Performing Arts

Bruce Wood Dance Project gives haunting, introspective performance

Bruce Wood’s 2004 dance No Sea to Sail In has always been a dark and enigmatic work, and its revival in the final major concert of the year for Bruce Wood Dance Project feels oddly prescient. It was an excellent kickoff to a performance that included two diverse world premieres by BWDP Artistic Director Kimi Nikaidoh and New York choreographer Katarzyna Skarpetowska on Saturday at Dallas City Performance Hall.

The company, with some changes in each of the three works, is Joy Bollinger, Akilah Brooks, Jillyn Bryant, Eric Coudron, Albert Drake, Emily Drake, David Escoto, Brock Henderson, Mallory Ketch, Nestor Perez, Olivia Rehrman, Austin Sora and Gabriel Speiller.

In No Sea (recreated by repetiteurs Joy Bollinger and Albert Drake), shadows and light add to the mystery, and the image of dancers looking through pantomimed binoculars gives the appearance of surveillance or some other kind of spying, or scouting from a ship for land, danger or something else. It is different from much of Wood’s canon in that there’s no group work — just solos and duets, sometimes bleeding into the space of another solo or duet.

With the women in black tutus and men in head-to-toe black, Steve Reich’s pulsing music from Music for 18 Musicians has them in geometric, cradling positions, with occasional lifts, searching for something out there.

Nikaidoh’s Bloom might be one of the strangest works seen from this company, thanks to a set, concept and creative visuals by Shane Pennington, a founder of Dallas’ Aurora. Using ethereal music by Deaf Center, Goldmund, Per Storby Jutbring, the video is dominated by images of the dancers, solo or in clusters, floating and tumbling above a foggy cityscape, as if in a zero gravity simulator.

On the floor, the dancers are limited to a smaller playing area thanks to two large angled panels. You can see Wood’s influence on Nikaidoh, who was a dancer with the company when it was based in Fort Worth — especially with the curved arms and intimate embraces between the dancers. The dancers, in all white, move slower than in No Sea to Sail In, again in solos and pairs, or at one point lining up to face the large video screen.

One can’t help but wonder if the video element was influenced by Joan Bokaer and Daniel Arsham’s The Rules of the Game, seen in Dallas this year as part of the Soluna Festival. There’s also something Pink Floyd-ish about it, the performers trying to connect with images telling another story on the screen. In Bloom, they connect with each other on some level.

Katarzyna Skarpetowska’s Klezmer Rodeo is sort of what it sounds like, using the music of Cracow Klezmer Band and the ruckus energy of a rodeo, with the dancers in rehearsal/street clothes rather than in Western wear. This piece is much more about athleticism and ensemble work, with dynamic lifts and jumps and an occasional reference to Jewish dance arm movements — and an overall feeling of celebration.

It was an uplifting end to a concert that was dominated by haunting, secrecy and introspection.