Tag Archives: Crow Collection of Asian Art

Dallas DanceFest Profile: Indique Dance Company

Indique Dance Company. Photo: Courtesy
Indique Dance Company. Photo: Courtesy

Indique Dance Company co-founder Sarita Venkatraman talks about the city’s growing Indian dance community and partaking in the reinvigorated Dallas DanceFest this weekend.

Dallas — From far away the Dallas dancescape appears to consist mostly of ballet and modern dance companies, but if you look closer there are also several cultural dance groups pushing their way to the forefront, including classical Indian dance group Indique Dance Company. Formed in 2008 by Sarita Venkatraman, Shalini Varghese, Latha Shrivasta, Anu Sury, Kruti Patel, Bhuvana Venkatraman and Shilpi Mehta, Indique Dance Company fuses Indian classical, folk and modern dance styles with contemporary themes to create an enjoyable and enlightening cultural experience.

And through its collaboration with the Indian Cultural Heritage Foundation (ICHF), the company has had the chance to perform in some of the most popular venues in the Dallas Arts Districts, including Klyde Warren Park, the Crow Collection of Asian Art and Dallas City Performance Hall. “We are so thankful for all the opportunities Dallas has provided for Indique,” Venkatraman says. “Over the last six years we have been welcomed by both Indian and non-Indian audiences which has just been incredible.”

For Venkatraman dance has always been a calling. “Growing up in India my Dad was really into Indian classical music so I was exposed to the arts at a very young age. I joined a dance school in Mumbai at the age of 10 and have been dancing ever since.” Under the tutelage of Guru Shri Mani, Venkatraman began her Bharatanatyam dance training and after a couple of years moved on to learn Kathak from Smt. Guru Asha Joglekar. “In Sanskrit, guru means teacher and becoming a teacher is more of a calling than a profession. A teacher guides a student towards a margam or path. Some students choose to perform an Arangetram, also known as ascending the stage, which should not be considered a graduation performance but rather a beginning.”

Even moving to Dallas in 1995 to work on her doctorate in Physics at the University of Texas at Dallas couldn’t deter Venkatraman from continuing her Bharatanatyam training. Taking a friend’s suggestion Venkatraman went to take class at Arathi School of Dance where she met Guru Smt. Revathi Satyu. “My Guru Revathi Satyu is an amazing individual. As a guru she has taught me to love and appreciate the art not just as a student but also as a teacher. She is extremely patient, always smiling and most importantly always willing to share the art wholeheartedly.” Venkatraman has been teaching at Arathi for several years and her students have performed throughout the DFW area.

Venkatraman adds that if it wasn’t for Satyu Dallas audiences would know very little about Indian dance and the Indian culture. “Revathi is a pioneer in bringing the art of Bharatanatyam to Dallas. She started the Arathi School of Dance in Dallas in 1980 and has graduated over a 100 students. She has been responsible for spreading the awareness of Indian classical dance among Indian and non-Indian audiences. Through workshops, presentations and performances she continues to touch more and more people in the DFW metroplex.”

Photo: Courtesy
Photo: Courtesy

Since its conception, Indique Dance Company has presented several productions, including RootsMaa: The Many faces of Motherhood and Jeeva:  Synergy in Nature. The company will present a dance from Jeeva: Synergy in Nature called Thillana at the inaugural Dallas DanceFest happening this weekend at DCPH. The three-day event is being put on by the Dance Council of North Texas. Choreographed by Shalini Varghese and Bhuvana Venkatraman with music by Indian Rock band AGAM, Thillana features quick foot work, complex rhythms and intricate body poses. “Thillana is a classical Indian dance that has no storytelling. It’s a very happy, brisk dance that involves a lot of complex foot work and body movements.”

And while Dallas DanceFest will be the first time for many local dance companies to perform in the two-year-old City Performance Hall, that is not the case for Indique Dance Company who just performed there two weeks ago. “The DCPH is one of our favorite in-door performance spaces. The intimate setting is something we really enjoy. It makes it easier for us to have a conversation with the audience.”

» Indique Dance Company will perform at the Friday night showcase, 8 p.m. Aug. 29, at Dallas City Performance Hall. The other companies performing Friday are: Dallas Ballet Company, Ewert & Company, Rhythmic Souls, Dallas Black Dance Theatre II, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Texas Ballet Theater, Southern Methodist University Meadows Dance Ensemble, Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

» Companies performing Saturday are: Chamberlain Performing Arts, Chado Danse, Houston METdance, Avant Chamber Ballet, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Rep I and II companies, Tarrant County College Movers Unlimited, Mejia Ballet International, Bruce Wood Dance Project

» The Dance Council Honors are Sunday at 2 p.m., honoring Nita Braun, Ann Briggs-Cutaia and Joe Cutaia, Buster Cooper, Dylis Croman, Suzie Jary and Beth Wortley, with performances by Ballet Ensemble of Texas, Bruce Wood Dance Project and 2014 Dance Council Scholarship Recipients.

