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15 Signs that Contemporary Dance is Alive and Well in Texas

15 Signs that Contemporary Dance is Alive and Well in Texas

IMAGE ABOVE: Revolve on Camera, a new dance film with Revolve Dance company, directed by Benjamin and Heather Epps, premieres at Houston Cinema Arts Festival on Nov. 16. Photo courtesy of Gothic South Films.

Much has changed on the Texas contemporary dancescape since I wrote Down but Not Out, which covered the recent hit to the State due to the sudden death of Bruce Wood, and the closing of Hope Stone’s studio and company and Dominic Walsh Dance Theater. So much so, it’s time for an update.

Contemporary dance in Texas is in motion. Although issues of sustainability, training, visibility and funding remain constant, there are some major signs of hope on the horizon. It’s also important for the State as a whole to develop it’s own identity, which is why I skip between cities, hoping that you will read about a group outside of your own dance town.

There are several outstanding upcoming performances this Fall, but we need to start looking at dance as something larger than the dates of the next show. New spaces, dancers, programs, festivals and various recognitions are also important. We can also boast two strong dance service organizations in the Dance Council of North Texas and Dance Source Houston. Texas is a big place, so know there’s way more news that I was able to cover in one story.  So, pack a snack, this is a lengthy report!

Dallas Black Dance Theatre in Bruce Wood’s Smoke performed at the Dallas DanceFest. Photo by Sharon Bradford.
Dallas Black Dance Theatre in Bruce Wood’s Smoke performed at the Dallas DanceFest.
Photo by Sharon Bradford.

A State of Festivals

We have a bevy of folks back from summer festivals: Austin choreographers Ellen Bartel, Erica Gionfriddo and her company, ARCOS Dance and Kaysie Brown of Shay Ishii Dance Company, performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, MET Dance performed at Jacob’s Pillow’s Inside/Out Stage, and Courtney Jones taught at the Bates Dance Festival.

Festivals are in comeback mode. Since the loss of the Big Range in Houston and Austin, there have been few places to show new work. This is finally changing. The Austin Dance Festival, run by Kathy Dunn Hamrick, had a successful run, and will be back filling in a much needed niche in the community for young choreographers to try out new work. Vault in Houston brought in several international teachers during this summer’s Aerial Arts Festival. The Dallas DanceFest triumphantly returned after a decade-long hiatus, and enjoyed sold out crowds.

Upcoming festivals include the {254} DANCE-FEST, Sept. 27-28, presented by the Waco Cultural Arts Fest and Out On a Limb Dance Company, The Third Coast Dance Film Festival in Houston, Oct. 1 at DiverseWorks, The Bailando Dance Festival in Corpus Christi, Oct. 2-4, the Brazos Contemporary Dance Festival  presented by Brazos Dance Collective, Oct. 11-12, in College Station, The Dance Gallery in Huntsville, Oct. 17-18, and New York City, Oct. 24-26,  The Texas Improvisation Festival in Huntsville, Oct. 2-4, Houston Cinema Arts Festival’s showing of four dance films, Nov. 12-16 and Dance Source Houston’s Barnstorm Dance Fest in June 2015.


Dallas Black Dance Theatre artistic director April Berry. Photo by Jeff Cravotta.
Dallas Black Dance Theatre artistic director April Berry.
Photo by Jeff Cravotta.

Dallas Black Dance Theatre Appoints a New Leader

April Berry has taken over the helm of Dallas Black Dance Theatre. It can’t be easy to fill the shoes of the legendary Dallas Black founder, Ann Williams, but Berry is poised to do just that. “It is a privilege to follow in the footsteps of Ann Williams, a great leader, whose vision has elevated Dallas Black Dance Theatre to prominent national status,” says Berry. “I will honor the company’s rich history and legacy and maintain the organization’s standard of excellence as we move together toward a strong and exciting future.” A former principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Company, Berry has also worked with such  renowned choreographers as Katherine Dunham, Talley Beatty, Arthur Mitchell, Judith Jamison, Carmen DeLavallade, Donald McKayle, Bill T. Jones and more. She is also is a certified master instructor in Dunham Technique, and worked directly with Katherine Dunham.


