Tag Archives: Moody Performance Hall

Preview: Avant Chamber Ballet’s The Little Match Girl Passion

Match Pointe

Emily Dixon Alba of Avant Chamber Ballet on dancing to live vocalists in The Little Match Girl Passion, featuring Verdigris Ensemble at Moody Performance Hall.

Emily Dixon Alba in The Little Match Girl Passion. Photo: Will Graham

Dallas — As one of the hardest working female choreographers in Dallas, Katie Cooper is always looking for new ways to elevate the local ballet bar and increase exposure of the 300-year-old art form. She did it when she started her company, Avant Chamber Ballet, with the goal of bringing ballet and live music back together; when she created the area’s first Women’s Choreography Project; and now she is doing it again with the addition of live vocals courtesy of Dallas-based Verdigris Ensemble at ACB’s showing of The Little Match Girl Passion Dec. 7-8 at Moody Performance Hall.

The dancers of ACB and the singers of Verdigris Ensemble will be bringing to life David Lang’s choral setting based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story, “The Little Match Girl.”

The collaboration marks a new challenge for Cooper who is known for breaking boundaries when it comes to classical ballet traditions. “Creating dance to almost acapella voice is a much different process than what I have done in the past,” Cooper says. “It has breath to it in a very literal way, plus David Lang’s score is quite modern and tells the story in a very different way than if I had picked more traditional dance music for the choreography.”

The task has also proved challenging for some of the dancers such as Emily Dixon Alba who told me during our phone conversation earlier this week that the Verdigris Ensemble recording they were using in rehearsals sounded a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher at first. “But then the more I listened to the recording the more words I heard.” Alba notes that the lyrics will be printed in the program for the audience to follow along.

Alba also points out that the movement in The Little Match Girl Passion isn’t what you’d typically expect from ACB. “It’s abstract in terms of dancing, but it’s literal in terms of all of us dancers are flushing out the story around Julianne McAloon who is playing the main character. So, we’re all in black and we’re all becoming the words that are being said. For example, in one part we are walking across the stage really fast and we are supposed to resemble the street cars that she’s trying to dodge around.”

A native Texan, Alba trained at the Ballet Academy of Texas under the direction of Lisa Slagle before joining Tulsa Ballet II after graduating from high school. In 2009, Alba was accepted into the corps de ballet with The Sarasota Ballet. During her five seasons with the company Alba had the opportunity to perform a wide variety of repertoire, including works by Sir Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Matthew Bourne, Dominic Walsh, Peter Darrell, Agnes De Mille, Johan Kobborg, to name a few.

Alba was with Colorado Ballet while also guesting with ACB till her move to Dallas in 2017 to dance full time with ACB in addition to settling down with her husband and being closer to family and friends. Alba says making the decision was terrifying as she had spent the last 10 years with union companies where she had no fear about salary or health insurance. But Alba says Cooper wooed her with the repertoire she had planned, which included works by Balanchine and Christopher Wheeldon.

“I remember looking at ACB’s season and then looking at Colorado Ballet’s season coming up that year and it was a no brainer as to where I wanted to dance,” Alba says. “Looking at ACB’s season and what they were bringing in I wanted to see what my full potential was and be pushed to do that, and I knew this repertoire would do it.”

She adds, “Just in this one year I feel like I have grown and the company has grown. I feel like we have been pushed in ways you may not pushed in a company that has 30 or 40 people in it.”

One of Alba’s brightest moments with the company so far was when she was asked to perform one of the principal roles in Balanchine’s Who Cares? at ACB and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance’s joint performance in the spring of 2016. Alba says she still gets emotional every time she performs the role because there was a time in her career where she didn’t think she was capable of dancing a principal role. “I had reached a place where I thought I was a great demi soloist and soloist, but I cut myself from ever being able to do the bigger roles. So, when Katie asked me to come in and guest in Who Cares? I was half terrified because I had already told myself I was below that principal role, but then I was also excited to get a chance to tackle it.”

