A Complete Guide to the Companies Performing at Dallas DanceFest This Weekend

"The Dallas DanceFest is very timely. Dance is surging forward...and it's exciting because there are more emerging dance companies than ever before," says Gayle Halperin, Vice President of Development for the Dance Council of North Texas (DCNT) and Chair of the Dallas DanceFest Committee (DDF).

Returning after a 10-year hiatus, the festival that began with only outdoor performances is moving into a new era and a new space, the Dallas City Performance Hall. This new and improved Dallas DanceFest is determined to expand its previous reach by looking for ways to include the local community and raising the dance stakes by introducing our city to regional and national artists, such as MET Dance (Houston) and Chado Danse (Kansas City).

In addition to a weekend full of performances, DCNT will be recognizing the outstanding contributions of distinguished dance leaders from the Dallas/Fort Worth region and Texans who are elsewhere in the country. "It's important to draw recognition to both the performance and teaching realms because they are intersected. We tend to overlook the teachers and at the Sunday matinee, DCNT will recognize nine outstanding dance leaders. That's pretty awesome," says Halperin. 

It is indeed awesome, and as a special surprise, which Halperin spilled to the Mixmaster, DCNT is upping the awesome factor by adding in a performance from Dallas native and 2014 Natalie Skelton Award for Artistic Excellence Honoree Dylis Croman. Dylis is a seasoned Broadway actress and dancer and currently performs a leading role in Chicago. She and her partner Tyler Hanes will perform an original jazz work, "Blues House," and you can catch it on Friday and Saturday night.

"I have great hopes for DDF and see this event occurring year after year. My dream is that this event will be an incubator and attract not only North Texas companies but also attract East and West Coast choreographers and dancers who have ties to Dallas and Fort Worth and want to come home for this exciting performance opportunity," says Halperin. "It's a win win for artists and audiences alike," she continues, "dance is such a feel-good art form because of its kinesthetic and expressive movement palette. This inaugural festival is a beginning and is in the footsteps of other dance festivals around the world."

This year's curated programs were selected from 45 entries. Of those 45 entries, 18 companies were selected, 16 local, two not (well, it's really one non-local company as Chado Danse is moving to Dallas this year). Below is a brief run-down of each night's offerings, with a focus on the local companies and schools that were selected.

Friday's Performers: Dallas Ballet Company The Dallas Ballet Company, under the artistic direction of Judy and Brent Klopfenstein will be performing "Highland Daunce." Choreographed by Jason Fowler, "Highland Daunce," was created for the Dallas Ballet Company to premier at the 2014 Regional Dance America/Southwest Festival.

Fowler, a native of Dallas, trained locally with the Dallas Ballet Center and the former Dallas Ballet before he moved to New York to pursue his professional career with the New York City Ballet; he was a soloist. Fowler is now the ballet master for Christopher Wheeldon where he has set ballets on companies worldwide such as NYCB, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Royal Ballet in London. Bringing his voice back to his hometown is quite the experience for these young dancers, but that is part of the mission of the Dallas Ballet Company. They hope to inspire, train, and provide a pathway for pre-professional dancers who may wish to pursue dance, and this performance is a step in that direction.

"[We were] excited to be chosen for this inaugural event for Dallas," says Judy Klopfenstein. "Having been one of the few pre-professional companies chosen, [we consider] this to be a high honor and are proud to perform. The opportunity for these young dancers to be a part of the dance history of Dallas will be a life long memory."

Ewert & Company Ewert & Company, founded in 2000, is an eclectic modern dance company whose repertory is comprised of pieces that range from the dramatic to the hilarious, all marked by sinewy athleticism. Founded and directed by Anna Marie Ewert-Pittman, who holds a BFA in dance performance from Southern Methodist University and a MFA in Performing Arts/Dance for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she is pursuing a mission to provide exceptional dance performances for the widest and most diverse audience, to preserve a tradition of excellence in the art of dance and to cultivate and educate the public about dance as an essential art form. A mission her company continues as they were recently added to the line-up of performers.

"We are very fortunate to have been chosen since Dallas has such a diverse and rich dance community. We are just honored to be able represent a small part of what Dallas has to offer as a dance city," says Ewert-Pittman. "I am excited to serve the Dallas community in general and share an evening of dance with local and national artists."

They will be performing Ewert-Pittman's "Not so Carefully Kept."