Hope Stone artistic director Jane Weiner. Photo by Simon Gentry.
Hope Stone artistic director Jane Weiner.
Photo by Simon Gentry.

Hope Stone Regroups

Everyone expected Jane Weiner to take at least a few months off before regrouping her Hope Stone operation after the closing of her studio and company. In no time, she has resurrected the company on a project by project basis, with some shows already scheduled. She is also teaching open adult classes at Houston Ballet, is an artist-in-residence at Houston Community College, and teaching at Vitacca Productions & Company. Weiner remains focused on her passion of arts and education, and will again be presenting her work as part of the Hobby Center’s Discovery program.

 

 

 

 

 


BalletX in Joshua Peugh’s Slump. Photo by Erin Baiano.
BalletX in Joshua Peugh’s Slump.
Photo by Erin Baiano.

Dallas’ Dark Circles Dance Company director Joshua  L. Peugh gets a Rave from the New York Times

Dark Circles founder Joshua L. Peugh is flying high after recently being named an “important discovery” by New York Times chief dance critic Alastair Macaulay for his dance hall romp, Slump, with BalletX at the Vail Dance Festival. “Working with BalletX has been one of the highlights of my dance career so far,” says Peugh. “The dancers approached my work with curiosity and openness. They were very generous with me and were willing to struggle.” Peugh also just wrapped up a well-received show in Fort Worth with Dark Circles, and is setting a new work on the Los Angeles-based BodyTraffic, and on Avant Chamber Ballet in Dallas.

 


MET Dance in the studio with Larry Keigwin. Photo by Ben Doyle.
MET Dance in the studio with Larry Keigwin.
Photo by Ben Doyle.

Houston’s MET Dance Welcomes Larry Keigwin and a New Flock of Dancers

Freshly off performing for 700 fans at Jacob’s Pillow’s storied Inside Out stage and a strong showing at the Dallas DanceFest, MET Dance started their season saying farewell to several longtime dancers and welcoming new dancers Danielle Snyder, Jesus Acosta, Julie DeGregrio, Genene McGrath, John Michael O’Neill, and apprentice Risa D’Souza. Larry Keigwin set Seven on the company, which will be performed as part of “Indivisible,” Nov. 21-22 at the Hobby Center for the Arts, Zilkha Hall. MET Dance will also be performing Laura Edson’s After the Rain at the Palm Beach International Dance Festival.


Houston Dance Collective founders Courtney Jones, Catalina Alexandra and Jodee Engle.  Photo courtesy of HDC.
Houston Dance Collective founders Courtney Jones, Catalina Alexandra and Jodee Engle.
Photo courtesy of HDC.

Houston Dance Collective Raises the Barre

In Houston, more open and professional level classes have surfaced at Suchu Dance, DSH, MET Dance, Houston Ballet, Vitacca Productions & Company and the amazing upstart, the Houston Dance Collective, based at The Barn. We are heading into the Fall with great optimism,” says Courtney Jones, HDC co-founder. “Our hope is that professionals want opportunities to continue their training.” For now, HDC is completely voluntary, with most of the  proceeds going to the teachers. HDC just started a Sunday class and there’s talk of a winter intensive. Fall instructors include Lori Yuill, Lydia Hance, Astrid Von Ussar, Randall Flinn, Teresa Chapman the Houston Dance Collective co-founders and more.

 

 

 


Kathy Dunn Hamrick and Company. Photo by Lynn Lane.
Kathy Dunn Hamrick and Company.
Photo by Lynn Lane.

