Review: All Bruce | Bruce Wood Dance | Moody Performance Hall

Almighty Bruce

Bruce Wood Dance closed its season with four works showcasing the range of the late choreographer.

published Friday, November 23, 2018

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Bruce Wood Dance performs Bolero in 2018



Dallas — From divine to wickedly decadent, Bruce Wood Dance covered every extreme Friday and Saturday night at Moody Performance Hall. In a program called simply All Bruce, we got a taste of how wide and deep the late Bruce Wood’s aesthetic runs, and very deep it is.

In Local 126 (2001) Wood took a departure from his usual gift for complex partnering and grand lifts: there were none. Inspired by the Fort Worth chapter of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees—the union that represents the stagehands at Bass Performance Hall—Wood sought to create a work that celebrated the stagehands discipline and uniformity.

Simple and clean patterns get more complex as the dance progresses, with dances swinging arms like pendulums with bodies at a tilt, striking poses with feet out in wide fourth position, and breaking apart into well-oiled quarter turns. Clad in dark tops and tan pants, the nine dancers move with mechanical precision, and yet with a surprisingly balletic grace. The two Bach’s piano concertos, so mathematically precise, amplify the clarity of Local 126.

In 2010, Dallas Black Dance Theatre commission a solo called The Edge Of My Life . . . So Far.  It’s a tour de force performance by guest artist Nycole Ray: Ms. Ray is a coiled-up, seething caldron of emotion ready to explode, but with great determination, never goes over the edge.

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Nycole Ray in Bruce Wood's The Edge of My Life So Far

Our first view of her is of her sitting at one end of the dimly lit stage, eyes staring out in the distance, She does nothing but sit in silence, until at last she lifts one arm up to her face. When she does rise, she skirts the stage with long sweeping steps, her flowing red gown billowing. She slides under the table, jumps up, and stretches out on the table that is covered with flour.  Huge gusts of flour rise in the air, covering head, face and gown.

At the end, she pulls her chair behind the table, sits up straight, gives one last swipe at the dust, and with great resolution pulls herself back into something close to steely defiance.

A whiff of mystery and innocence pervade Wood’s 1999 Echoes of Enchantment, set to a variety to lyrical and sometimes haunting music. Occupying the same space, but belonging to parallel universes, three couples move with fluid grace as two masked figures in black emerge mysteriously from either side of the stage. The woman in long black dress holds an umbrella high overhead, the man in bowler hat holds out a bouquet of flowers—like figures out of a surreal Magritte painting.

The two figures in black come and go, always walking slowly across the stage. Their solemn presence makes a startling contrast to the airy, willowy movement of the three couples in pale yellow, where the men are constantly lifting and swirling the women with an ease that make you think of so many flowers being tossed in the air.

In one comic scene, the lanky Seth York comes into contact with the woman with the umbrella (Megan Storey), peering under the umbrella. His limbs have a life of their own, rubbery and apparently missing some hinges. In one goofy sequence, he lies sideways like a bug unable to get up.

The mood changes again with a couple swirling though space in a glorious waltz, while behind them Ms. Storey walks like a sorrowful pretzel, her torso forming a perfect C shape and her head drooped. It’s a beautiful image, and so opposite to the joy of the waltzing couple.

And then there is Wood’s masterpiece: Bolero, with its crazy upended chairs in a dim, warehouse setting, a legless mannequin, bored guest stalking the floor if not making a mad rush at each other or stamping on a prone figure’s head. With a distorted sound track of voices and city sounds overlaying Ravel’s pulsating, repetitive music, the action is fierce even as guests stalk the floor catlike. The ennui and sexual overtones are visceral. As is true of all of Wood’s works, Bolero builds to a grand climax: dancers storm forth, regroup, men fling women sideways like so many bag of potatoes, and as the lights shine out at the audience, the dancers calming disappear back to their chairs. 

Decadence never looked so enticing. Thanks For Reading

View the Article Slideshow
Click or Swipe to close
Almighty Bruce
Bruce Wood Dance closed its season with four works showcasing the range of the late choreographer.
by Margaret Putnam

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web

Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:

Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:

TheaterJones Section:

Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  

Your Name:
Your Email Adress:

please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :