Dallas — What happens when two established Texas dance companies, separated by the I-45 corridor, join forces for one night?
The newest collaboration between Houston’s METdance (operating to our south for more than 20 years) and Bruce Wood Dance saw both companies share the stage at Moody Performance Hall.
But it was more than just an exchange. In addition to taking turns performing selected repertory, they commissioned Bridget L. Moore to choreograph with dancers from both groups.
Although each troupe has a distinct yet varied style, their respective aesthetics are similar enough to form a fairly cohesive concert. Works chosen by BWD (led by artistic director Kimi Nikaidoh) make perfect sense as they give a taste of what the company has to offer. Audience favorites RED and Lovett! represent some of the styles favored by the late Bruce Wood.
The former begins with a suspenseful, slow build, as soloist Adrian Aguirre eases into larger movements before the rest of the cardinal-clad ensemble joins him. Full of signature Wood partnering, dynamic athleticism, and of course, the famous ripple line, the work sets the stage for the type of pieces most of the night would bring.
Next up is MET’s Snow Playground, which almost seems like another part to RED. Choreographed by Katarzyna Skarpetowska (a previous BWD guest artist), ten dancers in white slowly circle the stage to the sounds of a furious windstorm. One by one, they break out into various lifting phrases until they join together for unison.
Running sequences around the stage reminiscent of those found in the previous work keep the excitement up, as do the jubilant facial expressions of the dancers. Although the minimalist, frenzied strings of Bryce Dessner’s “Aheym” (played by the Kronos Quartet) have the potential to conjure feelings of uncertainty and seriousness, Skarpetowska keeps it lighthearted without dampening the intensity.
Maneuvering in and out of unison and ensemble work, the dancers exhibit delightful arm patterns, brisk traveling sequences, and thrilling jetés. At the end, a heavy dose of white floats to the ground, as the dancers finish in the same circling pattern as they began.
MET’s second offering begins to feel like déjà vu, even though choreographer and Houston native Courtney D. Jones delivers a distinctly different concept and mood for Paralyzed by Fear. It all lies in the music, as Philip Glass’ “Facades” provides the soundtrack for an emotional look into mother/daughter relationships.
Mia Angelini, Genene McGrath, and Risa D’Souza transition through various vignettes displaying the struggles and joys of raising a child and the support community provides. Reluctant hugs, careful guiding, and tense moments of conflict allow the audience to find their own stories in the choreography, which leans more to the modern dance side of contemporary.
Moore’s Following Echoes brings a bit of change with the piano notes of Ezio Bosso’s Rain, in Your Black Eyes, although strings arrive later in the song. Created as a remembrance to Bruce Wood and the recently passed Kim Abel, it carries a unique sense of elegance and poignancy that distinguishes it from the previous three works. For this performance, Emily Drake and David Escoto represent BWD, while Danielle Garza and Kerry Jackson dance for MET.
Exquisite sapphire costumes by Fernando Hernandez and gentle blue lighting provide a dream-like quality and old Hollywood splendor for the various solo and duet work that permeates most of the piece. Soft and fluid, Moore’s choreography displays satisfying timing dynamics and moments of stillness that the dancers skillfully execute.
Repeating motifs, such as interlocking elbows and basic gestures, create continuity, yet with each repetition, the dancers maneuver to a place that makes the vocabulary look new each time. The connecting arms close the work with Garza and Drake spinning off the ground as the lights fade to end Act I.
The audience’s frantic rush out of the theater was telling, since BWD patrons are used to intermissions after each 20-30 minute piece. Even though the first half only ran about an hour, the similar sounds and moods made it feel even longer, and this was a big weakness of the evening. The individual works display remarkable dancing and provide plenty of evocative moments for contemplation and enjoyment; it’s the amount of pieces and the lineup that drag down the experience.
Act II brings a welcomed contrast with Latin and country sounds. METdance spices things up with Mario Zambrano’s Volver, featuring music by the soulful Spanish singer Buika and Latin guitar works. Costumes remain a bit formal, with dresses for the ladies and dress shirts, pants, and jackets for the men. Vocabulary leans toward a looser, earthier tone than the other works, with Latin social dance mixed in. Zambrano also employs more varied partnering methods, which the dancers execute with ease and grace.
Even with the Latin vibe, much of it remains subtle, with the slowest sections feeling a bit long. This is more due to the overall progression of the evening, however, rather than the dancers. Jesus Acosta and D’Souza demonstrate passion and intensity with their various duets.
Bruce Wood Dance ends the performance with a Lyle Lovett sampler party, but just like the previous piece, the slower moments of the vivacious Lovett! feel sleepier than they should. Luckily, the dancers end on a strong note, with the audience clapping along to “That’s Right, You’re Not From Texas.”
At the end of a nearly two-and-a-half-hour concert, the energy shot was sorely needed.