Danielle Georgiou Dance Group in Just Girly Things. Photo: courtesy of DGDG
Danielle Georgiou Dance Group (DGDG) made my summer last year with their zany dance theater work Donkey Beach. An ode to the 1960s’ beach movie genre and Disney’s Teen Beach Movie the musical follows a group of campers as they are transported to one super awesome beach party after drinking some magical water. As in all of her works Georgiou addresses taboo topics such as gender roles, sexuality and female equality through her own blend of song, dance and dialogue that usually has the audience laughing and cringing at the same time.
This summer DGDG will stay true to its feminist roots, but always with a unique twist in Just Girly Things, part of the Festival of Independent Theatres’ 20th anniversary at Bath House Culutral Center at the end of July.
On its Kickstarter page Just Girly Things is described as a delightfully raw and painfully honest piece of dance theater, which centers on the complicated relationships between women and the obstacles that they place between each other in an already tenuous environment. Chocked full of songs and dances inspired by 1990s’ pop culture and television sitcoms, this musical comedy will show the lengths women will go to resist disappointment and achieve perfection. The production is written by Georgiou and Ruban Carrazana and includes original music and lyrics by Justin Locklear, Cory Kosel and Trey Pendergrass. I am so pumped to see the Beach Bum band once again. Looking forward to some more catchy tunes 😉
You can check out DGDG in Just Girly Things on the following dates:
Avant Chamber Ballet’s 2018-19 season includes a new family program and new collaborations with local musicians and singers as well as works by Paul Mejia, Christopher Wheeldon and George Balanchine.
Dallas – What I admire most about Katie Cooper is her tenacity when it comes to the business end of running a ballet company. It is very easy for artistic directors to get lost in their own heads and lose touch with what is happening right in their own dance communities. But that has never been the case for Cooper. Her eyes have remained opened to the Dallas dance scene and the global ballet industry. Her company continues to thrive because of her industry know how and fresh ideologies when it comes choreographing and presenting ballet works. She is definitely someone that future choreographers and directors in the area should get to know.
For its 2018-19 season Avant Chamber Ballet (ACB) will be presenting David Lang’s the little match girl passion, Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses and world premieres by Cooper and by the soon-to-be-announced winner of the 2018 Women’s Choreography Project commission. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! The company will also be performing more works by George Balanchine and Paul Mejia.
The music for the season includes Vivaldi, Ragtime, George Gershwin, Astor Piazzolla local composer Quinn Mason and a collaboration with singers from the Dallas-based Verdigris Ensemble. And just like all of its performances ACB will be dancing to live accompaniment.
You better start marking your calendars now. You don’t want to miss any of these shows!
A copy of the official press release can be found below:
Avant Chamber Ballet’s artistic director Katie Cooper and music director David Cooper announce the company’s 2018-2019 season, featuring three subscription productions at Moody Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District and the launch of the new Family Saturdays series. The season includes world premieres by Katie Cooper and Women’s Choreography Project, as well as works by Paul Mejia, Christopher Wheeldon and George Balanchine.
“Our seventh season is our biggest yet with five new works, collaborations, and touring,” says Katie Cooper. “We are also excited about starting the Family Saturdays program, which will expose new audiences to the joy of live music and dance.”
The subscription season opens with David Lang’s the little match girl passion, a collaboration with the Dallas-based Verdigris Ensemble. Together on stage, the dancers of Avant Chamber Ballet and the singers of Verdigris Ensemble will bring to life Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning setting of the famous Hans Christian Andersen story. This will be the first time a contemporary choral work will be staged with ballet in Dallas.
In February, Avant Chamber Ballet returns to Moody Performance Hall with Romance and Ragtime. The performances will encompass four ballets with live music: a company premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses, a world premiere by the soon-to-be-announced winner of the 2018 Women’s Choreography Project commission, and world premieres of Katie Cooper’s The Seasons with music by Vivaldi and Ragtime with music by Scott Joplin.
