Tag Archives: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Q&A: Bridget L. Moore, AD Dallas Black Dance Theatre

Bridget L. Moore. Photo: Brian Guilliaux

The artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre on her new role and the world premiere of her Uncharted Territory at the TITAS Command Performance this weekend.

Dallas — Bridget L. Moore is no stranger to the Dallas dance scene. She was born and raised here, and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (BTWHSPVA) in 1989 before heading to The Ohio State University where she earned a B.F.A dance and a concentration in choreography. She would later go on to earn a M.F.A in dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2006.

As a professional dancer Moore toured with New York-based Ronald K. Brown’s EVIDENCE/Dance Company from 1999-2008. She was the first recipient of Project Next Generation, a commission to an emerging female choreographer by Urban Bush Women Dance Company. She was also commissioned by the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography to work with Philadanco Dance Company in a creative residency. She also co-directed This Woman’s Work with colleague Princess Mhoon Cooper and was listed as one of Dance magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2006.

Throughout her professional career Moore has returned to Dallas numerous times to teach and set works for many arts institutions, including Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT), University of Texas at Dallas and BTWHSPVA where she was also the artistic director of the World Dance Ensemble. In May of 2016 a group of Moore’s students from Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, South Korea, were asked to perform at DBDT’s Spring Celebration. All of these experiences as well as her close rapport with DBDT Founder Ms. Ann Williams make her an ideal candidate for the artistic director position. The selection committee obviously agreed because at the beginning of this year it was announced that Moore would take over for Ms. Williams effective Feb. 1.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see Moore’s work then you are in luck because her new work Uncharted Territory, which was commissioned by TITAS, is on the roster for the annual Command Performance Gala at the Winspear Opera House this Saturday. The piece includes music by Kangding Ray and features DBDT Company Members Claude Alexander III and Kimara Wood, who is filling for Matthew Rushing of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. The evening’s program also includes works by Alvin Ailey, Wang Yuanyuan, Moses Pendleton and Dwight Rhoden, just to name a few.

TheaterJones asked Bridget L. Moore about coming home to Dallas, her plans for DBDT’s main company and working with Matthew Rushing and Claude Alexander, III on her work Uncharted Territory for this year’s Command Performance Gala.

TheaterJones: How are you settling into your new role as artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre?

Bridget L. Moore: It’s been going very well. I’ve had some time to learn about the day-to-day operations, but of course you are talking about 40 years of history and commitment to the field so there is still a lot that I have to learn. Fortunately, I have been able to shadow Ms. Williams which is really great and it has been very special to have her there with me. I have really appreciated her advice and guidance.

What type of growth would you like to see within the main company under your leadership?

What I really want and I’m planning to do is to build on the legacy and the excellence that is already present at DBDT. Now, I would like to continue to expand our national and international touring as well as enhance and continue to push our educational outreach program through our academy. As well as foster relationships through our community and connect our community through culture, dance and innovative programming. And also put forth initiatives that ensure the mission and the structure of the organization and that also empower our next generation of artists.

What made you decide to come home to Dallas?

Well, I have spent that last three years in South Korea teaching at Sungkyunkwan University as a visiting professor and it was such a wonderful opportunity, but I love Dallas and I was ready to come home. And now I have the opportunity to share those experiences with others.

What motivated you to apply for the position?

One of the main things that attracted me to DBDT is their mission statement which is to create and produce modern dance work at its highest level of artistic excellence. And because they also have the arts and education program as well as the educational outreach program that really support my overall personal and goals. It just seemed like a great fit for me and it’s something I was already thinking about doing while I was in Korea. I was trying to come to an agreement with myself in terms of what I wanted to do in the next phase of my career. I absolutely love teaching and choreographing, but to be able to do all of it and support the professional dancers on that level is definitely something I am excited to do.

What changes in the Dallas dance scene have you noticed since returning home?

