Tag Archives: Dallas Dance Events

Dallas Black Dance Theatre Presents Online Petite Performance This Friday

petit-performance-2-01-2

Like so many local dance organizations Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT) has been adjusting to the new normal brought on by COVID-19 by going virtual. Through the organization’s website and social media outlets audiences can view snippets of past repertoire from both the main company and DBDT! Encore as well as view past conversations with company members and visiting choreographers. I personally enjoy watching the dancers take class in their kitchens, living rooms and front yards.

Ahead of DBDT’s live Petit Performance online tomorrow night, I thought I would repost my preview of Jamal Story’s What to Say? Sketches on Echo and Narcissus, which premiered at the company’s Spring Celebration Series in 2015. Claude Alexander III will be reprising his role in this mesmerizing aerial duet alongside company member Hana Delong. The online performance also includes Asadata Dafora’s Awassa Astridge/Ostrich and Christopher L. Huggins’s Essence.

DBDT’s Petit Performance will take place July 10 at 7:30pm. Ticket information is available here!

Enjoy this look back on the making of Story’s sensational duet!

New Heights

Dallas — Once in a while you see a dance that leaves you so raw and vulnerable you’re still feeling the effects days later. Jamal Story’s aerial work What to Say? Sketches on Echo and Narcissus is one of those pieces. Unlike other aerial and silks works that just go for the WOW factor, Story uses the fabric to accentuate the dancers body lines and enhance the plot which is based off the Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Echo has her voice taken away for a crime she didn’t commit by Zeus’ wife Hera. One day she spots Narcissus in the woods and falls madly in love with him, but when she tries to talk to him she can only repeat what he says. Narcissus rebuffs Echo and winds up falling in love with his own reflection and basically starves himself to death. “It’s really tragic and wrong, but then I thought you know, nobody ever deals with the Echo part of the story,” Story says. “Then I thought wouldn’t be interesting if we told the story from Echo’s perspective. How would that work and what kind of nuances would come out of her trying to manipulate his language to say what she wants to say.”

Photo: JamalStory.com
Choreographer Jamal Story

Story started his dance training with Lula Washington and the Lula Washington Dance Theatre before earning degrees in dance performance and TV/radio communications at Southern Methodist University. During his time at SMU he would also guest perform with Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT) before continuing on to perform with Donald Byrd/theGroup, Madonna’s 2001 Drowned World Tour, Complexions Contemporary Dance and with Cher as an aerialist and dancer on Cher’s Living Proof: The Farewell Tour. Most recently Story was a dancer on Cher’s Dressed to Kill Tour and has also performed on Broadway in the original casts of The Color Purple and Motown: the Musical. He has also written two novels, 12:34 A Slice Novel and Toss In The Ether, a fictitious work for which he used DBDT as a template.

When it came to the music Story says he has been waiting for the right time to use Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth” ever since he heard it while watching the movie Shutter Island. “What was amazing and heartbreaking for me was when you get to the end the movie and you understand what is going on that’s when this track gets played. And it was this kind of cathartic and real experience that made me think there had to be a way to set this up in choreography to have the same kind of impact. It was important to me that this piece of music be used in that way

I had the opportunity to see DBDT company members Claude Alexander III and Alyssa Harrington rehearse What to Say? late Monday afternoon at the company’s studio in downtown Dallas. (Alexander and Harrington will be performing on Friday and Saturday with a different cast on Sunday.) Watching the piece I definitely felt that emotional release Story described earlier. It was similar to how a person might feel after a good crying jag. The music and movement come at you in waves so one minute it’s building and the next it’s climaxing. The cycle keeps repeating, but each time it grows in intensity, which is demonstrated through the violins. In terms of the movement, once Harrington makes eye contact with Alexander (who is cocooned in the fabric) her body language becomes more agitated as she transitions from forward motion reaches and leg extensions into fragmented gestures and inverted leg positions. Using the fabric for support, Alexander rotates himself upside down just in time to catch Harrington’s upper body in an aerial spin as the music peaks. Harrington then climbs up Alexander’s body so that their positions are reversed as the fabric continues to rotate. Watching this exchange you would have no idea that this was the couple’s first time working with a piece of fabric in this fashion

Story says the most challenging part of the process was helping the dancers find their balance in the air. “It required a lot of focus from them and a lot openness from myself and my partner in terms of how to impart the information. And because the dancers didn’t have any aerial training they weren’t aware of what their bodies felt like in the air.” He adds, “Dancers are used to having the ground as their frame of reference so, in this cases they were trying to find lines that they had mastered over the years in a context where there was no physical grounding reference point.” Even though Story had spent three to four months working on the concept for the piece the actual material was hastily put together for an upcoming gala performance, so this time with DBDT really helped Story to rediscover the work and understand it better.

Alexander adds that while his strength is still the same when he is suspended upside down his focus has to remain on Harrington’s core to prevent himself from getting dizzy. Audiences will also see a different side to these dancers as they reach for new emotional depths. Harrington explains, “For me, these feelings come out of nowhere. Whenever I look at him it’s with these feelings of lust and obsession. The dance has a real push and pull quality to it. “

Texas Ballet Theater to stream Henry VIII ballet this weekend

Since there are currently no dance performance going on around town due to COVID-19 I wanted to draw attention to the local dance organizations who are using online platforms such as Facebook and YouTube channels to connect with new and established audiences by offering free content within a specific time frame. To date I have viewed Bruce Wood Dance in Joy Bollinger’s Carved in Stone, Texas Ballet Theater’s (TBT) premiere of  Ma Cong’s Firebird, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance in Joshua L. Peugh’s Aladdin and an excerpt of Jennifer Mabus’s Citizens of Loss for Avant Chamber Ballet.

