Around the Holidays the NorthPark Mall in Dallas turns into a zoo thanks to the upscale mall’s unique holiday attractions which include Santa Claus, the trains and Sights and Sounds of the Season, which is a FREE performance series featuring the musical and movement stylings of schools, churches, synagogues and community and professional dance troupes from around North Texas. The performance series runs Nov. 28 through Dec. 22nd and the Dillards’ Court and North Court and again this is FREE!!!
With two little ones at home I am well versed with the trains and Santa Claus attractions at the mall, but I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have never stopped to watch any of the dance performances presented by the many well-known professional and pre-professional companies in the area. That is going to change this year especially since the only way to see Bruce Wood Dance’s Mistletoe Magic will be through this performance series. (Bruce Wood Dance performs tomorrow at 1pm in the North Court area.)
Looking at the performance line up online, I am amazed with the number of dance companies both professional and pre-professional that will be presenting in these 30-60 time slots as well as the variety of movement styles that will be showcased. I mean this Saturday alone starting at 10am you can catch some of the most popular names in the Dallas dance community, including 8&1 Dance Company, Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Bruce Wood Dance, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Danielle Georgiou Dance Group and Contemporary Ballet Dallas.
After checking in with some of these companies on social media, I can tell you that Dark Circles Contemporary Dance will perform Joshua L. Peugh’s Les Fairies as well as a section of a new work that Peugh is planning to introduce in the spring. OK! that alone has me hooked! Danielle Georgiou Dance Group will also give us a sneak peek of a new creation and perform Colby Calhoun’s Bedtime Stories. And Contemporary Ballet Dallas will perform to some holiday classics along with the school’s student ballet, tap and hip hop youth ensembles.
And while I have already included a link to the full line up, I wanted to pull out some special dates for all you dance lovers out there so you can go ahead and mark your calendars:
Dallas Black Dance Theatre Academy Performance Ensembles
The Hockaday School Dance Department
Texas Ballet Theater Dallas School
Collin County Ballet Theatre
Chamberlain School of Ballet
Avant Chamber Ballet
The Ballet Conservatory
Bombshell Dance Project
Dallas Ballet Company
I hope to see you all there!!! Get there early to find a parking spot and claim a front row seat!
Moving Forward Dance Project will be hosting its second event in January, aptly titled Moving Forward II.
Created by Booker T. Washington alum and Juilliard student Madison Hicks, Moving Forward Dance ProjectII is a three-day dance workshop where students get the opportunity to work with professional and pre-professional artists from The Julliard School. Dancers will have the opportunity to train in a safe and encouraging atmosphere where the MFDP faculty will share their wealth of knowledge and experience, according to the event’s Facebook page.
Hicks came up with the idea for the project during her first year at the renowned Juilliard School. (Check out this article on the Dance Spirit web site from 2016 about Hicks’ life as a Juilliard student!)
“I wanted to create a workshop for the young artists in Dallas to give them a glimpse of what concert training is like.,” Hicks says. “I have always had a love for teaching and choreographing, and in college I got to dive into my choreographic studies even more. Although I began choreographing at Booker T. Washington HSPVA, I thought about how much I would have loved to explore choreography at an even younger age than I did. I believe young artists have the capacity to create in an environment that encourages their choreographic voice.”
Hicks credits her time at Springboard Dans Montreal in 2016 and 2017 with helping her find her voice as both a dancer a choreographer. “This workshop pushed me even more to create an open environment for young artists to begin exploring their voices. I have found in my training and research that too often, we are not encouraged to train in anything besides technique until much later in our training and careers. The purpose of Moving Forward Dance Project is to bring this encouraging and mature environment to the young artists in Dallas.”
I couldn’t agree more! I grew up in the competitive dance world where tricks and flexibility were the focus of most of my classes. I did not experience my first composition class till my Freshman year of college and by that time I was pretty stuck in my ways. What I mean by that is after years of learning to pick up choreography quickly at conventions and trying to replica my dance teachers movement styles I was now being asked to think for myself when it came to creating movement. Looking back I wish I had more opportunities to explore choreography outside the competition realm before entering college. I was hard for me to reach my full potential when I still had some many hurtles to overcome. So, I urge are you young professionals out there in Dallas to please take advantage of this unique opportunity.
Moving Forward Dance Project II takes place Jan. 6-7 at Pure Movement Dance and Fitness in Allen, TX, and includes master classes as well as workshops focusing largely on improvisation and composition. And along with modern, contemporary and ballet classes, this year’s event will also feature repertory classes.
