Tag Archives: Ballet Frontier of Texas

Dallas DanceFest Announces 2017 Performing Companies

DDF2017
Indique Dance Company will be performing at DDF 2017. Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Imaging

Dallas DanceFest has announced its 2017 line up which shows a lot of hometown pride.

Wow! It is hard to believe that this year marks the 4th installment of Dallas DanceFest (DDF) which was created in 2014 under the guidance of arts patron Gayle Halperin and the Dance Council of North Texas. It looks like the festival’s mission of presenting high caliber and well-rounded dance performances will continue this year with a program that features all the major local players as well as the largest showing of pre-professional companies to date and a handful of relatively unknown dance companies from around and outside the Metroplex.

JamalStoryduet
Dallas Black Dance Theatre. Photo: Amitava Sarkar

Let’s start with the bigwigs in Dallas dance. For the fourth straight year Bruce Wood Dance Project, Texas Ballet Theater and Dallas Black Dance Theatre will be featured at DDF as well as their smaller counterparts DBDT: Encore! and the  Texas Ballet Theater School.

We will also see pieces from some repeat dance companies, including Dark Circle Dance Company, Contemporary Ballet Dallas,  Indique Dance Company, Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Dance Ensemble and Houston-based NobleMotion Dance.

warflower-dgdg
Danielle Georgiou Dance Group in War Flower. Photo: Steven Visneau

DFF 2017 will also feature a number of first timers, including Danielle Georgiou Dance Group, Center for Ballet Arts, Impulse Dance Project, Uno Mas and Grandans. Southern Methodist University Meadows dance student’s Kat Barragan and Arden Leone will also be showcasing work for the first time at this year’s festival.

I am also pleased to see so many familiar pre-professional ballet companies on this year’s roaster, including Ballet Ensemble of Texas (Coppell, TX), Ballet Frontier of Texas (Fort Worth, TX), Chamberlain Performing Arts (Plano, TX), Dallas Ballet Company (Dallas, TX) Royale Ballet Dance Academy (Dallas, TX) and LakeCities Ballet Theatre (Lewisville, TX). I have seen these companies perform a variety of dance styles from classical and neo-classical to more contemporary and jazz movements and I am eager to see how these aspiring professionals handle the pressure of sharing the stage with the more seasoned artists on this year’s program.

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LakeCities Ballet Theatre performs in Music in Motion. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography

We have also seen a surge in the number of dance festivals occurring around Texas over the last couple of years so,  it didn’t surprise me to see the Rhythm and Fusion Festival and Wanderlust Dance Project in this year’s line up. If you’re interested in reading more about the rise of dance festivals in Texas then you should read Nichelle Suzanne’s 2015 article for Arts+Culture magazine entitled Talent, Training, Festival & More: Fueling Contemporary Dance in Texas.

The 2017 Dallas DanceFest will take place Sept. 2-3 at the Moody Performance Hall, formerly Dallas City Performance Hall. More information about the festival can be found on the Dance Council of North Texas website.

I hope you see y’all there!

 

 

 

 

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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.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

Review: Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ballet Frontier of Texas

Dan Westfield and Tessa Moore in BFT's Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo: Courtesy of BFT
Dan Westfield and Tessa Moore in BFT’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo: Courtesy of BFT

Sweet Dreams

Ballet Frontier of Texas displays artistic growth and a knack for storytelling in the company’s rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Fort Worth — From La Syphide and Pinocchio toFirebird, every year is better than the last in terms of technique, storyline, and costuming when talking about Ballet Frontier of Texas’ (BFT) annual spring concert. The company continued this tradition Saturday evening with a well-conceived and technically enchanting retelling of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the W.E. Scott Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. The lush forest scenery, detailed costuming and unearthly lighting all had a hand in making the show a success, but it was Artistic Director Chung-Lin Tseng’s astute choreography, especially in the pas de deux, where BFT’s true strength lies.

