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.
Avant Chamber Ballet goes bigger and bolder for its 2019-20 season with an added mixed rep in the fall, its first full-length Nutcracker production and new works and company premieres by George Balanchine and Christopher Wheeldon.
ACB will open its season in Setpember with Morphoses, a mixed repertoire program featuring Wheeldon’s Morphoses, Katie Cooper’s Sisterhood and a world premiere by Cooper to the famous Brahms Horn Trio. David Cooper, ACB’s musical director and the newly appointed horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, will be lending his talents to the Trio alongside musicals Anastasia Markina and Alexander Kerr.
I will miss Cooper’s clever take on a holiday classic like she had done previous years with A Ballet Christmas Carol and Little Match Girl Passion, but I am eager to see how she manages her first full-length Nutcracker. With choreography by local ballet legend Paul Mejia and a live orchestra, this Nut is already at the top of my list to see this year.
Mejia’s name appears again on ACB’s February program with his rendition of Romeo & Juliet. The company will also present Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations (a first for the company) in addition to a world premiere collaboration between Cooper and local Composer Quinn Mason. Mason also composed the music for Cooper’s Sisterhood.
The program I am most looking forward to is ACB’s Beauty and Beyond in April because of these three names: Cooper, Kimi Nikaidoh and Jennifer Mabus. Their voices and disciplines may be different, but I feel they share a common thread when it comes to storytelling and choreographic intent. Can’t wait to see what they do!
Avant Chamber Ballet’s artistic director Katie Cooper and music director David Cooper announce the company’s 2019-20 season, featuring four subscription productions at Moody Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District and the return of the Family Saturdays series. The season includes four world premieres by choreographers Katie Cooper, Kimi Nikaidoh, Jennifer Mabus, as well as five company premieres by Paul Mejia, Christopher Wheeldon, and George Balanchine. “This season is an incredible expansion for us in so many ways,” says Katie Cooper. “We are adding a fall mixed repertoire program and for the first time presenting a full-length Nutcracker with live music!”
The subscription season opens with Morphoses in September, a mixed repertoire program of three ballets: Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses, Katie Cooper’s Sisterhood and a world premiere by Katie Cooper to the famous Brahms Horn Trio. The Trio will be performed by internationally known musicians Anastasia Markina (piano), Alexander Kerr (concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra) and David Cooper (principal horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra).
In December, Avant Chamber Ballet presents a full-length production of The Nutcracker for the first time designed and choreographed by Paul Mejia with live orchestra accompaniment conducted by Brad Cawyer. This holiday classic is designed to take the whole family on a magical trip to the Land of Sweets through Clara’s eyes with Tchaikovsky’s rich score and ACB’s professional production.
Paul Mejia’s romantic and tragic Romeo & Juliet is the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The performance features live music which brings the famous Tchaikovsky score and this timeless story to life. Opening the performance is George Balanchine’s beloved Raymonda Variations (company premiere) which celebrates the beauty of classical ballet and the sparkling score by Glazunov. Next is a world premiere collaboration between ACB director Katie Cooper and local composer Quinn Mason. The ballet marks the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote and is inspired by the women who made it happen. Also featured will be a guest company appearance by Ballet Frontier from Fort Worth.
Closing the season will be Beauty and Beyond featuring four ballets with live music: the company premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Five Movements, Three Repeats which includes the famous “This Bitter Earth” pas de deux, world premieres by Kimi Nikaidoh and Jennifer Mabus- commissions of the 2020 Women’s Choreography Project, and Katie Cooper’s staging of Aurora’s Wedding: Sleeping Beauty Act III.
This season also marks the return of the Family Saturdays Series. This year all four performances are free. The shows are a family-friendly one hour designed to introduce the performing arts to kids of all ages.
Subscriptions go on sale now at TicketDFW.com. Single tickets will go on sale August 1. Subscribers will receive a 40% discount on all four productions.
THE 2019-2020 SEASON OVERVIEW
Moody Performance Hall, Dallas, TX
September 7th, 2019, 7:30pm
September 8th 2019, 2:30pm
Morphoses – Christopher Wheeldon/Ligeti, Company Premiere
Brahms Horn Trio – Katie Cooper/Brahms, World Premiere
Sisterhood – Katie Cooper/Quinn Mason
December 20th, 2019, 7:30pm
December 21st, 2019, 7:30pm
December 22nd, 2019, 2:30pm
Paul Mejia/Tchaikovsky, Company Premiere
ROMEO AND JULIET
February 14-15th, 2020, 7:30pm
Romeo and Juliet – Paul Mejia/Tchaikovsky, Company Premiere
Raymonda Variations – George Balanchine/Glazunov, Company Premiere
New Katie Cooper/Quinn Mason
Guest company Ballet Frontier
BEAUTY AND BEYOND
April 17-18th, 2020, 7:30pm
Five Movements, Three Repeats – Christopher Wheeldon/Richter, Company Premiere
Kimi Nikaidoh – Women’s Choreography Project Commission, World Premiere
Jennifer Mabus – Women’s Choreography Project Commission, World Premiere
Aurora’s Wedding: Act 3 Sleeping Beauty – Katie Cooper after Petipa
FREE FAMILY SATURDAYS SERIES:
Moody Performance Hall, Dallas, TX
Peter and the Wolf
September 7th, 2019, 2:30pm
The Nutcracker Suite
December 21st, 2019, 2:30pm
I Heart Ballet
February 15th, 2020, 2:30pm
Aurora’s Wedding: Sleeping Beauty Act III
April 18th, 2020, 2:30pm
NUTCRACKER: SHORT AND SUITE
November 21, 2019, 7:30pm
White’s Chapel, Southlake, TX
Presented by Apex Arts League
Programming and casting for all productions are subject to change without notice.
Avant Chamber Ballet’s mission is to bring exceptional live dance and chamber music together for audiences in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Our ensemble of classically trained dancers presents a diverse repertoire of classical and contemporary works from local choreographers, as well as internationally acclaimed artists. Since our inaugural season in 2012, ACB has presented over twenty world premiere ballets. The organization is in its eighth season, and is led by artistic director Katie Cooper and music director David Cooper.