This year’s faculty includes Hicks, Kevin Pajarillaga (Bruce Wood Dance and Yin Yue Dance Company), Alysia Johnson (Juilliard School) and Jillyn Bryant (Bruce Wood Dance).
Booker T. Alum Rebecca Troyak makes her choreographic debut at Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s Director’s Choice performance this weekend.
Dallas — Walking into Bridget L. Moore’s composition class freshman year at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (BTWHSPVA), Rebecca Troyak was immediately drawn to the worldly choreographer’s energy and teaching methods.
“She has such a power about her and she is just a beautiful person inside and out,” Troyak says about her dance mentor. “She is so thoughtful about her work and is so willing to bring something new out of you. I didn’t know I had the ability to choreography until she brought it out of me. She also has had an amazing career and it is refreshing that someone so talented is willing to be so opened about her experiences and share her knowledge.”
Moore shares with TheaterJones that her first choreographer opportunity occurred in college at The Ohio State University with the late Jeraldyne Blunden, founder of Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. “Jeraldyne saw something special in me and invited me to workshop choreography on the dancers in the company,” Moore says. “That was a rare and unique opportunity and was the catalyst for honing my craft as a choreographer. I also had wonderful teachers who continued to push me as an artist even after I had long graduated. These same teachers are now my friends and colleagues and continue to support me and the work that I do. I now offer the same support that was given to me as a young aspiring artist and choreographer.”
Moore’s passion for nurturing the next generation of dancers and performers is just one of the many refreshing characteristics she brings into her role as the new artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT), which is evident in the lineup for her first Director’s Choice performance Nov. 3-5 at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas. Along with an expanded version of Moore’s Uncharted Territory, the program also features Andy Noble’s Tower and a duet by newcomer Troyak.
“Bridget has this kind of mindset where she wants to nurture young artists, which is so wonderful and I am so grateful that she wants to help nurture me still at this time in my life,” Troyak says. “I mean it is definitely scary walking into a room knowing that I am younger than most of the dancers, but everyone at DBDT was so responsive and supportive that it made the process really easy.”
“I have always been impressed with Rebecca,” Moore says about her decision to have Troyak work with the company. “But I was extremely pleased to see her sensibility and approach to working in a professional setting with DBDT. The dancers were very receptive to her process, and she being a college student had no bearing on her artistic integrity, information shared with the dancers or the professionalism she brought to DBDT.”
“Rebecca is exceptionally gifted, both as a performer and choreographer, and is a young artist with considerable promise. There is a level of maturity and sophistication about her work and that is essentially the reason why Monophonicwas selected to be a part of Director’s Choice.” (See a video of a previous performance of Monophonic above.)
Originally from Ontario, Canada, Troyak and her family moved to Dallas when she was 12. She attended BTWHSPVA where she was a member of the Repertory Dance Ensemble I. During her four years there she had the opportunity to work with various renowned choreographers, including Jessica Lang, Dwight Rhoden, Sidra Bell, Lar Lubovich, Takehiro Ueyama, Clifford Williams, Troy Powell, Adam Houghland and Andy Noble. Troyak has also trained at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Batsheva Dance Company, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, Complexions Contemporary Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet School. Troyak is currently a junior at the University of Southern California’s Glorya Kaufman School of Dance under the direction of Jodie Gates and William Forsythe.
Troyak will be presenting her work Monophonic, which is a duet she created alongside her best friend during her senior year at BTWHSPVA. The piece explores the couple’s unique relationship using a blend of contemporary and modern movement devices. “I say we are an unlikely duo because we are complete opposites. He is super outgoing and I am on the shy side, but what makes are relationship work is that he has given me so many qualities of him and vice versa and we have become better people because of each other.” She adds, “The piece is really just about exploring the give and take of relationships and human interaction and connection in general, and what we have to offer one another.”
Troyak points out that name of the piece, Monophonic, is a musical term meaning one sound. She says the dancers demonstrate this idea by staying separated in the beginning, but as the work evolves they come together to be one person or one sound. “So, they are not individuals by the end. There are two people who have given and taken so much of each other that they are in harmony with one another.”
The music Troyak selected is a dramatic opera piece that she says fits her choreographic personality. “I am an emotionally driven person so, I like music that is emotionally charged and that is what I found in this opera piece.” She adds, “When I am dancing I like to feel the music. I don’t want to just do shapes in the space. I want to feel every moment that I am making in space and feel the intention and purpose of what I am doing and I think music is so powerful and it definitely drives my movement a lot of times.”