Alba continues, “And so that was such a victory for me not so much physically, but mentally and emotionally pulling through Who Cares? because it was one of those moments where you realize WOW there is more in me then I thought there was and that gave me a lot of confidence to come back the next year.”

Alba also links her increase of self-confidence to her time spent with local Balanchine Repetiteur Michele Gifford during rehearsals for Who Cares? “For the past two to three years Michele has been one of my dearest mentors on and off the stage. I can talk to her about anything. She helped me navigate my move back and just getting to work one on one with her through all of the Wheeldon and Balanchine works has been amazing.”

I couldn’t end the interview without asking Alba how she feels about portraying such a sad story right around the holidays. “Well, at first I was confused about why we were doing such a sad story, but I read a recent interview of Katie and it brought to light again that Katie is always reaching beyond what’s normal and I think there is an audience that actually connects to grief in the holidays.”

She adds, “The holidays can also evoke a different side of emotions. It is not wrong to feel grief or loss and that is not a bad thing. That is being human. And so I think Katie is going to connect with a side of the audience that is very real and very human through this experience.”

You can see Emily Dixon Alba in The Little Match Girl Passion at the Moody Performance Hall this weekend. The evening also includes The Nutcracker Suite choreographed by Katie Cooper and Paul Mejia with live music by Cezanne Quartet.

>This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

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Preview: Bruce Wood Dance’s All Bruce Performance

Shades of Bruce

Bruce Wood Dance celebrates the many sides of the trailblazer in its fall performance, All Bruce, at Moody Performance Hall this weekend.

Bruce Wood Dance in Local 126. Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image

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.

>This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Dallas Dances: 6 o’Clock Dance Theatre

Executive director Marielle McGregor on carving out space in the local contemporary dance arena and presenting Brush to Canvas at Dallas Dances.

6 o’Clock Dance Theatre dancer Sophi Marass. Photo: Ace Anderson

Dallas — As the Dallas arts scene continues to grow so has the number of contemporary dance companies in the area. With well-established companies such Avant Chamber Ballet, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Ballet Dallas, Bruce Wood Dance, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, 8&1 Dance Company and Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet claiming large chunks of the city’s ballet and contemporary dance audience, you have to wonder what a newcomer like 6 o’Clock Dance Theatre can possibly bring to the table.

Executive Director Marielle McGregor says the answers lies in the framework of the company, which was founded by Zach Law Ingram in 2014. “What makes us unique is that we are career professionals working across many industries in Dallas. But, instead of happy hour at 6 p.m., we meet to explore our art. We decided that dancers should not have to choose between art and a living wage. You can have both!”

She adds, “We have dancers who are UX designers, mathematicians, marketers and engineers. We have 9-to-5 jobs, but at 6 o’clock—that is when we dance!”

McGregor is currently the senior digital editor for Dallas County Community College District. She is also a co-founding member of 6 o’Clock Dance Theatre and serves as the executive director, managing company business and equipping the company dancers and choreographers for success.

6 o’Clock Dance Theatre will be performing Ingram’s Brush to Canvas as part of Dallas Dances’ Saturday evening program. Ingram is a Dallas native whose professional experiences include Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Dallas Black Dance Theatre. He was also in the Broadway production of The Lion King. He officially moved back to Dallas this summer.

In Brush to Canvas McGregor says Ingram was inspired by the fact that a painting has no real finish. “The painter begins not knowing the end,” she says. “He [the painter] creates his art by throwing out ideas to the canvas, mixing his paints and seeing what comes back. And at some point the painter—through feeling—knows it is a complete work. And yet, at any time, he could pick the brush back up and again continue to explore more.”

McGregor adds, “Zach was also inspired greatly by the music itself. He said it gave him a lot of freedom and rather than dictating what the movement should be, it just let him paint.”

Brush to Canvas is set to “Infra 8” by Max Richter and “Thunders and Lightings” by Ezio Bosso. The piece features company members Darwin Black, Shelby Stanley Campbell, Sarah Cat Hendricks, Constance Dolph, Katricia Eaglin, Sophi Marass, Madison McKay, Marielle McGregor, Katherine Parchman, Laura Pearson, Allison Wood and Alex Yap.