This year saw the creative juices flowing from well-known local dance artists, including Joshua L. Peugh, Katie Cooper and Kimi Nikaidoh as well as guest artists who brought styles that had yet to be seen in Dallas such as Yin Yue’s FoCo contemporary dance style and Gabrielle Lamb’s bird-like quality and theatricality. We also saw the resurgence of authentic jazz technique from Southern Methodist University (SMU) Artist-in-Residence Brandi Coleman and the expansion of Bombshell Dance Project’s technical fortitude in a new piece by visiting choreographer Amanda Krische.
A few of the works on my list this year also featured live accompaniment, including Cooper’s The Little Match Girl Passion, Nikaidoh’s The Face of Water and Peugh’s evening-length work Aladdin,حبيبي. We also saw more musical collaborations with local talent such as Cooper’s Avant Chamber Ballet with Verdigris Ensemble and Peugh with SMU alum Brandon Carson who worked on both Aladdin and Lamb’s Can’t Sleep But Lightly.
Relatability also played a big part in my decision making for this list, and while every piece made me feel something, the one that spoke to me the loudest was Claude Alexander III’s Face what’s facing you! He managed to address a number of issues affecting individuals with humility and an uninhibited movement quality.
As far as what I’m looking forward to in the coming year I am excited to see what Bridget L. Moore is cooking up with her new company, B Moore Dance, as well as Dark Circles Contemporary Dance’s winter showcase, Avant Chamber Ballet’s Romance and Ragtime and Bruce Wood Dance’s gala fundraiser entitled Dances from the Heart. I am also looking forward to seeing Dein Perry’s Tap Dogs at the Winspear Opera House in March.
And my wonderful husband got me tickets for both Anastasia and Hamilton at Dallas Summer Musical in Fair Park. I am already counting down the days!!!!!
My dance writing goals for 2019 include talking and visiting with even more local dance companies and choreographers as well as attending some shows outside the dance realm, including plays, musicals and opera. Can’t wait to get started.
Until then, here are my favorite new works made in 2018:
The Little Match Girl Passion by Katie Cooper
Avant Chamber Ballet and Verdigris Ensemble
Moody Performance Hall, Dallas
Always one willing to break the mold when it comes to classical ballet, Katie Cooper paired her company, Avant Chamber Ballet, with the vocalists of choral outfit Verdigris Ensemble for a very sobering and elegantly danced performance of David Lang’s A Little Match Girl Passion at Moody Performance just a few weeks ago. Cooper took a very different approach for the choreography in this performance. Instead of bouts of group allegro and adagio movements Cooper had the corps act as scenery and story imagery, which only added to the balletic lines and character portrayal of lead dancer Juliann McAloon. ACB took a risk with such a somber show, but while the show brought to the surface the feelings of loss and sadness, it also presented airs of beauty and spiritual awakening.
Aladdin,حبيبي by Joshua L. Peugh
Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
AT&T Performing Arts Center, Wyly Theatre, Sixth Floor Studio Theatre, Dallas
Peugh stretched his artistic boundaries with his first evening-length work, Aladdin, Habib, which Dark Circles Contemporary Dance performed back in October as part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Elevator Project. Known for giving very few details about his pieces to his dancers, Peugh admitted Aladdin was a completely new experience for himself. He stepped outside his comfort zone with repurposed set design, strong character portrayals and live music. The movement was a blend of Peugh’s signature heavy-footed walking steps, twisty curvy floor work and subtle gesturing with more accented hips, body ripples and staccato movements typically associated with Middle Eastern dance cultures. The narrative is based on “The Story of Aladdin” as well as company member Chadi El-koury’s own personal story of coming to America with his family as a young boy, which he approached with calm determination and an emotional intensity we had yet to see from him.
And One More Thing… by Brandi Coleman
Meadows Dance Ensemble
Southern Methodist University, Bob Hope Theatre, Dallas
One of the few jazz choreographers in the U.S. trained in Jump Rhythm Technique, Coleman wowed the audiences with her funky and loud jazz number, And One More Thing…, at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts Fall Dance Concert in October. Originally created in 2015, Coleman added on three new sections with a grand finale that featured a large group of females dressed in casual street clothes moving and grooving to “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus and Chaka Khan. The piece played between the juxtaposition of stillness and hotness, which the dancers demonstrated through subtle gestures and sassy expressions as well as their sudden bursts energy and scat-singing, a fundamental element of Jump Rhythm Technique. It was fun and rambunctious and definitely a work worth seeing again.
LUNA by Amanda Krische
Bombshell Dance Project
Moody Performance Hall, Dallas
Repetitive phrases that travel every which way was the foundation for New York-based choreographer Amanda Krische’s LUNA, which was part of Bombshell Dance Project’s Like A Girl performance at Moody Performance Hall last June. Emily Bernet and Taylor Rodman tapped into their inner beasts in order to maintain their energy levels throughout the 10-minute work which started out with the two of them walking a specific number of steps before the monotonous phrase was broken up with gestures, pauses and abrupt floor work. The girls described the piece as a slow burn and they definitely had to dig deep as the intensity continued to build and the music switched from meditative to pulsating. It was a pleasant departure from the bombshells signature robust movement style.
Can’t Sleep But Lightly by Gabrielle Lamb
Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
WaterTower Theatre, Addison
New York-based choreographer Gabrielle Lamb challenged the dancers’ mathematical skills as well as their artistic sensibilities in her piece for Dark Circles Contemporary Dance’s showing at WaterTower Theatre’s Detour Festival back in March. Methodical walks, balletic lines and alien-esque body shapes are woven throughout this cleverly crafted piece. What I liked most about this piece is its lack of physical partnering; instead the dancers relied on simple human contact to produce authentic connections with one another. It was a very trippy ride indeed and a complementary pairing of artistic minds.
The Face of Water by Kimi Nikaidoh
Avant Chamber Ballet
Moody Performance Hall, Dallas
Nikaidoh used a range of emotions and the highs and lows within Argentine composer Osvaldo Gojilov’s 2002 chamber piece Tenebrae to drive the movement in her new work for Avant Chamber Ballet’s 2018 Women’s Choreography Project last April. Nikaidoh described the piece as more of an emotional journey focused primarily on hope and new beginnings, which was depicted in the longer, sweeter notes in the music. The combination of classical movements such as pas de deuxs and standard corps body lines and formations with Nikaidoh’s penchant for subtle musical gesturing and unlikely body shapes was a delightful juxtaposition for these talented dancers. Add in the dancers’ emotional conviction and you had a winning work.