Indique Dance Company Formed in 2008 by Sarita Venkatraman, Shalina Varghese, Latha Shrivasta, Anu Sury, Kruti Patel, Bhuvana Venkatraman, and Shilpi Mehta, Indique Dance Company fuses Indian classical, folk, and modern dance styles with contemporary themes to create an enjoyable and enlightening cultural experience. It has a standing collaboration with the Indian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which is a non-profit organization whose vision is to promote intercultural awareness by providing a platform for the interaction between Indian and American cultures through workshops, presentations and performances, through which Indique has had the opportunity to perform at Klyde Warren Park, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, and the Dallas City Performance Hall. In fact, they just performed at the Performance Hall two weeks ago, so the Dallas DanceFest will almost be like a homecoming. The company will present "Thillana," an excerpt from their longer work "Jeeva: Synergy in Nature." Choreographed by Varghese and Bhuvana Venkatraman to music by Indian Rock band AGAM, "Thillana." It is a classical Indian dance that has no definite story to it, unlike what you would think would come along with the style; instead, it is more about the movement of the feet and how the body works though intricate percussive musical patterns.

Rhythmic Souls This emerging company started with two of Dallas' top tap dancers strutting their stuff on local stages, now the company has grown to include a numerous tappers who all work together to entertain audiences with their unique blend of style, charisma, innovative choreography, and rapid-fire pace footwork.

Rhythmic Souls will be performing "The Consequence of Sound," an experiment in combining complimentary melodic and lyrical rhythms with harsh counter-rhythms. "The piece is designed to hint subtly at the everyday, mundane routines that we find ourselves in amidst the chaotic hussle-bussle of the world's politics and economics," says Artistic Director Katelyn Harris. The piece does end on an up-note and with an air of revitalization, at the same time touching upon the historical tradition of tap dance, with the Copacetics' famous B.S. Chorus and Chair dance. 

"We are [so] excited for the opportunity to demonstrate in front of the Dallas community how indigenous American tap dance has progressed as an art form, it's versatility as a musical and visual dance form, and it's ability to entertain and engage a broad range of audiences," says Harris. "We hope to give dancers and art lovers a new perspective on tap dance and expose it to those who haven't yet had the opportunity to see a live tap dance performance."

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
 Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (DCCD) was founded by American Joshua L. Peugh and Korean native Cho Hyun Sang, and had its first performance in the spring of 2010 in Seoul, South Korea. Since then, the company has performed all over Asia, Europe, and North America. Peugh started the North Texas branch in 2013, when he moved back to Dallas--Peugh is an alum of Southern Methodist University. 

They will be performing excerpts from Peugh's "Marshmallow," which was originally staged in early 2014 at the Saunders Theatre in Fort Worth. "It was created for a small black box space, so it will be interesting to see how the audience reacts in a larger house," says Peugh. "It's an exciting platform for emerging companies and choreographers," he continues, "being presented on such a large budget and on such a grade scale raises awareness for [us] artists, as well as the North Texas dance community at large."

Texas Ballet Theater Local favorite Texas Ballet Theater, known for bringing its A-game, will also be performing at the Dallas DanceFest.

At the time this article was published, no word was received as to what piece they will be performing, but it's safe to say, it will be a ballet piece, and probably en pointe.

Southern Methodist University Meadows Dance Ensemble As one of the top universities offering both conservatory dance instruction and a liberal arts education, the SMU Meadows Division of Dance develops disciplined, versatile artists through professional training in ballet, modern, and jazz. In addition to technique training, students are immersed in theoretical studies that include dance history, kinesiology, music theory/history and choreography, and are given the unique opportunity to perform masterworks of the great choreographers of the 20th century, including Balanchine, Graham, Humphrey, Limón, and Sokolow, as well as works by contemporary masters such as Taylor, Parsons, Battle, Pilobolus and more. Student choreography is also a major component.

"We are thrilled that the DanceFest is being revived and greatly appreciate the efforts of the Dance Council," says Patty Harrington Delaney, Chair of the Division of Dance at SMU. They school has quite a history with the DanceFest as it was founded in the 1980s by two graduates of the dance program who went on to direct Dancers Unlimited. SMU will be continuing this tradition of passing on dance education and creativity with their entry this year, "Bread of Idleness." Choreographed by recent graduate Kailey Andriot, the work first premiered at the Meadows Spring 2014 Brown Bag dance concert.