For those unfamiliar with the plot, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a tale of changing love triangles between King Oberon and Queen Titania; Lysander and Hermia; and Demetrius and Helena which are only made more confusing by the mischievous elf Puck’s mishandling of a love potion. Chaos ensues when both Lysander and Demetrius find themselves in love with Helena and Hermia is left heartbroken. Meanwhile a group of Mechanicals are rehearsing a play for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding when they encounter Puck who decides to turn Bottom’s (one of the villagers) head into a donkey. His voice awakens Queen Titania who is under the love potion’s spell and winds up falling in love with Bottom. In the end we discover it was King Oberon who asked Puck to concoct the love potion so he could take the Indian Boy from Titania. After taking the Indian Boy, Oberon has Puck remove the love spell and everyone is reunited with their true loves in time for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding.

With so many plot twists Tseng did the right thing by easing the audience into the story starting with spotlighted freeze frames of each couple and then presenting the couple’s one by one in some exquisite pas de deuxs and full body contact fighting sequences between the male leads. Lysander (Guest artist David Escoto) and Hermia (Mickayla Carr) professed their love for one another in the first scene with a number of tender traveling jete lifts and sustained arabesque holds and body dips as well as classic hand to heart gesturing. Carr’s natural grace and strong technique showed through her breathy arm movements during the petite allegro sections and her meticulous leg line as she passed through passé and extended into ponche arabesque with Escoto’s assistance. Demetrius (BFT Principal Dancer Dan Westfield) commanded attention with his gravity defying traveling tour jetes and double tour jumps to the knee as Helena (former BFT Dancer Tessa Moore) followed him performing a series of wistful bourrees with her head bowed. You see, Helena is head over heels for Demetrious, but unfortunately Demetrious is in love with Hermia who is clearly in love with Lysander. Demetrious’ relentless pursuit leads to some exciting fight sequences between Escoto and Westfield as well as some inventive partnering and hand offs between them and Carr.

David Escoto and Mickayla Carr. Photo: Courtesy of BFT
David Escoto and Mickayla Carr. Photo: Courtesy of BFT

The group dances in the forest scene with the fairies and butterflies were well rehearsed and musically inclined. The butterflies captured the nuances in Felix Mendelsohn’s score in their fluttering pointe work and swooping arm movement which were enhanced by the strips of fabric attached from their backs to their wrists. Maria Howard was naughty yet lovable in her role as Puck. She had the hardest job of being constantly animated in both her acting and dancing. Her over-the-top facial expressions never faltered, not even during a challenging fouette variation where she alternated between front and back attitude. Once the love potion did its job Westfield, Escoto and Moore executed a lovely pas de troisconsisting of over-the-head lifts, traveling jumps and warm embraces. Moore and Carr’s interactions with one another were not as affectionate, but they retained a graceful air even as they clawed at each other, drawing giggles from the audience.

On the other side of the forest Guest Artist Grant Dettling (King Oberon) and Anastacia Snyder (Queen Titania) performed a simply beautiful pas de deux with elongated extensions and shoulder lifts that finished with Snyder cradled in Dettling’s arms. The catch was Snyder was asleep for the duration which came through her downcast eyes and relaxed upper body. A difficult feat to accomplish in this regimented art form, but Snyder pulled it off with ease. Snyder also got to show off her whimsical side in her dance with Bottom (Jake Yarbrough) and later her natural exuberance in a series of fast piques and fouettes turns.

The group dances in the second half lacked some of the finesse of the numbers in the first act, but the delicate pas de deuxs performed by Westfield and Moore; Escoto and Carr; and Kenta Taniguchi (Theseus) and Hyppolita (Carli Petri) more than made up for it. The three couples seamlessly transitioned from the more athletic jumping sequences and press up lifts into the softer, sustained lunges and counter balance poses. Tseng is a master when it comes to sustained couples movement and effortless lifts with opposing momentum such as the ladies running tour jumps into a backward arabesque lunge.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

2014 Nutcracker Nuttiness

Carolyn Judson as the Sugarplum Fairy in Texas Ballet Theater's The Nutcracker. Photo: Ellen Appel
Carolyn Judson as the Sugarplum Fairy in Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker. Photo: Ellen Appel

No matter where you live there is a Nutcracker performance waiting for you. Here’s a list of North Texas Nuts, plus other holiday dance.

