For much of the 2000s, Fort Worth would have been seen as the superior of North Texas’ two major cities when it comes to big-budget dance, notably ballet. The city had Bruce Wood Dance Company and Metropolitan Classical Ballet to join Texas Ballet Theater, and Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth to lead on the modern front. Even Performing Arts Fort Worth was booking more touring dance companies at Bass Hall.
Sure, Dallas had TITAS and Dallas Black Dance Theatre, but the rest of its scene was scattershot.
How times have changed. Bruce Wood successfully moved his company to Dallas a few years ago, MCB closed, Bass Hall rarely books touring dance companies and, aside from site-specific installations and the Modern Dance Festival, which hit its 10th anniversary this summer, CD/FW seems MIA.
Meanwhile, over in Big D, TITAS and DBDT are still strong, Bruce Wood Dance Project has enlivened the scene, and a spate of exciting contemporary companies, such as Avant Chamber Ballet, Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet and Muscle Memory Dance Theatre, are growing that city’s scene.
Needless to say, the Tarrant County dance scene wasn’t at its best in 2013. TBT is still the shining beacon, even without live music; but neither Ballet Concerto nor Ballet Frontier broke new ground.
There was one notable exception: The area debut of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Joshua L. Peugh, who had spent several years after his time at Southern Methodist University in South Korea before coming back to Texas to work with Bruce Wood, splintered off to focus on his brand, giving an unforgettable concert in September at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.
Here are my top five dance events in Tarrant County for 2013, ranked with the best one first:
1. Fall Concert, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
With a revival of his Cosmic Sword and especially the premiere of jjigae, Peugh introduced us to a bold dance vocabulary that’s unlike anything we’ve seen in the area. Nontraditional lifts — sometimes with one dancer sitting crotch-to-face on another’s shoulders — and aggressive coupling and ensemble work dominated, and offbeat music choices, such as Korean folk and pop and marching band percussion, added to the intrigue.
The group’s Korean choreographer, Dong Hyoung Kim, also set a memorable work with Fighting Words.
2. ‘Voluntaries and Lambarena,’ Texas Ballet Theater
TBT’s highlight of the year was the pairing of Glen Tetley’s Voluntaries, in which the company showcased the choreographer’s mix of contemporary movement and classical ballet, and Val Caniparoli’s Lambarena, which fuses classical and tribal.
In between, we were treated to three perfectly pitched divertissements.
3. ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ Texas Ballet Theater
Ben Stevenson’s take on the Shakespeare tragedy never failed to astound, with its endearing showcase of friendship between Romeo and his buds Mercutio and Benvolio, and the bond between Juliet and her Nurse.
And of course, the ending of this story of woe didn’t so much break your heart as rip it out of your chest. Ah, romance.
4. Summer Dance Concert, Ballet Concerto
This, another pleasant evening for Ballet Concerto’s big summer event, saw solid work from guests and the company on excerpts from Paquita, Luis Montero’s The House of Bernarda Alba and Andalusian Suite, and Margo Dean’s Glenn Miller-set World War II tribute, String of Pearls.
5. An Evening of Ballet and Pinocchio, Ballet Frontier of Texas
Co-artistic director Chung-Lin Tseng took a bow as a dancer with the recent Nutcracker, but we still get his choreography.
In this performance, he set a delightful version of the classic story of the wooden boy.