> This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Dallas Dances: Tejas Dance

Founder Bhuvana Venkatraman on bringing the classical Indian dance style Baratanatyam to Dallas Dances this weekend.

Chintan Patel and Bhuvana Venkatraman of Tejas Dance. Photo: Tejas Danc

Dallas — Bhuvana Venkatraman is well known in the Dallas dance community for her roles as an instructor, performer, and advocate of classical Indian dance. More specifically Baratanatyam, which, when broken down, means the dance that encompasses music, rhythm, and expressional dance or Abhinaya and strictly adheres to the Natyashastra or the scripture of classical Indian dance. Venkatraman created Tejas Dance in 2014 as a way to enrich and popularize Bharatanatyam and also identify and encourage talent in the field. Venkatraman says she and Chintan Patel (artistic director of Tejas Dance) were drawn to Baratanatyam because of its vibrancy and the spiritual beauty it has to offer.

“We believe that Baratanatyam is looking at things beyond their actual appearance,” Venkatraman says. “We consider it a medium for finding metaphors in every event in our lives and finding its deeper roots in spiritual elevation.”

The duo has performed for many local organizations, including the Indian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, the 2017 Dallas City Council inauguration, Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple, Allen Radha Krishna Temple and Arathi School of Dance, just to name a few.

Tejas Dance will be presenting Ardhanareeshawara – Synchronization of Dichotomy at Dallas Dances this Saturday night. The work features music from Parshwanath Upadhye’s album Shambho. The dance will explore the age old question: Are men and women really different?

“This dance talks about the two aspects of our society—the masculine and the feminine. Thinking of both of them as separate energies is common, but the actual spiritual elevation lies in knowing and understanding that these two characteristics though so different are one and the same,” she says. “If we understand that these two are nothing but a complementing half of a major energy, we realize how futile our efforts are to prove one is superior to the other.”

“This dance gives out a strong message to think of someone’s quality and abilities beyond their gender and find beauty within everything,” she adds. “It’s a great way for adults to find themselves more elevated from the claws of society and an excellent opportunity for kids to learn important concepts that will mold them for a better future and eventually leading to a better society.”

>This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Dallas Dances: kNOwBOX dance

Co-creator Martheya Nyaard breaks down the company’ intentions and what they have planned for Dallas Dances.

YeaJean Choi. Photo: Visionstyler Press

Dallas — Looking over the lineup for Dallas Dances, it’s exciting to see so many first-time presenters blended in with event staples such as Texas Ballet Theater, Bruce Wood Dance and Dallas Black Dance Theatre. One of these new faces is kNOwBOX dance, which was created by local choreographers YeaJean Choi and Martheya Nygaard at the beginning of 2018.

Choi and Nygaard met while earning their MFAs in dance at Texas Woman’s University in Denton. Their overlapping interest in making art that challenged contemporary and modern dance aesthetics lead them to becoming fast friends and dance peers. Choi was working as the dance department’s digital media coordinator and Nygaard as the department’s publicity coordinator when the duo starting brainstorming about what they were going to do after graduation. They came up with the question: how can artists have access to stay connected, make new work and share work globally, and from there kNOwBOX was born.

“We strive to say no to the box,” Nygaard says. “The box symbolizes the boundaries and confines that limit connections. We pursue experimental production and collaboration with other artists in order to create, discuss and advocate for art. …The vision of kNOwBOX dance is to use the digital space and alternative formats to collaborate and archive. Our social media-based Evolving Laboratories facilitate a global presence for our collaborators to make, capture and share art.”

For Dallas Dances Hyun Jung (Jenna) Change will be performing Choi’s 괴다 (The memory of love) to Donovan Jones’ song “The Memory of Love.” The piece uses Korean contemporary dance techniques to express one’s memory of love. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Choi earned her BFA in Korean dance from the Sung Kyun Kwan University in 2012 and performed with Du-Ri Theater of Korea. Her work has been presented at World Dance Alliance-Americas in Mexico, Dallas DanceFest, Texas Dance Improvisation Festival, American College Dance Association, Seattle BOOST Dance Festival, Terrance M Johnson Dance Project, Big Rig Dance Collective and the Choreographer’s Series in Korea.