Begin Again by Yin Yue
Bruce Wood Dance
Moody Performance Hall, Dallas
Bruce Wood Dance did an admirable job of presenting New York-based choreographer Yin Yue’s FoCo contemporary techniques to audiences at its Harmony performance last June. The cyclical nature of the piece is an extension of Yue’s movement style that features liquid body rolls, continuous arm circles and wide, sweeping leg lifts and floor work. The piece showcased the bond of the group, a staple of many of Bruce Wood’s works, in which the dancers appeared as one living organism before breaking off into smaller pairs and individual movement sequences. A musical mover Yue’s choreography came across as one continuous line of thought that dips, daps, weaves and loop-de-loops around an individual’s personal space, which led to some unexpected and visually pleasing moments.
Face what’s facing you! by Claude Alexander III
Dallas Black Dance Theatre
AT&T Performing Arts Center, Wyly Theatre, Dallas
Dallas Black Dance Theatre tackled their own unresolved issues in Claude Alexander III’s Face what’s facing you!, part of the company’s Spring Celebration Series back in May. As a rising choreographer Alexander delivered a strong voice in this work, which centered around some unresolved issues in his life in order to start the healing process. The piece was cathartic and heart pounding at the same time as the dancers meshed smooth walks and sustained lines with explosive jumps and multiple turns. Alexander didn’t waste any time getting to the theme of the piece and the action-packed stripped-down choreography was a breath of fresh air.
Bruce Wood Dance celebrates the many sides of the trailblazer in its fall performance, All Bruce, at Moody Performance Hall this weekend.
Dallas — It has been four years since his death, but Bruce Wood’s philosophy that “It is about the work” continues to drive Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) forward, which is apparent by the title of the company’s upcoming performance, All Bruce, Nov. 17-18 at Moody Performance Hall. The program features four memorable Wood works, including Echoes of Enchantment (1999), Bolero (2001), Local 126 (2001) and The Edge of My Life So Far (2010), featuring Nycole Ray of Dallas Black Dance Theatre.
The performance also marks a first for Joy Atkins Bollinger in her new role as BWD’s artistic director and is really a reunion of sorts for those of us who were in the audience at the Montgomery Arts Center for Wood’s triumphant return to the Dallas dance scene in June 2011. Viewers were in awe of the talent of company veterans Kimi Nikaidoh, Harry Feril and Albert Drake who would later band together to help keep Wood’s memory and movement aesthetic alive after the choreographers untimely passing in 2014. Today, most of the company veterans have moved on and a new batch of talent is now working to maintain Wood’s legacy.
I got the chance to sit down with Bollinger a couple of weeks ago at the Bruce Wood Dance Gallery and talk to her about how she is adjusting to her new role and how the newer dancers are acclimating to company culture.
“I was a little concerned when I saw how many new company members we have this season,” Bollinger says. “I just knew we had so many changes ahead of us with our infrastructure and our staff and then losing some of our veteran dancers, but I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised by the intelligent, hardworking and earnest nature of these dancers.”
She adds, “We’re to the point now where almost the entire company is working toward this man’s legacy who they have never meet and it’s just their understanding of what was important to him and how that affected others that draws them in.”
The new company members include Lauren Hibbard, Lauren Perry, Chad Vaught, Seth York and apprentice Arden Leone. They will be dancing alongside Adrian Aguirre, Jillyn Bryant, Olivia Rehrman, Gabriel Speiller and Megan Storey. Emily Drake, the most senior company member, will only dance in Bolero for this performance.
So, the responsibility of articulating Wood’s movement really falls on Bollinger’s shoulders. An incredibly daunting task, as anyone who had seen Wood in the studio can tell you. “Bruce had this uncanny way of not speaking,” Bollinger says. “And the feeling in the room or the feeling coming off him was enough for the dancers to understand where he was headed with choreography. And then when you weren’t sure about that from him you could turn to the veteran dancers that had worked with him for many years and ask them for help.”
Watching Bollinger give notes to the dancers after they ran through Local 126 it’s obvious she has a gift for words when it comes to telling the dancers what she needs from then. “A more crisp arrival,” “sharpen your focus” and “brighter energy through the legs” were a few of the corrections Bollinger gave as well as the ever present “have fun.”
But what Bollinger says she spent the most time discussing with the dancers was Wood’s emphasis on the group dynamics within his works. “The one thing I was focused on for this performance was the importance he placed on the group. If you look at Local 126 there is no partnering in the entire thing. Bruce would say he could choreograph to Bach in his sleep pretty easily so he wanted to challenge himself by doing no partnering for this entire piece.”
Bollinger adds, “The dancers needed to understand that you don’t get the lift and fly relationship. They’re going to have a different feeling of their bodies working in unison and as one and in sculpture and line and the architecture of the piece is going to have to create that. That’s been something we talked about a lot for this show because we’re going to need that in every dance, especially in Bolero.”
Before starting Bolero Bollinger says she and Nikaidoh sat down and talked through their memories of the dance and what they remembered Wood expressing so clearly. And through this conversation they were able to reconnect with the feeling and the finer details of the work. “It’s hard because in this day and age, when the second generation perceives something as sensual they automatically think it’s a celebration of sexuality, but it’s not. Bolero is very dark, almost that to the detriment of every person on stage.”
She explains, “At the same time as these women are wielding the power over the men and manipulating each other it’s also building toward a chaos. Everyone is walking in these courtship manners and the women are wearing ball gowns and the men are in tuxes, yet in complete irony the dancing women are in lingerie.”
Bollinger adds, “There’s so many layers here as to what is happening and at the start of this piece Bruce told us, ‘You know, this isn’t the party. This is 3 a.m. and the party has already happened’.”
Come experience Bolero and other Wood works at Bruce Wood Dance’s All Bruce performance at Moody Performance Hall this weekend.
Beginning this fall season Joy Atkins Bollinger will take the helm as artistic director of Bruce Wood Dance as Kimi Nikaidoh transitions to her new role of artistic advisor.
