Dallas — Some givens about Dallas DanceFest: it will be too long, surprises will outnumber disappointments, at least one work will be completely unmemorable and at least one work with be stunning.
On Saturday, we had comedy, we had dark drama, we had sunshine and storms. In no particular order here are some of the highlights.
It’s a toss-up which of two pas de deux was the best: Texas Ballet Theater’s Harlequinade Pas de Deux or SMU Meadows Dance Ensemble’s Comatose.
Harlequinade was a comic delight, as light as cotton candy and as innocent as a flower. Set to the piquant score of Riccardo Drigo, it featured the most charming of Columbines in Alexandra Farber and the most exuberant Harlequin in André Silva. Every gesture, every shy smile, every alarmed look made the brilliant dancing all the more vivid.
Comatose could not be farther away in mood: the lighting dim, the costumes dark and ordinary, the movement not brilliant but smooth. Choreographed and danced by Erik Emerson and Claire Glidewell, they seem mirror images of each other, uncanny in how well they are synchronized. They move along a parallel plane, with Mr. Emerson occasionally tossing, sliding or swinging Ms. Glidewell in one smooth motion. In one telling gesture, all he does is place his hand over her shoulder, their backs to us.
Almost as compelling was yet another pas de deux, Ballet Frontier of Texas’ Lacrymosa, choreographed by Jean Paul Commelin and set to the music of Mozart. Like Ben Stevenson’s Lost and Found in its sorrowful intensity, Larcymosa offers swooning lifts, silky slides to the floor and constant connection between Anastacia Snyder and Chung-Lin Tseng as they move along a diagonal plane.
Then there were works that don’t fit any category: NobleMotion Dance’s Fragment and Ballet Ensemble of Texas’s generation#.
The conceit for Fragment is a camera on a tripod. It faces Evelyn Toh as she sits all curled up, her hands over her face. As she sways, her arms undulating, the camera puts up images on a screen behind her, eventually multiplying the images. She does rise, but can’t go far: the camera is stationary. Choreographers have been using cameras and projections for years, but few have been able to make a work worth watching again. Fragment did not make the grade.
Tammie Reinsch’s generation# was a hoot: masses of dancers mill around in a stupor, making selfies when their eyes aren’t fixed on their smart phones as they text away, completely oblivious to friends a foot away. Then it gets nuttier: six girls in black tights with huge yellow headpieces representing emoji: sad, angry, happy, confused and so on, fan out, bump into one another and regroup, only to have the phone squad invade their terrain. It’s a bit messy and overdone, but clever.
You can count on Dark Circles Contemporary Dance to offer something clever, too, but much more sophisticated and much darker. An eight-minute excerpt of Joshua L. Peugh’s 30-minute-long Big Bad Wolf promises to be quite harrowing. In dark glasses, red pants, black flared frockcoat and a trash bag by his foot, the Big Bad Wolf (Mr. Peugh) has only to stand motionless to stir tension. His prey, men and women in 18th century period costume, are rustling and scurrying about. In white flowing dress and pantalettes, Lena Oren seems the most in danger, as she swirls across the floor in the free and airy style of Margie Gillis or Isadora Duncan.
The message of Danielle Georgiou Dance Company’s Chatter seems to be life is one long struggle. Colby Calhoun spends a lot of time on the ground, wrapping arms around his torso, then embarking on swings and lifts, only to end up collapsing, curled in a heap.
The program included LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s spritely Esmeralda & Friends; Kat Barragan Dance’s dark Martlets; a traditional Indian dance (Jatiswaram) performed by Indique Dance Company; Uno Más’s Swift Impulse; a nicely danced but somewhat torturous With One, but a Few by Wanderlust Dance Project; and a leaping, spinning Southern Recollections: For Romare Bearden by Dallas Black Dance Theatre, where the men were spectacular.
A completely different lineup with 14 dances was performed Sunday afternoon. Look for a review of that performance coming on TheaterJones.
» 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