Q&A: Choreographer Shen Wei

Shen Wei's Near the Terrace. Photo: Stephanie Berger
Shen Wei’s Near the Terrace. Photo: Stephanie Berger

Choreographer Shen Wei on his creative process, honesty in movement and his company’s upcoming performance at the Winspear.

Dallas — Painter. Visual Artist. Dancer. Choreographer. But the title Shen Wei cherishes the most is that of “human being.” “I am a human being who loves art,” he says. His humility and honesty is embedded in all his work which has been mesmerizing audiences around the world since starting Shen Wei Dance Arts (SWDA) in 2000. Wei will be bringing his vibrant imagination and exquisite movement quality to Dallas on June 19 at the Winspear Opera House, ending TITAS’ season on a very high note.

The evening will feature two of Wei’s earlier works: Map (2005) and Near the Terrace (2001). With music by Steve Reich, Map explores a range of movement principles, including rotation, bouncing, internal isolation, internal circular movement and internal individual movement. On the other end of the spectrum is Near the Terrace with its slow controlled movements inspired by a series of paintings by Belgian artist Paul Delvaux. An exhibition of Wei’s own paintings is also on display at the Crow Collection of Asian Art from through Sept. 29.

Born to a couple of Chinese Opera professionals in China’s Hunan province, Wei was trained from youth in Chinese Opera performance, traditional ink painting and calligraphy. He was a performer with the Hunan State Xian Opera Company from 1984 to 1989. He also studied Western visual art which lead him to modern dance. In 1991 he co-founded the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, the first of its kind in China. Wei moved to New York City in 1995 to study with the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab and founded Shen Wei Dance Arts 5 years later. To date SWDA has performed in 138 cities in 28 countries and on four continents.

Wei has commissioned works for American Dance Festival, Het Muziektheater Amsterdam, Lincoln Center Festival, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Hong Kong’s New Vision Arts Festival, to name a few. He has also earned numerous accolades, including a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship (2007), the U.S. Artists Fellow award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. He also choreographed the opening ceremony at the Beijing Olympics. In 2010, he was a named a winner of the Meadows Prize at Southern Methodist University, where he worked with the dance students.

TheaterJones caught up with Shen Wei to talk about his creative process, blending Eastern and Western dance styles and what audiences can expect at his Dallas performance.

TheaterJones: You have many titles: choreographer, dancer, painter, director. What do you see yourself as?

Shen Wei: I think it’s a human being who loves art. That’s it.

Is painting your first passion?

I have loved painting since I was a little boy. I remember being at home by myself painting at 5 or 6 years old. No one really taught me how to paint. And that has been non-stop up till now. I feel that painting is one of those things I will do no matter where my life takes me.

What inspired you to start dancing?

Like painting I started dancing as a young boy. It fits my personality. In China I was born in the year of monkey which means one who likes to be really active and physical. I do have that monkey side in me. I like to express myself through physical movement. I am naturally coordinated and can learn things fast physically. I never thought many years later I would still be doing the two things that I love.

What motivated you to move to the U.S. in 1995?

There comes a point in your life when you hunger for more learning and more exposure. As an artist and human being I wanted to grow more and I knew I could do that in New York City. I wanted to discover everything I didn’t know and to grow more.

How was it adapting to New York City and the Western dance culture?

Before I came to the U.S. I spent many years studying modern dance and the Western culture through visual and performing arts, but you can only learn so much from books and teachers. It’s so different when you are living it. It took me many years to really understand the roots of Western culture and New York City.

Was it always in the cards to start your own company?

I never planned to start a company or to be a choreographer in the U.S. In some ways you think things just suddenly change. But in other ways it’s because you are concentrating so hard on doing well for yourself and educating yourself that things just happen naturally. Being a freelance artist in the city in not easy. But somehow things changed and my work developed to a certain place where people started welcoming it.

What is it about your work that makes it so relatable to mass audiences?

Photo: Stephanie Berger
Photo: Stephanie Berger

I think it’s my focus, passion and research. I only do one or two projects a year. I do this because I want to be reliving the work I am doing which means I do spend a lot adjusting everything and conducting my research. I never do two projects at one time. This way I have nothing distracting me from my work.  My traveling, education and childhood has also helped me understand the sensitivities of both Eastern and Western cultures. This has made me who I am today. My travels have lead me to communicate with many different people and that helps me to grow and appreciate the different cultures and human beings. So, my work may in some ways relates to people on a spiritual level, but it’s hard to say. I am just trying to touch you by communicating honestly through movement.