Dallas Black Dance Theatre
 Founded in 1976 by Ann Williams to inspire minority boys and girls to appreciate dance as an art form and to realize the possibility of dance as a means to express their creativity, Dallas Black Dance Theatre now offers dance opportunities for the entire population, regardless of race, age or circumstance, through professional dance concert performances, arts-in-education programs, community outreach activities, and dance training classes. DBDT has grown from a community-based, semi-professional organization to a fully-professional dance company that is renowned in the U.S. and noted for its rich cultural diversity, history of inclusion, and high-level of artistic excellence in contemporary modern dance and educational programs. With new Artistic Director April Berry at the helm (she officially starts on September 2), the future of DBDT is bright, which is just how Williams wants it.

At the Dallas DanceFest, both DBDT and DBDT II will perform.

At the time this article was published, no word was received as to what pieces they will be performing. Saturday's Performers:

Saturday's Performers

Chamberlain Performing Arts Chamberlain Performing Arts will be performing the first movement of Associate Artistic Director Carter Alexander's "Mozart Piano Concerto." The ballet is a pure dance work that has helped their students to become stronger more confident dancers. "This work has allowed them to discover the joy of dancing a ballet that is full of challenging movement for both the corps de ballet and the principal dancers," says Alexander.

Alexander is a graduate of Booker T Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, and has danced professionally with Hartford Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, and Pennsylvania Ballet. Carter has been teaching ballet for 20 years, and has served as the Associate Director of Massachusetts Youth Ballet, the Assistant School Director of The School of Ballet Arizona, and from 2006-2013, Carter was the school principal of the Miami City Ballet School. Now, he is back in North Texas as the Associate Artistic Director of Chamberlain Performing Arts, a 30-year institution that was founded by Kathy Chamberlain to nurture the talent of pre-professional ballet students in North Texas.

"We feel honored and excited to be a part of the rekindling of this wonderful event! Chamberlain was a frequent participant in the past for this event, and I danced at the festival a couple of times when I was a student here in Dallas," continues Alexander. "We are so pleased to see this terrific event be revived and look forward to seeing all of the participating companies perform."

Chado Danse (Kansas City) Originally from Beirut, Lebanon, Chadi El-Khoury spent his formative years in Dallas. He began studying ballet his senior year at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska--so that means he didn't start dancing until he was 21. Chadi graduated in 2010 with a B.A. in Theology and Sociology, minoring in Applied Research Methods before pursuing a BFA at University of Missouri, Kansas City, Conservatory of Music and Dance. He then spent the summer of 2010 and 2011 at Kansas City Ballet Summer Intensive, and attended American Dance Festival in 2012 on scholarship. Currently, Chadi is a Performing Artist through Charlotte Street Foundation's Urban Culture Project Studio Residency, but he will be moving back to Dallas this year bringing with him his fledgling dance company, Chado Danse, and his first step into the city is with the Dallas DanceFest.

Chado Danse will present El-Khoury's duet "Knead Me Whole."

MET Dance (Houston) Since 1995, MET Dance has presented 18 seasons of contemporary dance that explodes into movement, color and emotion. The company mixes the most edgy styles of dance and music, into a kaleidoscope of energy that all audiences enjoy. Seasoned choreographers such as Joe Celej, Larry Keigwin and Kate Skarpetowska alongside new, emerging artists like Robbie Moore enjoy working with this strong and versatile company creating works that dance aficionados of all levels love to watch.

Avant Chamber Ballet Avant Chamber Ballet (ACB) may have been founded in early 2012, but the roots of the company go back much further to when Artistic Director Katie Puder first moved back to Dallas. After living aboard for two years, Puder returned home in 2010 and found herself searching for a new dance home. "It was disheartening to find no ballet or dance programs presenting programs with live music, but the developing arts district and local artists kept me inspired. ACB grew from the enthusiasm of the many great freelance dancers I know in the area with the same philosophy of pairing dance and live music," says Puder. Since its inception, Puder has kept true to her mission to combine ballet and live music, and the effort has been successful. Their new season will continue the same mission, but first up is their performance at DDF.

They will be performing Christopher Wheeldon's pas de deux from "There Where She Loved," set to Kurt Weill's "Je ne t'aime pas."

Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Two of the three student performing ensembles from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts will be performing at DDF: Repertory Dance Company I and Repertory Dance Company II (Rep I and Rep II, as they are fondly known).

