A dance program consisting of 22 dance works (not all of them short either) might have more than a few saying, "Holy tutus, Batman!" Tutus, pointe shoes, short-shorts, bare feet, jazz shoes and all kinds of dresses fill the stage of the Campus Theatre in downtown Denton for Collage Dance Festival 2012, presented by the Denton City Contemporary Ballet.
Joining DCCB are Festival Ballet of North Central Texas, CholoRock Dance Theatre, Greenspace Dance, Big Rig Dance Collective, and Ayu Shimizu (exchange student from Kansaigaidai University in Japan), Sami Neal and Brandon McGee. Former So You Think You Can Dance contestant Chris Koehl also returns to the festival.
As the hosts of this year's festival, DCCB naturally has a spotlight, but eight pieces (10 if you count the ones performed by DCCB 2) is a bit excessive, especially when the same swift attitudes, coupe jetes and pitched grand battements appear in each one. For the most part, the dancers handle the technical difficulties of the pieces pretty well, but performance quality tends to be all over the place. For example, most of the dancers don't show the maturity needed in Lisa Racina-Torre's El Tango de los Assassionos, but they manage to incorporate the dramatic subtleties in Sami Neal's Nicest Thing and Tricia Ragsdale's Meltdown.
The dancers from Festival Ballet perform as expected with a few surprises, namely George Chadick and Madisyn Mullett. Chadick's abilities really shine in Hugh Nini's restaging of Marius Petipa's Satanela Variation. Maybe one day we'll see him bounding across the stage of the Winspear Opera House or Bass Performance Hall. And although Mullett lacks that last bit of crispness in Petipa's Raymonda (re-staged by Nini), she makes up for it with her delicacy and charm.
Jose Zamora's CholoRock de Noche brings the usual excitement and intensity, but also adds more of a professional quality to the performance. The dancers are pretty good technically, but their physical commitment to the choreography is what keeps the audience cheering.
Greenspace and Big Rig provide a deeper, more mature, and sometimes unsettling feel (but in a good way) to a performance which begins to be characterized by smiles and tricks. The dancers of Greenspace flow through longing, loss, camaraderie and celebration with The Quake. Big Rig teeters into its familiar realm of the experimental with Grit, although this piece has more of a typical modern dance look than others.
In her performance of variations from George Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and Petipa's Swan Lake, Ayu Shimizu excels at the latter. It's not that the former is bad, but she brings it to the Metroplex at a slightly inopportune time. Dancers from American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet both brought the famous pas de deux to Dallas in January and March, respectively. She danced it beautifully, though.
Former So You Think You Can Dance contestant (he made it to the top 14 in season eight) and Garland native Chris Koehl is back at the festival with his unusual, yet captivating blend of different hip-hop styles. Considering he's a headliner, though, his appearance in the concert seems rather short. One would think that he would perform more than once.
The best piece of the evening is Lisa Racina-Torre's …to the end of love danced by Sami Neal and Brandon McGee. Great partnering choreography and excellent control characterize this passionate and lovely duet. The dance contains the usual contemporary tricks, the placement of which (unlike other pieces in the concert) actually makes sense.
Overall, the concert, which repeats tonight, is a pleasant mixed-bag, but due to the number of pieces, it feels much longer than the two-hour running time (including intermission). Next year, opt for more variety of companies and fewer works.