I would say that particularly in the Arts District I am noticing a lot more collaborative projects and community engagement projects that really involve the people that they serve. And I think it’s so important that we are involving and working with our community because that truly drives the economy and also just really connects us. So, I am seeing a lot of collaborative projects that I didn’t necessarily see as much before.

What was your inspiration for your piece, Uncharted Territory, for the TITIS Command Performance?

Conceptually, a lot of the piece comes from my travels while I was in South Korea. I was able to venture out to several neighboring countries, including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Japan. And I travelled alone to these countries which was very unusual and awkward at times, but still very enjoyable yet unfamiliar. So, I wanted to choreographically challenge myself with this new work by finding new ways to approach the movement. I tried to take a very experimental approach to creating the work. It is a duet with two men and I eventually want to make it a larger work for the company.

Why did you select Matthew Rushing and Claude Alexander III to be in the number?

Charles Santos has always liked the idea of connecting dancers from different companies such as Alvin Ailey and DBDT, which both have rich history and are very dynamic. So, Charles thought it would be great to have Matthew and then I decided on having Claude from DBDT. They are both dynamic dancers and have such beautiful artistry and sensibility when it comes to movement that I knew they would look great together. But unfortunately Matthew is injured so Kimara Wood of DBDT will go into his place. I think it’s going to be fantastic and I can’t wait!

Choreographers Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky have received a lot of heat recently for their responses to a question in a New York Times article asking them why most of the major choreographers in classical dance are male. As a female choreographer who has travelled around the world what are your thoughts on this imbalance? Where should the change begin?

First, we need to recognize and acknowledge that there is indeed a problem and that there is definitely a disproportion between women and men choreographers in terms of equal opportunities. There is a lack of presence of women, but we are doing the work and we definitely have women choreographers that are clearly capable and are just as technically capable as the men. In 2003 a college of mine, Princess Mhoon Cooper, and I created and designed a performance work as a response to that notion as a platform for women to present their work. And so, how do we solve the problem. I think the first initiative would be to come together and have dialogue to continue to talk about why there is an imbalance among women and men choreographers. I think we just have to support each other and lift each other up by using our platforms and our resources to empower one another.

>This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

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Dream Maker

Ann Williams with DBDT company members. Photo: Robert Hart
Ann Williams with DBDT company members. Photo: Robert Hart

Ann Williams reflects on her time as artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, the company’s impact on the Dallas community and her plans for the future.

Dallas — Teacher. Mentor. Dream maker. These are only a few of the titles Ann Williams has acquired over the past 37 years as founder/artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre, the oldest, continuously operating professional dance company in Dallas. But after the company’s Spring Celebration Performance at the Winspear Opera House this weekend Williams will hand the reigns over and take on a new title: retiree.

“Next year I am looking forward to completely stepping back and enjoying DBDT from afar,” Williams says. “I will travel some, play bridge and enjoy the company of my friends and relatives.”

The two-evening Spring Celebration includes performances by Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, Bruce Wood Dance Project, Texas Ballet Theater and Kirven Douthit-Boyd (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater). Dancers from DBDT will also be performing in new works choreographed Lily Weiss (Booker T. Washington HSPVA) and Christopher Vo (dancer on Season 2 of the NBC show SMASH).

And while Williams will no longer be a part of the day-to-day activities of the organization once she retires, she will remain supportive and continue to seek out new funding opportunities. And the company can still expect to see her at rehearsals, programs, master classes and workshops. “But only on a limited basis and only as a guest/friend.”

As for the task of uncovering DBDT’s next artistic director Williams say the search has been going quite well. “We have 11 applicants from several different cities and states including New York. We have a dedicated committee not just from the Dallas community, but people who are interested in getting the best possible person for DBDT. The committee will choose a finalist very soon.”

The outpouring of love and support Williams has received since making her announcement last May proves DBDT is indeed a Dallas institution. “I do feel honored with all the love and attention that has happened this year from the local community, especially the dance community. It has made me feel special.”

