Review: Chamberlain Performing Arts’ Nutcracker

Chamberlain Performing Arts delivers strong technique and spectacular guest artists at the company’s 31st Nutcracker production this weekend.


Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle in Chamberlain’s Nutcracker. Photo Ryan Williams

Richardson — Oh, the weather outside was definitely frightful last Friday evening, but the mood inside the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts was festive as audiences eagerly took their seats for the Chamberlain Performing Arts’ (CPA) 31st showing of The Nutcracker. What sets this company’s Nutcracker apart from other productions in the area is Artistic Director Kathy Chamberlain and her team’s minimalist, yet effective approach to the stage design and movement choices, thus turning the typically cumbersome party scene into an exciting dance narrative filled with nonstop action and clean choreography.

The simple set design in the party scene, which included a handful of gifts, a large grandfather clock, a couch and a chair enabled the audience to focus more on the children and adult dances as well as the subplots taking place around the room. Choreographers Chamberlain, Richard Condon, Lynne Short and Catherine Turocy combined rudimentary ballet steps i.e. chasses, balances, relieve plie and bourrees with various regimented formation changes and even some boy/girl partnering walks in the children’s dances, creating an effect that was both clean and captivating. By intermingling the adults and children into one waltz section, the choreographers successfully kept the energy and storyline moving at a chipper pace.

Katherine Patterson (Clara) perfectly captured a child’s innocence and wonder when it comes to Christmas with her endless energy and shining stage presence. And while Patterson had a tendency to cut her movements short, when she did complete her line in an arabesque hold or sous-sus in fifth, it rivaled the lines of the older company members. With more time and training she will be a force to be reckoned with in coming years. Clara’s friends (Madison Cox, Emily DeMotte, Annika Haynes and Mary Rose Vining) displayed beautiful musicality and body control in their petit adagio section, which featured alternating leg extensions and arm placements and deliberatepique steps, all the while holding baby dolls. Guest artist Joshua Coleman really played to the younger audience members in his role as Herr Drosselmeyer with his over-the-top facial expressions and well-executed magical illusions, which included an impressive disappearing act.

CPA Senior Company Member Bethany Greenho did a commendable job as the Snow Queen. Even her sometimes stiff back arches and locked hip joints in her battements couldn’t take away from her swan-like arms and nimble pointe work nor the way she fearlessly went for the pas de deux’s momentous lifts.  Dallas native Travis Morrison, who performed with the Colorado Ballet from 2006 to 2012, inspired Greenho’s confidence with his unwavering strength and razor-sharp focus during the lifts and tricky counterbalance body positions spread throughout the dance. The snowflake dance lacked some of the elasticity demanded by Tchaikovsky’s score, which falls more on the choreographer’s shoulders than the dancers as the movement in the section catered toward more gliding steps and sustained body positions rather than constant spritely jumps and steps. The hand-held fan-like props with tiny snowballs attached at the ends drew attention to the dancers’ strong body lines and made for a memorable ending to the first half of the show.

The second half in which Clara and her Prince entered the land of sweets gave the whole company the opportunity to show off their artistic growth and technical versatility and also featured some amazing performances by special guests, including Harry Feril (Bruce Wood Dance Project) in the Arabian section and Tiler Peck (New York City Ballet) and Tyler Angle (New York City Ballet) as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

Peck and Angle’s chemistry was undeniable as they executed the complex reverse promenades into a ponche arabesque and the multiple over-the-head lifts including the dynamic fish bowl dip at the end with expressive abandonment. Their luminous auras and technical finesse portrayed at the end of each move, especially after the lightening-quick seven assisted pirouettes into a sustained back arch, is not something that can be taught. Their magnetism as a couple didn’t fade in their solo sections, which featured impressive jumps and controlled landings by Angle and bold lines and unwavering confidence from Tiler in the infamous diagonal chaine, pique turn combination in time to the changing rhythm of the music.

Lisa Hess Jones’ clever choreography in the second half played to each group’s specific skill level from the synchronized walking patterns of the itty bitty angels and the simple soft shoe work of the intermediate bakers and bon bon’s to the more technically advanced pointe work of the marzipans and the Waltz of the Flowers. The end result was one of the most well-rehearsed and lively second acts of the Nutcracker I have had the pleasure to see this season.

Senior dancer Luke Yee wowed audiences with multiple toes touches in the Chinese dance as well as in the Russian dance where he performed alongside Southern Methodist University dance major Alex Druzbanski. Henry Feril showed off his modern background with his hinged-back body layouts and swooping arm movements before assisting Katherine Lambert in a number of shoulder lifts and body dips in the Arabian section. Greenho, Breanna Mitchell, Raquel Dominguez, Aidan Leslie and Serena Press enthralled viewers with their beautiful lyricism and solid pointe work while playing their flutes in the marzipan dance. The whole senior company returned for the Waltz of the Flowers in which they effortlessly captured the nuances in the music with their constant weight shifts on pointe and dynamic crisscrossing jumping sequences. Definitely, a Nutcracker worth seeing again next season!

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Review: The Show About Men, Danielle Georgiou Dance Group

Danielle Georgiou Dance Group picks apart some age-old male stereotypes using song and dance and a balance of darkness and humor in The Show About Men.

The Show About Men from DGDG. Photo: DeAndre Upshaw

Dallas — Man up! Real men Shave! Don’t be a D***! A Barbie is not a boy’s toy!

These are a just a few of the societal catchphrases that Danielle Georgiou and her troupe of artistically gifted performers addressed head on in the reprisal of The Show About Men at the Performance Hall at Eastfield College on Friday evening. After receiving rave reviews at the Festival of Independent Theatres in Dallas last summer,Danielle Georgiou Dance Group (DGDG) decided to bring the show back for this limited engagement and with a few production enhancements including two new songs and additional cast members Ruben Carrazana and Nick Leos who fit right in to this wacky boy’s club.

If you have seen any of Georgiou’s work in the last couple of years, including Dirty Filthy Diamonds and NICE, then you know that you aren’t going to just sit and watch passively from the audience. No, you are going to experience the show right alongside the performers thanks to Georgiou’s artistic philosophy which includes immersing the audience into the environment she and the performers have created, while expressing through dance and theater topics that many may find otherwise unapproachable. The Show About Men doesn’t disappoint in this regard.