Later this year kNOwBOX dance will be co-producing, alongside the Dance Council of North Texas and the Dallas Public Library, the first Dallas Dance Film Festival. In terms of what they hope to accomplish with this new event Nygaard says, “It is our goal that this festival can support both local and international emerging and professional dance filmmakers and provide an affordable platform to share their work. This free festival also offers the community of North Texas a new way to engage with dance.”

“We hope this will be an annual festival that has the potential to grown into a weekend event with workshops, installations and guest artists.”

>This profile was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Dallas Dances: Brandi Coleman Dance

The jazz dance professor on the fundamentals of Jump Rhythm Technique and her piece, What We Do with Time, part of Dallas Dances.

Brandi Coleman Dance. Photo: Andrew Garvis

Dallas — Just like every young dancer Brandi Coleman grew up learning all the basic dance techniques, including ballet, jazz, modern and hip-hop. It wasn’t until Coleman went to the Jazz Dance World Congress in 1992 and saw Billy Siegenfeld’s choreography for the first time that she realized she wanted to focus primarily on jazz. More specifically, she wanted to learn Siegenfeld’s Jump Rhythm® Technique. So, when she heard Siegenfeld was teaching at Jacobs’ Pillow along with fellow jazz choreographer Danny Buraczeski, Coleman knew she needed to go.

“This was a pivotal point for me,” Coleman says about her time at Jacob’s Pillow. “Up to this point I have had a variety of dance training, but this experience at Jacob’s Pillow working with both Danny and Billy really solidified my innate response, love and passion for jazz dance and specifically moving rhythmically and musically.”

“Jump Rhythm Technique just felt good innately to me both in the physicality and in my heart and soul.”

Today, Coleman is an artist-in-residence in jazz dance at Southern Methodist University and is also the associate artistic director of Jump Rhythm Jazz Project (JRJP), an Emmy Award-winning performing and teaching company that celebrates the communal core of jazz performance, including dancing, singing and storytelling in rhythmically syncopated conversations. She also holds a B.A. in dance from Northeastern Illinois in Chicago and an MFA in performing arts/dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

To put it simply Coleman says the goal of Jump Rhythm Technique is to turn the body into a percussive instrument. “So, it’s using the musical construct of jazz music, meaning we’re trying to play syncopation and swing in the body, but we are also trying to understand what it feels like to feel rhythm in the body and to shape energy over approaching movement from how my body looks in space. We do address shape, but we address time first.”

When explaining the fundamentals of Jump Rhythm Technique to her students Coleman uses a comprehensive step by step process. “So, in Jump Rhythm Technique we first say what is the rhythm. Then we improvise to that rhythm. Then we clarify the rhythm. Then we clarify the emotional intention behind the rhythm. And then we clarify where in space we do that rhythm.”

Coleman points out that the technique also involves a lot of vocalization, which she says is hard for many dancers because the perception is usually that dancers are to be seen and not heard. So, she usually starts out by asking the dancers questions so they can hear their voices out loud and then she has them sing the Alphabet percussively and then rhythmically. From there she has them start scat singing, which audiences will get to experience firsthand at Dallas Dances this Sunday in Coleman’s What We Do With Time.

“Rhythm and emotion primarily inform the movement and the narrative of the piece,” Coleman says. “It is a quirky, humorous comment on being stressed. It’s about meeting deadlines and missing deadlines and anticipating deadlines that you know you can’t or won’t make. It’s a universal theme that I anticipate anyone and everyone can empathize with.”

This profile was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

SIDEBAR:

I asked Brandi if she thought classical jazz was a dying off and she told me that this is misconception because in order grow jazz dance has had to align with pop culture, which is where new styles like jazz funk and lyrical jazz come into play. So, classical jazz isn’t dying. It is just changing as is natural with all dance forms. She uses the imagery of  branches to example these newer styles of jazz, which she said I could read about in the book “Jazz: A History of the Roots and Branches” by Lindsay Guarino and Wendy Oliver.

