Tag Archives: Dallas Dance Event

Preview: Bruce Wood Dance Harvest Performance

Loving Life

Bruce Wood Dance captures the lighter side of life in Bryan Arias’ new work Live, Love, Laugh, part of the company’s Harvest performance this weekend. 

Bryan Arias. Photo: Pablo Ramos Nieves

Dallas — “Palm, wrist, flip, wrist, palm change.” “Step back, front, down, up, step, arm, heel, heel.” Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) company members Olivia Rehrman and Seth York say this phrase under their breath as they review the corresponding movements while Choreographer Bryan Arias stands off to the side already figuring out where the movement will take the dancers next. Dubbed the hip-hop breakdown, this sequence of movement is the only time that the pair dances in unison. The rest of the time it’s almost like they’re playing an intricate game of tug of war.

“It’s really quirky and fun, and there’s a lot of partnering involved,” says Rehrman about the duet that I was able to see in its early stages at the Bruce Wood Dance Gallery back in September. “There are no counts so we are going off an internal rhythm that we both know really well. And knowing that the hip-hop part is kind of over the music instead of to the music. And because there are no exact counts we could then find where we want to spend more time or what felt good to hold onto longer.”

Photo: Brian Guilliaux
Bruce Wood dancer Jaime Borkan in Bryan Arias’ Live, Love, Laugh

As to the relationship the two are portraying in the duet Rehrman says Arias didn’t really give them any direction in that department. “It’s not like we are a couple or anything. And honestly I don’t feel like we are man and woman when we’re in it. We do a lot of back and forth weight sharing and so, for me, it’s more like two humans moving together as opposed to being in a relationship. But I also think it’s up to the interpretation of the viewer.”

This duet is one of three that lead up to the grand finale in Arias’s new work Live, Love, Laugh, which is part of BWD’s Harvest performance Nov. 15-16 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Moody Performance Hall. The program also includes Bruce Wood’s nationally renowned Follow Me and the world premiere of Artistic Director Joy Bollinger’s In My Your Head.

This is Arias’s second time working with BWD. He created My Heart Remembers for the company’s 5 Years performance in 2015. When asked about the decision to bring Arias back, Bollinger says, “The first time Bryan Arias created on the company was our fall show in 2015. I was still dancing and I remember the growth I felt during the creative process. I wanted our dancers to have that experience and I wanted our audience to be reacquainted with his refreshingly authentic style. While creating incredibly intricate and detailed movement, Bryan’s work remains relatable, relevant and freeing.”

A native of Puerto Rico, Arias and his family moved to New York City at the age of 8. Growing up in NYC, Arias was exposed to many styles of dance, including ballet, modern, jazz and hip-hop. After graduating from La Guardia High school for the Arts, Arias went on to dance with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Netherlands Dance Theatre (NDT) and Crystal Pite’s Kidd Pivot. He has also performed works by notable choreographers such as Jiří Kylián, Alexander Ekman, Lightfoot/Leon, Johan Inger and Ohad Naharin.

As a choreographer Arias has set work on the Juilliard School, Hubbard Street 2, NDT’s “Switch,” Ballet Vorpommern in Germany and most recently The Scottish Ballet. The Arias Company made its debut in 2013 and since then has performed internationally in festivals such as Siguientescena (Mexico), Pietrasanta Music Festival (Italy) and CICC Gala (Copenhagen). Arias is also a 2017 Princess Grace Choreography Awardee and a 2019 Jacobs Pillow Fellowship Honoree.

For many of the dancers, including Rehrman, this is their first experience working with the incredibly mindful and uplifting artist. When asked about Arias’s creative process, Rehrman says, “Instead of having us copy him exactly he’s more like let’s see if this works or is this isn’t working then let’s just scrap it because it’s your duet and it’s got to feel good of you. He’s more experimental in that way, which I like.”

Rehrman continues, “He’s also very kind and helpful when generating choreography. So if something’s not working then I felt comfortable going to him and saying this doesn’t feel good what can I do. He just has this way about him that even when it’s time to finish I feel like I want to keep going because I want to know what he’s going to do next.”

As far as what she has taken away from this experience Rehrman says it has helped her develop a deeper awareness for how her partner is feeling on any given day. “There’s a lot of weight sharing between Seth and I, and so you really have to be sensitive to where that person is at,” explains Rehrman. “Like today, for instance, there’s a part where I put my foot on Seth’s thigh and do like a deep lunge and my foot slipped off and he actually caught my foot in his hand. So he knew exactly where I was and was right there to catch me.”