Kimi has done extraordinary job of commissioning new works from guest and in-house choreographers while also ensuring Bruce’s voice and vision remain alive and relevant. Since Kimi took over the reigns of the Dallas-based troupe in 2014 the company has peformed works by international choreographers such as Bryan Arias, Andy Noble, Katarzyna Skarpetowska and Bridget L. Moore as well as pieces by in-house talents like Joy Atkins Bollinger and Albert Drake. During her tenure Kimi also brought her own voice to the stage with Find Me and Bloom. I am sad to hear Kimi is moving away, but I’m sure she will still have a say in BWD’s programming moving forward. But I am excited to see the type of energy and connections Bollinger can bring to the table. Company dancer Eric Coudron will also be stepping into the role of rehearsal director.
See the full press release below:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 27, 2018
Bruce Wood Dance Announces New Artistic Leadership
DALLAS, Texas––Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) welcomes a new artistic team as the company moves into its autumn season. The BWD Board of Directors has appointed Joy Atkins Bollinger as artistic director, Kimi Nikaidoh as artistic advisor, and Eric Coudron as rehearsal director.
Bollinger has been affiliated with Bruce Wood® for more than 16 years. From 2014 to 2018, she served as rehearsal director and répétiteur under artistic director Nikaidoh. Bollinger restaged works from Wood’s renowned repertoire and maintained the artistic caliber of the company. As a veteran dancer of the Fort Worth–based Bruce Wood Dance Company from 2002 to 2007—and a founding member of Bruce Wood Dance in 2010—Bollinger performed in approximately 50 of Wood’s works. She also became a distinguished choreographer, creating two critically acclaimed works for BWD. Carved In Stone premiered in June 2016 and Hillside in November 2017; both were listed on the annual Top Ten Lists for dance in North Texas. Mark Lowry of the Fort Worth Star–Telegram declared Carved In Stone the “single best dance in 2016;” Manuel Mendoza of The Dallas Morning News referred to it as a “major choreographic debut;” and Margaret Putnam of TheaterJones.com called it “one of the most beautiful dances imaginable.” Katie Dravenstott of TheaterJones.com said, “Bollinger proved not to be a one-hit wonder with her second visually moving work, Hillside . . .” In addition, Bollinger was commissioned by Texas Christian University for the 2017 TCU Spring Dance Concert and recently by Dallas Black Dance Theatre for the 2018 fall dance production, Directors Choice, at the Wyly Theater.
“I am honored to step into the role of artistic director. It is my hope to continue presenting Bruce Wood®’s genuine, provocative, and extraordinary works while offering new, high–caliber productions for our community,” Bollinger says.
Kimi Nikaidoh, who assumed the role of artistic director following the untimely passing of founder Bruce Wood® in 2014, becomes artistic advisor. As a veteran dancer of Wood’s Fort Worth–based company, former member of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, New York–based performer and choreographer, and founding member of BWD, Nikaidoh was instrumental in maintaining Wood’s repertoire, expanding the company’s choreographic range through new commissions, and raising BWD’s national profile. Following a move to Los Angeles, she will continue working with the company as an advisor and collaborator.
“For 19 years, Bruce Wood®’s mentorship and legacy have been powerful sources of inspiration and fulfillment for me. It has been exciting to see Bruce Wood Dance flourish in Dallas and beyond, and I look forward to the unique ways I can continue serving the company,” says Nikaidoh.
Eric Coudron, a BWD performer from 2014 to 2017, rounds out the artistic leadership as rehearsal director. Coudron is a dance teacher at Prodigy Dance & Performing Arts Center in Frisco, and a graduate of SMU Meadows School of the Arts with a BFA in Dance Performance.
Executive director Gayle Halperin shares, “We are overwhelmingly grateful to Kimi for her unparalleled dedication, meaningful leadership, and work as a visionary, mentor, choreographer, and performer. Her successful leadership was evidenced by D Magazine’s award for Best Dance Company in 2017, two consecutive appointments to the TCA Texas Touring Roster, BWD’s performance of her work, Bloom, at the prestigious 2018 Women in Dance Leadership Conference in New York, and BWD’s recent performance at Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out Series in July 2018. We are delighted to continue working with Kimi.”
Board president Rubi Deslorieux states, “During the last four years Kimi has led BWD through uncharted waters with passion, elegance, and grace. With her commitment to the company’s mission and the authenticity of Bruce Wood®’s choreography, Kimi propelled the company forward. Joy has also demonstrated resplendent luster as répétiteur, choreographer, and dancer with BWD. We are excited for her to provide the artistic direction for BWD.”
BWD’s upcoming All Bruce program on November 16+17 reflects Bollinger’s and Nikaidoh’s ongoing collaboration. Nikaidoh curated the program and will restage Local 126. Bollinger will direct the company, restage dances, and oversee the full production. For tickets to All Bruce, featuring Wood’s critically acclaimed work, Bolero, visit brucewooddance.org, or call Dallas Winds Box Office at 214–565–9463.
BWD has received the following accolades––Best Dance Company by D Magazine in 2017, 2014, 2013; Best of Dallas Voice 2014–2018; and inclusion on every annual Dallas–Fort Worth Top Ten in Dance list since 2011. BWD also was appointed to the 2016–2018 and 2018–-2020 Texas Commission on the Arts Touring Roster.
BWD is made possible by its dedicated patrons and sponsors: Heritage Auctions (HA.com); TACA; Texas Commission on the Arts; National Endowment for the Arts; James+Gayle Halperin Foundation; Donna Wilhelm Family Foundation; Roger Fullington; City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs; Ellen Kendrick Creative, Inc.; Lancaster+Associates, Inc.; Dallas Arts District; VisitDallas.com; and 2018 Commissioners Circle.
Choreographer Yin Yue brings her unique style to Dallas in Begin Again, part of Bruce Wood Dance’s Harmony performance this weekend.
Dallas — Acclaimed New York-based choreographer Yin Yue is the latest name on the short list of artists who have been invited to commission work for Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) since Kimi Nikaidoh took over the reins of the Dallas-based troupe in 2014. Since then BWD has performed works by international choreographers such as Bryan Arias, Andy Noble, Katarzyna Skarpetowska and Bridget L. Moore as well as pieces by in-house talents like Nikaidoh, Joy Atkins Bollinger and Albert Drake. Yue’s new work, Begin Again, will premiere this weekend at BWD’s Harmony performance at Moody Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District. The program also includes Wood’s poignant The Day of Small Things (2012) and the crowd pleasing Rhapsody in Blue (1999).