Closing the season will be Fascinating Rhythms – an exciting evening of dance and live music by George Gershwin, Astor Piazzolla, and local composer Quinn Mason. Returning to the repertoire will be George Balanchine’s Who Cares? – an audience favorite that perfectly pairs Gershwin’s toe-tapping melodies with Balanchine’s genius choreography. Paul Mejia’s Cafe Victoria, a company premiere, features Piazzolla’s alluring Contrabajissimo. The program closes with a collaboration between choreographer Katie Cooper and Dallas-based composer Quinn Mason. The performance will mark the world premiere of both Cooper’s choreography and of Mason’s String Quartet No. 2.
Family Saturdays is a subscription series for young audiences to experience live music and dance in an engaging and family-friendly environment. Each Family Saturdays performance will be one hour long and will feature the professional dancers of Avant Chamber Ballet accompanied by live music. The series will be held at 2:30 pm on December 8, February 23, and May 4 at Moody Performance Hall, and will offer area families a perfect introduction to the performing arts.
I was starting to wonder if Dallas DanceFest was even going to happen this year, but my reservations were laid to rest last week when the Dance Council of North Texas announced on its Facebook page the dance companies that will be participating in this year’s festival, which has been strategically renamed Dallas Dances.
The festival has received criticism from the beginning about its focus on mainly local dance companies and for its inclusion of pre-professionals from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Local Dance Critic Manuel Mendoza’s touched on these sore points in his review of last year’s Dallas DanceFest, which boasted the question “Why doesn’t Dallas have the dance festival that it deserves?”
In his review Mendoza basically says that by including the pre-professional dance studios, high schools and university programs in the area is the festival is really doing a disservice to the more established dance companies around Dallas.
He writes, “North Texas professional companies are the ones putting the area on the dance map even as they struggle to find suitable places to perform in a town starved of small, affordable venues. They are the groups competing for public and private grants so they can aim high, so they can someday pay their dancers something close to what their New York counterparts earn.”
He continues, “Most important, they are the ones doing the most complex, interesting work.”
What I think people are overlooking is that the mission of the Dance Council is not to exclusively support and promote just the professionals in the area, but also the up and coming professionals that stem from the local studios, performing arts schools and universites. And I think this is where the mission of Dallas DanceFest starts to get murky. Is the festival suppose to only highlight the professionals in the area? Or is its main target the young professionals and giving them a unique performance opportunity?
Apparently festival orgnaizations have deicded its a little bit of both if this year’s line up is any indicator.
I think the Dance Council has come to realize that they should stick true to thier overall mission, which is fostering and promoting every type of dance and dancer in the Metroplex and I believe they have changed the festival’s name to Dallas Dances to reflect the vibrancy and diveristy of the Dallas dance community.
With that said, here are the dance companies performing at this year’s Dallas Dances:
Bombshell Dance Project gets ready to showcase three new works, including program headliner Like A Girl at Moody Performance Hall today!
Dallas — The inspiration for Like A Girl, one of two new works by Bombshell Dance Project’s Emily Bernet and Taylor Rodman, focuses on what it means to do something like a girl.
“We started out with the phrase “fight like a girl,” but then it expanded to doing anything like a girl and what does that mean especially now that there is such a boom in strong women,” Bernet says. “It’s not to say no progress has been made. It’s more like what does it mean now that we’ve made all of this progress?”
Rodman adds, “It’s interesting because we started off with a phrase that is kind of aggressive and then over the past year it has evolved into so much more, like what does it mean to be sensitive or what does it mean to be feminine like a girl?”
To accomplish their task the bombshells are incorporating some of what they learned during a fight choreography workshop with Prism Movement Theater co-founder Jeff Colangelo into their choreographic process, which features the duos’ penchant for large, powerful movement guided by contact improv, images and feelings. In this particular piece the bombshell’s movement choices are also being influenced by feedback from an online survey that asked questions such as what does it mean to be feminine and name something you believe in fighting for. The bombshells have also added to their ranks for this piece, with fellow female powerhouses Haley Tripp, Alyx Henigman and Alex Clair.
I caught up with the dance besties during one of their recent rehearsals at Preston Center Dance in which they candidly talked about their experience with fight choreography and what they have in store for the rest of their Like A Girl program, which takes place June 22 at Moody Performance Hall in Dallas.
