Bruce Wood returns with new troupe

Posted: June 9, 2011 in Bruce Wood, Local Dance

Photo courtesy Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image

Update: Here’s a link to my review in the Morning News, which you’ll need a subscription to fully read; Margaret Putnam’s on Theater Jones; and Mark Lowry’s in the Star-Telegram.

Bruce Wood is the only Dallas-Fort Worth choreographer not named Ben Stevenson to make a name for himself in the past 20 years. But when he lost most of his funding in 2006, Wood was forced to close his decade-old modern dance company. Now, he’s back with a new troupe, Bruce Wood Dance Project, that will test the waters during two nights at the Montgomery Arts Theater inside Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts this weekend. Read my preview story from today’s Dallas Morning News after the jump and check out reports from Art & Seek’s Jerome Weeks here and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Punch Shaw here.

Published June 8 by The Dallas Morning News:

Dancers have been known to smile on stage during upbeat pieces, but members of Bruce Wood’s troupe are beaming at a rehearsal. The acclaimed Fort Worth choreographer is refining the humorously quirky gestures of a new work called Happy Feet that launches the debut of the Bruce Wood Dance Project this weekend.

Mindless head nods, air punches and chicken-like arm flaps mark the absurd movement, which is set to a suite of accordion-driven, European-style gypsy tunes that will be performed live by singer-songwriter Ginny Mac and her band. Wood and his supporters hope the happiness will be infectious, but he’s not taking anything for granted this time.

No one who cares about dance in North Texas was smiling in 2006 when poor finances forced him to close his Bruce Wood Dance Company. He had started it under a different name a decade earlier in Austin before quickly relocating to Fort Worth. There he found patrons, an audience that packed Bass Hall for his annual seasons, and the spark to create dozens of original works that toured the country, all on a $400,000 budget.

Now, at the urging of Dallas arts maven Gayle Halperin, Wood is taking another shot.

“I always connected with his pieces,” says Halperin, board chair of the Bruce Wood Dance Project, which raised $80,000 to put on these first shows. “I find them visually stunning, with poignant imagery and intricate musicality….He’s one of my favorite choreographers in the United States, and I have seen a lot of modern dance over the past 35 years.”

“Initially, I was really hesitant,” Wood says in an interview at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where he and 16 dancers have been preparing for their coming-out party Friday and Saturday night at the school’s Montgomery Arts Theater.

“I didn’t want to put myself through that again. I certainly didn’t want to put the dancers or any administrative people through it again, because I knew how hard it was going to be. So what we did, we didn’t proclaim that we’re going to be here forever. We proclaimed that we’re going to do these June shows, and if it goes well then we’ll continue. And if it doesn’t go well, no hard feelings, everyone can walk away, and it’ll be fine.”

And if it goes well, what would be his fondest dream? “I would love for us to be the resident company at City Performance Hall,” he says, referring to the new venue scheduled to open in the Arts District next year. “They have all these buildings now. We have to have something to put in them.”

Wood has hired mostly local dancers, both for practical reasons and to prove that the talent was available here. Their ages range from 16 to 40.

“Unfortunately, many people think when it comes to dance that it couldn’t possibly be good if it’s local and not flying in from one of the coasts,” says Charles Santos, executive director of the arts presenting organization TITAS. “But there are truly wonderfully talented artists here, and Bruce Wood is among the best of them.”

The other new work on this weekend’s program is a quartet called One Last Lost Chance, which finds the dancers poignantly touching their faces and feet in one of Wood’s typically human-scale dramas. The bill also includes the 2010 solo, At the Edge of My Life…So Far, for Dallas Black Dance’s Nycole Ray and a revival of 2001’s Bolero.

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