Throughout the performance, the men relate stories based on their personal experiences, which range from sexuality, complex relationships with other males (fathers/friends/sons), responsibilities of providing for families or being in positions of authority and permission to be vulnerable, in need of love and to be afraid. These personal stories help make the show more accessible and prevent viewers from passing their own judgments as we were completely captivated by the individuals’ words and body language.

The Show About Men from DGDG. Photo: DeAndre Upshaw

Fear is the motivator in the opening segment as William Acker, Colby Calhoun, Ruben Carrazana, Matthew Clark, Curtis Green, Gabriel King and Nick Leos (sadly DGDG conceptual designer Justin Locklear was unable to perform) repeatedly slapp their thighs, chests and heads while chanting phrases like “Fear! Fear of myself! Fear of rejection! Fear of saying the wrong things!” The phrases are shouted with drill sergeant-intensity and are accompanied with militant walking steps and tense posturing. The mood invoked by their minimal clothing (boxers and thermal tank tops, a.k.a. “wife-beaters”), aggressive gesturing and frantic shouting is at first intimidating. But Georgiou and Locklear once again work their magic and right before the tension becomes too overwhelming the performers suddenly yell “bugs!” and start trembling, releasing the built-up tension in the room.

Georgiou also manipulates the venue to aid in her mission to include the audience into the action. The 30 or so audience members were escorted onstage and behind the red curtain where a gritty bar scene awaited us complete with dingy lighting, a variety of mismatched tables and chairs, a long bar to one side, lone chairs and a piano on the other as well as a large hand-written sign welcoming viewers to Dick’s All Night Bar & Karaoke.

As the less-than-90-minute production unfolded the bar was transformed into a sanctuary of sorts for the seven male performers, allowing them to speak freely about what it means to be a man. In a very candid group conversation the men shouted out their answers to the age old question: what makes a man a man? Answers varied from rational to ridiculous such as when a suggestion that men were “handy around the house” turned into “handsy” as Leos groped himself, and some answers were contradictory, such as that men are both knowledgeable and stupid. The conservation ended with a randy song and dance number that had the men performing numerous pelvic thrusts and booty shakes while colorfully describing the male sex organ to a tune resembling The Hokey Pokey, composed by Trey Pendergrass and Locklear.

Another lighthearted group number had the performers standing up against makeshift urinals discussing the deficiencies of men’s restrooms relative to women’s restrooms which ended in the group singing about a “gender neutral bathroom in the sky.” Carrazana’s magnetic personality and awkward coming-of-age stories regarding asking a girl out and proudly sporting a so-called moustache at age 12 also had the audience in stitches. And as the only female in the show, Kayla Anderson did a beautiful job of portraying the various roles women play in a man’s life, including those of wife, mother, friend and lover.

But not every experience ends on a jovial note. While Calhoun serenades us about how he never thought of being a man “until you told me so,” King and Green execute a series of push-and-pull partnering exchanges featuring concaved torso movements, high chest arcs and body dips. Green’s journey to manhood involves joining the army, and he didn’t miss the irony of being a gay soldier in the “don’t ask don’t tell” days who would ultimately win the manly solider of the year award. The other performers’ subtle marching steps and pivot turns are done in contingent and round out Green’s tale. King speaks about how he felt like a man after his first physical argument with his father, depicted visually by two performers in the background.

Every artist strives to influence a person’s perception pertaining to a certain topic or theme, but sometimes they miss the mark. Still, DGDG succeeds in altering the audiences’ perception of what society deems to be manly behavior by reminding us, through Pendergrass’ monologue near the end, that we are all human and therefore should be allowed to express all the emotions that come with that privilege freely and without judgment.

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Get Crackin’

Get into the holiday spirit with any one of these Nutcracker productions, from the traditional to Nearly Naked, offer across Dallas-Fort Worth. Plus a list of other holiday dance.


The Nutcracker from Texas Ballet Theate. Photo: Steven Visneau

It’s that time of year again! In between all the shopping, decorating and baking you have planned this holiday season make sure you set some time aside to check out one of the numerous Nutcracker productions being offered by many of the professional and pre-professional dance companies across Dallas-Fort Worth. For audiences west of the DFW Airport, Texas Ballet Theater will be running Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker for multiple weekends at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Additionally, Ballet Frontier of Texas and North Central Civic Ballet will be presenting their annual Nutcracker performances at Will Rogers Auditorium.

For residents north of Dallas there are myriad Nutcrackers to choose from, including versions by LakeCities Ballet Theatre in Lewisville, Festival Ballet of North Central Texas in Denton, and Allen Civic Ballet in Allen. The Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, will soon be bursting with holiday cheer when Chamberlain Performing Arts, Dallas Repertoire Ballet, Royale Ballet Dance Academy, Tuzer Ballet and Collin County Ballet Theatre bring their Nutcracker productions here beginning Thanksgiving weekend and continuing till Christmas. The Irving Arts Center is another popular venue for local Nutcracker productions, including versions by Ballet Ensemble of Texas, International Ballet Theater and Momentum Dance Company. And in Dallas the Moscow Ballet returns to McFarlin Auditorium at Southern Methodist University with its rendition of The Great Russian Nutcracker, featuring new costumes and set designs.

You can even hear Tchaikovsky’s full Nutcracker played by the Dallas Symphony, without dancers, if you’re so inclined.

And if you are in need of a change this season, check out any number of the holiday dance shows being offered, including Avant Chamber Ballet’s Holiday Celebration at Dallas City Performance Hall; Epiphany DanceArts Tis the Season at the Eisemann; Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutty Nutcracker at Bass Performance Hall; and even a burlesque show in Dallas aptly named Nearly Naked Nutcracker. A full list of all the Nutcrackers and holiday productions in the area can be found below.