Can you tell me about the process you went through when creating Map and Near the Terrace?

Both pieces are earlier works and were built in different periods of my life. So, if you experience the whole evening you will see how modern dance can be so different and unique in its own ways. Map is more active, musical and abstract. It’s about discovering new ways of moving and what happens to our movement when universal elements such as gravity are introduced. Near the Terrace showcases the human form and touches more on the spiritual side of human nature. It’s a slower, more visually appealing number.

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


Q&A: Jessica Lang

Photo: Takao Komaru
Photo: Takao Komaru

The choreographer on her collaboration with visual artist Shinichi Maruyama and the Dallas debut of Jessica Lang Dance.

Known as one of the most exciting new contemporary ballet companies touring today, Jessica Lang Dance (JLD) will make its Dallas debut on Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Winspear Opera House as the opening performance of TITAS’ 2013-’14 season.

This one-night only performance features collaborations with Japanese visual artist Shinichi Maruyama, composer Jakub Ciupinski and Vancouver-based design firm Molo. Lang will also be giving a salon lecture as part of the Shinichi Marayama’s artwork exhibition at The Crow Collection of Asian Art on September 4. The exhibition runs through Nov. 3.

Lang is a graduate of The Juilliard School under the direction of Benjamin Harkarvy and a former member of Twyla Tharp’s company, THARP! She has created more than 80 works for companies, including Birmingham Royal Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Ballet San Jose, Richmond Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and many more.

Lang founded JLD in 2011 with the goal of performing dance works associated with music, opera and mixed media compositions that deliver an organic blend of classical and contemporary styles, according to a TITAS press release.

She recently directed and choreographed Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater for the Glimmerglass Opera Festival and premiered her new work, Within the Space I Hold, at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. She is currently on faculty at the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and is also a teaching artist for the Make A Ballet program.

TheaterJones asks Jessica Lang about collaborating with Shinichi Maruyama, her company’s growing success and the lack of female choreographers in the ballet field.

TheaterJones: What is your relationship with TITAS and the Dallas dance scene?

Jessica Lang: Well, I have worked with Booker T. Washington, SMU [Southern Methodist University] and TCU [Texas Christian University] many times and my work has been presented four times with TITAS for the Command Performance. So, my work has been down there, but never in the capacity of with my company because it is so new.

What was your motivation for starting Jessica Lang Dance?

Starting my company was something that had been a long time thought, but is a real commitment. It was just something that a whole bunch of good things happened that made it possible, including getting a grant as well as patron and individual support. But most importantly it was having the desire within myself to see what it would be like to go to the same group of dancers and create on them. I had gotten so use to shifting who my artists were that I had a strong desire to see what would happen if I put together my own group of artists to create within.

Can you tell me about your collaboration with Shinichi Maruyama and the Crow Collection of Asian Art?

Yes! Visual artist Shinichi Maruyama and I met in 2011. It was at the same point I was starting my company and I had the desire to collaborate with him on his favorite print work called “Kusho,” which is currently on exhibit at the Crow Collection. Basically, the technique to get those prints is done through video and really capturing things you can’t see with the naked eye. I saw the video of how he gets his prints and I was like well could I use that for dance and he said “absolutely.” So, we went into the studio and he drew more water and more ink. Every movement we have is created for dance specifically, but it uses the same technique that he uses to capture his print work.

I will also be leading a discussion at the Crow Collection about how our relationship evolved, his techniques and how we worked together. Also, we have another piece that we made called White which is a film that follows the evolution of how our craft collection has grown and how we went about making the art that we’re presenting in Dallas.

This will be your company’s first time performing in Dallas. What can the audience expect to see?

Photo: Courtesy Jessica Lang Dance
Photo: Courtesy Jessica Lang Dance

We are going to start the program with a short piece called The Calling which is a solo that has a giant white skirt and the Dallas audience has seen this skirt before at the TITAS Command Performance. A couple of times it has been presented in a duet form. The very first piece I ever made was this skirt, which is a very simple piece, but quite striking. We then go into a piece called Lines Cubed which is inspired by Piet Mondrian’s artwork. Then we go into Mendelssohn/Incomplete to the Mendelssohn Piano Trio in D minor, which is just a beautiful, shorter piece that I like to call pure dance. Then former Ailey dancer Clifton Brown and Laura Mead will be performing Among the Stars, which was originally commissioned by TITAS and presented in 2010 for the Command Performance. After intermission we come back with a very vibrant joyous piece called A Solo in Nine Parts, which is a work that introduces each dancer to the audience through nine solos, and then we finish the program with the collaboration I was telling you about with Shinichi Maruyama.