So, ahead of TBT’s streaming of Carl Coomer’s Henry VIII May 8 and 9 at 8pm on the company’s YouTube channel @tbttheater, I wanted to revisit my conversation with Coomer about the making of this balletic work. Below is a copy of my Q&A with Coomer, which was originally posted on TheaterJones.com in February 2018.

Please enjoy!

Dancing Scandal

Texas Ballet Theater brings all the glitz, glam and romantic intrigue of Carl Coomer’s new work Henry VIII to Bass Performance Hall this weekend.

Photo: Steven Visneau
Texas Ballet Theater presents Carl Coomer’s Henry VIII

 

Fort Worth — From the moment Carl Coomer stepped on stage in George Balanchine’s Apollo at Texas Ballet Theater’s (TBT) Portraits Ballet Festival in Dallas back in 2012, I was immediately drawn to his sculpted body lines and effortless classical technique as well as his chiseled good looks. But he also grabbed me emotionally in Evolving, in his first choreographic work, which was also being showcased that day. Since then I have watched Coomer grow in both artistry and stage leadership with prominent roles in Ben Stevenson’s Swan Lake (2014), Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort (2015), Jonathan Watkins’ Crash (2015) and Val Caniparoli’s Without Borders (2016), just to name a few. He premiered his second work the company entitled Clann back in 2014. On a more personal note Coomer is married to former TBT Leticia Oliveira and they have two children, the second of which arrived only two months ago.

For those unfamiliar with Coomer’s background, he hails from Liverpool, England, where he starting dancing at the age of 13. Soon after he was offered a scholarship to attend the Royal Ballet School under the direction of Dame Merle Park and Gailene Stock. After moving to the States, Coomer danced with Houston Ballet for six seasons before joining TBT in 2007. In addition to the works mentioned above Coomer has also performed in lead roles in Ben Stevenson’s The NutcrackerGiselleDraculaFour Last SongsThree PreludesFive PoemsMozart RequiemCoppeliaCleopatraPeer GyntRomeo and JulietThe Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.

The last time I interviewed Coomer in 2015 for Petite Mort I asked him if we would be seeing more of his choreography in future and his response was “if Mr. Stevenson offered me another opportunity to choreography I would be more than willing to do it.” Well, here we are, three years later and Coomer is once again testing his choreographic methods in Henry VIII, a 55-minute ballet that focuses on the second Tudor Monarch’s relationships with his six wives as well his transformation from a viral young king to a sickly old man.

Set to Gustav Holst’s famous musical work The Planets, Henry VIII includes a custom-built, Tudor-esque set, dramatic period costumes and three-dimensional mapping and projections. Texas Ballet Theater will present Henry VIII along with Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas, March 2-4, at Bass Performance in Fort Worth.

I caught up with Coomer in between rehearsals this week to ask him how he prepped for creating a ballet around such historical figures, his musical selection and choreographing sections for six very different female characters.

Photo: Texas Ballet Theater
Carl Coomer
TheaterJones: What types of research did you do leading up to rehearsals?

Carl Coomer: I knew a lot about Henry VIII anyway just from growing up in England and learning about him in school. But once a lot of the shows like The Tudors and Wolf Hall came out I just started watching everything I could to get a deeper understanding of his character. I also watched a lot of documentaries and a lot of books as well, with some being fictional and while others were just historical accounts on that time period. So yeah, I just gathered as much information as I possible could so I could build my own perspective on how to tell the story.

What were some of the highlights of this time period that you clearly wanted showcased in the ballet?

I really wanted to make it about how different each one of the wives is and how differently Henry VIII was with each one of them. Like he was together with Catherine of Aragon for so long (1509-1533) and they were in love, but it was definitely more of a political marriage. And then when Anne Boleyn (1533-1536) came along and that all happened their relationship was a lot more sensual and sexual and he was really seduced by her. And then with Jane Seymour (1536-1537) he was madly and deeply in love with her so, I just wanted to show how different each one of the wives is and how Henry VIII is with them.

In terms of the ballet’s structure is it set up like a story ballet or broken into specific vignettes?

I think it’s a bit of both because it is a story ballet so there is narrative happening throughout it. But at the same time having to tell somebody’s life story of 50 to 60 years in a about 50 minutes there is just no way you can include every little bit of information. So, I had to pick and choose what’s important and what to include so I decided to focus on the wives and each one of them has their own piece of music, which is the seven pieces of music from Gustav Holst’s The Planets. Each wife has her own piece of music and then the seventh piece is saved for the battle scene. So, the ballet does contain these little vignettes in a way because of each wife, but then the passing of time can’t really be explained to the audience without the entire cast carrying on with the larger narrative. So, it’s a little bit of both. It’s a story ballet, but spilt up into seven sections.

Having yourself performed in so many story ballets, what was it like to create your own?

For me, and I think I have probably told you this before, the music always comes first. What I had to do was to decide which piece of music would go with which wife and how does all of their personalities match with each piece of music. And once I had that figured out I literally sat down and scoured through every second of the music while thinking how I could tell the story minute by minute through this music. And then I used the music to kind of create a script if you like in order to break everything down to tell the story. I don’t know how others do it, but this was the best way for me to do it.