Sarah Lane (ABT) and Daniel Ulbricht (NYCB) as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier in LBT’s 2014 version of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch

Nov. 20-21 Ballet Frontier of Texas presents The Nutcracker with choreography by Chung-Lin Tseng at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. $40-$50. Call 817-689-7310 or visit

Nov. 20-22 Moscow Ballet return to Dallas with its rendition of The Great Russian Nutcracker at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium. This year’s production features new costumes for Act I by designer Arthur Oliver and two new backdrops by Academy Award Nominee Carl Sprague. $28-$88. Call 800-745-3000 or visit

Nov. 27-29 Chamberlain Performing Arts annual showing of The Nutcracker featuring New York City Ballet Principal’s Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $15-$100. Call 972-744-4650 or visit

Nov. 27-29 Momentum Dance Company brings the holiday tale to life with choreography by Jacquelyn Ralls Forcher at the Irving Arts Center. $15-$25. Call 972-252-2787 or visit

Nov. 28-29 LakeCities Ballet Theatre celebrates its 25th annual production of The Nutcracker which features live music from Lewisville Lake Symphony and guest artists Sarah Lane of American Ballet Theater and Daniel Ulbricht of New York City Ballet. $20-$45. Call 972-317-7987 or

Dec. 4-6 Dallas Ballet Company presents The Nutcracker featuring guest artists April Daly and Miguel Blanco from Joffrey Ballet at the Granville Arts Center in Garland. $23-$24. Call 972-205-2790 or visit

Dec. 5 Local dancers Harry Feril (Bruce Wood Dance Project) and Yulia Ilina (Avant Chamber Ballet) join theInternational Ballet Theater for its production of The Nutcracker Sweet at the Irving Arts Center. $28-$38. Call 972-252-2787 or visit

Dec. 5-6 Ballet Ensemble of Texas, under the direction of Joffrey alum Lisa Slagle, presents the holiday classic at the Irving Arts Center. $25-$30. Call 972-252-2787 or visit

Dec. 5-6 Rowlett Dance Academy presents its 14th annual production of The Nutcracker at Garland High School. $10. Call 972-475-8269 or visit

Dec. 5-6 Royale Ballet Dance Academy offering of The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $20-$25. Call 972-744-4650 or visit

Dec. 5-6 North Central Civic Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. $30. Visit

Dec. 5-10 New York City Ballet brings George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker to the big screen in various movies across the DFW Metroplex. $16-$18 Adult. Visit 

Dec. 11-27 Texas Ballet Theater takes the stage with Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Call 877-828-9200 or visit

Dec. 11-13 Dallas Repertoire Ballet brings its rendition of the beloved holiday tale to the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $22-$42. Call 972-744-4650 or

Dec. 12 Colleyville Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker for one-night only at the Irving Arts Center. $25-$30. Call 972-252-2787 or visit

Dec. 12-13 Festival Ballet of North Central Texas showing of The Nutcracker at Texas Woman’s University, Margo Jones Performance Hall in Denton. $11-$36. Call 940.891.0830 or visit

Dec. 19-20 Tuzer Ballet presents The Nutcracker with guest artists Rie Ichikawa (Boston Ballet) and Zack Grubbs (Cincinnati Ballet) at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $15-$50. Call 972-744-4650 or

Dec. 19-20 The Allen Civic Ballet presents its annual production of the holiday classic with live musical accompaniment by the Allen Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra at the Allen High School Performing Arts Center in Allen. $15-$25. Visit

Dec. 19 The Art Ballet Academy presents The Nutcracker at Mansfield ISD Center for the Performing Arts, Mansfield. $16. Visit

Dec. 22-23 Collin County Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker features live music from Plano Symphony Orchestra at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $22-$77. Call 972-744-4650 or



(including non-traditional takes on The Nutcracker)

Nov. 19 Avant Chamber Ballet returns to White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake with its holiday production of Nutcracker: Short and Suite. This one-act Nutcracker presented by Apex Arts League includes new choreography by Katie Cooper and music by Tchaikovsky. $15-$20. Call 800-481-8914 or visit


Avant Chamber Ballet will present Holiday Celebration. Photo: Mark Kitaoka

Nov. 27-29 The Dallas Symphony Orchestra plays Tchaikovsky’s complete The Nutcracker (no dancers), and featuring the Children’s Chorus of Collin County, at the Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas. Call 214-692-0203 or visit

Nov. 27-Dec. 27 MBS Productions presents its annual hit The Beulaville Baptist Book Club Presents a Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker, in which a church has to do a last minute substitution of its dancers for The Nutcracker, at the Addison Theatre Centre’s Studio Theatre. $29. Call 214-477-4942 or visit

Dec. 6 8&1 Dance Company closes its third season with In The Spirit, featuring live music and heart-warming chorography at the Quixotic Word in Dallas. Visit 

Dec. 6 Dallas Youth Ballet presents a Rockefeller Christmas Spectacular at Dallas City Performance Hall with special guest Arron Scott from American Ballet Theatre. $20-$75.

Dec. 10 Avant Chamber Ballet’s Holiday celebration at Dallas City Performance Hall incudes Katie Cooper’s Sleigh Ride and Nutcracker: Short and Suite. $20-$30. Visit

Dec. 11-12 Bruce Wood Dance Project presents a Christmas Cabaret benefit with Broadway stars Aaron Lazar, Liz Callaway and Joseph Thalken, at the BWDP Studio, 3630 Harry Hines Boulevard, Suite 36, Dallas. $350-$1,000. Call 214-428-2263 or visit

Dec. 12 Ballet Concerto presents its annual A Holiday Special at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. The program includes Winter Wonderland, The Princess and the Magical Christmas Star, O Holy Night and A Cool Yule. $8 for daytime performances and $12-$25 for the evening performance. Call 817-738-7915 or visit

Dec. 12 Contemporary Ballet Dallas offers their spin on Charles Dickens’ classic tale with Boogie Woogie Christmas Carol at McFarlin Memorial Auditorium on the Southern Methodist University campus. $18-$30.

Dec. 18 Texas Ballet Theater brings The Nutty Nutcracker, its PG-13 spoof of The Nutcracker, to Bass Performance Hall for one night only. $40-250. Call 877.828.9200 or visit

Dec. 18-19 Epiphany DanceArts celebrates the holiday season with its production of Tis the Season at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. $17-$27. Call 972-744-4650 or visit

Dec. 19 Broads & Panties presents Nearly Naked Nutcracker: A Burlesque Ballet featuring aerial performances, circus arts, ballet and burlesque at Trees in Deep Ellum. $20-$44. Visit

Dec. 19-20 Denton City Contemporary Ballet presents A Gift for Emma at Margo Jones Performance Hall at Texas Woman’s University, Denton. $15-25. Call 940-383-2623 or visit

Dec. 19-20 ImPULSE Dance Project celebrates the season with Snow at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater. Program includes works by Artistic Director Anastasia Waters and company members Krista Langford and Kristin Daniels. $17. Visit

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Preview: Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s Director’s Choice Series

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image

The ladies of Dallas Black Dance Theatre strut their stuff in Margo Sappington’s Step Out of Love, part of the company’s Director’s Choice Series.