After teaching a company class and watching the dancers improv for a bit, Troyak chose DBDT company members Claude Alexander III and Jasmine White-Killins to perform her piece with Zion Pradier and Hana Delong acting as their understudies. Known for his dynamic stage presence, lyrical athleticism and effortless partnering, it’s no surprise why Troyak chose to work with Alexander. What is surprising is that Alexander will be dancing with White-Killins after being paired up with Alyssa Harrington for multiple seasons. (Harrington moved on from DBDT at the end of last season.) “Because I didn’t really know the dancers going into this process I relied on my instincts when it came to matching up the couples. I just kept switching them around and I just kept going back to Claude and Jasmine.” When asked what drew her to these two dancers Troyak says, “During company class Claude caught my eye right away. He has something really unique to offer, which this piece definitely requires. And what is awesome too is that Claude and Jasmine are actually really good friends and so they could really connect to the work.”
Troyak also says this experience has taught her a lot about herself, including how to take ownership of the room and how to share her knowledge in terms that the dancers could easily understand. “It was a different task for me and I am thankful to Bridget for allowing me to have complete control from beginning to end. Troyak adds, “What has surprised me the most about myself during this process is my ability to take ownership and lead the space. Because I’ve been so used to the other role where I listen and don’t talk, I surprised myself by being able to take charge and go up to the front of the room and say exactly what I wanted. And what was really amazing for me was watching the dancers’ change how they were moving to fit the demands of the dance.”
The Dance Council Honors has thankfully split from Dallas DanceFest and will return to its more intimate setting at Dallas Black Dance Theatre.
I know I am not the only person happy about the fact the Dance Council Honors(DC Honors) will no longer be squeezed into Dallas DanceFest (DDF). For the last few years the DC Honors has occurred in conjunction with DDF and unfortunately has suffered as a result with the main complaint being the length of each evening’s program.
The presentation of the awards also lacked the comradory and celebratory atmosphere that has always been a part of the DC Honors, which is why I am glad that the event has split from DDF and will be returning to Dallas Black Dance Theatre on Oct. 29 for some food, fun and fantastic dancing. And, of course, we will hear from this year’s DC Honorees, which include Kathy Chamberlain, Stephanie Rae Williams, Patty Granville, Alpana Kagal Jacob and Malana Murphy.
Over the last couple of decades, these incredible individuals have made huge strives to better our local dance community thanks to their passion, dedication, knowledge, cultural awareness and above all love for the art form of dance. Because God knows we are not in it for the money!
I know I will be there to watch Kathy Chamberlain as she receives the Mary Bywaters Award for her lifetime contribution to dance.
I met Kathy one day at Sandy’s Shoes and Dancewear back in the summer of 2009. I had just moved to Dallas from Cleveland and knew absolutely no one in the local dance community. She took me under her wing and she and I had multiple phone conversations about the ins and outs of the Dallas dance scene. She is the one who lead me to local dance writer Margaret Putnam. I started off by reading a lot of Margaret’s reviews, which at the time were published in the Dallas Morning News and TheaterJones.com (TJ). This eventually lead me to contact TJ where I have now been writing dance previews, Q&As and reviews for the last six years.
Kathy was ultimately the one who jump-started my career here in Dallas and I will forever be grateful to her. And her willingness to help me is also one of the things I like most about our local dance community. Although everyone is technically in competition with one another they are always willing to lend a helping hand and offer up support when needed. So, I recommend offering your support to the dance community by coming to this year’s DC Honors. Even if you don’t know any of the honorees you should still come. I did when I first moved to Dallas and it taught me a lot about the city’s dance culture and the wide range of work being made here as well as the wealth of talent being fostered in our city schools and studios. You should definitely check it out!
I have included the official press release below:
For Immediate Release:
WHAT: Dance Council of North Texas 2017 Honors
WHEN: Sunday, October 29, 3:00 P.M.
WHERE: Dallas Black Dance Theatre, 2700 Ann Williams Way, Dallas, TX 75201 in Dallas Arts District
Dance Council of North Texas is pleased to honor five people within the area dance community who have made a significant contribution to world of dance.
Kathy Chamberlain is receiving the Mary Bywaters Award, which recognizes a person who has made a lifetime and significant contribution to dance. Dance Council of North Texas is delighted to join with Chamberlain School of Ballet, (CSB) Plano, as itcelebrates its 40th Anniversary. Chamberlain School of Ballet is the supporting school for Chamberlain Performing Arts, a leading North Texas pre-professional dance company founded by Ms. Chamberlain. She received the prestigious Ford Foundation Scholarship for study at the School of American Ballet, NYC.
