Underneath the grandeur and awe of the professional dance companies in the Metroplex lies a vibrant and quite large community of pre-professional artists eagerly working their way up. Saturday night's Sixth Annual Youth Dance Festival presented by Ballet Frontier of Texas at the W.E. Scott Theatre in Fort Worth gave platform for many of them to strut their stuff.
Arlington Heights High School proves that great dance training opportunities aren't just available at private dance schools. Tied Down, a contemporary work choreographed by co-director Joy Atkins, showcased the excellent talents of soloists Jeremy Brown and Sarah-Grace Poitevent. Brown exploded on stage with fascinating vitality, and Poitevent demonstrated an elegance and depth that go beyond her age.
The Academy Dance Company from Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts boasts versatile dancers with a wide range of performance abilities, but that wasn't quite apparent from the two works they performed at the festival. Meredith Miller's Embracing Emptiness came the closest to really showing off the dancers, but Tension and Release by Deontahvious Ford was a bit one-dimensional.
Dallas Black Dance Theatre II roared into the theater with the most volatile work of the evening, Prototype 2010. This ballet-infused contemporary jazz choreographed by Tyrone C. Walk displayed what we usually expect from DBDT II's parent company—high energy, amazing displays of flexibility, and forceful dancing. Set in three sections (with the second being a bit too long), it brought an electrifying finish to a first act full of delicate classical ballet.
LakeCities Ballet Theatre developed a spellbinding dream-world with Allan Kinzie's Evensong. Set to the breathtaking music of Arvo Part, 12 dancers in long sheer skirts floated across the stage in beautiful synchronization. As alluring as the piece was, it's shame we couldn't see more of them in another work.
The dancers from Fort Worth Country Day Ballet Ensemble performed a lovely simple work titled Vivaldi, choreographed by the Director of Ballet, Carrie Cheng. Clad in white dresses, the performers moved in a delicate dream-like fashion. The piece almost reminded me of the historic works by Doris Humphrey. Their second piece, Far from my Homeland by Li Chou Cheng, would've worked better with greater continuity.
As the host company, Ballet Frontier of Texas provided the most works, showcasing as many of their dancers as possible. Some were more successful than others, mostly due to fuzzy timing and lack of technical precision, but there were a few standout moments.
Artistic Director Chung-Lin Tseng seems to use his contemporary ballet piece Four as a testing ground for the younger dancers' abilities in that genre, and Bianca Schinzer especially proved that she's ready to tackle more. As for the older dancers, they had their moment to shine in Jewels, featuring choreography by Marius Petipa. Caitlin Shaw's solo showed a greater depth in movement quality from her last performance, and in the quartet in the second section wowed with quick, precise pointe work.
The Texas Ballet Theater School sent ensembles from their campuses in Dallas and Fort Worth, and we were also treated to an appearance of TBT's second company. The school ensembles performed with the technical clarity and skill that we've come to expect from their name. TBT II especially stood out with Ben Stevenson's Pas de Six.
Ballet Ensemble of Texas brought the best work of the evening with Lisa Slagle's Rhapsody, neo-classical ballet with black-and-white clad dancers. Dallas Blagg and Katie Cheng delivered an exquisite duet, in addition to their respective solos. Their performances, however, only completed an already outstanding picture. Elaborate floor patterns and precise pointe work did much to bolster the piece, but its biggest strength was that the dancers truly looked alive.
Overall, the evening once again proved two things: The Metroplex has some extraordinary young dancers, and their teachers are doing a phenomenal job nurturing that talent.