Last week’s program of the 12th Annual Barefoot Brigade Modern Dance Festival favored props and other significant set pieces as they delved into the idea of home. This week’s emphasis on collaborations heavily tends toward text and music partnerships. Performed at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas, Barefoot Brigade’s second weekend offers a more unconventional approach to dance, which is typical of artist alliances.
Denton’s Satellite-Dance opens the concert with Shade, choreographed by Mary Lynn Babcock with contributions from the cast of four. Two sheer fabric screens serve as canvases for projections, a media and set design created by Scott Martin. Set in three sections, the dancers first move through various poses, similar to the pictures on the fabric. As they carry a sense of longing, the mood becomes more frantic, then settles down for a second section filled with flat-palmed gestures and nature sounds. Finally, a sense of resolution coupled with beautifully genuine movement close a dance which is on the lengthy side, but delightful.
Collective Force Dance Company starts the “textathon” with I Am Her, She is Me. Although this is the only piece where the words are recorded, the choreography—like the subsequent works—hinges around the spoken content by Keisha Breaker. Dressed in floral-print skirts and black blouses with un-tied peach ribbons, the dancers calmly and deliberately interpret the sense of female camaraderie exuded by the poet.
Music collaboration joins the party with the premiere of Courtney Mulcahy’s Soxx. Dallas composer and musician Jon David Johnston (who earlier worked with Mulcahy in Kakudo) joins her in a playful look at the use of socks, specifically in recent modern dance works. A trio of dancers clad in black leggings, argyle sweaters and colorfully patterned socks join Johnston (also showing off his foot stockings) as he reads his own ode to comforting thermal footwear with tranquil rhythm. Although performance quality among the dancers is a little inconsistent, the light-hearted content provides a charmingly inviting atmosphere in the dark space. It’ll be interesting to see how this one grows.
On a completely different note, Angie Dutton of Feel Good Dance brings reality home as she joins with other local dancers (mostly from Collective Force) in highlighting the plight of the homeless through a structured improvisation. Dutton begins on stage displaying a series of words scribbled on paper grocery bags which voice her frustrations about how her efforts to help those in need are hindered. Improvisations performed on a concert can be hit or miss, but this one definitely hits—and sticks. Some dancers play homeless people, and some are the ones trying to help. It’s a powerful moment of dance activism, one that hopefully has an impact.
Sue Collins and dancers from the University of North Texas join the festival in Wind of Mountain, a collaboration with composer Claudia Howard Queen depicting images of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. A warm golden glow shines in the background as a trio of dancers maneuver through a more traditional modern dance vocabulary speckled with ballet and jazz. Although the dancers’ fatigue shows at a very sudden ending, the piece as a whole is a lively departure from what we just saw and what’s to come.
Eternally Evolving, the last dance before intermission, seems to be the ultimate collaboration. Angie Dutton and Lauren Butschek-Neisler (Collective Force) represent their respective organizations with a structured improvisation as they share the stage with spoken word artist Rashard Garrett and cellist Heather Hatch. Too many differing arts on the stage, however, makes for a difficult visual and Garrett commands most of the attention with his mesmerizing vocal rhythms and quiet passion. Although the cellist plays an unusual melody, she highlights one important element missing from most of the concert: live music works infinitely better in that space.
Closing the concert is another partnership from Denton, Big Rig Dance Collective with the Hentai Improvising Orchestra (performing live) in Acres and Perches. Subtle movements with limbs out of alignment and gazes of uncertainty take up most of the first part set to a perplexing sound score. That uncertainty changes to curiosity, with each dancer intently peering at the others with every movement. Finally, the choreography moves back and forth between slow motion and struggling, flinging before ending abruptly.
◊ Join the artists of Barefoot Brigade next week as they put it all on the line with a concert full of premieres. The groups performing Jan. 24-26 are:
- 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)