“It was not an easy class,” Rodman says about Colangelo’s fight choreography workshop. “It was hard to keep it pure because it was so movement-based. It required us to find the balance between anticipating and not anticipating what was happening.”
Bernet laughs, “Oh yeah! We kept getting in trouble for dancing it.”
The class focused primarily on stances and how one should advance and back up and then progressed into more detailed techniques like how to throw a punch. From there more partnering was added and the students essentially made what dancers would call a phrase, according to Rodman. And while the pair will not be performing any of the fighting techniques, they say the experience has definitely impacted their creative process for Like A Girl. “The experience really opened us to the elements of listening and the reactive element in which you try not to anticipate what’s to come,” Bernet says. “The level of physicality involved and this quietness-from-behind-like approach also were aspects of the class that have stuck with me.”
The Bombshell’s second new work, All The More, was inspired by Harry Styles’ “Kiwi” music video and features a cast of 12 students from around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The applicants were required to submit a three-minute improvisational video and it just so happened that all the submissions the bombshells received were from female dancers, a detail the ladies say works great for this show. “It was opened to everyone, but we would have picked females anyway for this particular show because we are exploring something that is really unique to females and so, that is kind of what we are going for this time,” Bernet says. She adds that the duo is working on some ideas for incorporating men into their work later down the road.
The third piece on the program is New York-based choreographer Amanda Krische’s LUNA. Rodman met Krische at YoungArts Miami during their senior year of high school, and they really got to know each other when they were selected as presidential scholars and spent two weeks together in Washington D.C. The two remained in contact throughout college and when the bombshells decided it was time to bring in another choreographer Rodman says Krische was always at the top of their list.
Krische graduated from Purchase College with a BFA in dance and currently resides in New York City where she works with her own set of dancers. Her choreography has been shown in such venues as LaGuardia High School, the Dance Theater Lab at Purchase College, SUNY, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Gallim Dance, the Actors Arts Fund and Ailey Citigroup Theater. Her work mainly focuses on the physical history of the body and its connection to memory. This is the first time her work will be presented in Dallas.
“We both learned a lot from her choreographic process,” Rodman says about their time with Krische. “She came in with one little phrase and floor pattern and turned that tiny nugget into a 10-minute dance in only four days. …Amanda works a lot with the ideas of memory, and when we were working with her she was really specific about creating a world and how the movement exists within that world even to the point of what the temperature is and what you are looking at and what you see at different moments.”
The bombshells describes Krische’s piece as a slow burn due to the repetitive nature of the movement. The piece starts off with the two dancers walking a specific number of steps in a predetermined pathway around the space before gestures, pauses and abrupt floor work are woven in to break up the monotony of their walks. The intensity of the piece builds as the dancers dig deep to maintain their high energy levels as the music changes from meditative to pulsating, which leads to an unexpected yet satisfying ending.
Choreographer Yin Yue brings her unique style to Dallas in Begin Again, part of Bruce Wood Dance’s Harmony performance this weekend.
Dallas — Acclaimed New York-based choreographer Yin Yue is the latest name on the short list of artists who have been invited to commission work for Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) since Kimi Nikaidoh took over the reins of the Dallas-based troupe in 2014. Since then BWD has performed works by international choreographers such as Bryan Arias, Andy Noble, Katarzyna Skarpetowska and Bridget L. Moore as well as pieces by in-house talents like Nikaidoh, Joy Atkins Bollinger and Albert Drake. Yue’s new work, Begin Again, will premiere this weekend at BWD’s Harmony performance at Moody Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District. The program also includes Wood’s poignant The Day of Small Things (2012) and the crowd pleasing Rhapsody in Blue (1999).
In regards to the program Nikaidoh says, “The title represents the variety of this program, and we have been fortunate with Bruce’s work because there is such variety from a single choreographer. Certainly that range expands when you add another choreographic voice to the program, and Yue’s work is a great fit because it is coming from a different place than Bruce’s.” She adds, “I also want our dancers to continue growing in their diverse abilities.”