What led you to Gustav Holst’s The Planets for the ballet’s score?

It was one of the first pieces of classical music that I had ever heard when I was really young and it’s a pretty epic piece. I went to an all-boys school and they made us sit down in the assembly hall and made us listen to some classical music and when they put The Planets on I was just wowed by it, especially the war and Mars battle scene. It was a lot of drums, and horns and violins and I just loved it so much that even after I started dancing it has remained one of my favorite pieces of music as a whole. Each section has something different to offer and I think with this story it just blends so perfectly.

I noticed that a couple of the wives are being danced by new-to-mid-seasoned company members such as Samantha Pille (second season) and Alexandra Farber (sixth season), while others will be danced by more seasoned pros like Carolyn Judson (15th season), Katelyn Clenaghan (14th season) and Michelle Taylor (12th). How did you go about selecting the dancers to play each one of Henry VIII’s wives?

Well, the number of years the dancers have been with the company never really crossed my mind. I picked who was going to do what based on what I thought would suit all the dancers movement-wise and personality-wise. I mean I know all these dancers really well, but I have known Carrie and Katelyn and Michelle for a lot longer than the others so I know what they’re capable of and what suits them. I mean Michelle, is a really good actress and she likes to be dramatic so I picked her for Catherine of Aragon. Now with Carrie you know she has done so many romantic leads like Romeo and Juliet and so Jane Seymour suited her really well. And Katelyn just dances with a whole lot of abandon and with Anne Boleyn I wanted a lot of running and jumping on pointe and I knew she would be down for that.

 

 

Preview: SMU Fall Dance Concert 2019

Gleaming Ballet

Ballet Dallas’ Carter Alexander takes us to the gardens of Vienna in his new ballet Luisant, part of the Meadows School of the Arts’ Fall Dance Concert at SMU.

Carter Alexander’s Luisant. Photo: SMU Meadows School of the Arts

Dallas — Carter Alexander has made quite a name for himself in the Dallas dance arena since moving back to the area in 2013. His name and choreography has been attached to many local dance institutions, including Chamberlain Ballet, Contemporary Ballet Dallas (now Ballet Dallas), Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (BTWHSPVA) and the dance department at Southern Methodist University’s (SMU) Meadows School of the Arts. He was also the creator of AKA: Ballet, a collaborative project that brought local choreographers and professional dancers together for one night at the Dallas Latino Cultural Center in July 2018.

In addition to teaching and choreographing for dance schools around town, Alexander is also the co-artistic director of Ballet Dallas, a role he accepted because of his great rapport with the company. “What really drove my decision was my relationship with the dancers. They were interested in what I had to give. And that is such a wonderful thing when people are hungry for what you have to say and what your aesthetic is and they’re really hungry for that kind of relationship to work together.”

Alexanders adds, “I think that the dancers see their improvement as artists and not just technically. And I think the work that I have done there has been really good for them and I’ve brought in some interesting people for them to work with.”

Photo: Ken Smith
Carter Alexander

Alexander’s ballet training started at his mom’s dance studio in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He then moved to Dallas to finish high school at BTWHSPVA. After graduation Alexander joined the Hartford Ballet, which is also where he first met his wife, Jeanne Elser Smith. After Hartford Ballet he joined Kansas City Ballet and also began teaching in the Kansas City Ballet School. After four years at KC Ballet Alexander moved on to Pennsylvania Ballet where his wife was also a company member.

As a ballet instructor Alexander has taught at the Ballet Workshop New England/Massachusetts Youth Ballet, the School of Ballet Arizona and the Miami City Ballet School, which at the time was under the leadership of Edward Villella.

Mostly recently Alexander was asked to set a new piece for the SMU Meadows School of the Arts’ Fall Dance Concert, which runs Nov. 13-17 at the Bob Hope Theatre on the SMU Campus. The program also includes a new work by award-winning jazz/tap artist Caleb Teicher and a revival of Robert Battle’s 2001 Battlefield.

Regarding the ballet’s title Alexander says he chose Luisant, which means “glowing” or “gleaming” in French, because he wanted to create an atmosphere where the dancers appear to shimmer as they move on stage. Alexanders says he is hoping to accomplish this glimmer affect with the aid of stage lighting and set design.

Alexander explains, “There’s going to be gray Marley flooring with white leg and there won’t be any borders at the top so you’ll see the color of the lights. You know the blues, reds and purples. So my idea is that these are colored lights in a garden and maybe in the fast movements it’s like little sprays of mist with the lights hitting the dancers giving them a glimmer affect.”

The 24-minute balletic work features 20 dancers (17 women and three men) in four sections set to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major. Without giving too much away Alexander says the ballet starts with the entire cast on stage before they break out into smaller groups as well as duets and solos. And sticking to classical tradition the ladies will be performing on pointe and in tutus.

As to why he chose to create a large ballet number, Alexander says, “It’s been a long time since they had a real, classical large work. I wanted to do something light, not angsty because there is something else on the program that I knew would fill that kind of role. I also wanted to give the students an opportunity to do a ballet where everybody really danced.”

Creating a large classical ballet isn’t as easy as it may appear. Alexander says one of the key things to choreographing a large ballet number is knowing how to move people around the stage. “It’s balancing when people come in and when people go out so it’s not the same the whole time. You’re giving the eye different things to look at, but you’re also giving the audience a focus.”

