Review: Heart and Soul Dance Festival | 8&1 Dance Company | Courtyard Theatre

All Heart, All Soul

8&1 Dance Company delivers a successful Heart and Soul Dance Festival, a benefit for first responders.

published Friday, October 7, 2016

Photo: Sarah Beal Photography
8&1 Dance Company's first Heart and Soul Festival


Plano — The tragic and polarizing events of our world elicit strong responses. Some of those tend towards strife and division, but many people have chosen a different route, that of building each other up in spite of our hardships and differences.

After the harrowing events of July 7 in downtown Dallas, our city has seen several shining examples of the latter, and one way that spirit continues is with the Heart and Soul Dance Festival, created by Jill S. Rucci and hosted by 8&1 Dance Company at the Courtyard Theatre in Plano, which happened Oct. 2.

Rucci has family members who are first responders, and she developed the idea out of a drive to act and support the community in the best way she knows how—through dance.

“I think dance is a universal language that can help relay a message or simply bring people together,” she says. “I want to stand up and say we are all fighting for a safer world for generations to come. We need to unite as a community, and be a positive support system for people in need.”

While this year’s proceeds will go towards benefiting families of fallen officers, the event (planned to be annual) will expand to support other needs the Dallas community faces.

Photo: Sarah Beal Photography
8&1 Dance Company\'s first Heart and Soul Festival

Considering the festival popped up on short notice and many area dance companies were at the {254} DANCE-FEST in Waco the same weekend, the program was pleasantly varied and displayed the talents of artists not normally seen on the local concert performance scene. Eclectic yet cohesive, all the works had an uplifting theme or one of community and relationship.

Several pieces also brought in an element of faith, including two musical acts. Asa Graham Menchaca accompanied Mallory Danielle Porter with the guitar as she sang Kristene DiMarco’s “It is Well,” and 13-year-old Kendall Shaw delivered an a cappella “Amazing Grace.”

Youth was also on display with Brady Lokey and Mylee Rice performing a trick-filled duet to “Hallelujah” by Brooklyn String Duo and the Motion Performance Company from Rowlett Dance Academy dancing to Andra Day’s hit “Rise Up.”

8&1 hosted the performance, yet they didn’t dominate it. Four works sprinkled strategically throughout powerfully portrayed Rucci’s theme—stand together, help our neighbors, and fight for a better future.

Company member Chad Geiger co-choreographed the opening work Glory with Rucci, using the song of the same name by Common and John Legend. Geiger’s lyric-driven hip-hop vocabulary displayed a promising sense of musicality and movement invention, and the large number of dancers created a solid visual to start the show off right. Rucci’s contemporary movement flowed well among the more hard-hitting sections.

Two other 8&1 works, Reach Out and Rise Up and For Our Children, featured the director’s usual blending of genres with a bit of commercial-style vocabulary. Gospel spiritual songs and large dose of unison work helped deliver the message. For the finale, Gathering, the rest of the festival cast joined in for an African-inspired closing.

Other groups danced a commercial-style contemporary, as well. In Let It All Go choreographed by Clair Culin with music by Rhodes and Birdy Length, David Escoto beautifully partnered a talented Culin. She appeared later in Jeremy Dumont’s Silver Moon, a nicely staged and well-executed work with music by Roo Panes.

A few works stood out above the rest. After a series of contemporary works opened up the show, newcomer 6 O’Clock Dance Theater brought a more balletic tone with Shelby Stanley’s Night Sky. Five dancers in black lace dresses demonstrated sharp precision, nice lines, and a joyful tone.

Contemporary Ballet Dallas went more modern with Brian Stevens’ Without Sense, a movement exploration of losing each of the five senses and the community found in the process. Choreography and transitions proved impressive, yet the dancers still found beauty in the still moments. It was perhaps the darkest piece of the evening, but the ending still fit with the theme of the concert.

Rounding out the ballet works was Jamie Thompson, representing his company Ballet j with On Earth, featuring Ennio Morricone’s score from The Mission. As a former member of prominent Dallas dance companies, Thompson’s impeccable technique and exuberant performance rightfully garnered the most applause of the evening.

It wasn’t all soft shoes, socks, and bare feet, though. Keira Leverton’s Choreo Records Tap Company exhibited a tap work with a lyrical touch to Marques Tolivar’s “White Sails,” a tune that delivers smooth R&B vocals accompanied by a mixture of strings. The choreography screamed Leverton, as the dancers beat out every little rhythmic variation to be found in the song. A superb musicality and tight execution made this one an utterly enjoyable experience.

The evening ran rather smoothly, with a running time of an hour-and-a-half including intermission. It had a bit of a pop vibe, and judging from the comments floating around the house between each piece, audience members seemed quite impressed. This will be one to watch as it evolves and grows throughout the years. Thanks For Reading

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All Heart, All Soul
8&1 Dance Company delivers a successful Heart and Soul Dance Festival, a benefit for first responders.
by Cheryl Callon

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