Ann Williams created a bastion of the Dallas cultural scene when she founded Dallas Black Dance Theatre 41 years ago. With Williams at the helm until last year, it became the fourth-largest black dance company in the country and the city’s oldest continuously running professional dance company. How does one go about filling those shoes? A year after stepping into them, Bridget Moore, DBDT’s new artistic director, has answered that question with fresh, artistically diverse programming and choreography that flirts with the avant-garde, blends far-flung cultural aesthetics, and challenges ideas about what dance should be.
Moore, a Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts graduate and former teacher, returned to Dallas via a circuitous route—an MFA at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, international tours, and three years in Seoul, South Korea, as a visiting professor at Sungkyunkwan University. At DBDT, she aims to bridge cultures through her choreography. Her work Uncharted Territory, which debuted in November, explores boundaries and divisions between human bodies, customs, and ideologies. Bare costumes leave the two male dancers exposed, vulnerable, and skeletal, representing cycles of oppression. Moore says her experiences traveling throughout Southeast Asia have “changed her perceptions of culture and identity” and brought to her work expressions of uncertainty, aggression, and tension that underlie the fluidity of the dance.
But as a spokesperson for the company, Moore is accessible, friendly, and energized. She talks about expanding the community outreach of the academy, collaborating with other arts organizations, and fostering the careers of young local artists. This season the repertory company’s 12 dancers will bring to life Displaced, Yet/Rebirth, a New Orleans work inspired by Hurricane Katrina and accompanied by a live brass band; Testament, a piece set to Negro spirituals and psalm readings; a musical based on the life of Donny Hathaway; and a piece choreographed by one of Moore’s former students at Booker T.
“What I really love about the work,” Moore says, “is you will see the individuality, the prowess and the technical skills of every single dancer. They’re breathtaking to watch.”