She adds, “I think just being sensitive to the sensation of your partner is what I’ve taken away from this mostly. And because our group section doesn’t have counts either, it’s about sensing the group that you are dancing with even if you’re not touching them.”

>This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Loud Whispers

Albert Drake rehearsing Whispers with the BWDP. Photo: Sharen Bradford The Dancing Image..
Albert Drake rehearsing Whispers with the BWDP. Photo: Sharen Bradford The Dancing Image.

Albert Drake makes his choreographic debut with his work Whispers, part of the Bruce Wood Dance Project’s upcoming performance marking the company’s fifth anniversary.

Dallas — After watching Albert Drake rehearse his first piece for the Bruce Wood Dance Project (BWDP) Monday afternoon at the company’s studio in the Design District it struck me that Dallas is now not only a breeding ground for uniquely qualified dancers, but also choreographers. Drake has made a name for himself in the North Texas dance community as a founding member of the Bruce Wood Dance Project as well as for his work outside the company, including teaching at Park Cities Dance and Southern Methodist University where he received his BFA in dance performance from the Meadows School of the Arts.

As a dancer, Drake is known for his explosive movement quality and innate lyricism and it was nice to see these traits represented in his first chorographic endeavor, Whispers, part of BWDP’s 5 Years performance June 19-20 at the Dallas City Performance Hall. The work follows eight dancers, including Drake and BWDP’s Artistic Director Kimi Nikaidoh, as they search for the meaning of happiness. Starting with an R&B vibe and then shifting into a fast-paced piano phrase, the 20-minute piece is broken up into various duets, trios and group sections depicting the various relationships among the dancers.

“I wanted to play with relationships that weren’t necessarily just about love,” Drake says. “There is a duet toward the end of the third section that has more of a protective quality to it and has this feeling of you and me against the world. And there are other duets and trios that more about trust and support.”

The blind support Drake talks about allows the couple to transfer their weight back and forth without qualm as they glide across the floor. Their momentum never stops even as the female slides into a split and is pulled through her partner’s legs into a steadfast fourth position relevé. The trios are dotted with dynamic leaps, wicked fast turns and buoyant floor work. A composed backward walking phrase is used multiple times, but the dancers’ changing directions keep viewers on their toes.

“I don’t like predictability,” Drake says, as he explains his penchant for the unexpected. This also makes for some exciting transition changes, such as when the dancers sprint out of the wings or get picked up one by one as a dancer runs by. And in one exuberant section all the dancers dash across the stage leaving a lone dancer to execute a controlled headstand into a series of one-footed balances performed in silence. “Creating transitions is difficult because they have to flow and take the audience on a journey without taking them in and out. As a choreographer you have to find a way to keep the audience involved and keep the whole thing circular.”

Kimi in Whispers, part of the BWDP's Five Years performance. Photo: Sharen Bradford The Dancing Image.
Kimi Nikaidoh in Whispers, part of the BWDP’s Five Years performance. Photo: Sharen Bradford The Dancing Image.

The cast is a mix of company veterans including Harry Feril and Nikaidoh and newcomers such as Eric Coudron and David Escoto. While the group danced seamlessly together Drake says it did take some time for everyone to adjust to the creative process. “The first week it was just about making sure everyone was present because, for some of the newer dancers, they haven’t gotten a lot of chances to work in the creative process. A lot of dancers get drawn into a repertory company where you learn old works over and over. In the creation process you have to be patient, moldable and willing to let go.” Drake admits that was a struggle, but once everyone got into it he says they were able to absorb the movement without prejudice and some good stuff came out of it.

It’s easy to spot Wood’s influences in Drake’s choreography. After all, Drake spent more than half his career training with the notable North Texas choreographer who passed away suddenly last year. “I adopted him early on as the mentor I wanted to be around and learn from. His previous dancers adored the man and followed him religiously and I see why. So, he invested in me and I invested in him and it was a great relationship.”

Wood’s quirky foot work, deliberate gesturing and emotional pull are seen throughout Drake’s piece, but most poignantly in the opening section where the four females each perform a gestural phrase of movement that slowly builds in intensity.

“His principles are a part of me so it wasn’t challenging to stay within his realm of movement. The hard part was moving away from it and standing out and not necessary being a replica of him. Now, I didn’t try to stray away from them, but I did want to take his principles and use them in a different context.” Wood also had the unique ability of connecting with audiences on a deeply emotional level, something Drake hopes to accomplish with Whispers. “I don’t want the physicality or the prettiness of the piece to determine how people feel. My main purpose of this piece is to keep people emotionally involved.”

The concert will also feature the Dallas premieres of Wood’s Requiem and Polyester Dreams.

This feature was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.