In Luisant, Alexander says sometimes there will be 20 people on the stage and sometimes there will be only one or two. He did this because he wanted to give audience members a lot of different looks, but notes that even though the number of dancers on stage is constantly varying, he says it’s not so fast that viewers won’t be able to see what’s happening. “It was one of my goals to make the ballet visually very pleasing. It’s a classical piece of music, but the ballet also has some jazzy parts in there as well as some contemporary movements. But it is essentially a classical ballet, which is something not a lot of people are doing now.”

He adds, “So with this piece for SMU I really wanted to give the students the opportunity to dance something very classical. But they are also wonderful in their modern and contemporary work so I wanted them to be able to relate the two and understand how the classical has all of that movement from the back and the flow through the movement, but also quick and sustained movement.”

>This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Preview: Not Your Average Masquerade presented by ImPULSE Dance Project

Circus Act

ImPULSE Dance Project takes us to the circus in Not Your Average Masquerade at the Medical City Lewisville Grand Theater this weekend.

Photo: Impulse Dance Project
Impulse Dance Project rehearses for Not Your Average Masquerade
Lewisville — Over the last eight years ImPULSE Dance Project has built quite a following in Dallas by providing audiences with dance experiences that are original, reflective and highly-entertaining that also celebrate the art of modern dance. Case in point ImPULSE’s annual Snow performance, My Beating Heart (2016) and True Colors (2013). Continuing on this path ImPULSE has put together an immersive dance production for its eighth season opener, Not Your Average Masquerade, which takes place Nov. 2-3 in the recital hall at the Medical City Lewisville (MCL) Grand Theater.

This dance experience takes the audience on a journey through a strange circus, but there is more than what meets the eye in this elusive spectacle, according to the company’s press release. “The performers go on a journey as well; a journey of self-discovery and revealing their true identity,” says ImPULSE Artistic Director Anastasia Waters. “This production aims to create a unique dance experience for the viewer, releasing them from limitations of one seat and freeing them to move about and view the dance from a variety of perspectives.”

Not Your Average Masquerade is an evening-length work that Waters created in collaboration with ImPULSE company member Miranda Spence. Waters tells me that the show began as a mission to explore how to bring their audience into the dance. “I have always been interested in finding ways to connect with the audience not only through relatable concepts, but truly bringing the audience into the world I am trying to create.”

Waters continues, “This is why I love intimate dance spaces. Usually in a dance performance the audience is on the outside looking in at the world the dancers are in, almost as if the dancers are in a snow globe. In this show I wanted to bring the audience into our world.”

This world that Waters and Spence have created is representative of the performers and animals you would typically see at the circus. Waters says that she has always loved going to the circus, but always felt a little sad for the animals and saw the circus performers as people looking to find themselves. “This is such a relatable theme for almost everyone,” Waters says. “We hear phrases like ‘I’m running away to the circus’ a lot in life when we are struggling with our life circumstances.”

She adds, “And even though it was amazing what the horses, elephants and lions were doing, I always wondered if they really wanted to be doing it. That again leads back to questions of identity. Is this who I want to be? Is this who I am? Who do I want to be? How do I become who I want to be? So, in this show there is a sense of discomfort within the mysticism, and an underlying theme of searching for identity.”

The location of this site-specific production is the recital hall at the MCL Grand Theater, which Waters says is a beautiful space usually meant for parties and banquets. She is particularly fond of its high ceilings, lights, mirrors and large windows. “In this show I wanted to see how I could use all of the beautiful attributes of the space to tell the story within the show. So, we make use of every nook and cranny of this space. All of this has truly opened up the possibility for exciting spontaneous moments throughout the performance.”

Waters also notes that while there are some designated areas for the performers to dance, most of the show happens in, around and through the audience. She adds that there are also moments where the audience will be guided to move to certain areas of the space throughout the dance.

Looking over the entire process Waters says the most challenging aspect for her has been trying to predict where the audience will be in the very unpredictable immersive experience. “This is what makes the show exciting, but also its greatest challenge. Not only will our audience need to be very responsive to the dance, but our dancers will have to be very adaptable to where the audience is choosing to be.”

As to what she hopes the audience will take away from this dance experience, Waters says, “My goal is to connect with our audience at a whole new level. I want our audience to leave excited for the possibilities of what dance can be and do. I want to give our audience a truly unique experience.”

>This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Preview: DBDT 2019 Director’s Choice Series

Fire Within

Dallas Black Dance Theatre digs deep to find their fire in Nijawwon Matthews’s new work, From Within, part of the company’s Director’s Choice this weekend.

Photo: Courtesy DBDT
Nijawwon Matthews

 

Dallas — Edgy, exhilarating and athletic are some of the words that come to mind while watching a video teaser for Nijawwon Matthews’ new work, From Within, on Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s (DBDT) Facebook page. In the video clip the dancers execute a series of pendulum floor swings in sequence before suddenly shifting direction and then changing direction again. I couldn’t help but marvel at the dancers’ strength and stamina as well as that special communal bond that is always present when this group dances together.

In talking with Matthews about this moment I learned that the pendulum swings are meant to symbolize a grandfather clock to remind us of how we are always fighting against time. And if you look closer you will also noticed that Matthews has set up the movement so that the dancers’ rhythm goes against the music instead of with the music.

When asked about this choice, Matthews says, “I did not want them to count because when we get into dance and do counts we start thinking and moving in such a mechanical way. I’m more into artistic freedom and artistic expression, and the artistic exploration of timing without being timed.”

