New dance companies can be a hit and miss affair, and so it was Friday night with Bree Hafen’s Positive Space Company. Presented by Dallas Repertoire Ballet and Break the Floor Productions at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts, it offered a little bit of everything: classical ballet, jazz, contemporary, even belly dancing but mostly a heavy dose of theater art.
Like chameleons, dancers who first represented something serious as in the opening work, Judgment Day, turned out to be something entirely different. Set to Ella Fitzgerald’s “Get Happy,” a bevy of girls from the Allen-based Academy of Dance Arts quickly shed their long white robes and sober mien for spiffy, bright-colored sundresses and sun-shiny mood. Reckless Rose also throws a curve ball, this time by the appearance of the same dancers in old-fashioned dress circa 1890 complete with black boots. They cover a stage with strategically placed chairs as though to suggest a church gathering, but it’s soon apparent they are in no mood for anything remotely spiritual. They stamp, thrust arms out, glare—looking defiant and menacing.
The mood is even more somber but more introspective in three solos: Come by Fire, choreographed and performed by Nicki Loud; Widow, performed by Dallas Repertoire Ballet soloist Megan Schonberg; and Unrequited, performed by Dallas Repertoire Ballet soloist Grace Ludwinski. In all three, the dancer spends a lot of time on the floor, but in the last two, legs are forever shooting out and unfolding, as though the joints have very tightly coiled hinges. The effect is intriguing in a cool, clinical fashion.
The oddballs in the program, however, are a ballet and two belly dancing numbers. The first in a carefully executed solo from Ramonda, performed by Dallas Repertoire Ballet soloist Haley Hartsfield. With one hand on hip and the other high and behind her back, Ms. Hartsfield crisscrosses the floor with emphatic footwork, capturing only a hint of the serene assurance of the countess, but none of her brilliance.
The belly-dancing: Habibi and Egyptic performed by Janelle Issis, was another matter altogether. Wearing a flowing white skirt and bra in Habibi and gold cape and blue skirt in Egyptic, Issis seems barely to move as a cascade of rippling abdominal muscles flow in tiny isolation. When she does skirt the floor, some part of her body—hips, arms, or torso—continues to undulate like uncoiled snakes.
And then for a taste of glamour, two cast members from Dancing with the Stars, Chelsie Hightower and Sasha Farber, heat up the stage with some saucy Latin dancing.
The second act features Positive Space performing three dramatic acts by Ms. Hafen: “Humanity,” “Home,” and “Healing.” The centerpiece involves a couple and their daughter, with the husband banned by his wife, who reconciles, and then loses her when she goes off to war. Three “fates” intervene from time to time, and at the end the dead wife returns as an angel, imploring her husband to seek a new wife.
If the story gets a bit too treacly at times, there is another clever dance episode to compensate, especially when the ensemble shoots legs and arms out in all directions.
The program continues Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Eisemann Center.
◊ 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.