Review: Focal Pointe | Chamberlain Performing Arts | Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts

Point of Focus

Chamberlain Performing Arts brings in Bruce Wood Dance Project for an evening of the pretty and poetic at the Eisemann Center.

published Saturday, April 16, 2016

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Bruce Wood Dance Project performs Echoes of Enchantment


Richardson — On Saturday, April 9 at the Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts in Richardson, Chamberlain Performing Arts went in for pretty; Bruce Wood Dance Project offered poetry. It is not that the two did not overlap, but the emphasis differed.

Called Focal Pointe, the program opened with Chamberlain Performing Arts performing Balanchine’s sunny Valse Fantaisie. Set to Mikhail Glinka’s jaunty music by the same name, the ballet is all leaps and dashes: four girls in long peach tutus dash in and out, heads thrown back, seeming to be borne by the wind. Into their ranks, two others fly, barely slowing down long enough for Luke Yee to catch Bethany Greenho in midair, spin her sideways, and release her to dart off in the other direction. Left alone only briefly, 16-year-old Yee bounds back and forth, covering the stage with impressive leaps.

For the length of the ballet, no one stays put for more than a nanosecond. It’s fast, breezy, and full of brio. After one last flurry, the four spin off and Ms. Greenho and Mr. Yee leap away in opposite directions.

Guest artists Bruce Wood Dance Project performed two works not seen for a long time:  Mr. Wood’s 1999 Echoes of Enchantment and his 2004 No Sea to Sail. They were both haunting and mysterious in different ways and, typical of Mr. Wood’s aesthetic, elliptical.

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Chamberlain Performing Arts performs Valse Fantaisie

Echoes of Enchantment brings together three couples in daffodil yellow who bound and spin and turn like the ever-churning sea, with the women tossed and lifted like the undulation of waves. Into their midst, two mysterious figures dressed entirely in black emerge:  first a woman in floor-length dress holding an umbrella, slowly making her way from one side of the stage to the other, and second, a man in bowler hat clutching a bouquet of flowers. They come and go, each time changing their entrance only a little: the women dropping the umbrella, the man holding the bouquet at a different angle. The slow, dream-like appearance of the dark figures only makes more poignant the halcyon days of the youths, so carefree and innocent.

No Sea to Sail is darker and richer than Echoes, more complex and unsettling. The backdrop is as black as the sea, the light dim, and when dancers emerge they are wearing black tutus or black pants and shirts. The atmosphere is ominous, made more so by Steve Reich’s minimalist music. Soloists come and go, and to the side, groups cluster as they scan the horizon with imaginary binoculars. What are they looking for?

Even together, they look unconnected, oblivious and distracted. When they scatter apart, shafts of dim vertical isolate each dancer. Their movement is quirky, with abrupt stops and thrusts, and the sense that the hinges that hold their bodies together have suddenly been jerked apart.

Ending the program on a festive note, August Bournonville’s 1842 Napoli gave a huge cast of Chamberlain Performing Arts Senior and Junior Company members a chance to shine. Recreated in the style of the Danish choreographer, Carter Alexander staged parts of the first and third acts of the ballet, giving only the slightest hint of the story about a couple facing great odds only to wed at the end.

Even so, we get the gist of what transpires: everyone in Napoli’s fishing village is bursting with zest for life. Unlike the hierarchical structure and geometric patterns of Petipa and Balanchine’s ballets, Bournonville’s ballets are much more democratic. When couples dance, they dance side by side. Groups of twos, threes and fours flit in and out, often in diagonal paths.

The style emphasizes buoyancy and speed. The torso is often erect and arms low to the side, making jumps all the more explosive as though dancers are propelled forward by the wind. Maxwell Capper and Mr. Yee do indeed seem airborne, but the women, too, are as bright and fast. Even the youngest dancers in mass groupings capture the ease and pluck, looking remarkably cohesive.


» 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 MagazineThanks For Reading

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Point of Focus
Chamberlain Performing Arts brings in Bruce Wood Dance Project for an evening of the pretty and poetic at the Eisemann Center.
by Margaret Putnam

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