Rep I will be performing excerpts from "Testament," choreographed by Dwight Rhoden, Artisti Director/Co-Founder of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. It was originally commissioned by TITAS and performed by Complexions at the Winspear Opera House, but thanks in part to a generous grant from the Kobes Arts Foundation, Booker T. was able to give their students the opportunity to perform this work, plus many more from Rhoden.

Rep II will be performing "Confetti and Razor Blades," which was choreographed by Jonathan Campbell, a Booker T. alum who is the now the co-founder of MADboots dance co., an up and coming all male dance company that has been featured at Jacob's Pillow. This piece was created in the spring of 2014, and quickly became an audience favorite at their spring dance concert.

"We are incredibly honored to be selected for the inaugural Dallas DanceFest," says Kate Walker, the newly appointed Dance Department Coordinator at Booker T. Washington HSPVA. "To have two student companies included alongside established professional companies from Dallas and beyond is a great compliment."

"The entire dance faculty is excited to see this festival happen," continues Walker. "It gives Dallas a chance to show what vibrant dance artists we have working in our city. I hope the festival will also allow our dance audience members to be exposed to other dance companies and choreographers, and allow for some cross-pollination of audience bases around the metroplex."

Tarrant County College Movers Unlimited Movers Unlimited is the touring dance company of Tarrant County College Northeast Campus under the direction of Dr. Kihyoung Choi, Associate Professor of Dance. The company dancers study and perform an advanced repertoire of classical and contemporary ballet, contemporary dance, jazz dance, musical theatre, tap and hip-hop, with the goal to produce cross-cultural pieces at the highest level of creative excellence. Choi holds a Ph.D. in dance with an emphasis in dance pedagogy from Texas Woman's University, but she began her professional dance training at Yewon Art Middle School in Seoul, Korea, where she rigorously studied ballet, Korean dance, and modern dance.

TCC Movers Unlimited will be presenting Choi's "Hwa: Seeking Affinity," a work about the journey of an individual searching for a genuine connection in our diverse society. Choi based the concept for the piece off of her own experience and emotional journey as a total outsider in our country. She had no one and nothing to connect to, and from that solitude came this dance.

"As a teacher, words cannot describe how proud I am of my dancers. I am overjoyed that they get a chance to dance at the Dallas City Performance Hall," says Choi, because at their school, they do not have a designated dance studio, and sometimes, they have to rehearse in a hallway or on the basketballs courts. "This is a big gift for them...they are such dedicated, passionate, humble, and beautiful people and I feel so honored that I have these great performers dancing my piece. As the tile of my piece dictates, my dancers and I found a genuine hwa (affinity, true relief) through this dance and we hope we can deliver this hwa to audience members, too."

Mejia Ballet International Mejia Ballet International, directed by Paul Mejia (choreographer and master teacher), is a company dedicated to the artistic vision and philosophy of George Balanchine. Mejia is a former New York City Ballet and Maurice Béjart dancer, and was the Artistic Director of the Chicago City Ballet and Fort Worth Dallas Ballet. His choreography encompasses classical and dramatic story ballets, as well as works in the neoclassical style. Mejia Ballet International strives to maintain the artistic integrity of classical ballet, not just by performing classical choreography, but also by educating the new generations of students, dancers, and choreographers.

At the time this article was published, no word was received as to what piece they will be performing, but it's safe to say it will be something by Balanchine or Balanchine inspired.

Bruce Wood Dance Project

Bruce Wood Dance Project (BWDP) was launched in Dallas in January 2011 with the motto, "It's about the work," and they have stayed true that. Persevering through the untimely death of their director, choreographer, and surrogate father, the dancers of BWDP are even more dedicated to Wood's mission of becoming an integral part of the Dallas dance culture through the creation and production of dance works. Known for his emotionally programs, Wood's works are rich in images and explore the undercurrents of relationships. With their performances this weekend, the company intends to push our emotional limits.

The Dallas DanceFest is dedicated to the life and work of Bruce Wood, and his company will be performing both on Saturday evening and at the Dance Council Honors on Sunday afternoon.

The Dallas DanceFest runs at the Dallas City Performance Hall at 8 p.m. Friday, August 29 and Saturday, August 30; On Sunday, the Dance Council of North Texas hosts its annual Honors event at 2:00 p.m. $25-$100.

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Danielle Georgiou