Stephanie Rae Williams is the recipient of theNatalie Skelton Awardhonoring a person who is currently performing. Ms. Williams was featured in Dance Magazine’s “On the Rise” in 2013. In 2005, she received the South Dallas Dance Festival Scholarship from DCNT. Stephanie was a Fellowship recipient at the Ailey School, a 2006 Youth America Grand Prix Winner as well as a 2006 Youth America Grand Prix Finalist. As part of DC Honors, Stephanie will perform My Funny Valentine, choreographed by Darrell Mourie. She appears through the courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem, NYC.
The Mary Warner Award for service in dance recognizes Patty Granville, who exemplifies
the individual whose vision is essential to the dance community. Ms. Granville has been the Director of the Garland Center for the Performing Arts since its opening in 1982. As one of the founders, she has served as producer for Garland Summer Musicals since 1983. In 2003, the Garland City Council unanimously voted to rename the Performing Arts Center to the Patty Granville Arts Center. Patty provides countless opportunities for performers, musicians and craftsmen to participate in musical theatre.
Larry White Educator Awardrecognizes Alpana Kagal
Jacob for her inspiring and innovative contributions to her students’ development. After her Arangetram and graduation, she has been teaching Bharata Natyam to young children and adults. Alpana has been a guest lecturer at both UNT and TWU and has served as choreographer and teacher for Dallas Theater Center Summer Workshop projects. Alpana has taught at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Brookhaven College and Richland College. She is a disciplined and loving teacher to all her students.
Buster Cooper Tap LegendAward celebrates the exemplary contributions of Malana Murphy to America’s original dance form: tap. Malana began her professional career at the age of 14 while performing in the production of Calling All Kids, choreographed by Gracey Tune. In addition to graduating from Booker T Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Malana has performed commercially and in industrials. Malana’s love for tap dancing has inspired her to share her passion and knowledge with students locally and across the United States. She is also the head of the local tap dance festival RIFF, which stands for Rhythm and Fusion Festival.
DBDT: Encore! will perform as well as Dance Council 2017 scholarship recipients. The opening number is generation# (sic) choreographed by Tammie Reinsch of Ballet Ensemble of Texas. Doug Voet of Uptown Theatre in Grand Prairie will serve as the event’s emcee with Dallas Black Dance Theatre veteran Nycole Ray providing production assistance. Reception, refreshments and a silent auction will complete the afternoon’s agenda.
$35 – ADULT
$30 – MEMBERS, Dance Council of North Texas
$20 STUDENTS, ages 13 through 18.
STUDENTS, ages 12 and under: Free when accompanied by an adult
Emily Bernet and Taylor Rodman of Bombshell Dance Project on their unique partnership and creating their first program in Dallas.
Dallas — Together, Emily Bernet and Taylor Rodman tenderly cup their faces before slowly moving their hands down their bodies in a mildly seductive manner to the sweet sound of Marilyn Monroe’s voice as she answers a reporter’s question about whether or not she is happy. “If anything I am genuinely miserable,” Monroe states as Bernet and Rodman walk, glide and jump from one side of the space to the other, stopping intermittently to engage each other in catch and release action and simple gesturing such as a hand to the chest or a head on the other person’s shoulder. As the music changes so does the dancers’ movement quality, which becomes more aggressive and robust before once again slowing down and eventually fading out.
Meant to Be Seen showcases both Bernet and Rodman’s classical and modern dance backgrounds as well as their curious nature and instinctual approaches to movement, which they explored deeper during their time with Dallas-based Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. The eight-minute duet also features the dancers’ penchant for more explosive and full-bodied movement, which the dance partners and best friends point out is the main reason they formed Bombshell Dance Project in 2016. “The name has an ironic ring to it since neither of us are blonde or very curvaceous,” Bernet says.
Rodman adds, “I just feel like the word ‘bombshell’ in itself is pretty universal and empowering, which ties in nicely with what we want to achieve with the company.”
So, it seems quite fitting that the two would gravitate to text and music by their movie icons Monroe and Aubrey Hepburn in their first company work, Meant to Be Seen. The piece will be presented along with There I Said It and Kismet in the Bombshells’ first Dallas program at the Sammons Center for the Arts on Oct. 20. When asked what ties these three works together Bernet says it’s not so much a theme as it is a feeling. “For the last year we have been caught up in this feeling of angst, but it’s contrasted,” Bernet explains. “We talk a lot about contrast and underlying feelings such as what something looks like versus what it is or how it feels. And also what people look like on the outside versus what’s on the inside.”
Bernet and Rodman met their sophomore year at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, but say they didn’t get close until their junior year when they joined the repertory dance company. “We just clicked right away as friends and creatively speaking,” Bernet says. “We are both pretty easy going and are drawn to movement that is big and powerful more so than soft and structured.”
