\"You, Me, and My Chair\" by Collective Force Dance Company

Review: 12th Annual Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival (Weekend 1) | Barefoot Brigade Dance Coalition | Bath House Cultural Center

Mad Props

The Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival gets off to an interesting start at the Bath House Cultural Center.

published Saturday, January 12, 2013
1 comment

Editor's Note: Dance critic Cheryl Callon saw Program B of this performance, and her thoughts on the one company that didn't perform when Margaret Putnam saw it are at the bottom of this review:

If you were to take out the folding metal chairs, boxes, bricks and plastic bags big enough to envelop bodies, there wouldn't be much left of the first weekend of The Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival, now in its 12th year. 

I exaggerate, of course, but on Thursday night it seemed that concepts—and props—dominated the event, which itself has sprouted like mushrooms. Over the space of three weekends, over 20 dance companies and individual artists will take part in the event at the Bath House Cultural Center, coming from as far away as Mississippi. 

But back to the boxes. There were five of them, in different sizes and shapes, but all spattered inside and out with a rainbow of colors. In Maggie Lasher's Nomad, Cindy Lou Parker from ChinaCat Dance (Houston) lies curled up in one of the boxes, rolls out, returns, wiggles toes and fingers. It's a given that she will find herself upright, and investigate the rest of the boxes with a loving and playful intent. 

Chairs are such a staple of modern dance that the challenge is to do something different with them—knocking them down, stepping on top, tilting dangerously high up on one leg, sliding underneath—we have all seen that before. So what Collective Force Dance Company (Fort Worth) offered in You, Me, and My Chair was a racket. When you drag a metal chair across a concrete stage it makes a gratifyingly scratchy, grating noise, and that suited the no-nonsense demeanor of Holly Arnold, Lauren Butschek-Neisler and Audrey Kennedy. 

The plastic bags also made their own loud flapping-crackling, but here the noise seemed a deliberate contrast to the gentle movement that followed. In Velocity Dance Company's Emercion, six dancers lie in a heap on a dim floor completely covered in clear plastic bags. They wriggle out like caterpillars coming out of a cocoon, and once free, make tentative steps to take in the new world. At the end, they return to the bags, which now resemble shrouds. 

And then there are the bricks. I could only think of what Pina Bausch did with them in a theater in Antwerp: huge bricks covered the front of the stage, from top to bottom. As the audience settles into their seats, the bricks tumble down with a deafening roar, dust and debris flying everywhere. The bricks, fortunately, settle only on stage, where the dancers must maneuver around them. Here, in Muscle Memory Dance Theatre's (re)build, the bricks are much smaller, and neatly arranged. Ashley Hellen, Brandy Niccolai and Tarah Tristan move them around a bit, like blocks, step on them, step over them, with the idea perhaps of how one might maneuver through life. 

Live music came to the fore in the meditative Feel Good Dance's Indwelling, where Angie Dutton intones "Om" as she stands a few inches away from the closest audience member. Behind her are vocalists Lahoma JeFaye, Eileen Simeonov, Debbie Martin, guitarist Tiffany Marchi and drummer Joyce Sanders. The music, "Gayatri Mantra," has a soothing effect, and Dutton dances like a dream, smooth as silk, but with emotional energy. 

Choreographer Loris Anthony Beckles' gift for the serene and abstract came into play in Beckles Dance Company's A Meditation, where Layla Brent, Jared Brown, Desiray Epps and Jasmine Sargent move with balletic grace in ever-changing geometric patterns. 

Surprisingly there was more than a hint of structure in a work that was considered improvisational, Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth's Dwelling Near. The performance took place in the main gallery, where the dance was inspired by the photographs in the exhibitions on display. I would never have guessed that the baroque churches of Mexico and Vanishing Dallas had anything to do with what transpired, picturing instead Sarah Newton, Julia Nova and Claudia Orcasitas as flowing, swirling water, pausing as they lean and curve around a pole, and at the end, gather close to take on the stance of large birds, arms out like wings. Composer Van Eric Martin's music was disturbed by the pops of a photographer's camera. 

The program ended on a calm note in Shifting Boundaries, performed by Meredith R. Early, Kelly Ferris Lester, Elizabeth Lentz and Rebecca McArthur from Hub Dance Collective of Hattiesburg, Miss. In filmy, layered blue dresses, they fan out to cover space, sometimes slowing to point a finger, and then, at the end, to touch the floor. It was pretty, moody, and, at times, inspired. 

◊ 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.


And here is Cheryl Callon's impression of Flatlands Dance Theatre on Friday, Jan. 11 (Margaret Putnam reviewed the performance on Thursday, Jan. 10)


One of the best performances of the second program this weekend comes from Flatlands Dance Theatre, the lone voice of modern dance in Lubbock. Sarah Mondle’s In Quiet Tribute probes moments of tragedy and hushed desperation. Beginning as a quartet, the teal and purple-clad dancers move through a series of lingering and suspenseful reaches.  Deliberate gestures such as pulling a heartstring outward and stretching a noose upward scream a deep sorrow.

Nicole Wesley continues the sustained mood with a solo, which then moves into a more athletic duet between Kyla Olson and Samantha McMahon. In a nicely synchronized segment, the two expand the gesture vocabulary and make way for Ali Duffy’s solo. A frantic sense permeates the controlled movements as she takes us to the emotional apex of the work.  The other dancers join her in the restrained frenzy then the calm hits, but the sadness is not over. For the final gesture and last tug on the heart, the dancers each bring one hand to the mouth then reaches it to the sky, as if crying out or offering prayers.

— Cheryl Callon


◊ The Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival schedule is:

Jan. 10-12: "Dwelling" Jan 10-12

  • Program A continues Saturday, Jan. 12, 8 p.m.
    • ChinaCat Dance
    • Hub Dance Collective
    • Images Contemporary Dance Company
    • M2DT (Muscle Memory Dance Theatre)
    • Velocity Dance Co. (Tarrant County College South Campus)
    • Beckles Dancing Company
    • Collective Force Dance Company
    • Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth
    • Feel Good Dance
  • Program B continues Saturday, Jan. 12 at 3 p.m.
    • ChinaCat Dance
    • Hub Dance Collective
    • M2DT (Muscle Memory Dance Theatre)
    • Flatlands Dance Theatre  (Lubbock)
    • Beckles Dancing Company
    • Collective Force Dance Company
    • Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth
    • Feel Good Dance

Jan. 17-19: "pARTners in Crime"

  • Big Rig Dance Collective
  • Sue Collins with music by Denton composer Claudia Howard Queen
  • Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth premieres choreography by company member Courtney Mulcahy in collaboration with Dallas composer/musician Jon David Johnston*
  • Collective Force Dance Company
  • Feel Good Dance
  • Satellite-Dance

Jan. 24-26: "All New Stuff"

  • Beckles Dancing Company
  • Brazos Dance Collective
  • Christine Bergeron
  • DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group)
  • Eyakkam Dance Company
  • FireWalk Dance
  • GORDONDANCE (TX/IL) – Lonny Joseph Gordon
  • Houston Metropolitan Dance Company
  • imPULSE Dance Project
  • Tina Mullone (Louisiana/Texas)
  • Jessica Thomas (The Colony)
 Thanks For Reading


Solomon Espie writes:
Tuesday, January 15 at 2:42AM

I would like to read what Cheryl Callon had to say about the Beckles Dancing Company's "A Meditation"

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Mad Props
The Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival gets off to an interesting start at the Bath House Cultural Center.
by Margaret Putnam

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