More than the bunions, calf muscles and hip joints of Dallas dancers are hurting this year. The tough economy is particularly rough on "the arts," which are increasingly dependent on corporate sponsors when individual supporters get a look at what happened last quarter to their 401(k)s. We almost lost the Fort Worth Dallas Ballet this year. Save for a last-minute bail-out by some mega-check writers, the prestigious bi-city dance company would have vanished--going the way of Ballet Dallas and Dancers Unlimited.
Still, it's hard to keep the hard-core denizens of dance down in Dallas. The Dallas Dance Council is rolling out its 18th annual Dallas Morning News Dance Festival this weekend, an "umbrella" event that features handpicked North Texas (plus, oddly, Houston) dance groups strutting their most creative and innovative stuff in Annette Strauss Artist Square. The growth of dance festivals reflects a trend in American dance, bringing dance groups together in community events that maximize each company's limited resources but offer broad exposure to a dramatically diverse audience. Festivals hook the dance community up with the "first-timers"--people who wouldn't pay a nickel to get all dressed up and see Swan Lake but who will take the family to a city park for a picnic-style outing with cultural overtones.
The Dallas Dance Council isn't looking for a handout. They want to pique your interest, not pick your pockets. The idea is to give everyone an experience of dance, make it approachable, essential and barrier-free. This year's lineup presents two different dance programs, repeated twice over the four-day event. Thursday and Saturday night's presentations include 11 performances featuring what you'd expect--Ballet Folklorico, Fort Worth Dallas Ballet, Houston Metropolitan Dance Company--and what you wouldn't. Among the innovators are Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts' Repertory Dance Company 1 performing "Rush Hour," an edgy, contemporary work by New York-based choreographer and dancer Robert Battles. Intriguing also is a performance of "Yeah, Yeah, Get It Over" by Drawbacks, Brookhaven Dance Theatre's "Mindscape" and TCU's "Carmen's Tantalizing Tea Party."
For the Friday and Sunday shows, don't miss Ewert & Company's "I Am Jack's Inflamed Sense of Rejection," whose concept could turn into the next big hit for No Doubt. Sure to come on strong also is Dallas Black Dance Theatre's "Variations I" by Milton Myers. Dallas Black, as the insiders call it, is one of this city's few dance success stories. The company is performing an excerpt from "Variations I," the whole of which will be part of its 2002-2003 dance season. The "Quartet" piece from another Battles work, "Battlefield," will be presented by SMU's Meadows Dance Ensemble on Friday and Sunday. Also noteworthy is Linda James' presentation of "Les Saut des Amants." James is one of the smartest, hardest-working die-hards in Dallas dance, and a chance to see her perform is always special.
Save one of the $5 bills you spend at Starbucks every day, and get behind the taut behinds of Dallas dancers this weekend.