The two say that they never saw themselves as the balletic type—instead preferring the challenges and artistic freedom associated with modern and contemporary movement. “I never really saw the ballerina in me,” Bernet says. “I started in a competition studio, but the second I found modern and contemporary in high school and later in college, I knew that is where I belonged.”
Rodman shares a similar story. “My body is just not meant for ballet, which I am totally fine with because I think it has helped me find different pathways and areas that I can use my body and challenge myself in various ways, which really became evident in high school. I just always wanted to be moving really BIG!”
During high school both dancers also found the same mentor in Professor Kyle Richards. “He definitely helped me to trust in what I was creating and to not be afraid to make work,” Bernet says. “One of the first things I learned from him was that the work doesn’t have to be perfect.”
She adds, “He was also big on starting from text and using feelings for inspiration, which has definitely influenced our work.” Nodding in agreement Rodman adds, “He was always really good about telling us not to take ourselves too seriously because in high school you know all the pieces in the shows are going to be super dramatic and intense and he really pushed us to see the lighter side of creating movement.”
After graduation the dynamic duo parted ways, Bernet heading to Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, where she focused on modern dance and performance; with Rodman moving up north to attend Boston Conservatory, where she studied improvisational techniques and choreography. Bernet credits their diverse college experiences with adding more depth and intrigue to their rehearsal process, which she says has made the work something that it wouldn’t be without the two of them.
Explosive, aggressive and full-bodied are just a few of the choice terms Bernet and Rodman use to describe their movement, which the duo says they haven’t been able to do until now. Both dancers learned early on that opportunities to move in such a forceful way would be limited due to their gender, a realization that strongly irked Rodman. “The seed was planted in high school because I always seemed to be in a dress or standing in the wings wanting to do the men’s section because it was so full-bodied and aggressive, yet soft at times and very textured.” This archaic approach to the female’s role on stage really started to bother Rodman in college where she remembers learning the men’s sections on the side just to fulfill that void for more demanding movement.
For those unfamiliar with the general rules of classical and contemporary dance, Rodman explains that in a lot of the roles she has performed since high school she has either been asked to play the damsel in distress or the femme fatale. “I was either made to feel like I couldn’t complete this task without a partner by my side or asked to be overtly sexual in a non-sexual kind of way, whereas the men’s sections were always extremely big, exciting and used the entire stage.”
Walking into Preston Center Dance where the Bombshells were rehearsing a couple of weeks ago I knew I was in for a very relaxed and fun experience if the dancers giggling from down the hall was an indicator. Bernet and Rodman were very considerate of each other during the rehearsal, taking turns answering questions and later taking turns with suggestions or critiques when going over movement. The two could also communicate with one another using just a look, which they say is one of the advantages of being such close friends.
“As far as creating movement I think it has been easy for us because we know each other so well,” Bernet says. “When we work collaboratively a lot of the time I will do a move and then she will do a move and eventually it kind of blurs together.”
Rodman adds, “Just being the two of us in the room this first year has been great because we work so well together that most of the time we don’t need to talk we just keep moving.”
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.
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.
The Austin-based choreographer on landing roles in the The Lion King and Memphis on Broadway, the future of classical jazz dance and performing at Dallas DanceFest.
Dallas — Dallas native LaQuet Sharnell Pringle was bit by the Broadway bug at the age of six after seeingThe Wiz National Tour in Chicago. An avid singer, Pringle performed in her first musical, The Velveteen Rabbit, at Bowman Middle school at age 12. Pringle went on to attend Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (BTWHSPVA) where she studied ballet, modern, African and compositional studies as a member of the Advanced Repertory company. She also studied jazz, lyrical, tap, hip-hop and contemporary at The Dallas Powerhouse of Dance and The Centre for Dance, and participated in many local dance events, including the Dance Council of North Texas’ Dance Planet Festival and the Dallas Morning News Festival. Pringle was studying at the North Carolina School of the Arts when she landed her first Broadway gig in Sweet Charity.
Pringle is currently an adjunct professor in the Musical Theater Department at Texas State University. She also teaches at Ballet Austin and Tru Dance Project and is the founder of Fearless Young Artists, an organization devoted to providing extensive creative arts education to diverse youth who are interested in careers in the arts. Her dance career has come full circle this year as she was the headliner for Dance Planet 19 last April and will be performing at the second annual Dallas DanceFest, this coming weekend. Pringle will be performing Friday evening alongside Austin-based artists Amy Morrow and AJ Garcia-Rameau.
