Texas Ballet’s ‘Classic Combination’ at Bass Hall was one of critic Mark Lowry’s favorite performances of the year. Khampha Bouaphanh kbouphanh@star-telegram.com
Texas Ballet’s ‘Classic Combination’ at Bass Hall was one of critic Mark Lowry’s favorite performances of the year. Khampha Bouaphanh kbouphanh@star-telegram.com

Performing Arts

DFW dance groups were en pointe in 2016

By Mark Lowry

Special to the Star-Telegram

December 25, 2016 09:04 AM

Last year, we lamented Fort Worth losing its status as a great dance town to Dallas.

That’s still the consensus, but this year, Texas Ballet Theater was more interesting than it has been in about a decade — due to more mixed repertory programs and commissions by established and up-and-coming choreographers. This year, the group also hired a long-needed executive director in Vanessa Logan, formerly of New Jersey’s American Repertory Ballet.

Bruce Wood Dance Project also had a strong year, with a resolve that the group can strive for national excellence two years after the death of its namesake.

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, the best new modern dance company this area has seen in, well — maybe ever — continued its quirky excellence (I didn’t catch the fall program, which moved to Dallas), and Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth scored at its annual Modern Dance Festival at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth with guest performer Gus Solomons Jr.

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Here are my favorite dance performances of 2016:

1. Six (June)

Bruce Wood Dance Project

(June 17-18, Dallas City Performance Hall)

The single best dance in 2016 was BWDP dancer Joy Bollinger’s Carved in Stone, deeply emotional and striking in its stillness. That made it perfect on a bill that also included Andy and Dionne Noble’s quirky and visually memorable Skin and Wood’s delightful Anything Goes, set to Cole Porter songs.

2. Kidd Pivot and Electric Company Theatre’s ‘Betroffenheit’

Presented by TITAS

(April 21-22, Dallas City Performance Hall)

Dance-theater has had a resurgence, and this collaboration from Canadian choreographers and theater makers was one of the most eerie works of the year, dealing with PTSD. Saddled with danger, speechlessness and maybe prophecy. Unforgettable.

3. ‘Classic Combination’

Texas Ballet Theater

(Feb. 26-28, Bass Hall)

TBT is doing work from young, contemporary choreographers, but their best showing this year was from 20th century masters. Jerome Robbins’ The Concert (Or, the Perils of Everybody), the group’s first time with Robbins, brought out the physical comedy skills of the company; Harald Lander’s Etudes evolved from a single dancer in the studio to a dazzling company showcase celebrating the art form; and Balanchine’s Allegro Brilliante was as gorgeous as it should be.

4. ‘The Rite of Spring’

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

(April 29-May 1, Erma Lowe Hall Studio Theatre at TCU)

There have been many takes on Stravinsky’s controversial ballet The Rite of Spring, and Joshua L. Peugh’s will go up there with the best of them. In his mind, the ceremonial rite for virgins is prom, and he did it with 1950s costumes and flare, using the audience in a clever way. Also on the program: Fabio Liberti’s text-based Here Is Not There.

5. Six (November)

Bruce Wood Dance Project

(Nov. 11-12, Dallas City Performance Hall)

Another mesmerizing BWDP program, with Wood’s haunting No Sea to Sail In, the premiere of artistic director Kimi Nikaidoh’s Bloom, with intriguing video of the dancers floating; and closing with the comic, energetic freshness of Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s Klezmer Rodeo.

6. ‘The Rules of the Game’

Soluna Festival

(May 17, Winspear Opera House)

The centerpiece of the Dallas Symphony’s Soluna Festival was the world premiere of this collaboration between choreographer Jonah Bokaer, sculptor/artist Daniel Arsham and musician Pharrell Williams, inspired by the work of Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello. Paired with earlier Bokaer works Recess (2010) and Why Patterns (2011).

7. First Looks

Texas Ballet Theater

(May 27-29, Bass Hall)

TBT brought back Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries, gave the company premiere of Ohad Naharin’s fascinating Minus 16, and performed the world premiere of Val Caniparoli’s style-mixing Without Borders.

8. ‘Carmen’ and ‘DGV: Danse á Grande Vitesse’

Texas Ballet Theater

(Sept. 16-18 at Winspear Opera House; Oct. 7-9 at Bass Hall)

The Fort Worth Symphony musicians were on strike, but they played under a different name for the American premiere of Carlos Acosta’s dark take on Bizet’s opera Carmen; and followed it with Christopher Wheeldon’s angular, architectural work inspired by high-speed trains in Europe.

9. Modern Dance Festival at the Modern

Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth

(July 23-31, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth )

There was the usual mix of weirdness and whimsy at CD/FW’s annual event, but it rose to higher levels because of the appearance, in the second weekend, by New York choreographer Gus Solomons Jr. The CD/FW company performed his Steps #13, but it was Solomons performing his solo work I Used To Be Taller, which deals with identity and blackness, that stood out.

10. Women’s Choreography Project

Avant Chamber Ballet

(May 7-8, Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts, Richardson)

Avant sprung from the ashes of the Metropolitan Classical Ballet, and this was one of its best programs in its four years. Katie Cooper showed her classical side with Harlequinade and Piros. It was performed with Shauna Davis’ moving Eject, about women’s images of themselves, and Janie Richards’ pointe-work piece L’Inverno.

2016 A&E Year in Review

Friday: Movies and music

Sunday: Visual art, Books

Monday: Television

Tuesday: Dance

Thursday: Theater

Friday: Restaurants

Saturday: Classical music