Like the dance history nerd I am I immediately purchased this book on Amazon and it should be here in a day or two. I am looking forward to reading and will definitely put up a post about my thoughts on the book as soon as I am done reading it. Here is a link to the book if you will she purchase it too

 

 

 

 

 

Dallas Dances: Jordan Fuchs Company

The choreographer on starting the annual Texas Dance Improvisation Festival and presenting at the Dance Council’s Dallas Dances festival.

Jordan Fuchs’ Torsion from 2017. Photo: Jordan Fuchs

Dallas — A well-known associate professor of dance at Texas Woman’s University (TWU), Jordan Fuchs has been making dances grounded in improvisational practices since the early 1990’s. At that point he was living and working in San Francisco until he moved to New York City in 1998, which he then left in 2007 to take his position with TWU. His work uses the aesthetic values of improvisation to find the instability of each performance moment, the possibility of transformation through sensation and the inherent state of moving always in relationship to another and to our environment, according to his Web site.

Throughout his career Fuchs has danced for artists, including K.J. Holmes, Kirstie Simson, Mark Dendy, Luka Kito/Megan Boyd, Rebecca Lazier, Gina Jacobs, Scott Wells, Lizz Roman, Joanne Nerenberg and Potrezebie. Fuchs is a Fulbright Specialist and has been on faculty at Hunter College and Movement Research. He has taught workshops at numerous universities and festivals across the United States and internationally. Fuchs is also a former dance specialist in the Jerome Robbins Moving Image Archive of the Dance Division of the New York Public Library.

For Dallas Dances he will be presenting a 6.5-minute excerpt from the second half of his work Torsion, which premiered in 2017 at the Jordan Fuchs Company’s spring performance at TWU’s Dance Studio Theater. Featuring dancers Michelle Beard, Whitney Geldon and Melissa Sanderson, the originally 20-minute trio explores movements centered in the pelvis and the body’s connective tissue, the fascia. The piece also includes original sound composition by Andy Russ and lighting design by Roma Flowers.

“I was intrigued at the movement possibly between the layers of skin, muscle and bone,” Fuchs says about the inspiration for the piece. “For instance, if you hold your forearm in your hand and rotate your forearm there is a lot of movement possible. I wanted to know what kind of dancing could emerge from paying attention to such subtlety.”

“When I start projects, I only define starting points.,” he adds. “I never know where they will end up and that is one of the pleasures of choreography for me. Finding where I end up.”

In addition to teaching and choreographing, Fuchs is also the founder of the annual Texas Dance Improvisation Festival, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this October with special guest artist Judith Sánchez Ruíz, a former dancer with both Trisha Brown and Sasha Walsh. “I wanted to create a space where improvisational dance practices and movement forms such as contact improvisation could be front and center rather than an alternative offer, particularly in moving here from New York City over a decade ago, a place where such practices were so integral to the dance making of me and many of my peers,” Fuchs says about jumpstarting the festival in Dallas.

“The mission of the annual festival has been to share, inspire and challenge the improvisational dance community in Texas through bringing in internationally renowned guest artists and creating opportunities for sharing teaching, performing and dance practices and for networking.”

 

>This Dallas Dances profile was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Q&A: Camille A. Brown

This weekend, the award-winning dance and theater choreographer Camille A. Brown opens the TITAS Presents season with BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play.

camilleabrown
BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Dallas — 2018 has been quite a year for Camille A. Brown whose powerful combination of storytelling and modern, African and hip-hop movements has been capturing audiences from every angle, including concert dance, on and off-Broadway, and television. Most recently, her work has been seen on NBC with the Emmy-nominated special, Jesus Christ Superstar LIVE, and also on Broadway with the 2018 Tony award-winning production, Once On This Island. Her other theater credits include A Streetcar Named DesireCabin in the Sky, Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick…BOOM and Dallas Theater Center’s world premiere productions of Stagger LeeFortress of Solitude, and Bella: An American Tall Tale.

