When Gayle Halperin comes up with an idea that could benefit the Dallas dance scene, it is full steam ahead, regardless of the budgetary and timeline pressures associated with producing a large event such as the new Dallas DanceFest, or the personal challenges that can arise from continuing the legacy of the Bruce Wood Dance Project after the passing of choreographer Bruce Wood last May. While Halperin is quick to credit her “village of supporters, patrons and passionate dance lovers, it is clear that she is nonetheless an invaluable part of the local dance community, with her arts organization knowledge, list of contacts and passion for the dance art form.
Halperin’s intuitive sense of the community’s needs are why so many of the programs she has championed over the last couple of years have met with such success. “Looking back, my first project was Dance Planet and expanding exposure of dance at the community level—bringing all styles together at one venue. Then TITAS made living in Dallas manageable for me by bringing in nationally and internationally acclaimed dance companies. Then, I kept taking on more and more roles at the Dance Council of North Texas.”
Most recently Halperin steered the committee within The Dance Council of North Texas to create the Dallas DanceFest that took place in August at the Dallas City Performance Hall. With the number of artists living and working in the area growing and the exquisite Arts District at their disposal, Halperin saw a unique opportunity and pounced on it. “I was blown away and overwhelmed with the whole event. Each day was an amazing experience—shows had such a great variety of high caliber dance—all the dance companies were at the top of their game. Each show was inspiring and as excellent as the one before. The audiences embraced the variety and were enthusiastic.”
Halperin also has close ties with the Bruce Wood Dance Project (BWDP) since it was she who approached Wood about restarting the group and moving it to Dallas in 2011. After Wood died unexpectedly in May, some in the arts community questioned whether the company could sustain itself. Thanks to Halperin’s and the other board members’ quick thinking the BWDP’s September performance went on as planned. “I was following my instinct. He taught me so much about courage, drive, passion, responsibility, work, and more. I could feel it in my bones that B. would want us to keep going. It's been not easy going forward without him. Not easy at all. But as artists we know how to be flexible, how to problem solve, and so we continue. Bruce lives on through his choreography, aesthetic, teaching, and dancers. Continuing onward is the best way to celebrate his life.”
Halperin’s ultimate legacy may be succeeding in her goal of making Dallas a “dance destination” in the same vein as New York, Los Angeles, Miami or Chicago. The development of new local performance opportunities, and paying jobs, through projects and events such as those Halperin has helped spearhead are going a long way in helping artists make Dallas home rather than just another stop on a performance tour.
The 2015 Dallas DanceFest is scheduled for Sept. 4-6, 2015 (check the website for info about submitting an application); and the Bruce Wood Dance Project is rehearsing for its next performance at Dallas City Performance Hall. Also, a photography exhibit chronicling Bruce Wood and his work runs Jan. 10-Feb. 15 at the Arlington Museum of Art.
Editor's Note: In our first ever Forward Thinkers series, we look at the people who made the performing arts more engaging in 2014—and are setting the stage for the future. We'll run profiles through the first few months of 2015.