Bell bottoms, protests, weed, free love, youth—oh gone, gone, gone are those days before instant messaging, upside-down house values, and gas at 3.87 a gallon took over the world. Just to remind us how far away hippie-land is, Contemporary Ballet Dallas gave us a nostalgic trip down memory lane in Peace, Love & Dance.
That is not to say that Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, about a soldier reuniting with his loved one, or Sylvia and the devastation of drugs idealized turbulent times, but between the music, the dress and the dance, we couldn't help but be in love with it all.
Brick Road, Sylvia and a few others did not quite ring true. The real grit and anguish of war and addiction, of the struggle for justice and peace, seemed as remote as the faded TV images of Clinton declaring "I did not have sex with that woman," or Betty Friedan raising the battle cry for women's rights.
Not quite fitting into the program—but not far off-base either—were guest artists Katelyn Harris and Keira Leverton of Rhythmic Souls tap-dancing their way to the Beatles' Blackbird. They rained down soft and subtle taps, with the relaxed movement of lighthearted kindred spirits.
And though the same issues of war, freedom and fairness that weighed heavily in the '60s are still with us today and were represented in TV footage of events as recent as Occupy Wall Street, the music kept us firmly in the past. Just about everything was vintage '60s and '70s, from Elton John's "Rocket Man" to Janis Joplin's "Work Me Lord" and the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby."
From its inception almost 11 years ago, Contemporary Ballet Dallas has embraced pop culture with a little twist, the twist being dancing on pointe. Sometimes it works beautifully, sometimes not. Where it worked to great advantage Friday night at Lakewood Theater was in Jennifer Arellano's Fame, Lindsay DiGiuseppe Bowman's Bear's Heart, and company artistic director Valerie Shelton Tabor's A Change is Coming.
Each one had a little story to tell. Fame—set to Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," "Fame" (David Bowie) and "Whiter Shade of Pale" as performed by Annie Lennox—had something to do with ego and greed. It begins with a formidable Leslie Hale stepping out of an imaginary rabbit hole in an aggressive mood. She's barefoot, but the four dancers on pointe (and in black tutus) equal her in tough-girl attitude, rocking hips on tiptoe and holding long, long poses on bent knees. But the tough-girl attitude vanishes in Whiter Shade of Pale, and gives way to slow bourrées and tilted arabesques, all very pretty and pensive.
Bear's Heart runs through a gamut of feelings: sacrifice, despair, frustration, acceptance and loss.
A Change is Coming introduces a rebellious Danielle Georgiou in bell-bottoms and tie-dyed headscarf and another outsider (Stephen Raikes) into a more orderly world. John Lennon's "Imagine," which ends the work and the evening, brings everyone together, capturing what the idea behind "Peace, Love & Dance" meant to convey.
◊ 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.