In Memoriam: Bruce Wood

FrontRow dance critic Danna Wolfson, turns in a personal remembrance of Dallas icon, Bruce Wood.

Last week our arts community mourned the loss of Bruce Wood, a genius choreographer and exceptional artist, who died at the young age of 53, of complications from pneumonia.

Bruce’s style was ripe with complex movement vocabulary, technically structured and compositionally challenging. His methods were vastly more psychologically exhausting than many of his peers. For the last two decades he consistently produced intellectually stimulating, aesthetic depictions of ordinary and extraordinary people. He reached into the subconscious and exposed the raw tendencies of humanity. Just ask Dallas Black Dance Theater’s Nycole Ray, who collaborated with Wood on one of his most breathtaking works, The Edge of My Life So Far.

In the wake of his untimely death, there are many unanswered questions: Who owns the dances? Is there a mechanism for the work to go on? How exactly do performers carry on dancing his dances when he isn’t there? What will become of The Bruce Wood Project? 

The reality is that all choreography is like a sandcastle built in a low tide. If it hasn’t been notated—an expensive, time consuming process called “Labanotation”—time will wash away everything away but the memories and still photographs. 

You can not do something too soon, because you never know how soon it will be too late. I kept telling myself I needed to do a follow-up interview with Bruce. He had accomplished so much since we last sat down to talk. But in my head it was still, “too soon.”

Nearly four years ago, I had the privilege of interviewing the artist for FrontRow about the launch of his “Bruce Wood Project.” I loved seeing his work years before (circa 1999-2006), but he had disappeared for a while, and this was the first time I was going to meet him face-to-face.

 We set up a lunch meeting that included Gayle Halperin and myself at the Café Express on Mockingbird. I remember distinctly—he was wearing dark grey pants, a fitted sweater, and a long scarf looped several times around his neck. His wrists were concealed by thick, organic bracelets. As I extended my arm to shake his hand, he unexpectedly pulled me in for a giant bear-hug. In that moment, I remember all my nervous energy dissipating as my muscles relaxed into his embrace. Over the years I’d come to learn, this was the core of Bruce Wood. He was a man who loved people without precondition, and seemingly without limit. 

For now, The Bruce Wood Dance Project will continue with their upcoming performance of Touch, June 12 and 13. His family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Bruce Wood Dance Project

Photo by Brian Guilliaux via