From the big-budget dance companies such as Texas Ballet Theater and Moscow Ballet to the smaller, community-based companies, there is an enchanting Nutcracker performance for everyone to see. For those of you living North of Dallas there is the Allen Civic Ballet, Festival Ballet of North Central Texas in Denton and LakeCities Ballet Theatre in Lewisville. For audiences in the Richardson and Plano area the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts is hosting multiple Nutcracker performances the next two months, including Chamberlain Performing Arts, Dallas Repertoire Ballet and Tuzer Ballet. For Garland residents there is Dallas Ballet Company’s annual production at the Granville Arts Center and for Irving patrons Ballet Ensembles of Texas’ showing of the holiday classic at the Irving Arts Center. If you prefer live music, check out LakeCities Ballet Theatre, Allen Civic Ballet and Collin County Ballet Theatre’s Nutcracker productions. For those looking for something a little different there’s 8&1 Dance Company’s In The Spirit and Ballet Concerto’s Holiday Special.

Full list and ticket information below:

Nov. 21-22

Ballet Frontier of Texas presents The Nutcracker with choreography by Chung-Lin Tseng at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets $40-50. Call 817.689.7310 or visitwww.balletfrontier.org

Nov. 22-23

Moscow Ballet return to Dallas with its rendition of The Great Russian Nutcracker at Southern Methodist University’s McFarlin Auditorium. Tickets $28-88. Call 800.745.3000 or visit www.tickmaster.com

Nov. 22

Colleyville Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker for one-night only at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets $35-40 Call 972.744.4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com

Nov. 26

The Angelika Film Centers in Dallas and Plano screen Getting to The Nutcracker, a documentary about what it takes to produce a production of the Nut, at 2 p.m. in both locations. www.angelikafilmcenter.com

Nov. 28-30

Chamberlain Performing Arts annual showing of The Nutcracker featuring New York City Ballet Principal’s Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets $12-100. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Nov. 28-Dec. 27

Texas Ballet Theater takes the stage with Ben Stevenson’s version of The Nutcracker, with the same extravagant sets and effects that we saw last year. Call 877.828.9200 or visit http://www.texasballettheater.org

  • Nov. 28-Dec.7 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, Winspear Opera House
  • Dec. 12-27 at Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth
  • The Nutty Nutcracker is Dec. 19 at Bass Performance Hall

    LBT dancers in the snow scene section of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography
    LBT dancers in the snow scene section of The Nutcracker. Photo: Nancy Loch Photography

Nov. 29-30

LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s annual production of The Nutcracker features live music from Lewisville Lake Symphony and guest artists Sarah Lane of American Ballet Theater and Daniel Ulbricht of New York City Ballet. Tickets: $20-45. Call 972.317.7987 or visitwww.lakecitiesballet.org

Dec. 5-7

Dallas Ballet Company celebrates its 28th annual performance of The Nutcracker featuring guest artists April Daly and Miguel Blanco from Joffrey Ballet at the Granville Arts Center in Garland, TX. Tickets: $23-24. Call 972.205.2790 or visit www.garlandarts.com

Dec. 6-7

North Central Civic Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker at the Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets: $30. Visit www.nutcrackertickets.com

Dec. 6-7

Ballet Ensemble of Texas presents the holiday classic with guest artist Dallas Blagg and Gabriela Gonzalez from Tulsa Ballet at the Irving Arts Center. Tickets: $25-30. Call 972.252.2787 or visit www.irvingartscenter.com

Dec. 6-7

Rowlett Dance Academy presents its version of The Nutcracker at Garland High School. Tickets $10. Call 972.475.8269 or visit www.rowlettdanceacademy.com

Dec. 6-7

Royale Ballet Dance Academy offering of The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB
DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB

Dec. 12-14

Dallas Repertoire Ballet brings its rendition of the beloved holiday tale to the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets: $15-50. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 13-14

Festival Ballet of North Central Texas showing of The Nutcracker at Texas Woman’s University, Margo Jones Performance Hall in Denton, TX. Tickets: $11-36. Call 940.891.0830 or visit www.festivalballet.net

