dance Installations
8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25
AT&T Performing Arts Center
2389 Flora Street, Dallas