Plano — Elledanceworks Dance Company, one of Dallas oldest and most traditional of modern dance companies, is saying “farew-elle” this summer with a program full of audiences’ favorites and new works that prove that while the company might be saying goodbye to Dallas as a unified entity, we shouldn’t count them out as influencers of the future of dance.
Founded in 1997 by Ronelle Eddings and Michele Hanlon, they devised a mission to create a place for female dancers to explore works created by female choreographers, and even now, Elle —as it is fondly referred to—is the only all-female modern dance company in Dallas. The company has performed extensively in Texas, has toured to Arizona, and conducted workshops in New Mexico. The company has presented numerous local and out-of-state choreographers and companies with the aim of enriching the experience of live dance, and nearly all the performers with the company are dance education specialists currently, or recently, working in local universities, colleges, and school districts.
And that is where the future of Elle lies: in the power of education. Eddings will be traveling this summer to the National Dance Education Organization’s “Men in Dance” Conference speaking about the need for more dance programs in lower and secondary schools that encourage more men into the field of dance. Hanlon will continue to work with students at the University of Texas at Dallas, where she serves as a Professor of Dance, the Associate Dean for the Arts, and Program Coordinator for the Visual and Performing Arts, as well as other professional artists to create new works of exploratory dance performances.
Both have been working on their individual careers for as long as Elle has been producing work, so it will be interesting to see how their influence will directly impact a new generation. Over the last twenty years, they have trained, taught, and mentored many educators and dancers working in Dallas and Fort Worth today, and we saw some of their influence this past weekend. Eddings is the director of the Creekview High School’s Moving Ground Dance Company and many of her current students performed in restagings of Elle works from 1998 and 2010.
Most notably, a duet, “Like I Said,” that this critic first saw in 2010 on two female dancers, but this iteration finds the work living a new life when performed by young male dancers. Under the keen director of Eddings, Zach August and Michael Steed found a new elevated energy and raw power, making the piece their own. They executed the gestural choreography with astute precision and demonstrated a fine understanding of the classical modern form that underlies all of Edding’s movement language.
Another student group also performed, the Collin Dance Ensemble, which is the performing company at Collin College and is directed by company member Tiffanee Arnold. The Collin dancers joined Elle members for Hanlon’s “Call for Grace.” The lyrical work first premiered in 2003 and was performed again in 2004. Set to an arrangement of “Amazing Grace,” the work is elegant and dramatic; the perfect send-off for the company.
But the new works that were present are not to be looked over. Edding’s “Sacred,” featured dynamic movement that tested the dancers’ ability to suspend and control movement. “Deathfuge,” choreographed by Hanlon for this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, was a durational and subtle work that could be viewed numerous times. The work was richly layered with gestures and a historical narrative that deserves more time and space. The imagery, four dancers bound together with thick rope and moving through sand, calls forward powerful memories, which are supported by a projection by Jillian Round. However, the film was hard to decipher as it was projected against a dark, black ribbed curtain – we recommend sitting in the center section to get the best view.
Similarly, in emotional style, Hanlon’s “In Grieving Windows” is a part of a longer work that examines silence and solitude. Performed by Delanie Bitler, the work was the most post-modern of the evening, and explored more conceptual matters, such as direct and indirect focus, flexibility, body control, and articulation.
“FarewELLE” will run for one more weekend, June 9-10, at the Black Box Theater at Collin College.