Tag Archives: South Dallas Dance Festival

Q&A: Stephanie Rae Williams, Dance Theatre of Harlem

Stephanie Rae Williams of Dance Theatre of Harlem returns home for the Sweatt Dallas Dance Festival and the Dance Council Honors this weekend.
Stephanie Rae Williams 2017 (1)
Stephanie Rae Williams. Courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dallas — As the oldest of six siblings, Stephanie Rae Williams says her parents had to get creative when it came to financing her love of dance, especially classical ballet. Williams credits her mom with discovering the South Dallas Dance Festival scholarship, which also happens to be where she will be performing this weekend, along with attending the Dance Council Honors (DC Honors) where she will receive the Natalie Skelton award for artistic excellence by the Dance Council of North Texas. “My mother is such an amazing woman and she just wanted me to have all these different opportunities in dance and so, she was really the one who sought out different scholarships that were available and helped me apply for them,” Williams says. Her mom’s hard work paid off in 2005 when Williams was awarded the South Dallas Dance Festival scholarship, which she used to attend Julliard’s summer intensive that same year. The scholarship also gave Williams the opportunity to perform at the SSDF, which was a big deal for the 16 year old at the time. “I think I performed a classical piece, which is nothing like the solo I will be performing this time.”

The event, newly renamed Sweatt Dallas Dance Festival in honor of Mary Lois Sweatt (1939-2016), runs Oct. 27-28 at Ann Richards Middle School and includes performances by Williams, Sydney Winston (2017 SDDF scholarship recipient), Beckles Dancing Company, 410 Line Dancers, Images Contemporary Dance Company and Momentum Dance Company, just to name a few. The schedule also features a master class with former Bruce Wood Dance Company member Christie Sullivan, a youth dance showcase and an industry roundtable. The event is made possible by Arga Nova Dance with the support of Ann Richards Middle School and South Dallas Cultural Center.

For SDDF, Williams will be performing José Limón’s Chaconne, courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH). Out of the four casts, Williams was the only female chosen for the solo, which she describes as modern-based and challenging, yet extremely satisfying to perform. “There’s something really gratifying about the way Jose Limon choreographed this piece. It feels like you evolve as a human being throughout it and by the end of it you’re like dead, but alive at the same time.”

Growing up in Allen, Texas, Williams started her dancing at Texas Ballet Theater School (formerly Dallas Dance Academy) when she was 8 years old. She grew up training in ballet, jazz, lyrical, tap and hip-hop with Joyce Seaborne Bader, Lyndette Bader and Fiona Fairrie. After graduating from Allen High School, Williams joined Ben Stevenson’s Texas Ballet Theater for a season before heading to New York City. There she worked with Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden at Complexions Contemporary Ballet before joining DTH’s ensemble company in 2010. After DTH returned from hiatus with Virginia Johnson at the helm in 2012, Williams was then asked to join the revived company and has spent the last five years here gaining more confidence in herself and her craft. “It’s the first company that I was able to make my home and really feel like I could grow and be nurtured there. What’s interesting is that half that dancers that came with us to Dallas in 2014 have moved on and yet I am still here. It’s surreal being one of the veterans that the new company members now come to show them the ropes.”

When asked if she ever gets the urge to explore opportunities outside of DTH, Williams responds, “Yes, I do sometimes get the urge to explore opportunities outside of DTH, and I have done that with Virginia’s approval, but DTH remains my home base.” Williams mentions that she just completed four shows with the Seattle-based Arc Dance Company, which she says Johnson was nice enough to allow her to do. “It a lot of fun because for once I wasn’t the seasoned dancer. I was the new girl and I feel like it’s really important to challenge yourself and not get too comfortable anywhere, and so I am really thankful I have a director that encourages these types of opportunities.”