Dallas — Just when you think you have seen everything in Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s (DBDT) movement arsenal the company comes out with something bigger and bolder. Last season DBDT soared to new heights in Jamal Story’s aerial work What to Say? Sketches of Echo and Narcissus at its Spring Celebration Series. This year the ladies of DBDT are getting down and physical in Margo Sappington’s hard-hitting, jazz funk piece, Step Out of Love, part of the company’s annual Director’s Choice Series, Nov.6-8, at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the Dallas Arts District.

A Texas native, Sappington began her professional dance career when she joined the Joffrey Ballet at the age of 17 and her choreographic career at the age of 21. In the U.S. her choeography has been used by companies such as Joffrey Ballet (New York/Chicago), Pennsylvania Ballet, Houston Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Milwaukee Ballet, Carolina Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Ballet Jazz de Montreal. In 1975 Sappington was nominated for a Tony Award for her work on the play Where’s Charley? and in 2005 received a Lifetime Achievement Award for choreography from the Joffrey.

Sappington is most well-known for using popular music on the concert stage, including songs by Prince, William Shatner, Indigo Girls and Carlos Santana. Her opera credits include Live from the San Francisco Opera, La GiocondaSamson and Delilah and Aida. On Broadway, she was the dance captain in the original Promises, Promises and has choreographed revivals of Pal JoeyOh! Calcutta! and Where’s Charley?

Originally set on Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in 1987,Step Out of Love follows five women who don’t know each other, but are sharing the same story, which in this case is a bad break up. Each dancer’s story is told through various solos that then morph into duets and trios and eventually into a climactic group section. When asked about the structuring of the work Sappington explains, “The piece begins with each woman in her own thoughts, and as the piece progresses they realize that they are sharing an experience, each in her own way, at the same time. By the end of the piece they are all in the same place at the same time, all five of them in step with one another.”

Sappington’s use of classic jazz techniques in the work, including Fosse and Luigi are a welcome reprieve from the typical contemporary moves that are currently dominating the dance industry. Head whips and staccato hand gestures are paired with continuous leg lifts, hip swirls and foot flicks. Sappington repeats many of the same arm gestures, leg kicks and body poses throughout the piece, but she layers them with directional, level and speed changes to keep the movement from feeling redundant. The dancers’ varying emotional triggers also help keep the movement fresh and interesting. “It is important for each woman to internalize her thoughts and then show them through the movement. The movements are designed to help this process for each character.”

For example, Alyssa Harrington showcases her uncertainty about the break-up through a series of soft and hard body shapes and various controlled leg extensions. Michelle Herbert’s anger is palpable in her explosive barrel turns, sudden falls to the ground and aggressive hand gestures, including claps, flicks and jabs. Hana Delong and McKinley Willis (who was standing in for Jasmine White-Killins) let out their frustration with large traveling steps, frantic arms swings and sudden stop action moments. Unlike the others, Kayah Franklin appears to be the one initiating the break up as is evident through her dismissive body language and the sly smirk on her face.

Stephen Forsyth’s rock score by the same name adds more tension to the dance’s already heated tone and draws attention to the many gestural quirks in the choreography. When asked if this was intentional Sappington says, “The movement reflects not just the sentiment of the song, but also the abrasiveness of the music. Stephen used construction tools as part of his instrumentation such as drills and electric saws to give a dense and agitated quality to some of the instruments.”

Sappington says the complex movement sequences and the speed in which they are performed was a challenge for the dancers during the rehearsal process, but she is pleased with how quickly they embodied the movement and their characters. “We had a very short rehearsal period and the women were very focused and used every minute to absorb all the details.” Sappington adds, “Being a small group they know how to dance together and help and encourage each other, which creates a wonderful working atmosphere.”

Audiences can see Sappington’s Step Out of Love along with Alvin Ailey dancer Hope Boykin’s in·ter·pret, Christopher L. Huggins’ Night Run and Talley Beatty’s A Rag, A Bone, and A Hank of Hair at Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s Director’s Choice Series, Nov. 6-8, at the Wyly Theatre.

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Review: LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s Dracula

This was the first ballet I brought my daughter to and she did great. She is 2 1/2 and sat through the whole first half. The second half was a little scary so my husband took her into the lobby. I recommend this show for anyone with little kids.

Photo: Nancy Loch

Photo: Nancy Loch

LakeCities Ballet Theatre sucks audiences in with brilliant dancing and dramatic special effects at its 10th annual Le Ballet de Dracula in Lewisville.

Lewisville — After a decade, it’s natural for a ballet to start to lose some of its luster. But that’s not the case with LakeCities Ballet Theatre‘s Halloween spook-tacular, Le Ballet de Dracula, which played to a sold-out crowd for the troupe’s 10th-anniversary show on Saturday at the Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theatre.

Having seen this production many times before, I can honestly say the ballet gets visually and technically stronger every year thanks to Artistic Director Kelly Kilburn Lannin’s fine choreographic detailing and continous production enhancements, including set designs, costuming and special effects that always seem to bring audiences to the edge of their seats.

The show’s popularity can also be attributed to Tom Rutherford’s well-conceived narrative and creative mash-up of characters including Ratcliff (the quirky sidekick), weolas (batlike creatures) and a dozen vampire brides.

Loosely based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, LBT’s version illustrates the love triangle between Aurelia, Marius and Dracula in two well-balanced acts. In the first half the villagers, gypsies and Romanians all come together to celebrate the engagement of Aurelia (Carley Denton) and Marius (guest artist Steven Loch of Pacific Northwest Ballet).

The company members demonstrated great animation and agility in the specialized group dances, which featured various movement styles, including soft-shoe ballet, pointe, jazz, modern and even some folk dance. The Romanian dancers’ rhythmic foot stomps and traveling shuffle steps were accompanied by simple arm gestures and crisp formation changes.

The gypsies, led by Denise Clarkston, used an array of hip isolations and open-armed twirling phrases to depict their rebellious nature. Aurelia’s friends (Chloe Davis, Kristina Lorelli, Carly Greene, Julie Fenske, Madeline Hanly and Julia Tiller) proved why LBT is one of the most sought after pre-professional ballet companies in the Dallas area with their exacting pointe work, beautiful musicality and commanding stage presence.

