Performing Arts

Best of 2015: Dallas dance companies stepped up their game

Twyla Tharp kicked off her 50th-anniversary tour in Dallas.
Twyla Tharp kicked off her 50th-anniversary tour in Dallas. AT&T Performing Arts Center

Fort Worth, you’ve got some catching up to do. In the first decade of this century, your dance scene was superior to the one in Dallas, thanks to Bruce Wood Dance Company, Fort Worth Dallas Ballet (renamed Texas Ballet Theater), Metropolitan Classical Ballet and the long-running Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth.

Dallas’ big reason for bragging about dance was the well-established Dallas Black Dance Theatre and a handful of touring companies brought here by TITAS (but Bass Hall also regularly included national dance troupes on its season).

But so far in this decade, things have flip-flopped. Dallas still has DBDT and a greatly expanded TITAS season (which is now all dance, no music), but also Bruce Wood Dance Project, which re-formed and moved there five years ago, and a smattering of interesting groups like Avant Chamber Ballet (which always uses live music), Danielle Georgiou Dance Group and Rhythmic Souls. Not to mention several new and important dance festivals, Dallas DanceFest and Rhythm in Fusion Festival (RIFF).

Luckily for you, Fort Worth, TBT has returned to live music and is securing work by national and international choreographers, and although Dark Circles Contemporary Dance — the most exciting of North Texas’ new dance companies — is based in Dallas, it performs in Fort Worth.

DCCD, founded by SMU grad Joshua L. Peugh, had an exceptionally great 2015, including performing at the renowned Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts, as well as other national festivals, including Dallas DanceFest and TITAS’ Command Performance in May, one of the best for that event in years.

DCCD also gets two mentions in my 10 favorite dance events of 2015. Look for the group to perform with Fort Worth’s Ballet Frontier of Texas in January, and to premiere Peugh’s version of The Rite of Spring.

Here, the 10 best dance performances of the year in Dallas and Fort Worth.

1. Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation

Presented by TITAS at the Winspear Opera House, Dallas (September)

This was major in more ways than one. The legendary Tharp chose to kick off her 50th-anniversary tour in Dallas, on the TITAS season, and gave us two new works that showcased the beauty and humor that she does so well, Yowzie and Preludes and Fugues.

2. Fall Series: Aimless Young Man

Presented by Dark Circles Contemporary Dance at TCU’s Erma Lowe Hall Studio Theatre (October)

Speaking of humor in dance, Peugh does it better than any local choreographer. The fall concert from DCCD demonstrated that nicely with the premieres of his Aimless Young Man and It’s a Boy, and a revival of his terrific Slump.

3. Artistic Director’s Choice

Presented by Texas Ballet Theater at Bass Hall (June)

Texas Ballet Theater’s mixed-rep program in Fort Worth gave North Texas its first taste of Jiri Kylian’s modern classic Petite Mort, and the world premiere of British choreographer Jonathan Watkins’ frantic, fascinating Crash. Like TBT’s mixed-rep program in Dallas two months earlier, the program also included Balanchine’s Rubies (the Dallas program had Ben Stevenson’s Five Poems in place of Crash).

4. 5Years Part 2

Presented by Bruce Wood Dance Project at Dallas City Performance Hall (November)

This was the first full year for BWDP to work without its namesake, who died in 2014. Both of the group’s major concerts this year proved that it’s ready to move forward. The fall show featured Wood’s haunting Liturgy, plus the premieres of Bryan Arias’ lovely My Heart Remembers, and Find Me, a promising work by BWDP artistic director Kimi Nikaidoh.

5. Parsons Dance Company

Presented by TITAS at Winspear Opera House (May)

It was a great year for master modern choreographers in Dallas. In addition to Twyla Tharp and Paul Taylor (who was at the Eisemann Center in February), David Parsons’ group demonstrated his range with Parsons’ Bachiana, Caught and Whirlaway; Trey McIntyre’s Hymn; and Robert Battle’s Train.

6. In Good Time: Rhythm in Fusion Festival

Presented at the Majestic Theatre, Dallas (January)

The percussive dance event focused on tap dance and body percussion, and the final concert featured outstanding work by Rhythmic Souls, Chloe Arnold and Keith Terry, but also other kinds of dance in which the percussion of the foot hitting the floor is important, including flamenco, Irish step-dancing, and Mexican folklórico. The event returns in January at the Wyly Theatre.

7. White Day

Presented by Dark Circles Contemporary Dance at Erma Lowe Hall Studio Theatre, TCU (March)

Another memorable performance from DCCD featured Peugh’s White Day and Marshmallow, and Louis Acquisto’s Nemesis Variations.

8. 5Years Part 1

Presented by Bruce Wood Dance Project at Dallas City Performance Hall (June)

The first big concert of the year for Bruce Wood Dance Project featured revivals of one his best pieces, Requiem, plus Polyester Dreams and the premiere of company member Albert Drake’s Whispers. It was interesting to see the influence Wood had on his dancers in this piece, as well as Kimi Nikaidoh’s Find Me.

9. Dallas DanceFest

Presented at Dallas City Performance Hall (September)

The second annual Dallas DanceFest featured two nights of a variety of styles from DFW groups, as well as companies from Houston, Oklahoma and Alabama. Bruce Wood and Dark Circles were standouts among the locals, but for me, the single most brilliant modern-dance work of the year came with the heart-pounding Consumed, by METdance of Houston.

10. Spring Repertoire

Presented by Mejia Ballet International at UT Arlington’s Texas Hall (May)

It was great to see the legendary Paul Mejia back in action, as his company gave a gorgeous and criminally underattended performance of Mejia’s Brahms Waltzes, For Five, Sylvia pas de deux, Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture and other works. It also gave us a glimpse of the considerable dance talent of Mejia’s 15-year-old son, Roman Mejia.

2015 A&E year in review

Dec. 25: Movies, pop music and concerts

Dec. 26: Visual art

Sunday: Dance and books

Monday: Classical music and opera

Tuesday: Theater

Friday: Dining