Nikaidoh calls Wood’s The Day of Small Things a beautiful example of how he could make a quiet work very powerful. “It’s quiet and understated and yet it’s glorious and majestic at the same time. The inspiration for the piece was that these small interactions and moments between people are really meaningful and important. And we don’t need to look at those as though they’re inconsequential.”
Nikaidoh notes that Wood created the piece in honor of her grandma, whom he was very fond of. “He and my grandma had a really sweet relationship. He would let her come watch rehearsal and she was just such a sweet, compassionate and lovely person who really appreciated Bruce’s work.”
On the other hand is Rhapsody in Blue, which Nikaidoh describes as one big party. “It’s elegant, charming and just loads of fun. And that is one of his most classical pieces. There’s a lot of fun, flirtatious and an almost who cares feel to parts of it.”
The third piece on the program is Yin Yue’s Begin Again, which uses heavy electronic music and FoCo contemporary technique to support the cyclical nature of the work. FoCo is a contemporary folk style that Yue originated, which is inspired by the elements, including root, wood, water and metal. Nikaidoh got to experience this way of moving firsthand when Yue visited BWD back in May. In addition to creating a work for the company’s Harmony performance, Yue also taught several technique classes during her stay.
It was during these classes where Nikaidoh says Yue began to create movement for her new work. “She would do some warm up in place and then she would just start a choreographic phrase and what I ended up realizing is that a lot of the movements that she generates for a piece come from these phrases that she uses in her classes.”
Nikaidoh also learned that Yue’s movement style is driven by an internal rhythm instead of a musical melody. Nikaidoh explains, “So, she feels inspired that the first movement should be slow and thick and then the second two movements need to be staccato and coming quicker. And that’s interesting because even though some parts of the dancing end up going exactly with the music the movement itself and the rhythm you’re supposed to do the movement with are really coming from inside her and not from the music.”
Originally from Shanghai, Yue studied classical ballet, Chinese classical and folk dance at Shanghai Dance School. She continued her education at Shanghai Normal University where she had the opportunity to appear in many festivals and dance performances throughout China. Yue moved to New York City in 2004 to pursue a MFA in contemporary dance from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Yue’s distinct movement style has earned her many accolades over the last couple of years, including winner of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago International Commissioning Project in 2015, BalletX’s 2015 Choreographic Fellowship and Northwest Dance Project’s 5th annual Pretty Creatives International Choreographic Competition in 2013. She was also selected as an emerging choreographic at Springboard Danse Montreal in 2015 and was a finalist of The A.W.A.R.D Show 2010 put on by New York The Joyce Theater Foundation. She currently resides in New York where she is the artistic director of the Yin Yue Dance Company. She also holds the position of artistic director and residency choreographer at Jiangxi Zhongshan Dance School.
In a video on BWD’s Facebook page Yue expresses her amazement with how quickly the dancers were able to pick up her movement in a very short timeframe. “The first couple of days are just about getting your body into what you are doing and there is a learning and questioning like why and how and then we can already see the dramatic change about Thursday Friday,” Yue says. “So, then I create a phrase in front of them and I look back and they are already doing it so we are already 80 percent there and for me it is just way fast.”
You can see Bruce Wood Dance perform Yin Yue’s Begin Again at the company’s Harmony performance at 8 pm. June 15 and 16 at Moody Performance Hall in Dallas.
Dallas Black Dance Theatre tackles their own unresolved issues in Claude Alexander III’s Face what’s facing you!, part of the company’s Spring Celebration Series.
Dallas — Over the last couple of years Claude Alexander III has grown into an even more magnetic and mindful performer thanks to roles in unforgettable dance works such as Bridget L. Moore’s original version of Uncharted Territory for the TITAS Command Performance in 2017 and Jamal Story’s aerial duet, What to Say? Sketches of Echo and Narcissus (2015), which also happens to be one of my all-time favorite pieces. Now, this Dallas Black Dance Theatre company veteran is making his transition into the world of choreography with his first dance work,Face what’s facing you!, part of DBDT’s annual Spring Celebration Series at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas this weekend.
