Dallas — Cut out the Master of Ceremonies, the less-that-scintillating dances that go on too long, and move the North Texas Dance Council’s awards ceremony back to Sunday. Streamline and you might have a great Dallas DanceFest again.
As it was, Saturday’s show at Dallas City Performance Hall dragged on. There were rewards, however, the greatest being one sensational piece: Southern Methodist University Meadows Dance Ensemble’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow. It has the unrelenting drive of Greek tragedy, but it’s clearly about Macbeth (hence the title). It begins intense and grows from there.
What is most remarkable about Tomorrow and Tomorrow is that it was choreographed by recent SMU graduate Alexander Druzbanski. Druzbanski also danced the lead role, and in true Greek tragedy style, things do not go well.
Set to emotionally charged music by Polish composer Wojciech Kilar (Dracula, The Pianist), Tomorrow and Tomorrow starts in silence, shafts of light barely illuminating several figures. Druzbanski makes a powerful, tormented Macbeth, flailing his arms or swooping in big arches, gentle at one moment with Lady Macbeth (Hope Endrenyi) and fierce at another. The tension builds to a grand climax as the three furies/witches swarm in from all sides, long hair let loose, red scarfs billowing. They hone in on the desperate couple, who die in a heap. The story is told in only the broadest of outlines, making it all the more harrowing.
While nothing could quite match Tomorrow and Tomorrow for drama, it wasn’t the only great work. In Texas Ballet Theater’s hauntingly beautiful Cathedral, Alexander Kotelenets lifts Allisyn Hsieh Caro again and again, higher and higher, seamlessly and effortlessly, capturing the grandeur and pathos of John Rutter’s requiem.
New York-based Shauna Davis Dance’s Air & Lack Thereof is a mesmerizing study in repetition and structure, of isolation and robotic simplicity. On a dark stage, Ms. David and Summer Myatt lie on their backs, legs shooting upward, and gradually let them fall sideways. They rise and move in a calm, unhurried manner, ending with legs up again, and dramatically, let them fall sideways. (Ms. Davis is also a recent SMU graduate.)
In Shurrell Wiebe’s ballet called simply Red, 14-year-old Evelyn Robinson emerges enclosed in an enormous flowing red sheet. She twists around in it, but soon drops it to the floor, free to move as fluidly as the abandoned cloth. She fills space as though propelled by Audiomachine’s surging music.
A few works were less successful. In Marionette for Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, 15 dancers filled the stage with a lot of action but not much purpose, moving like puppets or robots. Ballet Concerto’s version of August Bournonville’s playful Flower Festival in Genzano (1859) lacked the airy buoyancy that characterizes the Bournonville style, although Shea Johnson would bound up and land softly, his arms low and curved. Texas Ballet Theater’s 3 Lads was not much more than a good-natured competition between Drake Humphreys, André Silva and Joamanuel Velazquez with the expected pushing, shoving and one-upmanship. (Ben Stevenson’s Cathedral and 3 Lads were both inspired by the DMA’s Jackson Pollock exhibit.)
The program also included a jaunty Country Blues by DBDT: Encore, set to the music of Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Eva Cassidy; a brilliantly clad Manogna Nuthi stamping in wide plié in a classical Indian dance; and 15-year old Carly Greene’s spirited interpretation of a variation from Don Quixote.
Three works were repeats from Friday night: NobleMotion Dance’s quietly, on my father’s back; Bruce Wood Dance Project’s Anything Goes; and Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s Furtherance.
Ending the program on a happy note, Miami City Ballet principals Jennifer Lauren and Kleber Rebello performed the pas de deux from Balanchine’s Stars & Stripes with fire-crackle exuberance. Alas, a good third of the audience missed out, having left long before.
» 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.
» Photos by Sharen Bradford of The Dancing Image