It's quite daring for an established dance company to open a season with seven of its eight pieces as premieres. Yet, Contemporary Ballet Dallas blazes forward doing just that with their 11th season opener, Danse Macabre, presented by the Charles W. Eisemann Center of Richardson.
The process of creating a dance can take months or even years and several performances before the choreographer decides that it's "just right." All dances start out as works in progress, and the first performance of a new piece is not always successful.
Unfortunately, CBD's leap of faith with the premieres turns out to be detrimental to the overall quality of the concert. Many pieces either start out strong or have great premises, but because of certain choreographic choices, they fall flat—some quicker than others. Sound editing also tends to be abrupt.
"House of Mirrors" choreographed by guest artist Jill S. Rucci opens the evening with a supposedly rightening illustration of a girl plagued with night terrors. The idea is promising, but too much contrast exists between the balletic movements of the girl (most of which are extremely formulaic) and the modern jazz qualities of the night terrors, that the two groups don't look like they belong in the same piece.
Victoria Dolph's "All for Fire" is all over the place as it progresses through each of the elements, culminating with fire. Two of the performers use a ribbon dancer throughout the piece, which can create an interesting visual effect, but the lack of synchronization ruins the aesthetic. In some parts of the dance, it doesn't even make sense to use it. Musical choice works against the piece, as well. James Newton Howard's film score provides a much larger feeling than the choreography can handle.
Jennifer Obeney's "Dance Noir," guest artist Kate Walker's "Aberration, Part II" and Lindsay Bowman's "Love Lost" are all plagued by the same issues. Interesting ideas that start out well but go downhill with poor choreographic choices and bad sound editing make the pieces look too amateur for a professional performance.
Two pieces fare much better: "Beset by Confectionary" by guest artist Anna Marie Ewert-Pittman of Ewert & Company and "Diablo" by guest artist Jennifer Arellano. Lela Bell and Jennifer Mabus perform the former about two people fighting over candy. The piece exhibits some fascinating movement choices and nice timing dynamics.
Overall, the signature piece, "Diablo," shows great promise. Set to J.S. Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" and Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre the dance portrays Diablo (Brandon McGee) and how his controlling relationship with his minions (danced by CBD members) results in his demise. McGee's character gets slightly overacted, but the other company dancers really show off their technical abilities with Arellano's delicate yet sultry choreography. Transitions for the most part are smooth, although timing is a little iffy in the beginning. The choreography doesn't quite explore the depth and character of Saint-Saens' composition enough, but it's still the most successful work on the program.