For his first choreographic piece Alexander is coming to terms with some unresolved issues in his life in order to start the healing process, which he says is the underlying theme of the whole work. “I wanted to create something that is authentic and true to who I am right now,” Alexander says about his inspiration for the piece. “So, I just started thinking about things in my life which lead me to consider some things that I felt like I had to deal with as child and as I came into being an adult and this made me realize that I operate a certain way because I never quite addressed these issues when I was younger.” He adds, “I literally just wanted to be able to have a cathartic point to deal with a few issues in my life and I felt like this work was going to be the beginning of the process for healing.”
Once he had a clear idea of what he wanted the piece to be about Alexander and the other DBDT dancers met in the studio where he had the group create some improv movement based off a series of prepared questions. “I first asked them to identify what their issue is. Then what does it affect in your life. Then I asked them where it hurts you the most. And lastly, I asked them what would it look like to become free from whatever that thing is.” He continues, “And so, we used those four questions to formulate some improv and create some really authentic movement or motifs and from there is just all came together.”
A recent opinion piece on dancemagaine.com entitled “Dancers are Choreographers, Too. It’s Time for Dance Criticism to Reflect That” led me to ask Alexander exactly how much of the dancers improv material did he wind up using. He responds, “Oh, a lot of it! The improv material is probably where we developed the bulk of our motif. Now, I created most of the actual movement, but I would say hey, let’s use the arm from this person’s improv or let’s use that step from this person’s solo. And what I did was each person has a solo within the piece and it’s not always a featured solo, but they all have something that maybe only they do and I siphoned that movement, if you will, to use in other places in the work.”
While the inspiration for the work is based on specific moments in his life, Alexander says the narrative of the piece is not autobiographical. “Well, for one thing, the lead in the piece female,” he says. “At first I thought it was going to be a man because I thought it was going to represent me, but it actually turned out to be a female and she doesn’t necessarily represent me at all. It’s more about what her struggles are, but I certainly used movement and motifs that represent my struggles as well.”
The piece is broken up into five section with the first section focusing more on movement than the actual storyline. The second section is where the main character is introduced and Alexander explains that the three women dancing alongside her represent the three issues she is struggling with. He describes the third section as mostly a duet with a lot of partnering which gives the main character the opportunity to look at how someone else deals with their issues. The fourth section involves a group of dancers and each person is assigned one of the lead’s issues. And the final section is all about the lead realizing her strength and finally addressing a person/issue that she meets in the beginning, but never acknowledges until this last section.
As far as what Alexander wants this piece to say about him as a choreographer he says, “More than anything I want the work to be accessible to everyone. And accessible doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to like it, but that they can still relate to it.” He adds, “My biggest goal is to get the audience to have a reaction so that they leave and say that they understood what they watched or that made mef feel something or that challenged me in a new way. And I think if that goal is reached then I have done my job.”
You can see Face what’s facing you! at DBDT’s annual Spring Celebration May 18-20 at the Wyly Theatre in Dallas. The program also includes Ray Mercer’s Undeviated Passage, Ulysses Dove’s Vespers and Joshua L Peugh’s Rattletrap.
Contemporary Ballet Dallas (CBD) continues to rev up its image with a new name that will differentiate itself from the pre-professional school known as the School of Contemporary Ballet Dallas. CBD will be launching its new name, Ballet Dallas, at its spring concert May 17-18 at the Latino Cultural Center near downtown Dallas.
CBD was co-founded in 2000 by Valerie Shelton Tabor who has since served as one of the company’s choreographers and is now the company’s artistic director. Since its inception, CBD has participated in a number of local art and dance festivals, premiered more than 50 original works and has additionally commissioned eight new works from respected choreographers.
When I started writing about the Dallas dance scene for TheaterJones.com nine years ago, CBD was really a mystery to me. I felt that it lacked some clarity in its name, marketing and the types of work being produced and commissioned. And you would never see the same dancers perform in multiple shows. Thankfully, CBD has become more consistent with its dancers over the years. The name change also puts to bed any confusion regarding the company’s status as a professional dance company. For awhile there I thought CBD was a pre-professional troupe of dancers similar to that of Chamberlain Performing Arts, Collin County Ballet Theatre or Ballet Ensemble of Texas. I realized pretty quick that my assumption was incorrect, but I can’t be the only one to have made this error.