Dec. 20-21

Tuzer Ballet presents The Nutcracker at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson, TX. Tickets: $15-50. Call 972.744.4650 or visit www.eisemanncenter.com

Dec. 20-21

The Allen Civic Ballet presents its annual production of the holiday favorite with live musical accompaniment by the Allen Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. Allen High School Performing Arts Center in Allen TX. Tickets: $15-30. Visitwww.allencivicballet.org/nutcracker

Dec. 22-23

Colin 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, TX. Tickets: $32-52. Call 972.744.4650 or visitwww.eisemanncenter.com

Other Holiday Dance

Dec. 5-7

Denton City Contemporary Ballet presents A Gift for Emma at Krum High School Performance Center in Krum, TX. Tickets: $12-18. Visit www.dentondance.com

Dec. 7

8&1 Dance Company’s annual In The Spirit holiday celebration at the Quixotic Word in Dallas. Visitwww.8and1dance.com

Dec. 12

Ballet Concerto presents its annual A Holiday Special, with school performances at 10:30a.m. and 12:15p.m., and public performances at 7p.m. at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. Tickets: $5-20. Call 817.738.7915 or visitwww.balletconcerto.com

This list was originally published on TheaterJones.com.

Review: Ballet Fete, Collin County Ballet Theatre

Guest artists Michele Gifford and Ronnie Underwood perform a Pas De Deux from Sylvia. Photo: Fermaint Photography.
Guest artists Michele Gifford and Ronnie Underwood perform a Pas De Deux from Sylvia.
Photo: Fermaint Photography.

Collin County Ballet Theatre effectively hits on every part of the ballet spectrum with the help of some local talent in Balle Fete Esprit de Danse.

Richardson — From classical and romantic to contemporary and avant garde, Collin County Ballet Theatre’sBallet Fete Esprit de Danse had something for everyone to enjoy at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts last weekend. To accomplish such a feat CCBT Directors Kirt and Linda Hathaway called upon some local dance companies for assistance, including Ballet Frontier of Texas, Epiphany DanceArts and Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet as well as guest artists Yuliia Ilina, Michele Gifford, Harry Feril and Ronnie Underwood. What could have been an unbalanced collaboration was instead an exciting display of varying balletic forms and individual artistry with a couple of standout moments from CCBT’s own pre-professional company members.

The show opened with Kirt Hathaway’s Simple Symphony which had its premiere in 1982 with Lexington Ballet. Like the title states, this piece was very simple, from the pointe work to the formation changes, but by no means boring. The rudimentary steps (bourrées, changements, jetes) were done with exacting precision and uniformity. The six dancers skimmed across the floor with their triplets and bourrees as they weaved through one another. While the dancers point work was not always in sync, they paid meticulous care to their upper body positioning. Ilina and Feril’s pas e deux was a lesson in partner proficiency and artistic expression. Ilina’s wicked extensions and technical poignancy was complemented by Feril’s undeniable strength and innate ability to anticipate his partner’s needs. They never missed a hand connection and Feril handled the tricky press up lifts with ease.

Next up was August Bournonville’s (1805-1879) Reel performed by Ballet Frontier of Texas to music by Lovenskold. Dressed in white tops, plaid kilts, black knee socks and character or jazz shoes, this 31-person ensemble performed a fast-paced Scottish jig that featured rhythmic stomping, quick partner exchanges and continuous formation changes. Bournonville was not into flashy jumps or overheated gestures and he preferred accenting the downbeat in the music; the dancers took to Bournonville’s demi-character style with a vigor that left the audience breathless by the end.

Epiphany DanceArts piece, Rebirth, fused classical ballet technique with the expressive gesturing and wide arcing movement that we have come to expect from the group. The 12 dancers, dressed in various black tops and bottoms, executed a number of leg tilts, side reaches and back lunges as they continuously ran diagonally across the stage. A mashup of Beethoven and One Republic’s “5 Secrets” covered by The Piano Guys only heightened the sense of urgency in the dancers’ movements.