He continues, “I just had them go and then I would say ‘ok the rhythm is going to go here, and Xavier you will start by doing four and you’ll add in on the next four’ and so every four someone will add in.”

Growing up Matthews trained in many dance forms, including ballet, modern, jazz, hip hop, African, partnering methods and social dances. His performance credits include Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, Cecilia Marta Dance Company, Philadanco! and Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company. He has also worked with prominent artists such as Donald McKayle, Christopher L. Huggins, Milton Myers, Otis Sallid, Kevin Iega Jeff, Gary Abbott and George Faison.

As a dance instructor and choreographer, Matthews has traveled nationally and internationally to instruct master classes and choreograph for a host of academic schools, dance studios and professional companies as well as institutions in the British Virgin Islands, Germany, South Africa, China, Bermuda, Curacao, Peru, Helsinki, Italy and Taiwan.

Matthews is also the founder and artistic director of his own project-based company, XY Dance Project. He is also on staff at The Joffrey Ballet School and Broadway Dance Center in New York where he has been living for the last ten years.

Even through their paths have crossed a few times at the International Association of Blacks in Dance annual conference, Matthews says that this was his first time really getting to know DBDT. “I saw the dancers perform last year at Alvin Ailey and they just blew me away. They are probably one of the top companies that is giving you pure art, dance and technique. No one’s lazy, and everyone is passionate.”

He adds, “You see the soul of who they are on that stage and it made me want to jump on stage with them and it made me want to create on them.”

Fast forward a year and Matthews’s wish came true when he was invited to come create a work on DBDT for its Director’s Choice performance Nov. 1-3 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre. Matthews’s From Within will be performed alongside Stephen Mills’s Bounce and Kirven Douthit-Boyd’s Furtherance.

Reflecting on his time working with DBDT, Matthews says, “It was so much fun! Everybody was working hard. I was inspired and I hope I inspired them. I am just so thankful and blessed to be given this opportunity.”

Matthews notes that he wouldn’t have had this chance if it wasn’t for the recommendations by Melanie Person and Christopher L. Huggins of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Huggins in particular has had a profound impact on Matthews’s life both personally and professionally.

“Christopher has been a huge part of my life since I was 19 years old. And I am just thankful for him and everything that he has contributed to my life and my love of dance. He has always had my back and he doesn’t just say it. He puts it to action. And the fact he is willing to do that shows me that not only is he a master as an artist and a choreographer, but he is also the master of his own humanity.”

Matthews says what also made his experience with DBDT enjoyable was Artistic Director Melissa M. Young’s warm and endearing personality. “She is such a down to earth, open and loving artistic director. She’s just so humble. So cool. And she get the work done.”

Matthews says the concept for his piece, which includes excerpts of Maya Angelou’s narration of “Still I Rise,” was born out of a dark place and is about being able to find the fire within to keep fighting against life’s constant hurtles.

“For me, it’s an experience of how do you leave the trauma and the drama that had happened to you behind and how do you allow that to not dictate the path of your life. And so fighting and striving toward the better good of what you want for your life and how do you fight the negativity to always stay on that positive lane.”

He adds, “It’s a fight for one’s soul. It’s a fight to ensure that you find the power and the fight from within to be the person that really showcases your best self no matter what situation you’re put in or you’re going through.”

And what better individual to draw inspiration from to broadcast this message than Maya Angelou, Matthews tells me. Matthews also notes that while this work is inspired by Angelou, it is not about the life of this prolific figure.

“The fact that she did not speak for such a long time says a lot about this person who then became such a brilliant writer, motivational speaker, director and dancer, and such greatness even after all the trauma she’s been through. We have all been through this kind of similar experience and we all handle it differently.”

He continues, “So my hope for this work is that it serves the emotional spirit of the soul. It’s really to serve that and to see with curiosity what comes out when you watch the piece. What do you as an audience member and what do you as a dancer on stage feel, and what’s happening inside of you as this piece progresses along.”

> This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Preview: DGDG’s The Bippy Bobby Boo Show

Ghoulish Games

Photo: Anthony Lazon
The cast of The Bippy Bobby Boo Show

 

Danielle Georgiou Dance Group puts a spooky twist on 1960s musical variety TV with The Bippy Bobby Boo Show at Theatre Three.

Dallas — Danielle Georgiou’s fascination with the social norms and entertainment icons of the 1950s and ‘60s have been the precursor for many of Danielle Georgiou Dance Group’s (DGDG) most memorable performances over the years, including NICE (2014), The Show About Men (2015) and Donkey Beach (2017).

In DGDG’s latest production, The Bippy Bobby Boo Show, co-creators Georgiou and Justin Locklear are using the structure of a ‘60s musical variety show to explore hot button issues surrounding sexuality, gender roles, cultural differences and even death.

To keep the mood from getting too heavy, the 15-member cast will address these themes through song and dance reminiscent of the era. Oh, and performers will be doing it all while portraying ghosts of former patrons and audience members of Theatre Three, which is where the company will be performing the show in the downstairs space, Theatre Too!, Oct. 25-Nov. 2

The script contains all the mirth and subtle sarcasm that we have come to expect in a DGDG performance, but Georgiou points out that the language has been toned down to fit within the parameters of what was deemed acceptable for T.V. during this time period.