The dancing It Girl is also a four-time Princess Grace Award winner, TED Fellow, Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner, Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and Audelco Award winner. Her work has been commissioned by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Complexions, Ailey II, Philandanco!, Urban Bush Women, Ballet Memphis, and Hubbard Street II, among others.

With all these creative accolades it’s no surprise to learn that Brown has been choreographing since childhood when she would make up dances to cartoon shows. A lot of her movement is influenced by the social dances of her childhood, including hip-hop, African and step dance. She was also versed in salsa dancing and musical theatre thanks to her parent’s love of musicals and Latin social dances. Add in her point of view as a strong black female from Queens and you have the foundation of BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play (2015); the second part of a trilogy that her troupe Camille A. Brown & Dancers will be performing as part of TITAS Presents in Dallas Aug. 24-25.

TheaterJones caught up with the busy dancemaker to talk about her current success, working on Once On This Island, finding her artistic voice and what Dallas audiences can expect to see from her dancers this weekend.

TheaterJones: Most young dancers dream of becoming performers, and yet you knew you wanted to choreograph from a very young age. Dancers don’t usually come across composition classes till they reach high school age, so how did you foster your interest in creating movement growing up?

Camille A. Brown: I have always been a quiet child. My voice was small, so I got teased a lot, and it made me more self-conscious about speaking. I watched Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson videos as well as musicals (which my mom introduced me to). I would spend hours learning all the routines from videos and musical numbers. I also created movement to the opening credits of cartoons I watched. Family gatherings were opportunities to put on a show with friends and cousins. My family would support our efforts and was always a great audience.

How has your upbringing in Queens influenced your artistic choices throughout your career?

One of the first works I did was about rush hour in New York City and what happens when everyone is waiting for a delayed train. I took all of my experiences riding the subway since 13 to create six minutes of material. The work was eventually commissioned by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. My most recent work is also pulling from my experiences growing up in the city. Some of it is inspired by my neighborhood. A couple in Queens walking down the street with their isms bold and bright. The guys that play basketball outside. The hand gestures (dab) they do greeting each other.

In BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, there are moments that are inspired by relationships with my mother, grandmother, and cousin. Q85, Farmers Blvd., Guy R. Brewer, Foch Blvd, E/F train (last stop), Green Acres Mall, Rochdale Village, grandma and granddaddy’s house. We carry our stories with us and they never let us go. 

Looking back, would you still have chosen to go to college before starting your professional dance career?

Absolutely! I wasn’t ready to be a professional dancer after I graduated high school, and still wanted to learn more as a student.

How did you get involved with Once On This Island? What research did you do leading up to teaching the choreography for the show?

I had never seen OOTI, but was very intrigued by the story. I knew it was a very popular musical, which made me nervous! It’s hard stepping in as a choreographer creating material for a show that’s been done thousands of times. I got a little bit in my head about it. I knew my role as a part of the creative team was extremely important. I wanted to honor the culture of Haiti and the Caribbean islands, but also honor my choreographic voice.

People ask me what the inspiration behind the movement for the show was. Culture always tells you where to go. The challenge was to create a language that combines culture, my voice and the actor’s creative identities. I connected with an Afro-Haitian/Afro- Cuban consultant, Maxine Montilus. We had four sessions together. I told her that these sessions were not so I could implant these specific steps into the show. It was about me knowing the origins of steps so they could help to inform my choreographic choices.

The other challenge for me was the production was staged in the round and I had never choreographed anything in the round before. I was creating my latest work, ink, at the same time so I used that creative process as an opportunity to practice. It’s interesting how many projects can support one goal. I’m grateful for it all.

How have your experiences working on Broadway and TV impacted the way you think about movement for your company dancers?

I have always been interested in telling stories, but working in theater with collaborators and putting an entire show together that has music, acting, dance, set design, sound design, costume design and orchestrations has made me a better storyteller and communicator. The information that I absorbed working in theater has helped me to create my movement language and given me the tools to communicate what I want to my dancers and musicians.

Can you please talk to me about the building of BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play? Is it mainly autobiographical? Is it one complete story or broken up by experiences?

BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play is the second piece of the trilogy and it reveals the complexity of carving out a self-defined identity as a black female in urban American culture. In a society where black women are often only portrayed in terms of their strength, resiliency, or trauma, this work seeks to interrogate these narratives by representing a nuanced spectrum of black womanhood in a racially and politically charged world.

Kyra Gaunt’s book, The Games That Black Girls Play, talks about the contributions of black girls to hip hop through childhood games. If we look at the mechanics of the hand clap game “numbers”, it’s highly intelligent, mathematical and musical. Social dance grounds a time and place. The body has so many stories to tell and we can see them through social dance. We can also see people’s creative identities.

There is artistry in childhood games and social dance.

I am bringing all my stories, my personal experiences of being a woman and of being black into the work. BG:LP is about my childhood. It has glimpses of the relationship I have with my sister-friends, cousin and mother.

At what point did you know you wanted to make this part of a trilogy?

After creating Mr. TOL E. RAncE, my headspace was still in the world of black identity. My mentor and dramaturge, Talvin Wilks, encouraged me to go with the flow. Three evening length pieces later!

Where do you want to go from here?

I want to stay focused, clear and keep growing. It is my goal to continue creating works for my company, become a director/choreographer for musical theater and do more TV and film. Debbie Allen is a huge inspiration. She does it all. Her body of work makes me believe that all things are possible.

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

 

Avant Chamber Ballet Announces 2018-19 Season

Avant Chamber Ballet’s 2018-19 season includes a new family program and new collaborations with local musicians and singers as well as works by Paul Mejia, Christopher Wheeldon and George Balanchine.

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Avant Chamber Company Member Emily Dixon. Photo: Will Graham

Dallas – What I admire most about Katie Cooper is her tenacity when it comes to the business end of running a ballet company. It is very easy for artistic directors to get lost in their own heads and lose touch with what is happening right in their own dance communities. But that has never been the case for Cooper. Her eyes have remained opened to the Dallas dance scene and the global ballet industry. Her company continues to thrive because of her industry know how and fresh ideologies when it comes choreographing and presenting ballet works. She is definitely someone that future choreographers and directors in the area should get to know.

For its 2018-19 season Avant Chamber Ballet (ACB) will be presenting David Lang’s the little match girl passion, Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses and world premieres by Cooper and by the soon-to-be-announced winner of the 2018 Women’s Choreography Project commission. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! The company will also be performing more works by George Balanchine and Paul Mejia.

The music for the season includes Vivaldi, Ragtime, George Gershwin, Astor Piazzolla local composer Quinn Mason and a collaboration with singers from the Dallas-based Verdigris Ensemble. And just like all of its performances ACB will be dancing to live accompaniment.

You better start marking your calendars now. You don’t want to miss any of these shows!

 

A copy of the official press release can be found below:

 

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Email: info@avantchamberballet.org


AVANT CHAMBER BALLET ANNOUNCES 2018-19 SEASON

DALLAS, TX (June 26, 2018)

 Avant Chamber Ballet’s artistic director Katie Cooper and music director David Cooper announce the company’s 2018-2019 season, featuring three subscription productions at Moody Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District and the launch of the new Family Saturdays series. The season includes world premieres by Katie Cooper and Women’s Choreography Project, as well as works by Paul Mejia, Christopher Wheeldon and George Balanchine.

“Our seventh season is our biggest yet with five new works, collaborations, and touring,” says Katie Cooper. “We are also excited about starting the Family Saturdays program, which will expose new audiences to the joy of live music and dance.”

The subscription season opens with David Lang’s the little match girl passion, a collaboration with the Dallas-based Verdigris Ensemble. Together on stage, the dancers of Avant Chamber Ballet and the singers of Verdigris Ensemble will bring to life Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning setting of the famous Hans Christian Andersen story. This will be the first time a contemporary choral work will be staged with ballet in Dallas.

In February, Avant Chamber Ballet returns to Moody Performance Hall with Romance and Ragtime. The performances will encompass four ballets with live music: a company premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses, a world premiere by the soon-to-be-announced winner of the 2018 Women’s Choreography Project commission, and world premieres of Katie Cooper’s The Seasons with music by Vivaldi and Ragtime with music by Scott Joplin.