Kathy Dunn Hamrick Cleans up at the Austin Critics Table Awards

Fresh off winning 2014 Austin Critics Table Awards for Best Choreographer and Best Concert, Kathy Dunn Hamrick has planned a season that includes, Briefs: An Episodic Adventure at Salvage Vanguard Theater and More Than One Complication at AustinVentures Studio Theater. “All of our current company members are continuing with us, including Alyson Dolan, who received the 2014 Austin Critics Table Award for Best Dancer, and Heather Quiring, who received a nomination for Best Dancer,” says Kathy Dunn Hamrick. “We’ll be collaborating with lighting designer Stephen Pruitt and line upon line percussion (yes, two more 2014 Austin Critics Table winners), as well as with fellow choreographers and guest artists Kate Warren, Lisa Nicks and Charles O. Anderson. We’ll also be performing at the Brazos Contemporary Dance Festival in October.”


Lydia Hance and Frame Dance Productions. Photo by Leticia London.
Lydia Hance and Frame Dance Productions.
Photo by Leticia London.

Houston’s Frame Dance Productions Launches the Little Framers

Frame Dance Productions has launched Little Framers, a modern dance ensemble for 7-9 year olds, which offers a cohesive education of modern dance technique, rehearsal and performance. The year will conclude with an opportunity to perform with Frame Dance. Frame Dance has also been named the Resident Company at Vitacca Productions & Company. “We are traveling to Austin to perform at the Blanton Museum with composer Robert Honstein and a percussion ensemble from Baylor University this September,” says Lydia Hance, Frame Dance artistic director. “We are then performing at the Brazos Contemporary Dance Festival. With composer Charles Halka, we are taking to the Red Line on the Metro and for a traveling dance called Imaginary Spaces. In November, we return to the runway for DiverseWork’s Fashion Fete.” Frame Dance’s next dance film, Shamed, with composer D. Edward Davis, will premiere this Fall too.


Bruce Wood Dance Project in Lovett. Photo by Brian Guilliaux.
Bruce Wood Dance Project in Lovett.
Photo by Brian Guilliaux.

Bruce Wood Dance Project Continues

Dallas is not quite ready to say farewell to Bruce Wood’s compelling choreography that so dominated the contemporary Dallas dance scene for over a decade. Bruce Wood Dance Project performed LOVETT + MORE with Dallas Chamber Symphony at Dallas City Performance Hall on Sept 13-14. Kimi Nikaidoh has assumed the role of  acting artistic director of Bruce Wood Dance Project. She danced with Bruce Wood Dance Company and Complexions, and will graduate from Columbia University with a degree in neuroscience. “Kimi is carrying on Bruce’s aesthetic, teaching style, and of course, his high standards,” says Gayle Halprin, BWP Board President. “He was a brilliant choreographer and a master of both form and message. His works captured the ups and downs, highs and lows of human nature.”

 

 

 


Rennis Harris with FLY Dance Company members, Canarus Leon, Jeffery Louis,
Adam Quiroz Jorge Casco, Kenny Louis, Mrince Williams, Don Lee,
Chris Cortez and Timothy Peña.
Photo courtesy of FLY Dance Company.

Houston’s FLY Dance Company is Back

It still may be news to some that FLY Dance Company, the troupe founded by Kathy and Michael Wood, has started up again under the direction of Jorge Casco. The big news is that Rennie Harris recently came to Houston to work with the company for a performance later this season.  “I’ve been a fan of FLY Dance Company for over 10 years,” says Harris.  “They understand the true essence of Hip-hop Dance Theater. Their work bridges worlds, promotes harmony of cultures. Committed to the preservation and dissemination of Street Dance culture, ‘The Sons of Texas’ my AKAfor FLY Dance Company has made an everlasting mark on the world. “We’re excited about working with Rennie and what the future will bring,” says Casco. “We have invitations to perform across the United States with interest from China and other countries.”


DSH executive director Stephanie Wong at The Barn. Photo by Lynn Lane.
DSH executive director Stephanie Wong at The Barn.
Photo by Lynn Lane.

Dance Source Houston Offers Residencies and Mini Grants

In addition to the Barnstorm Dance Fest, DSH has also launched a new artist-in-residence program geared toward emerging dance artists, which will help guide them through the process of self-production, and new technical/production mini-grants, designed to provide individual dance artists and dance organizations with funds in small amounts to help offset the cost of self producing. Dance Source Houston’s executive director Stephanie Wong continues to make national waves as a leader in the dance service industry. She has been recently appointed Council Chair for the Service Organizations Council for Dance/USA, which also gives her a seat on the board. “We’re so excited, now that the dust has settled from our taking over management of The Barn, to be able to leverage the space and provide programming that our community so desperately needs,” says Wong. “We can’t wait to see how the artists in our community make use of these new opportunities.”


