8&1 Dance Company

Review: Life's Canvas | 8&1 Dance Company | Courtyard Theatre

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8&1 Dance Company appeals to the senses in its debut, Life's Canvas, in Plano.

published Saturday, March 24, 2012

8&1 Dance Company made a splash Friday night in front of a full house at its inaugural performance held at the Courtyard Theater in Plano.

In Life’s Canvas 8&1 Dance Co. founder and choreographer Jill S. Rucci put together a program that introduced her eight-member company and guest dancer’s technique, athleticism and versatility. The performance also showcased Rucci’s multi-layered choreography as well her taste for contemporary music (i.e. Adele, Florence + the Machine, Gnarls Barkley) and the blues (Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin).

The show started with a monologue performed by Stephanie Dolph about painting outside the lines in the premiere of Finger Painting. Then, accompanied by vocalist Christa D. Taylor and saxophonist Marcellus P. Walker, one-by-one the dancers emerged from the wings dressed in white and each wielding a different colored streamer (the type used by rhythmic gymnasts). As the dancers swooped, dipped, lunged and jumped they manipulated the streamers in the air, giving the audience the illusion they were painting on the stark white background.

A Round Corner (2006) allowed the ladies to show off their sassy jazz technique in vibrantly colored dresses while the men performed macho solos focusing on their leaps, turns and acrobatics.

The premieres of Nevermind and Woman’s Work (choreographed by Michael Mayes) were softer more lyrical pieces. In Nevermind Shelby A. Stanley performed an aggressively controlled solo before removing her white T-shirt to reveal the bright blue top and bottom underneath. Stanley moved passionately and uninhibited, making her appear longer and taller than she actually is. The spectacular background image of brilliant blues, green and reds swirled together also got a reaction from the crowd.

The second half of the show contrasted sharply from the first with Pointillism (2010) and Work Song (2002). All the bold colored costumes were replaced with neutral whites, nudes and browns. The movement was predominantly African, featuring stomping, clapping, and waving, with some liturgical and ballet steps mixed in and music shifting abruptly from Nina Simone to the Zac Brown Band to the Soweto Gospel Choir. The concept appeared to be intended to display the company’s versatility, as the transition got a bit lost in translation thematically.

But from the performance aspect 8&1 Dance Co. obviously has a diverse but cohesive unit made up of powerful technicians who should be an exciting addition to the DFW dance scene.

◊ Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance instructor in Dallas. Visit her blog at


  Thanks For Reading


Ann writes:
Tuesday, March 27 at 8:17AM

So proud of Jill Rucci...Rock on baby!

Mauro writes:
Thursday, April 5 at 12:11AM

Rucci's choreography has a way of bringing new life to music. Once experienced, the audience will never again be able to hear these songs without visualizing the soulspeak that echoes from the movements. In this way, her work leaves a a lasting impression that is life-changing and deserving of the highest praise. Like all of her work, it is groundbreaking and impossible of imitation. Keep your eyes open for 8&1 Dance Company; THIS is dance...

Admirer writes:
Friday, June 22 at 6:09PM

Most people have dreams but very few people live them. This is a girl that at age 20 was dropped of in New York City without much more than a few bucks in her pocket, the clothes on her back and a passion for dance. The next morning while having her coffee she picked up the news paper to look for a job. Think about it for a minute to be in a big city like New York alone and not noing a soul, no job and very little money could you do it? I know I couldn't. That's when it all started for Jill that day she got a job and the chase was on. She worked hard and danced alot. Jill taught dance and took dance classes when she wasn't working and auditioned when she wasn't teaching. It wasn't long before she was reconized and joined a dance co in New York City. Jill did very well even though there main dance style was West African Dance (She Nailed it) they had many show's off broadway and was loved by all. Jill excelled in the resturant business and rubbed elbows with prominent people. Everybody she meets loves her and why wouldn't they. She is a very special person and a very hard worker with her eye on the prize. Talk about a happy ending by chance she took a well deservied vacation to Las Vegas and meet the love of her life a few months later Jill moved to Dallas where her soulmate was from and was married a year later in Las Vegas where they first meet. This was the happiest day of my life to finally have someone to watch over my little girl. Mike is the best thing that ever happened to our family. He is a true gentleman with strong morals, values and is a very loving person. I could go on for ever but my point is we love him alot. Back to Jill when she moved to Dallas she started teaching dance at one studio and now she teaches many different classes all around Dallas. Somehow Jill had the energy to start her own Dance Company 8&1 and is the talk of Dallas. Life's Canvas was a huge sucess. We are so proud of all your accomplishments. Love Mom & Dad

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Bold Introduction
8&1 Dance Company appeals to the senses in its debut, Life's Canvas, in Plano.
by Katie Dravenstott

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