Joy Bollinger and Harry Feril perform Red. Sharon Bradford

Theater & Dance

Bruce Wood Dance Builds Bridges of Collaboration with Lone Stars

Even if the world premiere didn’t dazzle.

Lone Stars, performed at Moody Performance Hall on Friday, was a celebration of Texas choreographers and dancers via two of Texas’ top dance companies. Dallas’ Bruce Wood Dance and METdance from Houston got together for a commissioned world premiere set by Oak Cliff native Bridget L. Moore, former artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theater and alumna of Booker T. Washington High School. Distance didn’t keep them from rehearsing. (Moore’s piece, Following Echoes blended the companies, with two dancers from each, while the program as a whole featured each corps in its own pieces.)

As BWD president Gayle Halperin said before the curtain went up, the idea was, “Let’s build a cultural bridge, and let’s do it with dance.”

The evening featured terrific choreography, a range of emotions, and crisp precision in the dancing. Ultimately, the world premiere was the piece I found the least compelling.

The program began with Red by BWD founder Bruce Wood. The piece, set to music by Philip Glass, has tremendous energy, channeled into a simple complexity of biomorphic geometries that might find expression in the dancers moving in the hypnotic, daring corkscrew that opens the piece or later coalescing in a cresting red wave. With athletic control, they leave the ground and return without seeming to.

Snow Playground, in contrast, begins with silence, as snow falls from the stage heights and the METdance company moves in white, light as air and alive as a crystalline flurry of snowflakes. The piece was choreographed by Katarzyna Skarpetowska, who has set work for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Parsons Dance.

Paralyzed by Fear was fraught with emotion. The relationships between characters—Wise Mother, Young Mother, and Daughter, switching places in a trio that captures multiple stages of a primal and tender relationship—evoked longing, holding, loss, sheltering, and the sanctity of ordinary movement in a gorgeously human piece choreographed by Houston-based Courtney D. Jones. It revealed the spare expressiveness of which the METdance company is capable.

The last piece before intermission was the world premiere of the commissioned piece, Following Echoes. It featured four dancers, moving in tight, arm-locked concatenations and unisons punctuated by the fanning of dancers’ blue sequined evening-gowns. While Moore’s piece is a tribute to the late Wood, I found in it little of his skill in punctuating pattern with subtle but brilliant variation: a sameness and synchronicity of movement lost its purpose and direction. A four-person fugue against centrifugal force and gravity showed the dancers’ tight control, but in the overall composition, I found little in the way of depth.

Volver, choreographed by Houston native Mario Zambrano (artist in residence at Harvard) and danced by MET dance, was flirty and audacious, with contagious energy and an ambitious technical range. A sultry, sensual, brilliant duo (danced by Jesus Acosta and Risa D’Souza) was followed later by a beautifully sensitive reunion in which the red dress suspended from the ceiling, evocative of Frida Kahlo’s painting My Dress Hangs There, finds a home and literal embodiment.

Wood’s sassy Lovett! ended the evening with a toe-tapping, cowboy-hat-wearing finale set to songs by Lyle Lovett. The piece plays with the image of Texas, dancers in cowboy shirts, others sashaying high on their tip-toes. It’s a piece whose dazzling displays of footwork and choreography are also interspersed with a delightful break into the waltz step.

Taken as a whole, the evening was an exquisite example of partnership and collaboration. With many formal collaborations, METdance artistic director Marlana Doyle said, it can be, “’Hi, nice to see you.’ And then they’re gone.” She and BWD artistic director Kimi Nikaidoh wanted more. They got it.

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