SPAREWORKS  Dance Company in Taken in Arms Photo by Fabiola Torralba.
SPAREWORKS Dance Company in Taken in Arms.
Photo by Fabiola Torralba.

SpareWorks Dance Fires Up in San Antonio

Amber Ortega-Perez, artistic director of SpareWorks Dance, has received a grant from the Artist Foundation in San Antonio to create a performance event that incorporates video projection. Ortega-Perez will be collaborating with filmmaker Erik Bosse to create a new work called Taken In Arms. “I am experimenting with what I call modular choreography, a dance that is made up of several parts that can be strung together, mixed around, eliminated, and repeated. We have had the opportunity to show this work on five different occasions this year and each performance is drastically different.” Taken In Arms is slated for  a Sept. 27 performance at the {254} Dance-Fest in Waco. Spareworks will also be performing with kinetic artist Heather Hansen in her irst ever group performance drawing, Harmonic, at the Louisiana Arts and Sciences Museum Planetarium on Nov. 6. SpareWorks has been commissioned by the McNay Art Museum to create a piece that will illustrate how artistic movements like cubism, surrealism, expressionism can be brought to life through dance. The company is also developing an informative, interactive happening to go along with the current exhibit Artists Take the Stage: Theatre Design from Picasso to Nevelson onNov. 23.


Ad Deum Dance Company. Photo by Visagephotostudio.com.
Ad Deum Dance Company.
Photo by Visagephotostudio.com.

Houston’s Ad Deum Dance Company Celebrates 15 Years and Welcomes New Members

Ad Deum Dance Company begins their 15th season with 12 new members. Ad Deum will also be the featured company for Bailando Dance Festival in Corpus Christi in October. In November, Ad Deum will perform Mozart’s Mass with Brazilian composer Dr. Paulo Gomes, director and founder of Houston Camerata. Ad Deum will also host Project Dance Houston at Discovery Green in the Spring, as well as their international Spring dance intensive at their home of West University Dance Center. A joint project with The Jose Limon Dance Company is underway for mid May.


Urban Souls Dance Company in Blood On The Leaves Photo by  Amitava Sarkar.
Urban Souls Dance Company in Blood On The Leaves.
Photo by Amitava Sarkar.

Urban Souls Dance Company Celebrates 10 years and a New Center

There’s so much going on at planet Urban Souls, it’s hard to know where to begin. Congratulating Urban Souls Dance Company directors Harrison Guy and Walter Hull on ten years of creating dance in Houston is a good place to start. They have recently set up shop in a new space on the old DiverseWorks docks at Urban Center for the Creative Arts, where they have been able to expand their class offerings and unique educational programs, such as Urban Kids. They have been developing their board, increasing their operating budget and working on a fundraising campaign for the new center and several new projects. Guy is also one of the collaborating choreographers for HAA’s Transported + Renewed project,  Afoot!, A Marching Band Extravaganza on Oct. 26.


Blue Lapis Light in Light, concept by Jeff Kurihara. Photo by courtesy of Blue Lapis Light.
Blue Lapis Light in Light, concept by Jeff Kurihara.
Photo by courtesy of Blue Lapis Light.

Blue Lapis Light Breaks Ground on a New Austin Studio

Blue Lapis Light broke ground on a new 3,040 sq. foot space studio in July, thanks to $50k grant from the Brown Foundation and other funds. “We hope to complete the build out by early 2015, just in time for BLL’s 10-year anniversary,” says Lauren Peterson, managing director. “While construction is underway, we are continuing to fundraise for our overall Capital Campaign goal of $507K. We can’t wait to get the new space up and running so we can expand our aerial silks class offerings, as well as begin teaching aerial harness technique.”

—NANCY WOZNY