UPDATE: My review of CD/FW Dance Exchange: A Choreographers Showcase, which took over the museum lobby Friday and Saturday night, is in today’s Dallas Morning News. Link here.
Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth was born 20 years ago in a modern dance-less Cowtown and ever since has put on performance seasons and acted as a community educator without ever losing money. Founded by Kerry Kreiman, who is executive and artistic director, and Susan Douglas Roberts, now artistic adviser, CD/FW struck up a relationship with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth as the museum’s new building was under construction in 2002.
Since 2004, the two organizations have collaborated on an annual Modern Dance Festival at the Modern. It kicks off its eighth year Friday evening with an expanded film component, Modern Film Fest 2011, and a choreographers showcase that includes premieres by four company members and visiting artists from Denton (Mary Lynn Babcock/Satellite-Dance Company), Houston (john r. stronks/”there…in the sunlight” Contemporary Dance) and Chicago (Lonny Joseph Gordon of Winifred Haun & Dancers and GORDONDANCE). The showcase program will be performed again in the Grand Lobby on Saturday night.
The festival runs through July 24 and includes three performances of The Palace at Night by New Mexico’s Project IN Motion on the reflecting pool lawn; four shows of The Butterfly Effect and Other Beautiful Catastrophes, a collaboration between Kreiman, composer William H. Meadows and the CD/FW dancers, in the lobby; two programs of award-winning shorts from the Dance on Camera Festival and seven feature-length dance films in the auditorium; a special lecture-film screening by choreographer Shelley Cushman on the theme of Cinematic Caricatures; and a lecture on modern dance and aerial dance. Complete schedule here and here.
Originally published in The Dallas Morning News, July 2010:
Keeping a modern dance company on its feet in North Texas is a battle. The audience for dance is small, and funding is scarce. So it’s all the more remarkable that two local groups, Ewert & Company and Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth, are celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2010. Both gave performances last weekend that exemplified their perseverance.
Decade-old Ewert is the baby of Anna Marie Ewert-Pittman, an adjunct professor at Brookhaven College. She debuted her company during the 2000-01 season with two shows at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary. But there’s been no repeat of that performance. Since then, the group has mostly worked as a guest artist or festival participant.
It was a treat then to see the company back with a suite of new works by the inventive, risk-taking choreographer. “It’s a great way to express yourself,” Ewert-Pittman says of her passion for dance before Friday’s performance at the Addison Studio Theatre. “I enjoy the physicality, the way it feels to move.”
Meanwhile on the other side of the Trinity, Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth wrapped up its 20th season with a partially improvised piece that swept through the lobby, gallery and grounds of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
Called Irresistible Forces: A “happening” in honor of Mother Nature, it used cards printed with evocative phrases – “shifting sand,” “magnetism, “decay/disintegration,” – to prompt artistic director Kerry Kreiman and her four dancers into their next moves.
“I find a great deal of curiosity and satisfaction in working on a project where you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Kreiman says in an interview after Saturday’s performance. “Adventures in the unknown are part of the modern-dance tradition.”
The 48-year-old graduate of Texas Christian University’s dance program has been on the adventure for as long as she can remember. Growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she started dancing to her parents’ records and making up dance routines as a young child. Her first class at age 7 was “an hour jam packed with tap, ballet, jazz and acrobatics.”
It sounds a little like her eclectic approach to Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth. In the past year, on a budget of $200,000, the company has put on two-dozen performances at a host of venues. “Sure, we’re operating on a shoestring budget,” Kreiman says. “But I’m shaping everything around what we can do. I’m interested in presenting a variety of experiences.”
That means one kind of show for the 300-foot-long Poultry Barn in Fort Worth, another for the small black box of the Sanders Theatre. “We try to pick and design work that will be appropriate for the space,” she says. “The reality is I’m just a pretty determined person. It’s not like modern dance has ever been a lucrative career.”
Ewert-Pittman can relate. She started out as competitive gymnast and later a swimmer and diver before discovering dance in her teens. Her new dances, under the umbrella title Festung von Erinnerungen (Stronghold of Memories), are part of her master’s thesis at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her plan is to pursue a full-time teaching position, one of the best anchors for a modern-dance career.
Her choreography, she says, has been evolving. Starting from a classical sensibility, she has moved into a more contemporary style. Just as important, she tries to challenge herself with each new piece. “I try to make each piece different,” she says. “I get tired of seeing the same piece over and over.”