In regards to the program Nikaidoh says, “The title represents the variety of this program, and we have been fortunate with Bruce’s work because there is such variety from a single choreographer. Certainly that range expands when you add another choreographic voice to the program, and Yue’s work is a great fit because it is coming from a different place than Bruce’s.” She adds, “I also want our dancers to continue growing in their diverse abilities.”
Nikaidoh calls Wood’s The Day of Small Things a beautiful example of how he could make a quiet work very powerful. “It’s quiet and understated and yet it’s glorious and majestic at the same time. The inspiration for the piece was that these small interactions and moments between people are really meaningful and important. And we don’t need to look at those as though they’re inconsequential.”
Nikaidoh notes that Wood created the piece in honor of her grandma, whom he was very fond of. “He and my grandma had a really sweet relationship. He would let her come watch rehearsal and she was just such a sweet, compassionate and lovely person who really appreciated Bruce’s work.”
On the other hand is Rhapsody in Blue, which Nikaidoh describes as one big party. “It’s elegant, charming and just loads of fun. And that is one of his most classical pieces. There’s a lot of fun, flirtatious and an almost who cares feel to parts of it.”
The third piece on the program is Yin Yue’s Begin Again, which uses heavy electronic music and FoCo contemporary technique to support the cyclical nature of the work. FoCo is a contemporary folk style that Yue originated, which is inspired by the elements, including root, wood, water and metal. Nikaidoh got to experience this way of moving firsthand when Yue visited BWD back in May. In addition to creating a work for the company’s Harmony performance, Yue also taught several technique classes during her stay.
It was during these classes where Nikaidoh says Yue began to create movement for her new work. “She would do some warm up in place and then she would just start a choreographic phrase and what I ended up realizing is that a lot of the movements that she generates for a piece come from these phrases that she uses in her classes.”
Nikaidoh also learned that Yue’s movement style is driven by an internal rhythm instead of a musical melody. Nikaidoh explains, “So, she feels inspired that the first movement should be slow and thick and then the second two movements need to be staccato and coming quicker. And that’s interesting because even though some parts of the dancing end up going exactly with the music the movement itself and the rhythm you’re supposed to do the movement with are really coming from inside her and not from the music.”
Originally from Shanghai, Yue studied classical ballet, Chinese classical and folk dance at Shanghai Dance School. She continued her education at Shanghai Normal University where she had the opportunity to appear in many festivals and dance performances throughout China. Yue moved to New York City in 2004 to pursue a MFA in contemporary dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Yue’s distinct movement style has earned her many accolades over the last couple of years, including winner of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago International Commissioning Project in 2015, BalletX’s 2015 Choreographic Fellowship and Northwest Dance Project’s 5th annual Pretty Creatives International Choreographic Competition in 2013. She was also selected as an emerging choreographic at Springboard Danse Montreal in 2015 and was a finalist of The A.W.A.R.D Show 2010 put on by New York The Joyce Theater Foundation. She currently resides in New York where she is the artistic director of the Yin Yue Dance Company. She also holds the position of artistic director and residency choreographer at Jiangxi Zhongshan Dance School.
In a video on BWD’s Facebook page Yue expresses her amazement with how quickly the dancers were able to pick up her movement in a very short timeframe. “The first couple of days are just about getting your body into what you are doing and there is a learning and questioning like why and how and then we can already see the dramatic change about Thursday Friday,” Yue says. “So, then I create a phrase in front of them and I look back and they are already doing it so we are already 80 percent there and for me it is just way fast.”
You can see Bruce Wood Dance perform Yin Yue’s Begin Again at the company’s Harmony performance at 8 pm. June 15 and 16 at Moody Performance Hall in Dallas.
Avant Chamber Ballet reaches new emotional depths in Kimi Nikaidoh’s latest work, The Face of Water, part of the company’s Women’s Choreography Project this weekend.
Dallas — If there is one thing I’ve learned from watching Kimi Nikaidoh’s choreography it is that she likes to take you on a journey either musically, emotionally or narratively speaking. Her first work, Find Me (2015), for Dallas-based Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) was a beautiful tribute to Wood’s aesthetic and evoked warm, happy feelings. Her second work, Bloom (2016), was more introspective and carried the theme of healing and recovery with more of a straight forward narrative. In Nikaidoh’s newest work, The Face of Water, she uses a range of emotions and the highs and lows within the music to drive the movement home.
“So, the piece doesn’t follow a narrative, but is more about an emotional journey,” Nikaidoh says. “In the music there are these beautiful moments that feel to me like new beginnings. I’m talking about these long, stretched out notes that felt like one thing has finished and a new thing is starting. In the music I hear a lot of activity, turmoil and what I started to frame in my head as work, and then what follows these sections are these sweeter, longer notes of hope and new beginnings.”
Watching Avant Chamber Ballet rehearse The Face of Water at Royale Ballet Dance Academy in Dallas last week I was surprised by the amount of ballet vocabulary and other classical elements Nikaidoh chose to use in the piece. But really I shouldn’t be surprised, since a ballerina was all Nikaidoh wanted to be until injuries and the advice of others lead her to audition for the Fort Worth-based Bruce Wood Dance Company (BWDC) when she was 18. Leading up to this Nikaidoh had trained with Tanju and Patricia Tuzer, Canada’s National Ballet School, the School of American Ballet and American Ballet Theater.
Nikaidoh danced with BWDC until 2004 when she moved to New York to have ankle surgery and earn a degree in neuroscience from Columbia University. During this time she also continued to perform with various groups, including Bruce Wood Dance, Thang Dao Dance Company, Columbia Ballet Collaborative and Emery LeCrone Dance. Nikaidoh also toured nationally and internationally with Complexions Contemporary Dance. After Wood’s death in 2014 Nikaidoh decided to return home and eventually took over the reins of BWD.
The Face of Water is one of two new works ACB will present as part of its Women’s Choreography Project (WCP),April 21-22, at Moody Performance Hall. The other work is Day Vignettes by former Ballet Austin dancer Michelle Thompson Ulerich with new music by composer Catherine Davis. ACB’s entire program, titled Moving Music, will also feature George Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie, Christopher Wheeldon’s The American Pas de Deux and Paul Mejia’s Serenade in A. Each piece will be accompanied by live music.
