Dallas — The Dallas DanceFest Friday program offered exuberant performances but Saturday’s program upped the ante.
It opened with Carter Alexander’s Mozart Piano Concerto (1st Movement Allegro), performed by Chamberlain Performing Arts and featuring two soloists and a corps of 16 in filmy blue dress. While the Balanchine influence was evident in the ever-changing patterns, the soft arms and supple torso recalled Frederick Ashton. The soloists sometimes merge with the corps, and sometimes fan out. The willowy quality of the movement was never more pronounced than when tight rows of dancers broke from the pattern and flew away like a flock of beautiful birds, still in formation.
It is always gratifying to have a new local company appear on stage, and this time it was Chado Danse, most recently located in Kansas City. In Knead Me Whole, a gauzy dark light fills the stage as Alex Karigan Farrior stretches her limbs and Chadi El-Khoury lies a short distance away. Knead Me Whole suggests how dough expands and how two people complete each other, and that is exactly how the dance unfolded. Farrior arches and folds, her long red dress flares as she circles, and eventually El-Khoury rises to lift her again and again. It’s an impassioned dance, ending abruptly with his walking away.
Power surged in Houston MET Dance’s Tidal Intersections set to Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar’s pulsating music. Nine dancers in long split dresses of rust or forest green propel themselves forward with unchecked energy, bodies tilted forward, legs low to the ground. Every once in a while a woman in red whirls through their midst like a tumbleweed, unfettered and unpredictable.
Avant Chamber Ballet scored a coup by staging the world-famous choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Je ne t’aime pas. It was moody and introspective, with Michele Gifford keeping her eyes cast down as Dallas Blagg maneuvered her in incredibly complex ways, lifting her high and sideways, releasing her to the ground, and pulling her back up.
Exactly what Confetti & Razor Blades—performed by Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Repertory II—meant to convey was a mystery. It was loud, raucous and full of zip.
As for Olga Pavlova in Paul Mejia’s Webern Pieces (Selected Movements), what is there to say? Riveting? Sublime? Burning into your soul?
On a dark stage, wearing black leotard and filmy tights, Pavlova stands still as she opens her arms wide and then wraps them around her torso, tilting to the side. She continues this opening, shutting, wrapping for a very long time, while Yevgeni Anfinogenov lies curled up behind. Suddenly, Anfinogenov flops to his side. When he is upright, he maneuvers her so she can stretch out her limbs to the limit—but maneuver is not quite accurate, for he is more a pulley and support, letting her collapse, fold over, and stretch out those long elegant legs and gorgeous feet. She extends her limbs as if she is a human Swiss army knife, and is just as precise in springing them shut. Twice she walks in a square pattern, while Anfinogenov does the same squared-off walk but in the opposite direction. When they meet, they stand far apart, simply looking into each other’s eyes.
Against the dark stage, a light bulb hangs high overhead. Anfinogenov lifts Pavlova—curled up as in an egg—high as the bulb slowly descends, casting a golden glow over her body. The audience was stunned.
High energy came to the fore again with Dr. Kihyoung Choi’s Movers Unlimited performed by Tarrant County College Northeast. Thirteen dancers toss drums about when they are not actually beating them. The dancers are forever rushing back and forth, their long tattered sleeved flapping in the wind.
There was yet more energy in Testament (Excerpts), performed by Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Repertory I and choreographed by Dwight Rhoden. They run, dip and bend, hold long arabesques, and swing women up high.
In the jazzy Blues House, Dylis Croman delivered delightful slyness and style, playing off a patient Tyler Hanes.
And then there was Bruce Wood’s love, b, performed by Bruce Wood Dance Project, set to music by Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen, Roy Noble, and Irving Berlin. “Love and Marriage” took a combative turn as Kimara Wood and Erin Vonder Haar sit far apart, sliding their folding chairs closed and closer until they bang hard against each other. It’s bang! Bang! From then on they clash, pull, push, shove and glower, two people caught up in a full-blown love-and-hate relationship. There is a lovely section involving a single woman and three couples, but for sheer pleasure, it was how Kimi Nikaidoh exudes joy as she glides with silky grace with her partner Harry Feril in “The Very Thought of You.”
Adding yet more luster to the program was Toni Tucci’s atmospheric lighting: soft blue for one dance, menacing dark red for another, black with pools of white light for yet another.
And finally, without Gayle Halperin there would be no Dallas DanceFest. We are in her debt.
» Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.
» Her review of Friday's program is here
» Photos copyright Sharen Bradford of The Dancing Image. Click the slideshow icon in the floating menu at bottom left of your screen to see more images.
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