Archive for the ‘College Dance’ Category

UPDATE: Here’s my review of the show in The Dallas Morning News, though you may need a subscription to read the whole article.

The largest gathering of North Texas performing artists in memory will raise money for local AIDS organizations Tuesday night at Winspear Opera House. The dance world will be represented at A Gathering: The Dallas Arts Community Reflects on 30 Years of AIDS by Texas Ballet Theater, Bruce Wood Dance Project and student ensembles from SMU and the Booker T. Washington arts magnet.

TBT artistic director Ben Stevenson has made a pas de deux set to the so-called “Caccini Ave Maria” for company members Heather Kotelenets and her husband, Alexander Kotelenets. The aria will be sung by countertenor John Holiday, who won this year’s Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition.

Bruce Wood has choreographed three new pieces for the show: Blue for dancers Dallas Blagg, Albert Drake and Harry Feril, set to the Joni Mitchell tune to be performed by Denise Lee; a solo to the Chopin Prelude in E Minor for Kimi Nikaidoh that will use panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt as decor; and Blackbird for Nikaidoh, Feril and Jennifer Mabus to the Beatles song, with Robin Hackett on vocals.

SMU dance professor Millicent Johnnie has worked up MAW Expensive (A Tribute to Fela) for a company of 12 students. And from Booker T., dance coordinator Lily Cabatu Weiss has choreographed This Woman’s Work for Mabus, Dallas Black Dance Theatre company members Katricia Eaglin and Richard Freeman and six students, and faculty member Bridget L. Moore has made Human for six students, and The Road Home for DBDT’s Claude Alexander III and Sean Smith and student Mason Manning.

Both good and inexpensive seats remain for the fundraiser, with the organizers offering half-price tickets. Just use the promo code “artist” without quote marks.


Contemporary Ballet Dallas/Photo courtesy of the company

My story on the North Texas college-dance scene, focusing on resident choreographer programs at SMU, UTD and TCU, leads Sunday’s Dallas Morning News arts coverage. The experience gained by students is key to their future professional careers and also provides opportunities for audiences to see work that otherwise would not be available here.

I’ll dig deeper into this phenomenon with looks at the individual residences over the next two weeks, leading up to the performances eventually. Meanwhile, I caught this weekend’s season opener of Contemporary Ballet Dallas, a decade-old company founded by SMU graduates.

CBD revived a Halloween-themed concept, Danse Macabre, for Friday and Saturday shows in the small hall at the Eisemann Center. The program of seven premieres and one revival got off to an appropriate start with House of Mirrors by choreographer Jill S. Rucci, featuring a ballerina (Jeana Robers Mosher) haunted by Night Terrors (Rachael Burns, Victoria Dolph, Danielle Georgiou, Jennifer Obeney and Carolyn Robbins).

In the second half of the program, seen Friday, Diablo by Jennifer Arellano employed a similar strategy. To music by Bach and Saint-Saens, the title character (Brandon McGee) controlled his Minions (Audrey Archer, Brittany Bollinger, Lea Essmyer, Sandra Plunkett, Addison Reed and Emilie Rupp) until a last-minute reversal.

These dances contained accomplished group work, but they weren’t as frightening as Beset by Confectionary and Not a Clue! were funny. Beset by choreographer Anna Marie Ewert-Pittman (who also has a piece in the SMU Fall Dance Concert) was a competition between Lela Bell and Jennifer Mabus with candy at stake. It required a broom to clean up.

In a takeoff on the popular board game, Not a Clue! (2002) by CBD co-founder and artistic director Valerie Shelton Tabor ended the night with a tour de force of hilarious tableaux fueled by slapstick pantomime. This is the kind of fun, accessible piece that can be enjoyed by audiences that might not sit still for other types of contemporary dance and shows that there is still a place for mimetic, acting-driven movement if it’s well conceived.

My other favorite piece of the evening was All for Fire by Victoria Dolph, which built momentum through depictions of the four elements. Jennifer Obeney, portraying Water, emerged to twirl and whip a long ribbon into eye-catching shapes. Dolph created some beautiful juxtaposing as the other elements arrived. Dolph also stood out as The Dame, the femme fatale in Obeney’s wryly dry Dance Noir, a takeoff on the detective genre that included Sam Spade/Mike Hammer-style voiceover.

Less successful was Love Lost, a duet choreographed by CBD assistant artistic director Lindsay Bowman. Starting with the treacly music by Evanescence, the piece was a clichéd look at the ups and downs of a young relationship that included some fine dancing by the ubiquitous Obeney and Stephen Raikes but also a lot of moody dead spots apparently meant to create atmosphere.

Aberration, Part II by Kate Walker showed what it’s possible to do with mood and inventive movement as Bollinger, Essmyer, Georgiou and Lisa Lagravinese created mystery out of Walker’s snake-like choreography.

Here’s Cheryl Callon’s review for Theater Jones, and here’s a link to CBD’s YouTube channel, with looks at Clue, Aberration and Diablo.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet/Photo by Rosalie O'Connor

Nearly a dozen promising dance performances – half of them imported – dot the North Texas arts calendar this fall, from Savion Glover at Bass Hall to Garth Fagan at TWU to local heroes Dallas Black Dance Theatre and Texas Ballet Theater to shows mixing students and professionals by the dance programs at SMU, UTD and TCU.

The 2011-12 season unofficially opens with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet this Saturday, Sept. 10, at Winspear Opera House, sponsored by TITAS, and one of my five top picks for fall. Check out my curated calendar here and look for my interview with ASFB artistic director Tom Mossbrucker coming soon to this space and The Dallas Morning News Guide section on Friday.