As far as what Williams is looking forward the most at SDDF, she says, “Just mingling with everyone there and also seeing so many smaller dance companies from professional to the local high schools perform. And because it’s not just the professionals performing this really does feel like the whole South Dallas community is coming together to celebrate dance throughout these three performances.” Williams adds that she is also looking forward to seeing the kids attending the festival as she believes there are not enough black dancers for them to look up to in the industry today, especially in classical ballet. “I was the only black girl in my entire dance school, but I just thought that this was the norm. It wasn’t until I walked into DTH to audition that I noticed there was this whole other side missing from my dancing because at DTH when we dance there’s this whole other type of soul that we bring to the stage.”

While in town Williams will also be attending the DC Honors where she will receive the Natalie Skelton award for artistic excellence. The event takes place at Dallas Black Dance Theater on Sunday afternoon and will include food, a silent auction and performances by local companies and scholarship recipients. In addition to Williams, this year’s honorees also include Kathy Chamberlain, Patty Granville, Alpana Kagal Jacob and Malana Murphy. As far as Williams’ reaction to the award news she says, “I was both humbled and excited when I heard I would be receiving this honor. It’s just really nice knowing that I have so much support here in Dallas and it means so much to me to be recognized in this way.”

» For more information about Sweatt Dallas Dance Festival, please visit www.becklesdancingcompany.org, and for more information about the Dance Council Honors, please visit www.thedancecouncil.org

This article was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.



News: South Dallas Dance Festival changes name to Sweatt Dallas Dance Festival

Mary Lois Sweatt

Formerly the South Dallas Dance Festival, the new Sweatt Dallas Dance Festival (SDDF) is dedicated to the memory of Mary Lois Sweatt (1939-2016), whose vision and support were integral to the success of SDDF in years past.

Entitled Spreading Our Wings, the new SDDF features performances from Stephanie Rae Williams (Dance Theatre of Harlem), Sydney Winston (who attends Point Park University), Beckles Dancing Company, 410 Line Dancers, Images Contemporary Dance Company and Momentum Dance Company, just to name a few. To note, Williams was the SDDF Scholarship recipient in 2005 and Winston is this year’s recipient.


Williams began her career with Texas Ballet Theater in 2006 and since then has danced with the Francesca Harper Project and Ballet Black before joining the restored DTH in 2012.

I spoke to Williams back in 2014, two years after DTH was reformed under long-time

Stephanie Rae Williams. Photo: Courtesy of DTH

DTH dancer Virginia Johnson, when the company was touring in Texas and she shared with me what is was like seeing the legendary dance company for the first time. “I was 16 and my mom drove me to Tyler, Texas, on a school night to see them,” Williams reminisces. “I remember how shocking it was because I had never seen so many dancers of color onstage doing ballet before. It was a beautiful experience.”

Williams began her career with Texas Ballet Theater in 2006 and since then has dance with the Francesca Harper Project and Ballet Black before joining the restored DTH in 2012. Williams will also be receiving the Natalie Skelton Award for artistic excellence at the end of this month at the Dance Council Honors, which will be hosted by the Dance Council of North Texas and held at Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

The schedule for SDDF also includes a master class taught by Christie Sullivan, a youth dance showcase, a industry roundtable and many opportunities to see some dancing! The festival takes place Oct. 27-28 at Ann Richards Middle School in Dallas. Go check it out!

See the press release below for more information:


ARGA NOVA DANCE with support from Ann Richards Middle School and South Dallas Cultural Center present [Mary Lois] Sweatt Dallas Dance Festival – Spreading Our Wings

WHAT:  SDDF 2017 “Spreading Our Wings”

WHEN: Friday, 27 October 2017, 8:00 pm, Saturday, 28 October 2017, 3:00 pm & 8:00 pm

WHERE:  Ann Richards Middle School, 3831 N. Prairie Creek Rd, Dallas TX 75227, cor. Military

TICKETS:  Tickets online: eventbrite.com/e/sddf-2017-spreading-our-wings-tickets-38340657940

Advance sales are: 10.00 general, 5.00 for seniors, students, members of Dance Council or ARGA NOVA DANCE.  Please bring ID or printout to the box office with you.

Tickets at door: 15.00 general, 10.00 for seniors, students, members of Dance Council or ARGA NOVA DANCE.