Do you have any formal training in visual art?

I didn’t study formally any kind of art besides dance and music, but my father is an artist and I just grew up around visual art so I think it is in my genetic makeup.

What inspires you musically?

Anything really. I mean we really have a diverse program. It’s my taste across the board. I like many types of sound and I am inspired by a lot of different genres of music so, the audience will feel a diverse spread of my tastes. Hopefully, someone will walk away liking something.

What makes your movement so appealing to audiences?

Photo: Takao Komaru
Photo: Takao Komaru

I think it’s the universal themes and images. I think my movement is human in a way that it reaches out to the everyday person and it’s not meant to confuse. I really believe that dance should be for everyone and it shouldn’t be something you need a strong background in understanding movement to appreciate. It should be something anyone can be inspired by and find interesting.

What did you take away from your time with Twyla’s company?

It was a really great experience at that time of my life. I learned a lot about business from watching her and understanding how she worked within the field and how she established herself as a really powerful woman in this country. I feel that is something I carry with me today.

What are your thoughts on the lack of female choreographers in today’s modern and ballet fields?

It’s not really rare in modern dance because we have strong roots and iconic women like Martha Graham and Trisha Brown. I think the direr situation is in the ballet world. I have worked with American Ballet Theatre since the inception of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and have choreographed on the company since 1999 and so I have seen what is lacking in their training. Why aren’t little girls growing up with more desire to be creative? I think across the board the ballet curriculum needs to incorporate some sort of creativity. I know a lot of people in the ballet world just think that when you’re done dancing you become a choreographer, but I think that you naturally are a choreographer. It’s not something that can necessarily be taught, but it can be honed and refined much earlier than at the end of your performing career.

Originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

Dallas Arts District Announces Newly-Elected Officers

Check out this press release from the Dallas Arts District announcing its new officers for the 2013-2015 term, including Charles Santos, Executive Director of TITAS and Zenetta Drew, Executive Director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

Arts District CEOs Boost Collaboration Among Organizations

DALLAS, TX — May 7, 2013 — The Dallas Arts District announced Tuesday its new officers for the 2013-2015 term with a common goal of strengthening collaboration both among Arts District organizations and with the surrounding community. The group represents CEO-level leadership as the District gears up for the national conference of the Theater Communications Group this June, and in 2014 the Association of Art Museum Directors Annual Meeting and U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The Dallas Arts District organization is a catalyst for cultural activity within the Dallas Arts District recognizing artistic excellence and the role arts organizations play in the ongoing development of North Texas’ social, educational and economic development.

“This group represents a wealth of knowledge and experience,” says Dr. Maxwell L. Anderson, Chair of the Dallas Arts District nonprofit board and Eugene McDermott Director of The Dallas Museum of Art. “With the completion of the Dallas City Performance Hall, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and Klyde Warren Park, we are now seeking ways that we can actively work together to reach our ultimate goal of inclusivity and community engagement crucial to the success of the Arts District.”

With Dr. Anderson as Chair, the 2013-2015 officers also include Vice Chair Kevin Moriarty, Artistic Director at Dallas Theater Center; Secretary Charles Santos, Executive Director of TITAS; Treasurer Zenetta Drew, Executive Director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre; and Past Chair Amy Hofland, Executive Director of the Crow Collection of Asian Art.

“It’s an exciting time to be in the Arts District and for Downtown Dallas,” said Catherine Cuellar, Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District. “We can outline and achieve common goals to spark momentum and enhance the vibrancy of the city so that everyone — not just in our neighborhood — wins.”

The Dallas Arts District is no stranger to collaboration. This month, The AT&T Performing Arts Center opens the District’s first coffee shop inside its new Ticket and Information Center, partnering with local vendor The Pearl Cup. Last week, TITAS announced its new season, including the Dallas debut of Shen Wei, the lead choreographer for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics; in conjunction, The Crow Collection of Asian Art will present an exhibition and salon discussion series. Next month’s Theater Communications Group national conference has received support from the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau to be presented at the Dallas City Performance Hall, the AT&T Performing Arts Center and the Latino Cultural Center in Deep Ellum.

About the Dallas Arts District

Dallas Arts District was created in 2009 as a nonprofit organization that advocates for the 68-acre Dallas Arts District and stimulates the economic and cultural life of the region. The Dallas Arts District is funded by grants, voluntary membership dues, sponsorships, donations and operational support from Downtown Dallas, Inc. For more information on memberships and sponsorships, please visit www.thedallasartsdistrict.org.


Media Inquiries:

Catherine Cuellar
Executive Director, The Dallas Arts District