Lewisville — For a different approach on a holiday show, Impulse Dance Project presents its fifth annual Snow at the MCL Grand Theater in Lewisville. Even though it’s cliché for a critic to marvel at a Christmas production that intentionally moves away from The-Show-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named (but starts with an ‘N’), a little giddiness cannot be helped with the absence of Tchaikovsky music this time of year.
Although this performance builds on the tradition from previous years with some new elements, many aspects remain the same. Artistic director Anastasia Waters shapes the intimate space of the MCL’s Recital Hall with a tea-light framed stage in the round, plus twinkling lights on structures placed around the audience and hung from the ceiling. As with most settings like this, the corners of the stage serve as entrance and exit points.
The concert runs in two continuous acts with an intermission in between. Holiday music intertwines with works from five choreographers (including Waters), which touch on a variety of topics and moods surrounding this time of year. The company’s aesthetic works well for the venue, and each piece displays a well-rehearsed and committed cast. To provide continuity, the non-holiday music comes from the ambient electronic artist Emancipator and the dancers remain in white dresses throughout the evening.
Instrumental variations of holiday favorites such as “Away in a Manger,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and “Silent Night” serve as the basis for joyous and childlike moments featuring soloist Leah Williams. In Sandra Pudasaini’s Reach, dancers fluctuate between an uncertain, wary demeanor and that of connection and unity, while Follow Yonder Light by Miranda Ingram finds the trio of dancers searching and curious, in reference to the three wise men of the Christmas story. Quick partnering for Kristin Daniels’ HumanKIND helps convey a sense of solidarity and bravery.
Much of the vocabulary in the first act follows maneuvers typical of a Release-style modern dance technique class. While some of it feels formulaic, the three choreographers show some depth in movement exploration, so it’ll be nice to see their artistry develop over time.
The second half moves in a different direction, beginning with Williams’ impressive Seasonal Anxiety, a duet between Brittney McClellan and Camille Bourgeois. The former illustrates the frantic nature of trying to get everything “right” during the holidays and attempting to show competence, while Bourgeois offers help. The piece’s resolution finds McClellan accepting help and segues nicely into Waters’ Castles are Built, a piece about togetherness complete with a Christmas tree and a string of lights hilariously wrapped around Alyssa Diaz. The final moments of the performance include a shower of petals to simulate snow and an uplifting In the Midst, choreographed by Waters and featuring the full company. It makes for a crowded space, but the dancers handle it well.
Throughout the evening, it’s easy to see why Williams has the solo parts. Her performance quality and ability to draw the audience into her cheerful world complements her daring yet deliberate technical execution. The earlier duet also proves she has a promising future in choreography. Stephanie Montes also delivers exciting athleticism in her performance.
The show overall provides contemplative wonder, rather than adding to the dizzying whirlwind of dazzle and glee that permeates so many holiday traditions. It’s one to watch as it grows and evolves over the years.