The most surprising work of the evening came from Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet. Choreographed by Victoria TranShades draws from the mythological idea that ghosts or spirits of the dead reside in the shadows of the underworld, according to the program notes. The movement is inspired by butoh, a form of avant garde performance art that arose in Japan in 1959. Adorned in flimsy white dresses and pale-painted faces or painted bodies as in David Sanders case, the dancers moved stiffly around stage as if in a trance, stopping intermittently to convulse or lackadaisically sway side to side. Their body shapes were disjointed (broken wrist and turn-in feet) and everything was done in a slow manner to the unsettling hum of Tibetan singing bowls.

The second half showcased the more traditional side of ballet with CCBT’s Mendelssohn, Longing for Spring and Le Corsaire Divertissement as well as the Snow scene from The Nutcracker performed by Ballet Frontier of Texas andSylvia Pas de Deux choreographed by Paul Mejia and performed by guest artists Michele Gifford and Ronnie Underwood (Oklahoma City Ballet). Gifford’s strengths came forth in her flexible spine and dynamic leaps and turns. Underwood surprised us all with his technical grace and exquisitely soft landings despite his broader frame.

It was hard to take your eyes off CCBT company member Kade Cummings in Mendelssohn and Le Corsaire Divertissement. He has come a long way over the last two years. Gone is the cheeky Fitz (The Nutcracker) character and in his place a more disciplined dancer. He oozed grace and confidence. His far-reaching lines, precision turns and effortless jumps set him apart from the other dancers. CCBT member Emily Dunaway displayed great emotional depth with her solo in Ilina’s Longing for Spring. Her conviction could be seen from her tense fingertips down to her punctuated pointe work.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

A Look Back on 2013

Joshua Peugh is the co-founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Photo: Sergio Garcia
Joshua Peugh is the co-founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Photo: Sergio Garcia

2013 was full of big surprises for me both personally and professionally.

First, my husband and I welcomed our first child, a baby girl named Evelyn, on June 1. (She already has perfect turn out.) My husband and I are also celebrating our fifth year as Dallas residents. This may not mean much to some people, but this is the longest we have ever stayed in once place. And in those five years we got married, got a dog (Cleveland), brought a house and had a baby. My, we have been busy!

Professionally, I am celebrating my fifth year as a dance instructor at Amanda Dalton School of Dance. Time really does fly when you are having fun. I also can’t believe I have been working on my blog for three years and in that time have written more than 150 posts. I would love to surpass that number in 2014. I am also fortunate to have an outlet for my dance writing with TheaterJones.com and WorldArtsToday.com.

I truly am grateful to live in a city that values the arts. New dance companies like Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and Avant Chamber Ballet were welcomed with opened arms by audiences this past year while established dance companies like Texas Ballet Theater and Dallas Black Dance Theatre continued to push boundaries and strengthen the art form.

DRB company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB
Dallas Repertoire Ballet company member Megan Schonberg and guest artist Jamel White as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavailer. Photo: Courtesy of DRB

But the city wouldn’t be the cultural mecca that it is today without the smaller local companies. My Nutcracker Roundup this year included more than 20 Nutcracker and Holiday performances. I was fortunate enough to review 5 of them.

LakeCities Ballet Theatre stood out for its use of live music; Texas Ballet Theater for its special effects and strong male dancers; Ballet Frontier of Texas for its simplicity; Ballet Ensemble of Texas for its pristine pointe work and uniformity; and Dallas Repertoire Ballet for its creative choreography and  musicality.

I did take a break from all the nuttiness by going to see Epiphany DanceArts’ heartfelt Christmas Memories production and Bruce Wood’s cabaret-inspired holiday show entitled Mistletoe Magic.

Another aspect of my job is interviewing choreographers from touring dance companies. I played it cool when I interviewed the legendary Paul Taylor and the new Alvin Ailey Artistic Director Robert Battle back in April, but the dancer in me was shaking in her dance shoes.

Paul Taylor Dance Company in Company B. Photo: Rex C. Curry
Paul Taylor Dance Company in Company B. Photo: Rex C. Curry

I also got to talk with Complexions’ co-founder Desmond Richardson who came to Dallas in March for TITAS’ highly anticipated Command Performance Gala. I even got to go backstage after the performance to meet Desmond face to face. (Getting back stage at the Winspear was like getting into the Pentagon. Even with an escort we had to go through multiple check points. It was totally awesome.)

