Delight and decadence came full force Friday night at the Montgomery Arts Theater. The delight was double-edged─stemming from the premiere of a clever and whimsical Happy Feet─and the creation of the Bruce Wood Dance Project five years after Fort Worth's Bruce Wood Dance Company folded.
This is happy news indeed for anyone who has seen the former company and recognized what a rare talent choreographer and artistic director Wood has offered to Dallas and Fort Worth.
As for decadence, Wood’s Bolero, with its throbbing, pulsating fury, captures the intensity of Maurice Ravel’s music in ways that no other choreographer has.
The program also included another premiere, Our Last Lost Chance, and the raw The Edge of My Life So Far, a solo for the veteran of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Nycole Ray. Edge ran an emotional gamut from coiled determination to anger and despair. Wearing a long red gown on a dark stage, Ms. Ray has merely to sit and slowly tilt her head to the side to let us know that turmoil beckons.
She moves to the back of a table, sits down, leans over, and abruptly uses her hands and body to spew out torrents of white powder. The ferocity grows and grows, until at last, she sits again, the image of calm and acceptance.
It would be hard to say which ballet—Our Last Lost Chance or The Edge of My Life So Far—made the most profound impression. Our Last Lost Chance was deceptively subtle and restrained, featuring two couples, with the sublime Kimi Nikaidoh as always taking over the stage. It was a work that became increasing mesmerizing, at first so pretty and balletic that what was under the surface only slowly left you to weep.
In a gray, somber light and to music that ranged from brooding to stormy, Harry Feril spins and lifts the almost rapturous Ms. Nikaidoh with a deceptively careful fluidity. A second couple—Jennifer Mabus and Albert Drake—emerge, to duplicate the smooth spins and lifts. At times, the four go their separate ways, with the two men engaging in last, easy spins that make their loose silver shirts fly out. But it is the lifts that are so compelling, straight up with the women’s heads tilted far back, the image of utter trust and surrender. Wood’s gift for simplicity has no bounds.
Back to the opening work, Happy Feet. It opens with the Euro-gypsy music performed by the Texas band Ginny Mac. Clad in early 19 century garb, accordionist Ginny Mac, guitarist Glenn McLaughlin, violinist Carlo Canlas and bass Bach Norwood stand on one end of the stage to set the mood of fun and frolic.
When the first woman in a floppy hat saunters forth with body dipped forward and head bobbing, we know that we are about to witness something zany and charmingly awkward.
And we do, as with clunky flat feet, freewheeling spins burst forth with abandon from her nine equally charming friends. At one point, Ms. Mabus stands on the feet of her partner as they waltz; at another a man circles the stage on an old-fashioned tricycle. Flowers fly to hit McKinley Willis, and she grabs them frantically, only to become disgusted and toss them away. A man returns pushing a child’s wheelbarrow with the slumped-over form of a woman.
And so it goes, with the playful spirit of youths at a fair making Happy Feet such a lark.
◊ 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 Magazine.