One of the newer additions to the show was a musically enchanting pas de deux with company member Michelle Lawyer and guest artist Dan Westfield pf Ballet Frontier of Texas. Lawyer’s lithe frame and nimble point work balanced out Westfield’s wider frame and explosive jump sequences.

In the partnering sections each pulled from the other’s strengths and suddenly Lawyer’s sautés were as high as Westfield’s, and his arms placement and fourth lunges were just as soft as Lawyer’s. The exchanging of the tambourine throughout the pas de duex was perfectly timed and added a new musical layer to the dance.

Carley Denton’s role as Aurelia was well-earned. Her flexibility and stamina has improved over the last year, demonstrated through her various sustained body positions and lightning-quick pique turns. She has also found the key to releasing the tension in her shoulders with the help of certain breathing techniques.

Steven Loch continues to breathe new life into the role of Marius with his limitless energy and technical fortitude. The couple’s pas de deux was a lovely display of unending lines and counterbalance poses topped with Denton’s six continuous pirouettes into a luxurious body dip at the end.

The maypole dance that Lannin incorporated about six years ago remains one of the highlights of the first half. In this scene 12 dancers frolicked around a 15-foot pole, creating an intricate weaving pattern with the brightly colored streamers they carried. Rhythmic clapping accompanied the dancers’ spritely skips and gallop steps.

The mood changed drastically when Dracula (Shannon Beacham) and his minion Ratcliff (Asia Waters) arrived to lure Aurelia away from her family and Marius. Over the years Beacham has perfected the role of Dracula, from his menacing walks and nuanced cape flicks to the overly dramatic facial expressions.

Smoke machines and special lighting techniques succeeded in creating the illusion of Dracula appearing out of thin air. The dim lighting, ominous music and ghostly appearance of Dracula’s brides in the second half evenly matched the dancers’ loose, hanging arms, soundless bourrees across the floor and vacant expressions.

Julia Tiller (Marcela) set the tone at the beginning of the scene with her solid pointe work and expansive arm-gesturing. The fight scene between Loch and Beacham started off spotty with some lengthy pauses between their physical exchanges, but they quickly found their rhythm. Mindful of the young ones in the audience, the really heavy moments were lightened by Waters’ constant wandering and clumsy interactions with the brides.

Wildly creative, meticulously produced and cleverly choreographed, LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s Le Ballet de Dracula is sure to continue entertaining audiences for the next 10 years.

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Q&A: Catherine Ellis Kirk, Abraham.In.Motion

Kyle Abraham dancer Catherine Ellis Kirk. Photo: Breton Tyner-Bryan

Kyle Abraham dancer Catherine Ellis Kirk. Photo: Breton Tyner-Bryan

The Dallas native on finding her stride as a concert dancer and performing with Kyle Abraham’s Abraham.In.Motion which comes to town this weekend on the TITAS season.

Dallas — As the recipient of a 2013 MacArthur Fellowship as well as a 2010 Princess Grace and Bessie award for performance and choreography, it’s no wonder Kyle Abraham was recently dubbed the darling of the dance world by Dance magazine. Abraham started his training at the Civic Light Opera Academy and the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School. He holds a BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase and an MFA from the New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts. His performing credits include David Dorfman Dance, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, The Kevin Wynn Collective, Nathan Trice/Rituals, Dance Alloy and Attack Theatre. For the last nine years his company Abraham.In.Motion has been captivating audiences across the U.S. and abroad with its provocative movement choices and strong social messages reflecting on current issues and attitudes.

Abraham’s raw approach to movement and eclectic dance background, which includes modern and hip-hop was a huge draw for Dallas native Catherine Ellis Kirk who joined his company two years ago. A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Kirk went on to earn her BFA in dance from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She has also studied with Movement Invention Project, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, the Gaga intensive in Tel Aviv and Springboard Danse Montreal, and has performed works by Fernando Melo, Ohad Naharin, Peter Chu, Andrea Miller, Robert Battle, Alex Ketley and Helen Simoneau. In addition to Abrham.In.Motion, Kirk also currently dances for Chihiro Shimizu and Artists and UNA Projects.

Kirk and Abraham.In.Motion will both make their Dallas debut Oct. 29-30 at the Dallas City Performance Hall as part of TITAS’ 2015-16 season. The program includes Abraham’s The Quiet Dance (2011), The Gettin’ (2014) and the world premiere of Absent Matter with live music.

Catherine Ellis Kirk talks to TheaterJones about finding her artistic voice, Kyle Abraham’s creative process and her take on his new work Absent Matter. What initially drew you to concert dance?

Catherine Ellis Kirk: At Booker T. I took a lot of composition and improvisation classes so I knew pretty fresh off the gate that I wanted to join a modern company and be in New York if not Europe.

Why did you chose to attend New York University vs. pursuing a dance career after high school?

I never considered cutting off my education after high school. I have always loved dance, but I have also always craved more of an academic lifestyle. For my community of concert dancers it’s more of a conservation about whether you wanted to go to a university or conservatory. I tried a couple of conservatories, but I knew I needed something else aside from dance so I studied Political Science and Art History at New York University (NYU) as well. And looking back I definitely needed those three years of training at NYU to discover my voice in dance and how I wanted to move.

Can you give me some examples of individuals or classes that have helped you define your artistic voice?

Many of my “ah ha” moments came from being at Booker T. where I took composition classes with Kyle Richards and Lily Weiss as well as modern with Garfield Lemonius. While taking these classes I decided that I could put my life and my work and passion into these forms of dance, and going to NYU really seasoned that for me. I had so many amazing teachers at NYU, including Pamela Pietro, who taught me modern and composition my second and third year there.

What stood out to you the first time you saw Kyle Abraham perform?

The first time I saw Kyle dance was at Dance Space in New York where he performed an excerpt from one of his solos and I was immediately drawn to his unique movement style. He moves so organically and there’s a wide variety of techniques that he is influenced by such as house dancing, hip-hop, Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. His movement is also very contemporary and looks very improv based, so it comes out of him very organically. There’s always an openness to his movement with lots of high arches and speed, but also just very human moments and almost a sense of acting that comes across very raw. I see all of this in Pavement, which I saw for the first time in fall 2013 right after superstorm Sandy hit. Pavement has a very direct purpose in that it talks about Kyle’s neighborhood growing up and that urban lifestyle in which race and economic classes play a pivotal role. Watching all these beautiful people dancing onstage together and having the same movement quality that Kyle does was really astonishing and I just fell in love with this work.

