Out of step

Dallas dance companies struggle to find an audience in a city that trains many dancers but can't seem to keep them here

A large portion of Dallas Black's season is spent touring, and the company has performed as far away as South Africa and Austria and as nearby as Waco. "A lot of my dancers feel we get better support outside the city of Dallas than we do inside the city," Williams says, citing full houses, standing ovations, and "getting knocked down for autographs when we tour." The hometown, she says, is not always a city that continuously supports its dance companies. "If someone comes to one dance performance in December, they think that's enough and they don't need to come in February," she says of Dallas patrons. "They don't realize we want to see them every time. I tell them it doesn't work like that, because they go to the Cowboys game every Sunday, not just once a year."

The Dallas dance grapevine reached Misty Owens in New York; she says she was sad to hear of Dancers Unlimited's demise, but not terribly surprised. "I hate to say it, but another one bites the dust," Owens says, more matter-of-fact than mean-spirited. "When a new company starts in Dallas, they have fresh, complete, energetic, new, inventive ideas. And then, like a new restaurant, you may have three good years before you die." Owens says that if she returns to Dallas, she might consider conceiving a new dance company. "I think you have to keep creating yourself. If you don't do that, that's the danger," she says. "Especially in Dallas, where you have to work, work, work to keep your crowd." She thinks attracting a crowd to new dance offerings is easier in New York. She hates the idea that the work within the Dallas dance community is such an uphill battle. "It is a fight," she says. "If you're fighting, you're going upstream, and you're going to lose the spark or special magic that occurs to make what you have special. I know Dancers Unlimited tried and tried. But that's Dallas. What do we have that's lasted for that long?"

Peter Calvin
Misty Owens left Dallas to seek her dance fortunes in New York City.
Brian Guilliaux
Misty Owens left Dallas to seek her dance fortunes in New York City.

Lori Darley blames herself as easily as she blames Dallas for what happened to Dancers Unlimited. "We are all responsible," she says. "I never feel like my integrity is intact when I start to point fingers. Every time I choose not to go see a dance performance here, I think that's what happened to us. If people really wanted a dance community here, they'd be going to performances and buying tickets.

"It takes a village," she continues. "It takes everybody...I think it'd be a real shame if Dallas just becomes about buildings and the big stuff. There are a lot of incredibly soulful people in Dallas, but I don't know if Dallas has a very well-developed soul yet."

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