OK! back to the company’s upcoming performance at the Latino Cultural Center. It looks like it will be a fun and eclectic evening of dance with four new works by choreographers Kevin Jenkins (Boston Ballet School), Hailey von Schlehenried (Royale Ballet Dance Academy in Dallas), Carter Alexander (Chamberlain Performing Arts) and Emily Bernet and Taylor Rodman of Dallas-based Bombshell Dance Project.
AKA Ballet’s first performance will feature new works by Albert Drake, Hailey von Schlehenried and Carter Alexander, but they need your help!
Summer is usually a slow time for dancers as most dance companies take a break during the hot summer months to prepare for the next season. And most dance schools have changed their schedule to focus primarily on dance camps, which leaves many teachers with less hours and a smaller income. It is especially hard for freelance dancers to find work during the summer as the job market comes to a standstill and won’t pick up again till September when Nutcracker preparations begin.
With all this in mind three local choreographers are looking to change things up this summer with a new choreography project!
Albert Drake, Hailey von Schlehenried and Carter Alexander have joined forces to create AKA Ballet, a new choreographic endeavor which features six new works to be presented at the Dallas Latino Cultural Center in July. The catch is the three creators are hoping to raise the funds needed to pay the dancers, musicians and technical crew prior to show, thus making the event FREE to attendees.
A lot of dance companies in the area have turned to crowdfunding to finance certain projects, performances or specific individuals. I typically just scroll past these posts on Facebook, but something about AKA Ballet’s project made me pause and click on their link https://www.gofundme.com/akaballet
I ended up contributing to this project because I have seen work produced by all three choreographer so, I know they will give us something that is high caliber as well as aesthetically moving and stylistically diverse. If you are not familiar with these three individuals: Drake is a member of Bruce Wood Dance and has produced two works for the company, Whispers (2015) and Chasing Home (2017). Von Schlehenried teaches at Royale Ballet Dance Academy in Dallas and her choreography has been featured at Dallas DanceFest 2017 and Avant Chamber Ballet’ Women’s Choreography Project. Alexander is the associate artistic director for Chamberlain Performing Arts and has set work on local dance companies like Contemporary Ballet Dallas. He also served as school prinicpal at the Miami City Ballet School for seven years before returning to Dallas.
When asked about the idea of free admission von Schlehenried says, “We really just want people to embrace the art and come see what we are doing and tell us what they think. We also want to provide more job opportunities for those working in the arts community which is why we are asking for donations so we can also pay for the music and the lighting and the theater as well as the dancers.”
She adds, “Carter is really the one that got the ball rolling on this project. He approached me last year after Dallas DanceFest about doing some kind of collaboration next summer and of course I said YES! I just think this is an awesome idea and hopefully it can become something bigger in the future.”
Drake is also pumped for the opportunity to create work outside his comfort zone. He writes on this Facebook page, “I’m excited to challenge myself on a new front and dive into an experience I didn’t know was possible. The chance to work with some really talented individuals with the freedom of expression is the dream baby.”
Hailey also hinted that the three of them might be working on a piece together in addition to their own individual works. I am interested to see what a classical, modern and Flamenco dancer can come up with.
As the time draws closer I will be making visits to rehearses to see how the collaboration is going as well as get a sneak peak at the works, which I will then share on my blog. So, please mark your calendars for July 29th and don’t forget to donate!
Avant Chamber Ballet reaches new emotional depths in Kimi Nikaidoh’s latest work, The Face of Water, part of the company’s Women’s Choreography Project this weekend.
Dallas — If there is one thing I’ve learned from watching Kimi Nikaidoh’s choreography it is that she likes to take you on a journey either musically, emotionally or narratively speaking. Her first work, Find Me (2015), for Dallas-based Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) was a beautiful tribute to Wood’s aesthetic and evoked warm, happy feelings. Her second work, Bloom (2016), was more introspective and carried the theme of healing and recovery with more of a straight forward narrative. In Nikaidoh’s newest work, The Face of Water, she uses a range of emotions and the highs and lows within the music to drive the movement home.