TheaterJones talked to LaQuet Sharnell Pringle about navigating through the Broadway industry, where jazz technique fits in today’s contemporary-driven world and what she has in store for audiences at Dallas DanceFest.
TheaterJones: How did you hear about Dallas DanceFest?
Pringle: I was most familiar with the festival of dance when it was called the Dallas Morning News Festival. Back then it was done in the [Annette Strauss] Artist Square. With the amazing new additions to Arts District, I was speaking with Gayle Halperin at Dance Planet 19 who informed me of the new name and vision.
What will you be showcasing at the Festival?
I will be premiering one part of a three-part piece that explores the masks worn when in my romantic relationships, my relationship to the business of show and reactions I have felt towards both. This piece has been cathartic and edifying experience for me. I have learned so much through the many re-writes of my text and through the choreography. I hope that audiences will experience this piece as a type of mirror I am currently looking at to better understand and grow from as I begin a new journey.
What was the auditioning process like for The Lion King andMemphis?
These shows could not be more different. The Lion King was a show that was already up and running. So, coming in the creative team knew exactly what they were looking for. Thank goodness for my modern dance training at Booker T. because the audition quickly weeded out the dancers without modern technique and acting abilities.
For Memphis, the process was a tad more relaxed in that they were looking for someone in particular while also not knowing what they were looking for. I am thankful that I was the right height, talent and person to work with the male dancer they were most looking to pair me with. For Memphis our choreographer looked for great jazz technique paired with character attachment to the movement quickly. I’d say the biggest difference was that with The Lion King I was breaking into the industry and with Memphis I was in “the biz” and aware enough to see the many moving pieces around me.
You were the headliner for Dance Planet 19 last year. What did you take away from that experience?
I mostly took away humility and openness to experience something greater than myself. Dallas in general is an incredible city to nurture incredible talents. Dance Planet 19 brings every young artist and parent into one place where we all grew, laughed, danced and sweated together. It was an incredible weekend of community.
What motivated you to start Fearless Young Artists?
Even as I began to perform professionally, I always had a leg in the studio—to teach and to learn. I began to realize the significant impact my teachers had on my development. They were professionals. They knew what it meant to be on stage, and more importantly get on stage. I saw that there were so many kids that didn’t have access to the level of talent some have to learn from. FYA was born to create a place where the student could both watch the professionals from the audience then learn from them in class. As I continue to build FYA Workshops and Intensives around the country the DFW area will be first on the schedule and map. FYA will also offer scholarships to those young artists in need.
There is a lot of talk in the industry about how jazz technique is being overshadowed by contemporary in the classroom. As a jazz instructor what is your take on this? Where do you think jazz fits in today’s contemporary-obsessed world?
Technique across the board is being replaced by contemporary and center combos. Somewhere along the line we began to teach our young artists about having enough likability to be on T.V shows. Many have stopped teaching marketability and the ability to be a chameleon as dancers and artists. It is now okay to microwave an artist rather than growing and nurturing young artists. Technique, whether it be ballet, jazz or modern or tap or hip hop, requires years of practice and it doesn’t seem to me that the focus is on where the dancer will be 15 or 20 years from now. The great educators and studio owners within the arts have this ability to teach slow and steady wins the race while also enforcing a passion to express, from their individual perspectives, where the technique can take you within choreography.
» The second Dallas DanceFest is Sept. 4-6. Performances will take place on Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. with the 2015 Dance Council Honors awards ceremony and performance showcase occurring on Sunday afternoon.
» Tickets for both events are available through TICKETDFW: online at www.TICKETDFW.com, by phone 214-871-5000, or in person at the box office 2353 Flora St., Dallas, TX 75201. For more information, go towww.dallasdancefest.org
The Dance Council of North Texas recognizes the accomplishments of Nita Braun, Suzie Jary, Beth Wortley, Joe Cutaia and Ann Briggs-Cutaia, Dylis Croman and Buster Cooper.
Dallas — Every year the Dance Council of North Texas selects five individuals whose excellence in education, performance and community support for dance have greatly impacted the art form in North Texas. While the mission of the Dance Council Honors hasn’t changed, attendees are in for a few surprises at this year’s event. For the first time the Dance Council Honors will take place at Dallas City Performance Hall on Aug. 31, 2014, and will coincide with the inaugural Dallas DanceFest which runs Aug. 29-31. The Dance Council Honors has previously been held at Dallas Black Dance Theatre. The event begins with a reception followed by the presentation of awards and includes performances by 2014 DCNT scholarship recipients and professional companies.
