Dancers never stop. A mere six weeks after its performance of "The NOTcracker" at the Dallas Museum of Art, the artists of Barefoot Brigade are at it again. This time they come together for the 11th annual Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival at the Bath House Cultural Center.
Beckles Dancing Company opens the evening with the premiere of Loris Anthony Beckles' A Meditation. Motifs reminiscent of the choreographer's Ailey training pop up here and there as the five dancers glide across the stage. While the choreography is beautiful, it wasn't as successful as it could be due to the lack of precision and fuzzy timing from the dancers.
The Pea in the Other Pod, a duet highlighting opposites by Holly Arnold and Lauren Butschek-Neisler, has some great movement choices, but the performances seem small and the work underdeveloped.
Jessica Thomas' solo U.Universe, which premiered last year, produces mixed results. Thomas is always a fascinating dancer to watch, and her solos are usually peculiar but intriguing. Not so much with this one. The elements that typically make her choreography interesting—such as stillness, subtlety and dramatic tension—don't quite fit together right in this one. In exploring the concept of the inner self, Thomas reaches too far in to the point where communication with audience frequently gets lost and the piece begins to look too self-indulgent.
Tina Mullone follows Thomas with a solo choreographed by Andre R. George, an excerpt from Two Solos. Mullone exhibits clean lines and precise technique, however, as the dance continues it looks too placed and subdued. Luckily, her performance keeps the piece from turning dull.
Pulling inspiration from current events is Lori Sundeen Soderbergh's Safe, a movement and theatrical exploration of the many inconveniences that come with the privilege of "secure" airline travel. The work straddles the fuzzy-but-sometimes-coherent line between dance and performance art, but the familiar and humorous concept is what carries the piece and makes it enjoyable for most in the audience.
The second act showcases more athletic dancing, which brings a slight, but welcome change of pace. Sarah Newton's excerpt from after dusk, before dawn explores imagery from the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Intense, but not dreary and dark, the trio quickly yet smoothly moves through a wide range of postures and positions. It ends way too soon, but such is the nature of an excerpt.
The two solos following have a decent range of choreography, but not quite the excitement. My Head Lay Nestled There (by Holly Arnold and Lacreacia Sanders) uses spoken word with a lyrical song to portray peace within chaos. Angie Dutton's UP-Rooted delves into the world of dance on camera in addition to performing a live solo.
Closing the evening on a high note is Phoenix by Mary Lynn Babcock. The trio from Satellite-Dance shows great improvement since the performance of the piece last summer as they fling their bodies around the stage.
As a whole, the concert feels a teeny bit flat or somewhat even-tempered. The styles and intended tones of each of the pieces are quite diverse, but the pace stays pretty much in one spot. That doesn't do much to raise the heart rate, which you want in a showcase of dance.
◊ The program repeats, with some differences in order, in two performances today.