“So, the piece doesn’t follow a narrative, but is more about an emotional journey,” Nikaidoh says. “In the music there are these beautiful moments that feel to me like new beginnings. I’m talking about these long, stretched out notes that felt like one thing has finished and a new thing is starting. In the music I hear a lot of activity, turmoil and what I started to frame in my head as work, and then what follows these sections are these sweeter, longer notes of hope and new beginnings.”
Watching Avant Chamber Ballet rehearse The Face of Water at Royale Ballet Dance Academy in Dallas last week I was surprised by the amount of ballet vocabulary and other classical elements Nikaidoh chose to use in the piece. But really I shouldn’t be surprised, since a ballerina was all Nikaidoh wanted to be until injuries and the advice of others lead her to audition for the Fort Worth-based Bruce Wood Dance Company (BWDC) when she was 18. Leading up to this Nikaidoh had trained with Tanju and Patricia Tuzer, Canada’s National Ballet School, the School of American Ballet and American Ballet Theater.
Nikaidoh danced with BWDC until 2004 when she moved to New York to have ankle surgery and earn a degree in neuroscience from Columbia University. During this time she also continued to perform with various groups, including Bruce Wood Dance, Thang Dao Dance Company, Columbia Ballet Collaborative and Emery LeCrone Dance. Nikaidoh also toured nationally and internationally with Complexions Contemporary Dance. After Wood’s death in 2014 Nikaidoh decided to return home and eventually took over the reins of BWD.
The Face of Water is one of two new works ACB will present as part of its Women’s Choreography Project (WCP),April 21-22, at Moody Performance Hall. The other work is Day Vignettes by former Ballet Austin dancer Michelle Thompson Ulerich with new music by composer Catherine Davis. ACB’s entire program, titled Moving Music, will also feature George Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie, Christopher Wheeldon’s The American Pas de Deux and Paul Mejia’s Serenade in A. Each piece will be accompanied by live music.
When asked about her decision to have Nikaidoh set a piece on the company, ACB Artistic Director Katie Cooper says, “I’ve known Kimi since I was a teenager and I’ve always admired her as an artist both as a dancer and now as a choreographer and director. Her work is very balletic, but the center of gravity is lower like Bruce’s work so it’s a nice change from our more classical repertoire.”
Inspired by Argentine composer Osvaldo Gojilov’s 2002 chamber piece Tenebrae, The Face of Water is an emotional rollercoaster that forces the dancers to delve deeper into their own psyche. In between trios and quartets Nikaidoh has incorporated standard pas de deux and corps work that feature the dancers’ gorgeous lines, pliable spines and supple feet, which will be adorned in ballet slippers for this number. Like Cooper, Nikaidoh preferred to keep the corps in motion with continuous formation changes and stage entrances that challenged both the dancers’ musical timing and spatial awareness. You can see Nikaidoh’s own personal touches sprinkled throughout the piece, but especially in the dancers’ port de bra arms and the quieter moments in the music where the dancers had to rely on smaller gestures and unlikely body shapes to convey their feelings.
When asked about her experience working with the dancers Nikaidoh says, “I loved working with ACB. The dancers are smart, quick and so willing to do the work.”
She adds, “This was also a great learning experience for me because I am used to working with a certain set of dancers who in general were approaching movement from Bruce’s perspective. I noticed that even though I share a classical vocabulary with ACB there were still things about how I wanted them to get from one classical step or space to another that were very influenced by my contemporary background and my work with Bruce. So, what I recognized during the process was that those were the moments I needed to spend time on.”
Now, unlike Cooper’s balletic works, Nikaidoh’s piece doesn’t include any petite allegro jumping sections or any grande jete jumping passes. You also won’t see any fouette turns. Instead, Nikiadoh focused on the dancers’ connections both physically and visually and how these connections change and evolve with the music. “We talked about connective tissue between them and for them to all feel like there’s this complex type of spider web that’s connecting everyone’s limbs together. I mean these dancers are used to working as an ensemble and they understand the importance of clean lines and the need to stay together, but when you have someone new come in and ask them to go off balance or run low instead of high sometimes a different image can be helpful.”