Master Class: $5.00 participants, $15.00 general

ADVANCE TICKET SALES: eventbrite.com/e/sddf-2017-spreading-our-wings-tickets-38340657940

WEBSITE:  www.BecklesDancingCompany.org

SDDF 2017 schedule

October 27, 2017 – Friday: Evening Performances, 8:00 pm

October 28, 2017 – Saturday: Open Master Class, 10:00 am

Youth Dance Showcase, 3:00 pm

Round Table Discussion, 5:00 pm

Evening Performances, 8:00 pm

 Master Class with CHRISTIE SULLIVAN

ARGA NOVA DANCE is supported in part by: South Dallas Cultural Center, City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, Sammons Center for the Arts, Star System donors to ARGA NOVA DANCE.

2017 SDDF [ML]Sweatt Dallas Dance Festival – Spreading Our Wings, is supported  in part by Ann Richards STEAM Academy and LINKS, Inc. Dallas Chapter.

Schedule subject to change, only as necessary.


Dance Council of North Texas Honors returns to Dallas Black Dance Theatre

The Dance Council Honors has thankfully split from Dallas DanceFest and will return to its more intimate setting at Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

Me at the 25th Dance Council Honors Sept. 30, 2012 at the Dallas Black Dance Theatre in Dallas.

I know I am not the only person happy about the fact the Dance Council Honors (DC Honors) will no longer be squeezed into Dallas DanceFest (DDF). For the last few years the DC Honors has occurred in conjunction with DDF and unfortunately has suffered as a result with the main complaint being the length of each evening’s program.

The presentation of the awards also lacked the comradory and celebratory atmosphere that has always been a part of the DC Honors, which is why I am glad that the event has split from DDF and will be returning to Dallas Black Dance Theatre on Oct. 29 for some food, fun and fantastic dancing. And, of course, we will hear from this year’s DC Honorees, which include Kathy Chamberlain, Stephanie Rae Williams, Patty Granville, Alpana Kagal Jacob and Malana Murphy.

Over the last couple of decades, these incredible individuals have made huge strives to better our local dance community thanks to their passion, dedication, knowledge, cultural awareness and above all love for the art form of dance. Because God knows we are not in it for the money!

Kathy Chamberlain. Photo courtesy of Chamberlain School of Ballet

I know I will be there to watch Kathy Chamberlain as she receives the Mary Bywaters Award for her lifetime contribution to dance.

I met Kathy one day at Sandy’s Shoes and Dancewear back in the summer of 2009. I had just moved to Dallas from Cleveland and knew absolutely no one in the local dance community. She took me under her wing and she and I had multiple phone conversations about the ins and outs of the Dallas dance scene. She is the one who lead me to local dance writer Margaret Putnam. I started off by reading a lot of Margaret’s reviews, which at the time were published in the Dallas Morning News and TheaterJones.com (TJ). This eventually lead me to contact TJ where I have now been writing dance previews, Q&As and reviews for the last six years.

Kathy was ultimately the one who jump-started my career here in Dallas and I will forever be grateful to her. And her willingness to help me is also one of the things I like most about our local dance community. Although everyone is technically in competition with one another they are always willing to lend a helping hand and offer up support when needed. So, I recommend offering your support to the dance community by coming to this year’s DC Honors. Even if you don’t know any of the honorees you should still come. I did when I first moved to Dallas and it taught me a lot about the city’s dance culture and the wide range of work being made here as well as the wealth of talent being fostered in our city schools and studios. You should definitely check it out!


I have included the official press release below:


For Immediate Release:

WHAT:  Dance Council of North Texas 2017 Honors 

WHEN: Sunday, October 29, 3:00 P.M.

WHERE: Dallas Black Dance Theatre, 2700 Ann Williams Way, Dallas, TX 75201 in Dallas Arts District

Dance Council of North Texas is pleased to honor five people within the area dance community who have made a significant contribution to world of dance.

