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Dark Circles, MADBOOTS and other Texas Ties to the Pillow

Dark Circles, MADBOOTS and other Texas Ties to the Pillow

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance in White Day.
Photo by Morah Geist.

Joseph Kudra, Melissa Bourkas, Andrew Wojtal, and Tina Finkelman Berkett of BODYTRAFFIC in Joshua Peugh’s A Trick of the Light. Photo by Christopher Duggan.
Joseph Kudra, Melissa Bourkas, Andrew Wojtal, and Tina Finkelman Berkett of BODYTRAFFIC in Joshua Peugh’s A Trick of the Light. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

When Dallas’ Dark Circles Contemporary Dancers took Jacob’s Pillow’s storied Inside/Out stage on a breezy Wednesday evening, it was hard not to be filled with Texas dance pride.  Joshua L. Peugh (25 to Watch in Dance Magazine) and his troupe wowed the 700 plus crowd with three of his whimsical wonders, White Day, Slump, and Critics of the Morning Song. Something about the wind, the mountains in the background, the whole pastoral scene, supported Peugh’s light-handed whimsical lyricism. You can catch Dark Circles next at Dallas DanceFest, The Dance Gallery and in October for his Fall Series.

BODYTRAFFIC also performed Peugh’s A Trick of the Light earlier in the season, so it was really a double Pillow debut for this rising Dallas choreographer. The Los Angeles-based BODYTRAFFIC lands in Dallas through TITAS on Jan. 22 and through SPA Houston on Jan. 23

Steven LaBrie with Jessica Lang Dance in The Wanderer. Photo by Takao Komaru.
Steven LaBrie with Jessica Lang Dance in The Wanderer.
Photo by Takao Komaru.

Jessica Lang is not from Texas, but we like to pretend she is, as she has been commissioned by TITAS and Dallas Museum of Art, and is well known in the Lone Star state. Lang’s chamber ballet The Wanderer enjoyed a two-week run at the Pillow. Set to Schubert’s song cycle, Die schöne Müllerin,  The Wanderer featured an outstanding performance by Dallas native Steven LaBrie, who recently performed in Dallas Operas La bohème.

Trey McIntyre, former Houston Ballet choreographic associate, showed us that he is still a dance maker to reckon with in his new work, Under Fire, for Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company, set to the melancholic songs of Grandma Kelsey. Malpaso makes a Houston stop through SPA on April 30, with Auturo O’Farrill and The Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble, who make a Da Camera stop earlier this season on Oct. 24.

But the Texas ties really go back to when Pillow founder Ted Shawn toured Texas with his Men Dancers in 1937 and 1939. Evoking some cherished history, the all-male MADBOOTS, directed by Dallas native and Booker T alum Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz, closed the festival along with Martha Graham Dance Company, now heading into their 90th season. Dancing two provocative works, Beau and (SAD BOYS), MADBOOTS is definitely a troupe to watch. Houston native and HSPVA grad Robbie Moore delivered a standout performance in the world premiere of MADBOOTS’ (SAD BOYS).

Maria Karla Araujo and Osnel Delgado Wambrug of Malpaso Dance Company in Trey McIntyre’s Under Fire. Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima.
Maria Karla Araujo and Osnel Delgado Wambrug of Malpaso Dance Company in Trey McIntyre’s Under Fire. Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima.

Daniil Simkins INTENSIO made a big Pillow splash: it drops into Houston on Nov. 6. and contains a wonderful new ballet by Dance Salad favorite Annabelle Lopez Ochoa.TITAS presents two Pillow award winners with Kyle Abraham on Oct 29-30 and Crystal Pite of Kidd Pivot on April 21-22.

And what a terrific showing of Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts we had this summer, with Dark Circles members and current SMU students Emily Bernet and Salvatore Bonilla along with SMU alums Alex Karigan Farrior, Dexter Green, Kelsey Rohr and Peugh. Two SMU grads appeared with the Martha Graham Dance Company: apprentice Dani Stinger, a Houston native and former member of Ad Deum Dance Company, and company member Lauren Newman, who danced the role of Lilith in Graham’s 1958 satiric romp, Embattled Garden. SMU Meadows School of the Arts presents Graham’s 1944 masterwork Appalachian Spring, with Aaron Copland’s Pulitzer Prize-winning score played live, on May 11 at Winspear Opera House as part of their 23rd annual Gala benefit concert.

Dan Walczak, Robbie Moore, and Jonathan Campbell of MADBOOTS DANCE in (SAD BOYS). Photo by Morah Geist.
Dan Walczak, Robbie Moore, and Jonathan Campbell of MADBOOTS DANCE in (SAD BOYS). Photo by Morah Geist.

Booker T. Washington alums Alysia Johnson, Madison Hicks and Antuan Byers participated in the Contemporary Program at The School at Jacobs Pillow, while Trashad Alladin was in the Social Dances Program.

My last hours at the Pillow were spent watching Ron Honsas moving Jacob’s Pillow documentary, Never Stand Still, which chronicles the dance mecca’s history and impact on artists, largely made possible during the last 17 years by departing Pillow Executive and Artistic Director Ella Baff. Her remarkable stewardship is now part of its history.

—NANCY WOZNY