What is it like working in the studio with Abraham?

It’s super interesting! It is pretty improv based so he’ll start moving while someone films it and then gives us the tape and we’ll learn it from there. Other times he’ll do a catch what you can thing where he dances in front of us and we pick up what we can. He moves very fast and organically and habitually. It’s also nice to have us in the room because we all interpret the movement differently so we don’t use the same movement vocabulary over and over.

Do you and the other company members have similar dance backgrounds and training?

Our backgrounds are quite varied. I probably have the least technical training. I am much more composition and modern than balletic. There’s Tamisha Guy who went to SUNY Purchase College and is technically stunning with a background in ballet, pointe and modern. Penda N’Diaye went to NYU before I did and she also has a background in ballet and her and Guy both have beautiful lines. Connie Shiau also went to SUNY Purchase but she also trained in Gaga and works with Gallim Dance, which is just very wild, deep and grounded. The boys are also all very different. Jeremy Neal was a classical singer who started dancing in college, but had danced a lot in the club scene and house, which is very similar to Kyle’s journey. Matthew Baker went to the same college as Jeremy in Michigan, but he started out in gymnastics and then went into dance when he was younger to help him get more flexible. And then we have Vinson Fraley who is just stunning and started dancing when he was 16 at a competition studio so he is all legs and turns. Our careers and lives have taken us into different places, which kind of helps the variety, but it’s also nice because you look around the room and see different skin colors, heights and body types so the movement never gets too habitual or boring.

What is your interpretation of Abraham’s new work Absent Matter?

Absent Matter was actually choreographed before Kyle brought in the live music which includes songs by Kendrick Lamar and Kayne West. For the piece Kyle pulled a lot of inspiration from the Black Lives Matter campaign and also his feelings on cultural appropriation. Being in his late 30’s he has seen things that are just completely being lost in their origin. For example, cornrows which are just plaited hair that women in Africa wore to keep their hair out of the way is now being used on the fashion runways which is great, but it’s being renamed a French twist or French braid. That’s a lighter example, but it all goes back to cultural appropriation and Kyle feeling that as African-Americans we are losing our voice. So, there is definitely a nostalgia and a large sense of anger and riot in the work which feels much more present day than The Gettin’ which will come after. The Gettin’ feels more like a pre-riot gathering while Absent Matter feels more current to me with the Black Lives Matter Campaign and any culture aside from African American just getting lost or abused or not being recognized. Kyle’s very angry about that and it shows through this work.

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Dallas VideoFest Preview: Metropolis

SMU students Aaron D’Eramo and Avery Lewis rehearse for Metropolis in a vacant warehouse in Trinity Groves, Dallas. Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones

SMU students Aaron D’Eramo and Avery Lewis rehearse for Metropolis in a vacant warehouse in Trinity Groves, Dallas. Photo: Robert Hart/TheaterJones


Christopher Dolder plans to bring the classic sci-fi flick Metropolis into the modern age with compelling choreography and stunning visual effects at this year’s Dallas VideoFest.

Dallas — As is common when watching one of Christopher Dolder’s rehearsals there are multiple elements at work, including behemoth props, video projection and special lighting techniques. In this instance, Fritz Lang’s 1927 science fiction film Metropolis is playing on a screen above center stage while a dozen freshman dancers from the Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts ascend out of what will be the orchestra pit and up a 32-foot tall and 4-foot elevated raked stage. The dancers’ rigid posture and weighted toe heel walks parallel the architecture of the buildings in the movie’s opening scene.

The suspense of the moment is heightened by Austin-based composer Brian Satterwhite’s new film score which will be performed live by the Dallas Chamber Symphony at the showing of Metropolis, Oct. 13, at the Dallas City Performance Hall as part of Dallas VideoFest 28. As the next scene begins the dancers stop and face the audience on a diagonal to perform a series of robotic gestures in a cotangent.

On the other side of the stage will be a couple of platforms of varying heights that the dancers will maneuver around and on throughout the film. Mind you, none of these props were present at the rehearsal I watched last week in the basement of the Owens Arts Center at SMU. Instead Dolder showed me images of the stage layout on his phone as well as pictures of the raked stage which he built by hand in a warehouse off of West Commerce Street near Trinity Groves. “I wanted to build something that three dimensionalizesthe space and the film,” Dolder says. “I wanted to create something lofty to represent the upper world in the movie and something mechanical and chunky to represent the underworld.”

For those unfamiliar with the movie, Metropolis is the name of a Utopian society that exists above a bleak underworld populated by mistreated workers. When a wealthy youth (Freder Fredersen) discovers what is happening underground he tries to help the workers, which puts him at odds with the upper class and especially his father. This silent film has paved the way for other movies in the sci-fi genre, and Dolder observes that even through the movie was made almost 90 years ago its main theme of the one percent versus the other 99 percent is still relevant today.

With so much going on in the film already between the live music and various plot lines Dolder says his biggest challenge has been trying not to over conceptualize his contributions. “My goal is to enhance the film with live theater and multimedia; not detract from it with these components.” The main way Dolder is doing this is by incorporating only 30 minutes of contextualized movement into the 82-minute long movie. He focuses on iconic scenes such as the story of Babel and the creation of the robot as well as individual characters, including Freder, his love interest Maria, Freder’s father and Rotwang the Inventor to elevate the storyline without distracting from the film’s original intent.

Dolder explains, “When the film is busy, I am less busy. I use some of the iconography from the film as well as simple gestures to quantify the characters.” In some cases Dolder will replicate a scene such as when the workers are clustered together with the emphasis on their hands reaching upward. Other times he changes the dynamic of a scene with his use of speed and repetition such as a memorable scene where Freder switches places with one of the workers. As Freder struggles to move the hands on a giant clock in the film, Dolder has his dancer repeat the same winding movement sequence over and over, increasing his speed every time to the point of collapse. “I want the audience to feel nervous,” Dolder says.