“We are staying true to how shows were formed in the ‘60s. So the jokes are full of innuendos, but there are certain things that you couldn’t do or say in the ‘60s, and we are holding true to that because all of our ghosts are from that time period and don’t really know what would happen in 2019.”

Georgiou adds that even though the material addresses contemporary issues, we are still dealing with the same issues that we were dealing with in the ‘60s. With that said she does acknowledge that we have made advances as a society, but says historically we are still in the same place. “I’m not going to discredit the strides we have taken forward as a society, but universally we are still dealing with the same sorts of conceptual issues, including fear of the unknown, fear of different cultures and isolationism. So we are tackling those sorts of ideas in the show, but through, as we always do, a very comedic lens.”

She adds, “We also have the history of Theatre Three and the productions they have done in the past to be able to use theater as truly a mirror onto these ghosts and what they have seen throughout the 58 years of the theater.”

Georgiou goes on to explain that these ghosts have followed Theatre Three from each space it has inhabited over the company’s history from the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Dallas and a car seat factory in Deep Ellum to the theater’s current space in the Quadrangle.

“We just imagined that some of the patrons are really in love with the theater and just decided that that’s where they wanted to spend their afterlife,” Georgiou says about the show’s premise.

“So they have decided that they can be actors too and every night they put on their own show for each other. But Bippy Bobby has this idea that all the alive people need to come and see the show and so he comes up with a plan to get what we call the pre-dead down into the basement to watch the ghost’s show.”

Even though the show is centered on these ghostly characters, Georgiou is quick to say that the show is not intended to be scary. “This is a comedy show, so it’s goofy gags and thrills and some blood, but it happens in a very comedic way.”

Locklear plays late-night show host Bippy Bobby, who is a combination of many well-known hosts from the era, including Jack Linkletter, Jim O’Neill, Roger Miller and Dean Martin. Georgiou says there is even some of Beetlejuice’s wackiness in the character. If Locklear’s performance is anything like the kooky narrator role he did in Donkey Beach, then audiences are in for a good time.

What about that title, which rolls off the tongue.

Bippy Bobby Boo came from the fact that we knew we wanted to do a ghost story and also something that involved magic,” Georgiou says. “It also came from that Cinderella and Fairy Godmother moment because she basically gives Cinderella everything that she wants. So, we were trying to come up with names of a talk show host who hosted a late-night haunted variety show and we knew it had to be magical because this ghost character has a lot of powers and from there Bippy Bobby was born.”

As for the choreography, Georgiou says she is incorporating moves from well-known jazz choreographers making work in the ‘60s, including Bob Fosse and David Winters. “I wanted it to be what they would have made. So I watched a lot of Hullabaloo episodes and was heavily inspired by what those dancers were doing on that show.”

She continues, “Their movement was fast-paced, sharp, athletic and that’s a challenge because right now we are so contemporary dance-based and fluidity is what’s marketed as how dance is right now.”

For the last couple of years, Georgiou has been making choreography for and outside of DGDG that is solely jazz based. “There’s something that’s really beautiful and also incredible to watch as an audience member when you see 15 bodies doing exactly the same thing at the exact same time. Your brain doesn’t understand what it’s watching, and I’m interested in seeing if we can do it too.”

She adds, “I’ve spent the last seven to eight years doing one thing and I just felt like there is more that I want to explore as an artist. I also want to challenge myself too in what I’m making, and so this was, for me, the next step.”

>This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

B. Moore Dance: 3D Vision

Dance Visionary

B. Moore Dance debuts with Bridget L. Moore’s evening-length NISSI at Addison Theatre Centre this weekend.

Photo: Christian Vasquez
Christian Burse & Natalie Newman of B. Moore Dance

 

Addison — We have seen her work performed by TITAS, Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) and Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT), but now Dallas audiences will get to see what Bridget L. Moore’s choreography looks like when done on her own terms in the debut performance of her company, B. Moore Dance, Sept. 6-8 at Addison Theatre Centre.

Entitled NISSI, this evening-length production runs around an hour-and-a-half and features past and present works created by Moore, including some fan favorites such as Uncharted Territory and Southern Recollections as well as new pieces that focus in on Moore’s current sense of self.

“In trying to find a voice and an identity for B. Moore Dance, I decided to take the works that I’ve created and love so much and put them on my dancers because all of these works were created on particular companies,” says Moore.

Photo: Brian Guilliaux
Bridget L. Moore

“I created Sketches of Flames on Ailey II. And Southern Recollections was one of the first works that I made for DBDT and I also did Uncharted Territory for DBDT, but the work was originally commissioned by Charles Santos for the 2017 Command Performance Gala.”

When coming up with the program for her company’s first performance Moore says that she wanted to present some of those works, but also wanted to find a voice within the company that felt like it was its own. So, Moore took a page from artist and author Romare Bearden, who was the inspiration behind her work Southern Recollections, and decided to combine some of her old material with new material to create something new.

“That is something that Romare Bearden did quite often, which I really was intrigued by. He was able to take things from magazines and from his old works of art and combine them to create something new, and I thought that was really amazing. He always had these different motifs within his work and I feel like my work is very much like that. And that is why I decided to combine those things so there would be a specific voice for the dancers to all have right now.”

She adds, “I’m always interested in creating with the dancers in mind so I think NISSI in the perfect piece for B. Moore Dance. The dancers really look dynamic and amazing in it and I love it!”