Since starting the company in 1976, Williams has established five performing dance troupes and currently employs 12 administrative staff and 12 dancers on an 11-month contract. DBDT has performed in 14 countries with tours in Peru, South Africa, Uganda, Austria, Japan, Italy and many more. Most notable venues include Lincoln Center in New York City, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and the 2012 London Olympics. DBDT’s repertoire includes works by Alvin Ailey, Ulysses Dove, Talley Beatty, Christopher Huggins, David Parsons and Darryl B. Sneed, to name a few.

Like all dance companies, DBDT has experienced its highs and lows: economic declines, dancers leaving for other cities and housing complications (DBDT’s home is now 2700 Flora St.), but the company has managed to stay afloat thanks to careful planning and realistic goal setting. “DBDT also has a staff and board of directors that are dedicated to keeping the doors of the company open and support our mission of providing artistic excellence. We are supported by many individuals, corporations and foundations. Our audience and patrons have been with us during the highs and lows and we have rewarded them with great choreography and programs.”

When asked if she has any regrets Williams says, “I think I have accomplished the goals that were necessary and achievable. There can always be more, but I am grateful for our home in in the Arts District and the performance space we have with the Wyly Theatre. It would have been super to get that $1 million gift, but I believe that can happen with the next artistic director.”

As for her legacy, Williams would like to be remembered for the services she has provided to many dance students who would not have had the opportunity otherwise. “I believe I have opened doors of opportunity for many dancers, students, parents, organizations in the City of Dallas, the State of Texas and many parts of the nation and around the world. I have given from my heart and soul so that others can fulfill their dreams.”

This feature was originally published on TheaterJones.com.

Q&A: Robert Battle of the Alvin Ailey American Theater

Photo: Andrew Eccles
Photo: Andrew Eccles

The artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on his new position, his plans for its future and Ailey’s masterpiece, Revelations.

Dallas — TITAS closes its diverse 2012-2013 season with the beloved Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Hailed as one of the first truly American modern dance companies, the Ailey Company makes its debut at the Winspear Opera House, May 3-4, after a 20-year absence in Dallas (it has been to Fort Worth’s Bass Hall several times since, though). The program will feature works by Alvin Ailey, Robert Battle, Ohad Naharin, Paul Taylor, Rennie Harris and Ronald K. Brown and will also include Ailey’s signature work, Revelations (1960).

Dancer, choreographer and visionary Alvin Ailey created Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to carry out his vision of a company dedicated to enriching the American modern dance heritage and preserving the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience, according to the Ailey website.

Robert Battle is only the third person to head the Ailey Company since it was founded in 1958. Led by Judith Jamison since Ailey’s untimely death in 1989, Jamison personally selected Battle as her successor on July, 1 2011.

Growing up in Miami, Battle trained at the New World School of the Arts before moving on to The Julliard School where he met his mentor Carolyn Adams. Battle performed with the Parsons Dance Company from 1994 to 2001 and began setting his choreography on the company in 1998. A frequent chorographer and artist-in-residence at Ailey since 1999, Battle has set many of his works, including Strange Humors, The Hunt, In/Side and Takademe on the Ailey Company, Ailey II and The Ailey School.

TheaterJones asks Robert Battle about the challenges of running the legendary Ailey Company, his plans for the future and preserving the Ailey legacy.

TheaterJones: This is your second season as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. How has the transition been going for you?

Robert Battle: It’s been a fairly smooth transition. Partly because Judith Jamison chose me ‘cause she felt that this would be the right fit for the company moving forward. So, I think that has been reflected in the ease in which we’ve made this transition. It’s also comforting to know that she is there if I need advice or just to say “Woo! This is intense!” Whatever it might be she’s always right there to encourage me to trust my own instincts and to follow my own singular voice. So, in that way the transition has been painless.

But taking the helm of such a major institution that has meant so much too so many has brought about the question about whether or not it would be recognizable with a new artistic director. But it’s really more like a calling than a job, and so I have just been moving forward and doing the things that I think are important to keep the company going. And to keep it exciting! I think that’s represented in the repertoire and certainly in some of the repertoire that I have brought into the company.