When asked about her decision to have Nikaidoh set a piece on the company, ACB Artistic Director Katie Cooper says, “I’ve known Kimi since I was a teenager and I’ve always admired her as an artist both as a dancer and now as a choreographer and director. Her work is very balletic, but the center of gravity is lower like Bruce’s work so it’s a nice change from our more classical repertoire.”
Inspired by Argentine composer Osvaldo Gojilov’s 2002 chamber piece Tenebrae, The Face of Water is an emotional rollercoaster that forces the dancers to delve deeper into their own psyche. In between trios and quartets Nikaidoh has incorporated standard pas de deux and corps work that feature the dancers’ gorgeous lines, pliable spines and supple feet, which will be adorned in ballet slippers for this number. Like Cooper, Nikaidoh preferred to keep the corps in motion with continuous formation changes and stage entrances that challenged both the dancers’ musical timing and spatial awareness. You can see Nikaidoh’s own personal touches sprinkled throughout the piece, but especially in the dancers’ port de bra arms and the quieter moments in the music where the dancers had to rely on smaller gestures and unlikely body shapes to convey their feelings.
When asked about her experience working with the dancers Nikaidoh says, “I loved working with ACB. The dancers are smart, quick and so willing to do the work.”
She adds, “This was also a great learning experience for me because I am used to working with a certain set of dancers who in general were approaching movement from Bruce’s perspective. I noticed that even though I share a classical vocabulary with ACB there were still things about how I wanted them to get from one classical step or space to another that were very influenced by my contemporary background and my work with Bruce. So, what I recognized during the process was that those were the moments I needed to spend time on.”
Now, unlike Cooper’s balletic works, Nikaidoh’s piece doesn’t include any petite allegro jumping sections or any grande jete jumping passes. You also won’t see any fouette turns. Instead, Nikiadoh focused on the dancers’ connections both physically and visually and how these connections change and evolve with the music. “We talked about connective tissue between them and for them to all feel like there’s this complex type of spider web that’s connecting everyone’s limbs together. I mean these dancers are used to working as an ensemble and they understand the importance of clean lines and the need to stay together, but when you have someone new come in and ask them to go off balance or run low instead of high sometimes a different image can be helpful.”
This year marks the fourth annual WCP, an endeavor Cooper started when she noticed so few female choreographers being represented on many local and national professional dance companies’ seasonal programs. Since its inception WCP has featured new works from almost a dozen national and international female choreographers, including Shauna Davis, Janie Richards and Elizabeth Gillapsy. As far as where WCP goes from here Cooper says, “I’d love to get to a place where WCP isn’t needed anymore. In four years I’ve seen a shift across the country with a lot of discussion of the problem and many more ballet companies commissioning female choreographers. We aren’t there yet, but we are inching toward equity.”
Bruce Wood dancer Emily Drake on partnering with Houston-based METdance in Bridget L. Moore’s new work, Following Echoes, part of the Lone Stars performance on Friday.
Dallas — Emily Drake is not hard to spot on stage amongst the other members of Bruce Wood Dance (BWD). Her fiery red hair and petite statue will always draw your eye, but it’s the way she lives in the movement that keeps us from being able to look away. “Emily is a really gifted performer and an intelligent mover,” says BWD Artistic Director Kimi Nikaidoh. “She can make just about anything work. So, say you ask her to make a turn go into something else that goes to the floor or in the air and she can very quickly find a way to make that happen. Her musicality is also really remarkable. …There are dancers who can do something on the note and there are dancers who can do something with the feeling of the note in the music and Emily can do with the feel of the note immediately. It’s this emotional intelligence too that makes her performance so satisfying to watch.”
Originally from Nashville, Drake grew up studying modern, ballet and jazz and attended summer programs at The Rock School of Ballet. She came to Dallas in 2010 to attend Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts where she had the opportunity to perform in works by renowned choreographers Martha Graham, Adam Hougland, Jessica Lang, Billy Siegenfeld, Bill T. Jones and local dancemaker Bruce Wood. She met Wood toward the end of college and worked with him on a project basis till she graduated in 2014 and officially joined the Bruce Wood Dance Project (BWDP), now Bruce Wood Dance. Today, Drake is one of the few remaining company members that got to work with Wood directly before his passing in May of 2014.
“He was very intense,” Drake says about her first time working with Wood in the summer of 2013. “He did not let me go under the radar. He pushed me and really laid into me and it was all because he was trying to get something out of me that I wasn’t aware of yet. He just had this energy about him that made the people around him want to be great for him.”
Drake laughs as she reflects on RED, the first piece she learned with the BWDP, and one of the two Wood works the company will be presenting at its Lone Stars performance with special guests Houston-based METdance this Friday evening at Moody Performance Hall. “I was blown away by the physicality of it and at the time it was the hardest dance I had ever done.” Drake explains, “I didn’t know how to balance my energy yet so, I just pushed myself to go 100 percent the entire time and you just can’t do that in this piece. After I learned how to control my energy the piece feels so different now and I definitely get more enjoyment out of doing it.”
In addition to RED, BWD will be doing another Wood favorite, Lovett! and Drake and David Escoto will perform in Bridget L. Moore’s new work Following Echoes alongside METdance company members Danielle Garza and Kerry Jackson. The program also features METdance’s Mario Zambrano’s Volver, Paralyzed by Fear by Houston-based Courtney Jones and Snow Playground by New-York based choreographer Katarzyna Skarpetowska.
“This show is all about celebrating dance in Texas,” Nikaidoh says about the program which she collaborated on with METdance Artistic Director Marlana Doyle. “At first it was just going to be a shared show and then we thought how great it would be for someone to come in and set a work using dancers from both companies.”
The choreographer they chose is Texas native Moore, who at the time was the head of Dallas Black Dance Theatre. She has since been released from her position for reasons that are still unknown. It’s the organization’s loss as Moore has continued to find ways to share her creativity within the Dallas community and her most recent work, Following Echoes, will be making its debut in Lone Stars. “The only directives we had for Bridget was length, the number of dancers and that we would like the work to have emotional weight and be athletic,” Nikaidoh says. “We appreciate her coming in and giving our dancers this opportunity to learn from her.”
As one of the four dancers in the piece Drake was able to give me some behind the scenes information about Moore’s creative process and what is was like working with the dancers from METdance. Drake says Bridget started off the process by talking to them about her feeling for the piece. That it would be her way of showing appreciation toward Bruce as well as delve into the different transitions we go through in life.