This year marks the fourth annual WCP, an endeavor Cooper started when she noticed so few female choreographers being represented on many local and national professional dance companies’ seasonal programs. Since its inception WCP has featured new works from almost a dozen national and international female choreographers, including Shauna Davis, Janie Richards and Elizabeth Gillapsy. As far as where WCP goes from here Cooper says, “I’d love to get to a place where WCP isn’t needed anymore. In four years I’ve seen a shift across the country with a lot of discussion of the problem and many more ballet companies commissioning female choreographers. We aren’t there yet, but we are inching toward equity.”
Ballet Frontier of Texas brings one of ballet’s oldest and most popular productions to Fort Worth with its version of Giselle this weekend.
Fort Worth — One of the only pre-professional ballet companies in Fort Worth, Ballet Frontier of Texas(BFT)has blossomed over the last five years with its drive to expand its repertoire to incorporate more contemporary works by new and seasoned choreographers, while at the same time still paying homage to the classics such as Les Sylphides, The FireBird and this weekend,Gisellewith performances that focus on authenticity both in character portrayals and choreography.
BFT Artistic Directors Chung-Lin and Enrica Tseng’s fondness for Giselle is just one of the reasons they chose it for their season closer. Enrica explains, “The choice of the repertoire is all about the dancers that are around us and we felt that the place, the time and the dancers and guest dancers, including Kathryn Boren (Giselle), Dan Westfield (Albrecht), Nathan Vendt (peasant pas de deux) and Hannah Wakefield and Elizabeth Villarreal (peasant pas de deux and Myrtha), make a great combination for this to happen right now.”
This two act romantic ballet was originally choreographed by Jean Carolli and Jules Perrot with music by Adolphe Adam. Today’s versions derive from revivals staged by Marius Petipa for the Imperial Ballet during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The role of Giselle was created for Carlotta Grisi who was the only ballerina to dance it at the Paris Opera for many years. The famous Wilis (ghostly spirits of dead girls jilted on their wedding day) that appear in the second half of the show are led through a dance by their queen, Myrtha, which in BFT’s rendition will be performed by company members Wakefield (Saturday) and Villarreal (Sunday).
“We are so excited to have Hannah dance the role of Myrtha on opening night,” Enrica says. “The character requires a strong presence, technique and acting. BFT is very fortunate to have Hannah as part of the company as she has all those qualities.”
Growing up, Wakefield spent many summers attending ballet intensives with companies all across the United States, including Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Texas Ballet Theater, Ballet West, Joffrey Ballet NYC, Tulsa Ballet and Gelsey Kirkland Academy. She earned a bachelor’s degree in ballet from Brigham Young University where she was also a principal dancer with Theatre Ballet. While at school Wakefield also had the opportunity to perform in operas and Broadway shows such as the Phantom of the Opera. She also participated in a study abroad program in Italy where she got to study the origins and pedagogy of ballet at La Scala and World Dance Movement.
Wakefield’s professional dance career includes Utah Regional Ballet where as a demi-soloist she performed in roles such as the Dewdrop Fairy in The Nutcracker, Little Cygnet in Swan Lake and Silver Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty. In addition to performing with BFT Wakefield also teaches jazz and ballet at the Ballet Center of Fort Worth.
“I am so blessed to be performing with Ballet Frontier of Texas,” says Wakefield who joined the company last June. “I truly love classical ballet and all the story ballets and so BFT is just what I was looking for in terms of repertoire.”
While Wakefield has performed in various story ballets throughout her career this will be her first time dancing a role in Giselle, a detail that led her to do extra research to help her get more of a feel for her role. “I watched a lot of different YouTube performances of Myrtha which helped me understand her personality. She is very playful and cute, but also very angry and quite bitter and if you look at the context of the story you can understand why. To me, it feels like she takes on the burdens of all the other Wilis and therefore is kind of like a mother to Giselle in the second act of the show.”
You can see BFT’s production of Giselle April 7-8 at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center’s Scott Theatre.