Dolder’s background in Graham Technique is well-suited for this project. Graham’s signature back hinges, concaved shapes and constant weight exchanges among the dancers complement the radical themes of the movie. During the retelling of the story of Babel, the dancers use compulsive arm gestures to emulate speaking in tongues. As the dancers grab and pull their hands away from their mouths Dolder shouts out encouragements such as “speak louder” and “make people watch.”

This is the first time a collaboration of this magnitude has been attempted here in Dallas. Will the addition of movement, set design, video projection and live music amplify the audience’s overall experience or will it be too much visual stimuli? Viewers can find out for themselves when the Video Association of Dallas kicks off Dallas VideoFest 28 with its showing of Metropolis Oct. 13 at the Dallas City Performance Hall. The festival runs through the 18th and features approximately 125 screenings of local, region and internationally produced media art programs. More information is available at

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Review: Epiphany DanceArts, Diamonds

Epiphany DanceArts in Diamonds at the Eisemann Center. Photo: Sarah Beal

Epiphany DanceArts in Diamonds at the Eisemann Center. Photo: Sarah Beal

Precious Gem

Epiphany DanceArts stretches itself technically and emotionally in an encore performance of Diamonds at the Eisemann Center.

Richardson — Bold. Edgy. Emotionally volatile. One wouldn’t typically use these words to describe Epiphany DanceArts. Created by Melissa DeGroat six years ago, Epiphany has made a name for itself in the Dallas dance scene with its strong storytelling, uplifting content, and unique blend of ballet and liturgical movement stylings. But as everyone in the dance community knows, the key to surviving in this oversaturated market is to keep evolving, which is exactly what Epiphany did last season with its compelling work Diamonds. The show was so well-received that the company decided to bring it back for an encore at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson this past weekend.

In Diamonds, which is inspired by Max Lucado’s children’s book You Are Special, DeGroat uses removable fabric swatches adorned with either dots or stars to express the internal battle everyone goes through when choosing between who they want to be versus who everyone expects them to be. Throughout the 75-minute work the dancers depict identity struggles that show in poignant movement choices, especially the removal of the dot and star swatches at the end.

The “diamond” element of the story is depicted through Abel Garcia’s live painting during the show, of a dancer suspended upside down. Garcia’s pastel-colored strokes worked in sharp contrast to the black and red tones presented onstage. Unlike other live collaborations I’ve seen, here Garcia and the dancers maintained a connection throughout the performance, sometimes by simply stopping what they were doing to make eye contact, or in DeGroat’s case, by coming over and dancing in Garcia’s space. DeGroat’s opening solo effectively introduced Garcia into the storyline. She kept her movements simple yet deep, with sweeping arm gestures, shifting leg extensions and breathy body contractions as Garcia worked behind her.

Unlike past Epiphany productions where the focus was on a singular emotion such as love or loss, in Diamonds DeGroat pushes her dancers to emote myriad feelings on this winding journey of self-discovery. And while all 13 dancers displayed beautiful body lyricism and natural facial expressions, some delivered more feeling than others. For example, in several stop-action moments in the opening number, the dancers needed to exude energy from every inch of their bodies while holding various poses.

Epiphany veterans DeGroat, Ivy Koval and Anna Wueller Diaz commanded the audience’s attention with their unending lines and wonderful use of breath in their sustained movements. In contrast, at times the newest company members held too much tension in their chests, causing their forms to shrink instead of expand. The dancers’ diagonal pathway was a great use of symbolism, cleverly used throughout the show.

With a playlist that included music by the Piano Guys, the XX, Two Steps from Hell, Fort Minor and Bruce Rowland, choreographers DeGroat, Koval and Jennifer Guess challenged the dancers with tricky ballet sequences and sharper movement quality. In one of the most dynamic dance sequences, the dancers had to dig deep to control their leg extensions and stag leaps while their hands remained bound. The dancers rose to the challenge with seamless standing-to-floor transitions and wicked pirouettes.

The group also got to exercise their acting chops in sections such as “Hurting People Hurt People,” where they stood whispering and ignoring people before physically engaging one another. Later, as Diaz contorted into various yoga-type poses, the others stood making faces in the background.

The final dance, performed to an instrumental medley of “Over the Rainbow” and the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts,” encompassed everything audiences have come to appreciate about Epiphany DanceArts, including elegant technique, unique musicality and strong emotional content. This has been the company’s most cohesive and captivating production to date. It will be interesting to see what it brings to the table for its December holiday performance.

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Review: Dallas Black Dance Theatre DanceAfrica 2015

DanceAfrica at Dallas Black Dance Theatre. Photo: Courtesy of DBDT

DanceAfrica at Dallas Black Dance Theatre. Photo: Courtesy of DBDT

Dallas Black Dance Theatre kicks off its 39th season with an impressive showing of African dance styles and intricate drumming techniques at its annual DanceAfrica performance.

Dallas — Peace! Love! Respect! For Everybody! These values played a pivotal role in the African dances and rituals audiences were invited to be a part of Friday evening at Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s (DBDT) annualDanceAfrica performance at the Dallas City Performance Hall. Special guests Dallas Black Dance Academy Ensembles, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts’ World Dance Ensemble, Giwayen Mata and Bandan Koro African Drum and Dance Ensemble enthralled audiences with their boundless energy, uninhibited movement quality and complex drumming skills.

As is customary, Dr. Charles “Chuck” Davis opened the show with a brief historical synopsis of DanceAfrica before handing it over to DBDT’s Council of Elders. With candles casting the only light a handful of individuals dressed in white stood center stage while Mama Diana Hughley lead them through a hauntingly beautiful chant honoring their ancestors. The venue’s intimate setting and special lighting capabilities that allowed images to be projected around the theater really added to the welcoming message of the event, and this scene in particular, which was not always the case when the festival was held at the more expansive Majestic Theater.

DBDT and DBDT II displayed great stamina and rhythmic skill in Davis’ Homage to the Source Africa. The movement was a fusion of balletic leg extensions and jumps and classic Katherine Dunham technique, which included articulated pelvis, flexible spine and polyrhythmic movements. The pinnacle of the dance was the individual solos where viewers got to see the dancer’s personalities come out through his or her choice movement. Main company member Michelle Herbert was all about the pelvis isolations as she bent over and walked backwards while Alyssa Harrington focused on her upper body with a series of torso pops and head swings. DBDT II dancers Lailah Duke and Christen Ashley Williams garnered applause when they combined chest isolations and hip shakes with fast foot work. The men of both groups also wowed the audience with their speed and athletic prowess throughout the entire number.