“She then used the different images we have of Bruce in the studio to create a motif based off of how each image made her feel,” Drake says. “Some of the movement was planned while other times she would just give us a directive like right leg developpe in a circular motion.”
Drake adds that the structure of the piece is a mix of ensemble work with solos plugged in, but in the ensemble sections the dancers are rarely doing the same things at the same time. She also says there is not a whole lot of partnering involved in the dance. “Bridget likes to keep your eyes moving around the space. She likes filling up the stage so big, full lines of energy are very important to her.” Drake describes the piece as, “Kind of like being on a rollercoaster because there are these moments of high energy and others when the movement calms down, which is represented through the highs and lows in the music.”
The cast learned the piece in a very short time at the BWD Gallery back in December and then to keep things balanced went to Houston to rehearse at METdance’s studio space a few weeks ago. “It has been a really nice collaboration,” Drake says. “Everyone was so easy going and honestly we were just enjoying each other’s company.”
As for Drake’s future as a dancer she says, “BWD is home for me. It has given me everything I didn’t know I was looking for and there has never been a moment that I felt like I wasn’t growing as a dancer.” She adds, “From the start everyone was so supportive and I never really felt like I was in this alone and that’s what I like about the company. BWD has always been first and foremost about the group so, if you don’t love it then this is not the place for you.”
It has been another eventful year for dance in Dallas. TITAS brought a whopping 11 national and international dance troupes to Dallas in 2017, including Bridgman Packer Dance, Doug Varone and Dancers, Ballet BC and Malpaso Dance Company. Dallas dance institutions Texas Ballet Theater and Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT) tie for second with five programs each. DBDT also experienced its first season without founder Ann Williams at the helm and as DBDT’s programs have shown new Artistic Director Bridget L. Moore is not afraid to take news risks while also respecting the company’s modern roots.
And as for the smaller companies, Bruce Wood Dance and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance both had stellar years with numerous premieres by special guests and their own company members. Avant Chamber Ballet is still pushing the boundaries of ballet with its Women’s Choreography Project while both Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet and Contemporary Ballet Dallas continue to build stronger and more consistent works.
We also saw the continued evolution of local dances festivals here in Dallas, including the fourth annual Dallas DanceFest, the fourth annual Rhythm in Fusion Festival and the second annual Wanderlust Dance Project. We have also seen many of the young dance professionals in the area forming their own dance companies, projects and movements, including Emily Bernet and Taylor Rodman of Bombshell Dance Project, Adrian Aquirre who is founder of Uno Mas Dance Company and Madison Hicks who is the founder of Moving Forward Dance Project.
So, you can see progress has been made in Dallas, but going into 2018 funding and tickets sales remain at the forefront of everyone’s mind no matter the size of your dance company. We have seen some companies cut costs recently by looking in-house for new choreographic ideas as well as seeking lesser priced venues for performances. I expect to see more of this happening in 2018 as well as companies getting more creative with their marketing, including social media, to promote their upcoming shows.
And as I reflect over the last year I can’t help but notice that once again most, if not all, of the dance premieres I got to preview were produced by some of my favorite local dance people, including Joshua L. Peugh (Dark Circles Contemporary Dance), Danielle Georgiou (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group), Sean J. Smith (Dallas Black Dance Theatre), Emily Bernet and Taylor Rodman (Bombshell Dance Project) and Albert Drake (Bruce Wood Dance). I love the uniqueness these artists bring from their training, travels and artistic influences to their own creative processes; but the one thing they all have in common is they all treated me to a truly memorable experience, which is why they, along with a few others, have made it on my list of favorite new works by local choreographers.
In no particular order, here are my favorite new works made locally in 2017:
Donkey Beach by Danielle Georgiou
Nothing made me laugh as much as Danielle Georgiou Dance Group’s (DGDG) Donkey Beach did back in June as part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Elevator Project. Inspired by the beach movies of the 1960’s, Georgiou along with Justin Locklear (music and lyrics) and Ruben Carrazana (script) used live surf rock music, popular dance moves like The Twist and The Mashed Potato as well as a slew ‘60s slang to transport audiences to one amazing beach party. And as only DGDG can do, the cast kept us laughing with their catchy song lyrics and quick-witted comebacks while also drawing our attention to controversial topics such as sexual orientation and gender neutrality in subtle and thoughtful ways.
Meant to Be Seen by Emily Benet and Taylor Rodman
In their Dallas debut this fall, Emily Bernet and Taylor Rodman of Bombshell Dance Project showed audiences what they are all about in what I believe to be their signature work, Meant to be Seen. In this eight-minute duet the former Dark Circles Contemporary Dance members relied on their instincts and experimental partnering as well as classical and modern dance stylings to show audiences that female dancers are also capable of handling the more aggressive and robust dance moves generally associated with male dancers. Performing to text and music by their movie icons Marilyn Monroe and Aubrey Hepburn, Bernet and Rodman cleverly added a hip, feminine vibe to balance out the more powerful movements in the piece.
Hillside by Joy Atkins Bollinger
Bollinger proved not to be a one hit wonder with her second visually moving work, Hillside, which premiered at Bruce Wood Dance’s RISE performance back in November. Like her first work Carved in Stone, in Hillside Bollinger relied heavily on her artistic eye, including stunning lighting effects and three-dimensional architectural shapes as well as a large cast to bring to life her narrative of a woman’s journey through the ups and downs of life. Bollinger accomplished this feat with long, swooping body movements, authentic human connections and a sloping 32-foot-long 5-foot-wide replica of a hillside. Kimi Nikaidoh also gave a masterfully performance as the lead character with her unyielding body control and raw display of emotions.
HALT! by Joshua L. Peugh
Peugh returned to his light-hearted roots with plenty of finger jabs, pelvic thrusts and leg twitches in HALT!, part of the Dark Circles Contemporary Dance’s Spring Series: Bleachers last May. Inspired by watching the fencing competition at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, Peugh took common fencing techniques such as lunges, attacks and advancements and added in his signature loose-limbed jumps, heavy walks and primal positions to put a modern spin on this centuries old sporting event. The matching white outfits and fencing masks added an air of mystery, which only heightened the viewers’ anticipation.