For the first time ever dance dominated TITAS’ performance lineup. Companies including Stephen Petronio, Doug Varone, The Joffrey Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Grupo Corpo and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater all got their chance to perform in the state of the art Winspear Opera House.

Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Violet Kid. Photo by Juileta Cervantes
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in Violet Kid. Photo by Juileta Cervantes

After reflecting on all the great performances from the last year I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store!

And a big thank you to all my readers out there! I love writing for you and I plan to do a lot more of it. 🙂

Happy New Year!!! Keep Dancing!!!

Review: The Nutcracker, Ballet Frontier of Texas

Photo: Anthony Crowley The snowflakes in Ballet Frontier of Texas' The Nutcracker
Photo: Anthony Crowley
The snowflakes in Ballet Frontier of Texas’ The Nutcracker

Simple Splendor

Ballet Frontier of Texas delivers a simple yet entertaining rendition of The Nutcracker.

Fort Worth —  That wonderful time of year also known as Nutcracker season continued this past weekend with Ballet Frontier of Texas’ presentation of The Nutcracker at the Will Rogers Auditorium.

Under the direction of Chung-Lin Tseng, Ballet Frontier gave a commendable performance that started off with a shaky party scene, but gained momentum in the snow scene and finished with a captivating second act largely attributed to the beautifully executed pas de deux by the Sugar Plum Fairy (Lainey Logan) and Cavalier (Paul Adams), both dancers with Texas Ballet Theater. (The performance reviewed was Saturday; the cast was slightly different on Friday night, with former TBT dancer Tseng as the Cavalier, which was his final major role to dance as he’s retiring from dancing.)

It’s no easy task to wrangle the 20-something children in the opening party scene, but choreographers Roy Tobias and Tseng did an admiral job with clean, rudimentary ballet steps and visually pleasing formation changes. The pointe work of the three dolls could have been stronger, but lead Clara (Rebekah Harrington) made up for that with her charming personality, lovely lines and extremely arched feet.

The new Christmas tree backdrop by set designer Anne Jones was a welcomed addition to the otherwise dated ballroom scenery. It was also easy to overlook the complacent dancing of the adult partygoers when the children were so enthusiastically skipping around the stage. While the fight scene between the Nutcracker and the Rat King was a little rough around the edges, it did have a clever concept that was engaging to the audience.

The skill and artistry of the dancers flourished as the performance transitioned to the snow scene. Here, the Snow Fairies dazzled in wispy white tutus and jeweled-encrusted leotards. Their innate sense of timing only made the dreamy movement and luscious pointe work more spellbinding. The icing on the cake was the refreshingly classical dancing of the Snow King and Queen, Ballet Frontier of Texas Principal Dancers Andrey Prikhodko and Marina Goshko. Their overall gracefulness and effortless partnering is what the younger company members should aspire too.

While the second act did contain some musical timing glitches, that didn’t stop the dancers from giving an energetic and technically proficient performance. In this scene Clara and her prince (Andrew Coffey) watch as couples from all around the Kingdom of Sweets came forward to show off their native dances. Dallas Black Dance Theatre guest artists Jamie Thompson (Spanish couple), Derrick Smith (Arabian couple) and Christopher McKenzie (Russian couple) stood out with their commanding stage presence and technical prowess.

The highly anticipated Arabian dance lacked some of the acrobatics it is known for, but the visually stimulating use of the over large piece of translucent fabric combined with the over-head lifts enhanced the air of mystery in the dance.

And of course Lainey Logan (a personal favorite) and Paul Adams’ exquisite pas de deux at the end wrapped up the performance in a nice tight bow. Logan’s powerful core enabled her to execute multiple turns without mishap and hold those lengthy pique arabesques without assistance if she desired. Adams was there for her at every turn and really got the audience going with his gravity-defying leaps.

The big surprise of the evening came from prince Andrew Coffey, whose elongated lines and controlled landings made him look like a younger version of Adams. With some more time and training he will be someone to watch out for.

This review was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.