“That Dallas Black Dance Theatre opened its doors to the annual Dance Council Honors was a wonderful gift,” says Honors Chairperson Janice LaPointe-Crump. However, “each year people had to be turned away because of the limited amount of seating. With more capacity and better sight lines the City Performance Hall is truly a contemporary, yet elegant environment. And becoming part of the Dallas DanceFest closes the space between our youthful scholarship recipients, professionals at the height of their careers and the presentation of the Honor awards to those who have preserved and excelled throughout their professional lives.”
The DCNT will also be honoring Dallas tap icon Buster Cooper, who passed away in March, with the final Texas Tap Legend Award. The award has been renamed the Buster Cooper Tap Legend Award. This year’s Dance Council Honorees are:
Nita Braun– Mary McLarry Bywaters Award for Lifetime Achievement
Nita Braun’s teaching career spanned nearly 35 years, 25 of which were spent running Nita Braun’s Talent Workshop in Farmers Branch. Braun’s passion for dance also extended beyond her studio. For many years she served as a Secretary and a Vice President of the Dallas Dance Council, working to expand the audience for dance in Dallas through education, outreach, and performance. In 1946 she married Philip Henry Braun, a chemical engineer and World War II veteran. Together they raised four children – Cathie, Mary, Lisa, and Griff – and were married for 56 years, until Phil’s death in 2003. Braun passed away in January 2012 at the age of 85.
Suzie Jary – Mary Warner Award for Service to Dance
For more than 20 years Suzie Jary LCSW, TEP has been providing psychotherapy and counseling in the areas of addiction, mental health, grief and loss and career development. She graduated from Hunter College School of Social Work, CUNY, in New York, and trained and worked in New York City before relocating to Fort Worth, TX. Jary is a recognized specialist in the issues faced by performing and creative artists. She has spoken internationally and domestically about artists’ career development and career transition issues. She was profiled in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and New York Daily News for her work with Career Transition for Dancers, a national not-for-profit organization. As Client Services Consultant for the organization she travels nationwide presenting action-based career development workshops for professional dance companies, college dance major programs and dance conservatories. Jary’s background is as a professional musical theatre dancer having performed in Europe, in national tours and on Broadway.
Beth Wortley – Larry White Dance Educator Award
Growing up in Dallas, Beth Wortley studied classical ballet with Nikita Talin. She also has training in jazz and modern dance. Wortley received a BFA in Theater from University of Texas at Austin and a MFA in dance from Southern Methodist University in 1973. After graduation she served as Artistic Director of Ballet of Dallas for 5 years before moving to Boston where she taught ballet at Tufts University and Boston University. Wortley returned to Dallas in 1989 and was soon hired as Director of the Dance Department for the Hockaday School. In 2008 she was named the Chair of the Performing Arts Department. Outside of her Hockaday responsibilities, Beth has been directing, choreographing and acting in productions for the Rotunda Theater for the last 50 years. She has choreographed countless musicals for other local theaters and high schools throughout the Metroplex. Wortley also was a pioneer for Liturgical dance at First United Methodist Church Dallas.
Buster Cooper – Texas Tap Legend Award
Leonard “Buster” Cooper started dance lessons at the age of 10. At 17 he attended a workshop in Chicago where he was asked to stand in for Gene Kelly’s brother, Fred. His career as a dancer and teacher flourished from there. He was drafted for WWII in 1942 and afterward spent his summers dancing in Chicago and New York. Cooper moved to Dallas in 1951 to head up one of Fred Astaire’s dance locations. A year later he left the company and opened his own studio. For 52 years he owned and operated The Buster Cooper School of Dance and for more than 30 years served as the head of dance at Hockaday School. Scores of his alumni went on to dance in production at the Dallas Summer Musicals and on Broadway in shows, including The Music Man, The Pajama Game, West Side Story, A Chorus Line and Cats. Cooper passed away in March 2013 at the age of 90.
Joe Cutaia and Ann Briggs-Cutaia – Buster Cooper Tap Legend Award
Texas native Joe Cutaia has studied dance in Dallas, New York and Chicago. His professional experiences include the Broadway national touring companies of Little Me with Donald O’Connor, George M with Ken Berry and Hello Dolly with Carol Channing. As an actor, Cutaia studied with Adam Roarke at the Film Labs at Las Colinas, Lou Diamond Phillips and the DSM Musical Theatre School. He also has worked for the Dallas Children’s Theatre and has appeared in various television commercials. Cutaia is an active member of the Dance Council of North Texas and for the past several years has been a committee chairman of the National Tap Dance Day celebration in Dallas. He and his wife Ann are members of three Dallas ballroom dance clubs having presided as presidents for one group and are currently holding the position of President-Elect for another. They are also the owners of The Chaplin Cotillions LLC, and travel around the state of Texas conducting etiquette and ballroom classes for students in grades 2 through 9.