Fluctuating energy levels and costume mishaps were a distraction in the collaborative number performed by the Dallas Black Dance Academy Ensembles, but the technical foundation and musical awareness was there and it will be interesting to see how director’s Kayah Franklin, Michelle Herbert and Katricia Eaglin build on these strengths throughout the year.

Booker T.’s World Dance Ensemble surprised the audience with their authentic character portrayal and advanced African dance technique in Moussa Diabate’s Sofa (The Hunting Dance). In the beginning a male hunter scouts out the area, his movements slow and deliberate as he aimed his rifle in different directions. The other hunters entered crawling across the stage, pausing every so often to look down their rifles. As the drums behind them changed tempo the dancers’ movements became more exaggerated. As the piece progressed the dancers kept layering the movement with more hip isolations and upper body undulations till the hunt was over. The dancers’ sharp focus and ease with the props throughout the piece are a testament director Michelle Zada Hall’s time and diligence in rehearsal.

The first half ended with Bandan Koro Drum and Dance Ensemble letting it rip on a family of West African bass drums in Foli Kan 2.0 and showcasing their physical and musical fortitude in Dundunba. In both pieces the ensemble made the quick transitions from drumming to dancing appear effortless.

In the second half Giwayen Mata showed great range with five pieces that combined their exceptional drumming and joyous vocals with boisterous arm gestures and tricky foot stomping sequences. The group’s piece For Baba which honored Chuck Davis stood out with its deliberate and reverent movement choices. A single dancer explored the space through a series of opened-chest releases, shifting body shapes and moments of suspension as she slowly traveled across the stage. At the end she approached Davis who was also on stage and bowed her head while touching her chest and then the ground in a sign of respect and love.

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Preview: Dark Circles Contemporary Dance 2015 Fall Series

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance performs Slump at Jacob's Pillow. Photo: Courtesy of Jacob's Pillow

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance performs Slump at Jacob’s Pillow. Photo: Courtesy of Jacob’s Pillow


Dark Circles Contemporary Dance wants you to feel like a kid again in its Fall Series this weekend at Texas Christian University.

Fort Worth — It has been a whirlwind summer for choreographer Joshua L. Peugh and his band of beautiful misfits also known as Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (DCCD) USA. Over the last three months DCCD has taken part in numerous local and national festivals, including Dance Source Houston’s Barnstorm DanceFest, Dallas DanceFest, The Dance Gallery Festival in New York as well as Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival’s Inside/Out Performance Series, a monumental first for the company. “I’m still processing what happened that afternoon,” Peugh says. “The wind was blowing and the sun was setting and I looked around the stage at the generous artists I get to laugh, cry, struggle and create with, and I felt completely full.”

Independently, Peugh travelled to Seattle to create a new work, Short Acts on the Heartstrings, on former Pacific Northwest Ballet member Oliver Wever’s company, Whim W’Him. Peugh also spent time this summer in Tulsa where his signature work Slump (2012) made its Oklahoma premiere with Tulsa Ballet II. When not travelling, DCCD is hard at work in the studio preparing for their upcoming Fall Series: Aimless Young Man, Oct 9-11, at Texas Christian University’s Erma Lowe Hall, Studio Theatre in Fort Worth. Peugh will be presenting two new works, Aimless Young Man and It’s A Boy, which I got to see the company rehearse at Preston Center Dance in Dallas two weeks ago.

An exuberant display of compulsive gesturing, topsy turvy partnering skills, knee bruising floor work and primitive posturing, Aimless Young Man contains all our favorite Peugh mannerisms performed at super high speed much to viewers delight.

Aimless Young Man is my mediation on the struggle young men have finding or following their paths. It has become a lot more than that. The dancers have brought out new colors in the questions we are fighting with. Why choose martyrdom, why fight? How can we be extraordinary and why do we feel the need to be?” At times the work resembles a circus spectacle with David Cross juggling across the floor and the section where the whole company stands in a semi-circle while an individual performs their idea of a trick, i.e. continuous body rotations and contorted body shapes. Other sections appear more militant with sharp body movements and rigid formations. These wonderfully manic sections are balanced with moments of stillness and isolated gesturing such as rhythmic chest smacks.

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance rehearses Aimless Young Man. Photo: Tania Lopez

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance rehearses Aimless Young Man. Photo: Tania Lopez

On the other side of the spectrum is It’s A Boy, a contemplative work in which Peugh, Cross, Kelsey Rohr and Alex Karigan Farrior sport Tuxedo shirts and coat tails as they explore their inner child with the help of four unassuming canes. In Kelsey Rohr’s solo her attention is centered on the path of her cane as she methodically skims it down the top of her arm till it is resting horizontal on the top of her hands. Your eyes continue to follow the cane as Rohr outlines her body, stopping periodically to lodge the cane under her neck or in the crease of her elbow. Julie London’s rendition of “Mickey Mouse March” makes you long for those younger, care free years. As to why he chose such a universally known song Peugh says, “I’m a huge Walt Disney fan. He was a genius, like Michael Jackson, who was sensitive to the magical curiosity of childhood. There’s a tenderness and nostalgia in the song, but also an emptiness and loneliness. It’s about letting go and saying goodbye.”

Watching the work progress it’s clear the canes are more than a gimmick. In some parts, the canes were used as extensions of the dancers’ bodies while other times they were used for support such as when Rohr was carried across the floor balanced between two canes. In the beginning the canes resemble toy’s that the dancers wield like light sabers before sticking them down their shirts. In one instance, the dancers hold the cane still and run around in circles with their foreheads glued to the top of the cane. In other sections, the way the dancers’ gazed at and caressed the canes made these everyday objects appear almost human. Peugh says he didn’t give the dancers any direction in how they should interact with the canes. “I think it’s more interesting to see what comes out of the dancers in the moment, instinctively during the performance. It won’t ever be the same thing. It’s more interesting to see the range and layers of feelings flicker.”

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance’s Fall Series: Aimless Young Man will take place Oct. 9-11 at Erma Lowe Hall, Studio Theatre in Fort Worth. The program includes Aimless Young Man, It’s A Boy and Peugh’s crowd-pleasing, Slump.

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