How do you find that balance between the Ailey tradition and your own singular voice?

It’s a fun challenge. It’s challenging, but it’s also rewarding. There is so much great work and finding ways to play off of the company’s history and to think about people who may come in with certain expectations and to sometimes defy those expectations, all that is built into what I do as a choreographer.

Ailey Company in Ohad Naharin"s Minus 16. Photo: Paul Kolnik
Ailey Company in Ohad Naharin”s Minus 16. Photo: Paul Kolnik

I also use the same principles when I’m looking at potential work for the repertoire. For instance, looking at Minus 16 and some of the elements of that work I’m thinking this would be different for the audience, but the heart and soul of the work really speaks to the company’s core values. [The Ailey Company will perform Minus 16 opening night.]

Did you always have a passion to choreograph?

I was a member of the Parsons Dance Company for many years, but I always knew that there were other things I wanted to do beyond dancing myself. I have always had that instinct to create movement. Even when I didn’t know how it would manifest there was always this restlessness about it. So, in some ways, it was an internal compass that steered me toward the position that I’m in now.

When I was little I used to take apart my grandfather’s old-fashioned tape recorders just to see what made the things turn and be able to record sound. And then I would try to put them back together and end up forgetting pieces so, my Grandfather would yell at me and have to get a new one. So, there has always been that curiosity about construction and deconstruction, the manipulation about how people see things and the magic around what you’re presenting to an audience. That whole notion is why I am where I am today.

Can you describe your relationship with Judith Jamison?

When I first started dancing I saw these iconic photos of her dancing Cry, the masterpiece Alvin Ailey created for her, so I have always been in awe of her. So, it has always been one of admiration and respect which has grown into mutual respect as she enjoyed my choreography and chose me to do works for the main company. But I have always maintained that respect and reverence for her because that was my initiation into knowing who she was. I keep those things sacred because that’s my upbringing. She will always be held in my eyes as a legend in the field. And that is how the relationship has developed. It’s a wonderful connection that we have and relationship that we keep.

I am so excited to see Revelations again. Why are audiences still so drawn to this particular Ailey work?

Ailey Company in Revelations. Photo: Nan Melville
Ailey Company in Revelations. Photo: Nan Melville

I think the intent of the work is clear and everyone gets something from experiencing it. No matter what your age, cultural background or how much of dance you know Revelations manages to have some impact on you. And I think the mark of any true masterpiece is that it defies place, time and circumstance.

But the work is also joyous. It really takes you on this journey that is almost like a baptismal in a way. It brings people together. Most people in the audience don’t know one another, but by the time Revelations is done everybody feels united in the experience that they’ve had. It’s more than seeing dance, it’s having a visceral experience and in some ways a spiritual one. And no matter what anyone’s religious preference is they have this kind of intense experience.

You talked about being welcomed into the Ailey family. Can you describe this family dynamic?

Well, I think that has a lot to do with the founding of the Ailey Company. The African American experience in this country was one in which the idea of family was extremely important for survival. And this lesson that it wasn’t just about dance, but it was also about opportunity, a social and political statement and the personal experiences of Alvin Ailey is the foundation on which this company was built. So, I think the very notion of the way the company started has so much to do with the sense of family and humanity that is displayed in the work.

What are some of your long-term goals for the company?

That’s really to be seen. I really am just following my instincts. I don’t have a five-year plan laid out. I am responding to the times, to the new choreographers who are saying things in a different way and in a way to the dancers in the company who are inspiring me to do different works. So, that part of it is very more organic and difficult to plot out.

But you always want more. You want to make sure you reach more people. In addition to the main company we also have the Ailey II touring company and the Ailey School, which also has a BFA program in conjunction with Fordham University. All of this is an extension of the initial vision of the company. So, in a way it’s really about moving on from where we are and reaching out. Alvin Ailey’s oft repeated quote is that dance comes from the people and should be delivered back to the people. So, I want to make sure that continues to happen and we reach even more people. That’s my hope for the future.

This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.