Chasing Home by Albert Drake
The Bruce Wood Dance company member has found his groove as a choreographer if his latest work, Chasing Home, which was part of the company’s Journeys performance last June, is any indication. With an original score by Joseph Thalken, the work focused on the communal acts of a wedding, including the after party featuring the dabke, a Middle Eastern dance, as well as a friendly game of soccer to represent the day-to-day activities of those currently living in refugee camps. Drake incorporated a slew of dance styles, including Graham technique, soccer drills, B-boying, classical ballet and Irish step dance. The most poignant moment in work came from Emily Drake and David Escoto. The couple’s swooping arm and leg movements and nuanced gesturing were clearly in Wood’s style, but the vulnerability and sensuality present in the couple’s partnering was uniquely Albert Drake.
Interpretations by Sean J. Smith
Last February, Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT) company member Sean J. Smith was tasked with putting together a work highlighting the company’s 40 years of dance innovation and community outreach, which was then presented at DBDT’s annual Cultural Awareness Series. With a dancing background that includes jazz, tap, ballet, modern and classical, Smith incorporated all of these styles along with video and audio recordings that featured DBDT alums and faculty members to create Interpretations. The choreography flowed seamlessly from slow and methodical to fast and daring with an emphasis on musical accents and individual showmanship. I personally enjoyed the big band dance section at the end in which the men of DBDT defied gravity with numerous leaps, turns and foot slides.
Somewhere in Between by Shanon Tate
Shanon Tate’s depiction of the relationship between sisters in Somewhere in Between at LakeCities Ballet Theatre’s Director’s Choice last spring resonated strongly with me. Tate beautifully captured the complex nature among sisters in a number of poignant duets against a three-dimensional floral stage setup designed by Tom Rutherford. The familiar chords of Antonio Vivaldi played through the speakers as the three couples pulled, twisted and fell away from another while also engaging in a number of tender embraces.
Bruce Wood Dance prepares for the physically taxing elements in Joy Atkins Bollinger’s Hillside, part of the company’s RISE performance this weekend.
Dallas — Against what will be a backlit stage, Kimi Nikaidoh slowly walks across the space in Bruce Wood Dance’s (BWD)main studio with a pensive expression on her face. Her left arm habitually reaches out to brush across the other dancers’ feet, which are swaying haphazardly as the dancers lay prone on a sloping 32-foot-long 5-foot-wide replica of a hillside made of dense Styrofoam and reinforced with half inch plywood. As Nikaidoh moves further downstage, the dancers start a series of quick lower body exercises, including flex and pointed toes, turned out feet and crisscrossing legs, which they perform in tandem as well as off time. Even without the lighting this image is striking thanks to the dancers’ simplistic movements, which stir up a wealth of emotion, and are also recurring themes in choreographer Joy Atkins Bollinger’s new work, Hillside, for the BWD’s RISE performance this weekend.
Bollinger began her dance training at the age of 7 at the Fort Worth School of Ballet with Victoria Fedine and Paul Mejia. During her time there she performed in productions of The Nutcracker and Cinderella with the Fort Worth Ballet Company. She eventually was invited to the Cedar Island Summer Intensive for two consecutive years where she lived and studied with Suzanne Farrell, who was one of George Balanchine’s muses at the New York City Ballet during the 1960s and ’70s. After graduating from Texas Christian University with a B.F.A. in ballet, Bollinger joined the Bruce Wood Dance Company (BWDC) in 2002. She worked with BWDC for four years while also dancing as a guest artist for Irving Ballet, Metropolitan Classical Ballet and Madison Ballet. Today, Bollinger is an artistic associate with Dallas-based Bruce Wood Dance where she is restaging Wood’s works and starting to make some of her own, including Carved In Stone, which was her first full-length dance for BWD and was met with critical acclaim at the company’s SIX performance last year.
Bollinger says the inspiration for Hillside came from an image she kept seeing in her head of just a slope.
“I just couldn’t shake this image of an abstract hillside that looks like someone just took some marley and squished it from the sides so it just has a ripple in it,” Bollinger says. “And I could also see the dancers starting out with their legs in the air and a figure just walking by and brushing their hand against that.”
To bring this idea to life, Bollinger had her brother who happens to be an architectural engineer help her create an architectural file, which is what the Styrofoam factory referred to when cutting the material. From there the prop had to be assembled and then reinforced so the dancers would be able to run across and perform on it. “So the meat of it is actually a dense foam that weighs between 200 and 300 pounds that we then covered with a thin carpet and marley flooring.”
In addition to the even, smooth look on top, Bollinger also needed the prop to be light enough to slide around the stage, which the dancers do a couple of times throughout the piece. Bollinger explains that the prop begins up stage and will move to mid stage during Nikaidoh’s personal struggle before being shifted to a diagonal, which will represent Nikaidoh’s new perspective on life. She adds, “The first transition will have these flashes of light and as the music changes the downstage will be lit, but the upstage will be dark so all you can see is the front edge of the prop creeping into the light.”
If you had to opportunity to see Carved In Stone, you will be able to see some similarities between that piece and Hillside, most obviously Bollinger’s penchant for large casts and captivating stage design and lighting techniques. She has also taken a page out of Wood’s book with the use of understated movement and silky smooth partnering sections. Like Wood, Bollinger also relies heavily on instinct so that her movement always has a continuous flow to it, but keeps in context with the piece’s narrative and imagery.
This is most clearly seen in the large group section near the end when all 14 dancers run into the space, including three dancers on the hillside, to perform a breathtaking series of body arcs and under-curves, which Bollinger layers with balletic legs and textured arm movements to fast-paced instrumentals. With the use of creative pathways and musical timing, Bollinger avoids the clutter and chaos that generally comes with such large dance works; instead making smart choices that add more dimension and emotional depth to the already deeply empowering work.
And as for why Bollinger decided to work such a large cast she says, “There is just something so satisfying and fulfilling about seeing a lot of bodies on stage. The piece reads stronger with more bodies and the music is so big and powerful, and there are so many layers at the end that I just wanted there to be a moment where everyone can see the big picture.”
Hillside makes it premiere at Bruce Wood Dance’s RISE performance at Moody Performance Hall Nov. 17-18. The program also includes Wood’s Lay Your Burdens Down and The Only Way Through Is Through. This program will be dedicated to two choreographer/instructor Kim Abel; and to former BWDC dancer Doug Hopkings, both of whom passed a way in recent months.