 2017 DCNT Awardees:

Kathy Chamberlain is receiving the Mary Bywaters Award, which recognizes a person who has made a lifetime and significant contribution to dance. Dance Council of North Texas is delighted to join with Chamberlain School of Ballet, (CSB) Plano, as itcelebrates its 40th Anniversary. Chamberlain School of Ballet is the supporting school for Chamberlain Performing Arts, a leading North Texas pre-professional dance company founded by Ms. Chamberlain. She received the prestigious Ford Foundation Scholarship for study at the School of American Ballet, NYC.

Stephanie Rae Williams. Courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem

Stephanie Rae Williams is the recipient of the Natalie Skelton Award honoring a person who is currently performing. Ms. Williams was featured in Dance Magazine’s “On the Rise” in 2013. In 2005, she received the South Dallas Dance Festival Scholarship from DCNT. Stephanie was a Fellowship recipient at the Ailey School, a 2006 Youth America Grand Prix Winner as well as a 2006 Youth America Grand Prix Finalist. As part of DC Honors, Stephanie will perform My Funny Valentine, choreographed by Darrell Mourie. She appears through the courtesy of Dance Theatre of Harlem, NYC.


The Mary Warner Award for service in dance recognizes Patty Granville, who exemplifies

Patty Granville. Courtesy of Garland Center for the Performing Arts

the individual whose vision is essential to the dance community. Ms. Granville has been the Director of the Garland Center for the Performing Arts since its opening in 1982. As one of the founders, she has served as producer for Garland Summer Musicals since 1983. In 2003, the Garland City Council unanimously voted to rename the Performing Arts Center to the Patty Granville Arts Center. Patty provides countless opportunities for performers, musicians and craftsmen to participate in musical theatre.


Larry White Educator Award recognizes Alpana Kagal

Alpana Kagal Jacob

Jacob for her inspiring and innovative contributions to her students’ development. After her Arangetram and graduation, she has been teaching Bharata Natyam to young children and adults. Alpana has been a guest lecturer at both UNT and TWU and has served as choreographer and teacher for Dallas Theater Center Summer Workshop projects. Alpana has taught at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Brookhaven College and Richland College. She is a disciplined  and loving teacher to all her students.

Malana Murphy. Courtesy of Next Step Performing Arts


Buster Cooper Tap Legend Award celebrates the exemplary contributions of Malana Murphy to America’s original dance form: tap. Malana began her professional career at the age of 14 while performing in the production of Calling All Kids, choreographed by Gracey Tune. In addition to graduating from Booker T Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Malana has performed commercially and in industrials. Malana’s love for tap dancing has inspired her to share her passion and knowledge with students locally and across the United States. She is also the head of the local tap dance festival RIFF, which stands for Rhythm and Fusion Festival.


DBDT: Encore! will perform as well as Dance Council 2017 scholarship recipients.  The opening number is generation# (sic) choreographed by Tammie Reinsch of Ballet Ensemble of Texas. Doug Voet of Uptown Theatre in Grand Prairie will serve as the event’s emcee with Dallas Black Dance Theatre veteran Nycole Ray providing production assistance. Reception, refreshments and a silent auction will complete the afternoon’s agenda.


$35 – ADULT 

$30 – MEMBERS, Dance Council of North Texas

$20 STUDENTS, ages 13 through 18.  

STUDENTS, ages 12 and under: Free when accompanied by an adult

Tickets available: www.thedancecouncil.org  or by phone 214 219-2290

Q&A: Loris Anthony Beckles of Beckles Dancing Company

Photo: Supreme Dream Photography
Photo: Supreme Dream Photography

The Artistic Director of Beckles Dancing Company on its upcoming performance, Eighteenth Movement in Space and Time, and its active role in the Dallas dance community.

The Beckles Dancing Company continues to celebrate the creative and inspiring power of dance with its spring performance entitled Eighteenth Movement in Space and Time, April 5-6, 2013, at the South Dallas Cultural Center in Dallas. The program includes works by guest artists Tina Mullone, Prathiba Natesan and Exhibit Dance Collective as well as a collaboration with jazz singer Jennifer Ann Beckles.