Closing the season will be Fascinating Rhythms – an exciting evening of dance and live music by George Gershwin, Astor Piazzolla, and local composer Quinn Mason. Returning to the repertoire will be George Balanchine’s Who Cares? – an audience favorite that perfectly pairs Gershwin’s toe-tapping melodies with Balanchine’s genius choreography. Paul Mejia’s Cafe Victoria, a company premiere, features Piazzolla’s alluring Contrabajissimo. The program closes with a collaboration between choreographer Katie Cooper and Dallas-based composer Quinn Mason. The performance will mark the world premiere of both Cooper’s choreography and of Mason’s String Quartet No. 2.

Family Saturdays is a subscription series for young audiences to experience live music and dance in an engaging and family-friendly environment. Each Family Saturdays performance will be one hour long and will feature the professional dancers of Avant Chamber Ballet accompanied by live music. The series will be held at 2:30 pm on December 8, February 23, and May 4 at Moody Performance Hall, and will offer area families a perfect introduction to the performing arts.

 

 

 

 

Dance Council of North Texas Announces Line Up For Dallas Dances, Formerly Dallas DanceFest

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Texas Ballet Theater at Dallas DanceFest 2017. Photo: Sharen Bradford/The Dancing Image

The save the dates are out Dallas dance peeps!

I was starting to wonder if Dallas DanceFest was even going to happen this year, but my reservations were laid to rest last week when the Dance Council of North Texas announced on its Facebook page the dance companies that will be participating in this year’s festival, which has been strategically renamed Dallas Dances.

The festival has received criticism from the beginning about its focus on mainly local dance companies and for its inclusion of pre-professionals from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Local Dance Critic Manuel Mendoza touched on these sore points in his review of last year’s Dallas DanceFest, which boasted the question “Why doesn’t Dallas have the dance festival that it deserves?”

In his review Mendoza basically says that by including the pre-professional dance studios, high schools and university programs in the area the festival is actually doing a disservice to the more established dance companies in the area.

He writes, “North Texas professional companies are the ones putting the area on the dance map even as they struggle to find suitable places to perform in a town starved of small, affordable venues. They are the groups competing for public and private grants so they can aim high, so they can someday pay their dancers something close to what their New York counterparts earn.”

He continues, “Most important, they are the ones doing the most complex, interesting work.”

What I think people are overlooking is that the mission of the Dance Council is not to exclusively support and promote just the professionals in the area, but also the up and coming professionals that stem from the local studios, performing arts schools and universites. And I think this is where the mission of Dallas DanceFest starts to get murky. Is the festival suppose to only highlight the professionals in the area? Or is its main target the young professionals and giving them a unique performance opportunity?

Apparently festival organizers have decided it’s a little bit of both if this year’s line up is any indicator.

I think the Dance Council has come to realize that they should stick true to their overall mission, which is fostering and promoting every type of dance and dancer in the Metroplex and I believe the name change better reflects the vibrancy and diversity of the Dallas dance community.

With that said, here are the dance companies performing at this year’s Dallas Dances:

Avant Chamber Ballet

Ballet Dallas, formerly Contemporary Ballet Dallas

Ballet Frontier of Texas

Big Rig Dance Collective

Bombshell Dance Project

Booker T Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts

Brandi Coleman Dance

Bruce Wood Dance

Chamberlain Performing Arts

Dallas Ballet Company

Dallas Black Dance Theatre

Dallas Youth Repertory Project

Danielle Georgiou Dance Group

DBDT: Encore!

8&1 Dance Company

Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts

Jordan Fuchs Dance

Kathak Rhythms

KJ Langford Dance

kNOwBOW Dance

ImPULSE Dance Project

Rhythm In Fusion Festival

Six 0’Clock Dance Theatre

SMU Meadows Dance Ensemble

Texas Baller Theater School

Texas Ballet Theater

Tejas Dance

Vanditha Mohan

Dallas Dances will take place Sept. 1-2 at Moody Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District!

More information is available at www.thedancecouncil.org.