The company is comprised of 11 dancers (six company members and five apprentices), and all of them have worked with Moore before in some capacity. She even has a couple of former students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Audiences will also see a few familiar faces, including Alyssa Harrington, Lindzay Duplessis, Hailey Harding and Xavier Santafield.

As to why she choose to go this route Moore says, “With the beginning of this company I wanted the dancers to be individuals that I’ve worked with before and who really understand my work and understand my process.”

And while it did take some time for her to commit to the idea of starting a dance company, Moore says there was never a question in her mind that it all would happen in Dallas.  She explains, “With all the travelling that I have done I was ready to come back home and really wanted to be here. Dallas also has this great arts community and my roots are here as well as my friends and dance peers. And essentially having B. Moore Dance here in Dallas makes sense to me.”

In addition to her company’s debut performance, this season also marks Moore’s first year as the artistic director of Joffrey Ballet School-Texas. Regarding her appointment, Moore says, “I enjoy working with young artists and I am looking forward to guiding these students in their training and creating quality rapport with them.”

She adds, “I also want to connect them with different tools and people and assist them in their professional careers however I can.”

>This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Avant Chamber Ballet: Morphoses

Transforming Ballet

Avant Chamber Ballet kicks off its season with a triple bill featuring Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses and two works by Katie Cooper at Moody Performance Hall.

Photo: Dickie Hill
Avant Chamber Ballet presents Morphoses

 

Dallas — It has been a busy summer for Avant Chamber Ballet (ACB). In addition to preparing for its 2019-20 season, which kicks off with Morphoses Sept. 7-8 at Moody Performance Hall, the company also moved into its own studio space in the Dallas Design District in July. ACB Artistic Director Katie Cooper says that having their own space has been transformative for the company.

In previous years, Cooper says that the company would not have been able to put on a fall show because of the limits of renting or being lent space owned by ballet schools. “We had to wait till summer intensives and summer classes were over for us to have daytime hours.” This meant either rushing to put a performance together in late September or competing with a busy October arts month.

She adds, “So for us to find this weekend, and it worked for everyone involved, including musicians and everything, I am super happy and lucky that everything aligned for our fall show.”

Even though the company is heading into its seventh full season, Cooper says that in many ways this feels like their first year as a real company. Cooper explains, “We’ve transitioned to paying the dancers weekly, which is huge. And it makes sense for the dancers be paid weekly because every week that they’re working is actually a good work week now that we have a home.”

This weekend’s triple bill includes Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses, Cooper’s Sisterhood and the world premiere of Cooper’s Brahms Trio.

Regarding the program, Cooper says, “It feels like my miracle repertory because there was so many different puzzle pieces that had to come together and I am just so excited about it.”

One of these puzzle pieces was when the schedules of musicians Alexander Kerr (Dallas Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster), David Cooper (ACB Musical Director and Chicago Symphony Orchestra Principal Horn and Cooper’s husband) and Fei-Fei Dong (international piano soloist) aligned so they could perform alongside ACB in Cooper’s Brahms Trio, which is named after the work composed by Johannes Brahms.

Cooper says that she has always wanted to choreograph to the Brahms Trio and describes the music as very danceable, beautiful and romantic. She also says she wanted to do the classical music justice by only using classical choreography.

“I really wanted to do it well because it is a very classical piece of music and classical ballet,” Cooper says about the choreography for the piece. “And unless you do classical ballet right then it’s not good. It’s almost easier to pull off something really contemporary and new because when it’s classical it has to be well-rehearsed, interesting and clean.”

She adds, “The choreography has to be really good because there’s no bells and whistles or quirkiness that’s going to keep the audience’s attention. It really has to be beautiful, musical and interesting in its purity and the reflection of the music.”

Also on the program is Wheeldon’s Morphoses. As Cooper proudly states, ACB is only the third ballet company to perform the work after New York City Ballet and Washington Ballet. For those unfamiliar with the ballet, Morphoses is a complex and athletic ballet for four dancers set to György Ligeti’s String Quartet No. 1. ACB’s cast includes Juliann McAloon, Kara Zimmerman, Alexander Akulov and Marlen Alimanov. The music will also be performed live by Cezanne Quartet.

Rounding out the evening is Cooper’s Sisterhood, which the company premiered last May. The work features music by composer Quinn Mason and is a nice departure from Cooper’s classical roots. Instead of tutus and pointe shoes the dancers perform in trendy sportswear and sneakers.

When asked about these particular choices Cooper says, “I wanted to challenge myself with something different with the sneakers and clothing. Sneaker ballets are such a specific modern American thing. Just think of Jerome Robbins and Justin Peck does a lot of them now. I just wanted to explore something new, and that music I just loved.”

Cooper adds that putting Sisterhood on this program just made sense because it creates a nice balance with the other works. “The three ballets are so incredibly different and that’s what you always hope for in a triple bill. That they all have their own internal world and they’re all radically different.”

Looking back on the last several years Cooper says the company has really developed into what she wanted. “I always said I wanted a company that I would have wanted to dance to in. That every show there’s good stuff that’s fulfilling for the artists both physically, mentally and emotionally.”

“To me, being able to present this season that we have going is really finally the culmination of a lot of years of work.”

>This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Dallas Dances 2019: BWD

Dallas Dances Profile: Bruce Wood Dance

Company member Olivia Rehrman on learning Bruce Wood ‘s movement and performing a section of Garrett Smith’s Forbidden Paths at Dallas Dances this weekend. 

Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image
Olivia Rehrman, center, in Garrett Smith’s Forbidden Paths, performed by Bruce Wood Dance

 

Dallas — Even though she never knew him Olivia Rehrman says she feels a strong connection with the late Bruce Wood through his movement aesthetic and those who knew the choreographer well, including Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) artistic staff members Kimi Nikaidoh, Joy Bollinger and Gayle Halperin.

“I really connected with the technical aspect of his movement,” says Rehrman who is celebrating her fourth season with the company. “I think I’m a pretty clean technical dancer, and his movement is very technical, strong and powerful.”

She adds, “What didn’t click right away was the partnering. All the transitions in his work are so smooth and the partnering I did before didn’t involve a lot of overhead lifts so the hardest part for me was learning how to come in and out of the floor with a partner.”

A Dallas native, Rehrman grew up training at the Academy of Dance Arts. She continued her training at The University of Arizona where she graduated in 2012 with a BFA in dance. Before joining BWD in 2016, Rehrman spent four seasons with the world-renowned jazz company, River North Dance Chicago.

During her time with BWD Rehrman has gotten to perform in works by Wood, Yin Yue, Kate Skarpetowska, Bridget L. Moore, Nikaidoh, Bollinger and Albert Drake III. When she’s not in the studio with BWD Rehrman can be found teaching ballet and modern at Tuzer Dance Center.

Rehrman says her favorite Wood work is the crowd pleasing RED. “It is so powerful and so exhausting to dance, but it is so rewarding when you push through it to the end.”

BWD actually performed RED at Dallas Dances 2017 at Moody Performance Hall, which is presented by the Dance Council of North Texas. At this year’s Dallas Dances BWD will be performing the third section of Garrett Smith’s Forbidden Paths, which the company premiered at its June performance.

In the last section of his piece, which was created in protest of an Iranian law that prohibits people from dancing in public, Smith has the dancers strip off their baggy clothes to reveal skimpy black shorts and tops. When asked about the costume choice Rehrman says, “I am not a modest person so the costume didn’t really bother me.”

She continues, “If anything, the affect the costume had on me is when I was wearing baggier clothes I felt like it was easier to make my movement look grounded or grungier almost. And being stripped down at the end you kind of want to physically come out of the floor, but you can’t do that because his movement is so grounded and you have to use your plie so much. So, I think physically the costume changed my movement and I had to kind of fight against that.”

As for what it was like working with Smith on this piece Rehrman says, “This experience has taught me to not take for granted what I do every day. So on those days that I am tired and don’t really feel like dancing I remind myself that not everyone has the luxury to dance the way I do.”

BWD will be performing Forbidden Paths as part of Dallas Dances’ Saturday program at Moody Performance Hall.

>This profile was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

 

Ballet North Texas Announces 2019-20 Season

BNT

The first time I spoke to Nicolina Lawson, the artistic director of Ballet North Texas (BNT), was last winter when I interviewed her about the company’s first Nutcracker production, which the company performed at venues in Dallas, Terrell and Palestine. She impressed me with her drive and clear focus regarding her plans for the company as well as her ability to multi-task with two young kids in tow. And I believe she is expecting baby #3 this fall.

Lawson also knows her way around a sewing machine. I know this because I  recently talked to her about making BNT’s Nutcracker costumes for a piece I wrrote for the Dance Council of North Texas’ DANCE North Texas publication.

During this conversation Lawson told me she had some big news to announce in the next couple of weeks. The big news turned out to be the lineup for BNT’s second season, which runs from Sept. 2019 to July 2020.

Leading off the season will be BNT’s annual production of Night on the Trinity. It will feature Associate Artistic Director Anna Sessions’ Mélange d’épices, Arthur Saint-Léon and Fanny Cerrito’s classic La Vivandière, two world premieres by Lawson and Cindy Michaels as well as a guest performance by Ballet Frontier of Texas. Performances will be held Sept. 19-20 at Moody Performance Hall in Dallas and Oct. 12 at the Scott Theater in Fort Worth.

BNT’s Nutcracker will return to the stage for two productions on Nov. 24 and Dec. 20-21. Close to 60 children’s rolls are cast to join BNT’s Nutcracker, which is choreographed by Lawson to Tchaikovsky’s famous score.

In April 2020 BNT will present Cinderella at the Irving Arts Center. The Company will venture into Prokofiev’s haunting score to transport the lonely heroin from her wistful fireside dreams to a dazzling palace ball where she will meet her prince.

The season will conclude with Shakespeare’s comedic romance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Moody Performance Hall in July. The ballet follows the quarrels of King and Queen of the Fairies and the mayhem of mismatched lovers, abetted by mischief-maker Puck. All coming to a resolve with the infamous “Wedding March” by Felix Mendelssohn.

Tickets will be available soon. For more information visit www.balletnorthtexas.org.

Join Ballet North Texas as we embark on our next step to becoming one of the top tier ballet companies Dallas/Fort Worth has to offer.

We are holding this fundraiser to secure assets for the construction of our brand-new facility. When this new space is complete, we will be introducing North Texas Conservatory to serve as the premier school of Ballet North Texas. North Texas Conservatory will offer world class dance and music lessons for students of all ages and abilities. It is with your commitment and dedication that enables us to take this next step towards building the conservatory as our founders have envisioned.

All funds from this event will benefit Ballet North Texas and North Texas Conservatory in the buildout and furnishing of the Conservatory, outreach and special needs programs, as well as the upcoming 2019-2020 season.