Loris Anthony Beckles is the artistic director of Beckles Dancing Company and the executive director of ARGA NOVA DANCE. A native of Guyana, he received a BA in Dance from Adelphi University where he studied ballet, modern, jazz and African dance. He has also studied at the New York School of Ballet and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. Beckles has performed with the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, Eleo Pomare Dance Company, Capitol Ballet and the Syracuse Ballet Theatre.

Beckles has taught ballet and modern at Park Cities Performing Arts Center in Dallas, modern and jazz at the South Dallas Cultural Center and jazz dance at Dream Catcher and Infinite Bounds in Plano. He is also the founder and coordinator of the South Dallas Dance Festival, which celebrated its 12th season in November.

TheaterJones asks Loris Anthony Beckles about what he hopes the audience will take away from Eighteenth Movement in Space and Time, collaborating with guest artists and the company’s role in the Dallas dance community.

TheaterJones: For those unfamiliar with your company can you please give us some background?

Sure! It is a modern dance company with ballet, African and jazz influences. The ages range from 14 to 40 and we try to blend them into an ensemble. So, we are really a multi-age dance ensemble. It’s mainly my choreography, but we are also opened to guest choreographers.

Did you always want to have such a wide range of ages in your company?

I am just opened to it. I think it’s good because people have the impulse to move when they are young and when they are older they bring a certain maturity to it so, it’s good to have all that in the company.

What was the inspiration behind the title Eighteenth Movement in Space and Time?

Well, the company was formed in 1995 by Andre R. George and when he passed in 1996 I took over the company. So, it has been 18 years now and that was the inspiration behind the title Eighteenth Movement in Space and Time. It sounds very heavy and competent and in a way it is, but it’s really about celebrating our 18th year.

To what do you attribute your company’s longevity in the Dallas arts community?

Just the determination to keep going.

Are you presenting works that cover the last 18 years or is it mainly newer work?

It’s mainly newer work. The oldest work is from 2001 and it’s a solo called Suite Beauty (Parts I and II). There are four parts total and parts I and II are usually done by themselves. I actually started making it on a man and then I worked with woman and 4 years later I did it with a man and a woman. So, it has been interesting to see the different energies and how each individual’s personality shaped the work. I will also be premiering a new piece entitled Exile which I worked on with my sister Jennifer Ann Beckles.

Can you tell me a little bit about the other guest artists who will be appearing in the show?

Tina Mullone was a member of the company and now she teaches at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. She will be performing a short work by me called Thing Thing. Michelle Gibson from Exhibit Dance Collective will be presenting something that is quite different from what I do. She has a whole different vocabulary and it’s a really nice piece. And Prathiba Natesan is an Indian dancer who I have worked with before and she will be performing the solo No Net Ensnares Us which she also choreographed. So, there is quite a variety.

The Beckles Dancing Company is very active in the Dallas dance community, including the South Dallas Dance Festival and the Barefoot Brigade. Was that your goal from the beginning?

Beckles Dancing Company
Beckles Dancing Company

It wasn’t my goal to do a whole lot of things, but curiosity and need pushed me in those directions and I was happy to go. In the Barefoot Brigade we wanted to present a forum for different companies to pool their resources. And in the South Dallas Dance Festival I wanted to see companies I had only heard about dance in the same place at the same time. There is also an artist-in-residence program at Greiner Middle School which I am a part of. I want to hopefully enrich and inspire students there.

What would you like the audience to take away from the performance?

Hopefully they will hum a tune and a certain sequence of movement will get stuck in their memory. And hopefully they will connect the movement to what they see every day like sunrise, sunset, movement of traffic or an emotion like frustration. Hopefully they can identify with those things and just remember something that was particularly moving to them.

What are your future plans for the company?

I would like to continue choreographing and I would like the organization to be stronger and to continue the various programs that we are doing, including the Barefoot Brigade, the South Dallas Dance Festival and the artist-in-residence program. So, if we could just continue to grow that would be great. And we will continue to expand because there will be more children, more companies and more dancers.

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