Ann Briggs-Cutaia studied dance in Dallas, TX with Texie Waterman and Buster Cooper. Briggs holds a BFA in dance from Southern Methodist University. She danced professionally as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and has appeared in various commercials, television shows and movies in the United States and Japan. Briggs also holds a Masters of Science in Counseling and is certified by the Texas State Board for Educator Certification as an instructor of dance and speech as well as a school counselor.
Dylis Croman – Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence
Dallas native Dylis Croman is best known for her success on Broadway in shows, including Sweet Charity,Fosse, A Chorus Line, Applause, Oklahoma! and presently Chicago. A quintessential ballerina, Croman once danced with the renowned FeldBallets/NY (now Ballet Tech Company) before becoming Ann Reinking’s assistant and eventually a Fosse aficionado and legacy keeper, then launching her triumphant career on Broadway. Croman trained in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with Laura Price, Dana Davis Bailey, Dian Clough West, and TuzerBallet. She graduated from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (BTWHSPVA) before moving to New York. This year Croman was the guest star for DCNT’s Dance Planet 18 festival.
Tickets for the 2014 Dance Council Honors will be available beginning August 1. Visit www.thedancecouncil.org for more information.
Christopher Vo pushes Dallas Black Dance Theatre mentally in his new work touch (listen), part of the company’s Spring Celebration, honoring the legacy of Ann Williams.
Dallas – “Remember guys, calm, easy and mindful,” says choreographer Christopher Vo to the members of Dallas Black Dance Theatre as they prepare to run through his new work, touch (listen), last Friday afternoon. In this piece Vo challenges the dancers to be more impulsive and alert in their movement choices.
“I really wanted to create this sense of community,” Vo says. “The dancers are good at taking movement in and executing it, but they needed some help when it came to running and walking together. This was my gift to them.”
A Dallas native, Vo attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts before being accepted to the Juilliard School in New York. From 2008 to 2011 Vo toured and taught master classes across the country with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. He was also a principal dancer in Twyla Tharp’s Come Fly Awaydance musical and was a featured dancer throughout Season 2 of the NBC show SMASH. In 2013 Vo performed in the world premiere of the Bruce Wood Dance Project’s My Brother’s Keeper and also headlined Dance Planet 17, a free dance event the Dance Council of North Texas puts on every year.
Before heading into rehearsals Vo sent an e-mail to the dancers asking them what kind of piece they were interested in doing. “Half of them wanted to dance to an Ella Fitzgerald or Stevie Wonder song while the other half wanted something more instrumental. I decided to challenge them with a more classical piece of music.”
touch (listen) begins with six couples lounging stoically on the ground. At the start of the music they slowly inch backwards across the floor. One by one the dancers stand and begin running. As the violin swells and descends the dancers spontaneously break into pairs, trios and quartets creating visually pleasing lines and rotating formations as they go.
Vo is an impulsive mover. He doesn’t create movement ahead of time. Instead he prefers the dancers to discover what works for them in that moment. “I don’t want the movement to feel forced. I like when it happens organically.”
Vo adds that the choreography for touch (listen) was really a collaborative effort between him and the dancers. “I see myself more as the architect and the dancers as the lumber and the screws of the dance.”
While finishing the dance Vo asked the dancers several times to just go with the flow rather than give them specific pathways. “In this section I want you to be less creative here (Vo points to his head) and just go with the momentum.” But he still expects the dancers to be mindful of where everyone is spatially. This is especially crucial when there are two groups on stage rotating clockwise with the purpose of joining together in one straight line at the end. Viewers will certainly notice if one group’s timing is off.
Vo’s teaching style is firm yet encouraging, a combination the dancers respond well to. “I don’t want to discourage them. I want to motivate them to keep pushing for their best each time.” Vo is also a strong believer in repetition. He will run the same few phrases of movement at least five times, tweaking something each time. “I like repetition because I like to exhaust all the options in order to find the correct movement.”
Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s Spring Celebration Performance, which honors the legacy of founder Ann Williams, is May 16-17, 2014 at the Winspear Opera House. In addition to Vo, the program also includes DBDT performing works by Bruce Wood and Lily Weiss (Booker T. Washington HSPVA), and features guest performances by Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, Bruce Wood Dance Project, Texas Ballet Theater and guest performer Kirven Douthit-Boyd of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.