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Finding the Future in the Past for Bruce Wood Dance Project's Lovett + More

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Many people wondered what would happen to the Bruce Wood Dance Project (BWDP) after the untimely passing of their artistic director and choreographer. Would the company fold once again? Or would they continue to pursue the mission set forth by their founder? It seems as if fate, this city, the dance community, and the desire to do what they love, has found the company choosing the latter, which you can see on stage in Lovett + More at Dallas City Performance Hall 8 p.m. Saturday or 2 p.m. Sunday.

Stepping up to a leadership position is longtime company member Kimi Nikaidoh. Wood and Nikaidoh shared a history together dating back to 2000 when she joined Bruce Wood Dance Company at 18-years-old. She went on to work with Complexions Contemporary Ballet from 2005-2008, and while she was completing a degree in neuroscience and behavior from Columbia University, she would come back and forth to dance with the newly formed Bruce Wood Dance Project.

She and Wood were colleagues and close friends, and when she was approached about becoming Acting Artistic Director, the answer was a simple one: yes. Now, Nikaidoh is gently navigating the tenuous waters of balancing the needs of her peers against the needs of an audience questioning the future of BWDP.

"The difficulty for me, and for many of the dancers who worked with Bruce for a long time, is that he shaped more than our careers. He shaped the way we think about many facets of our lives...It's hard to lose someone who you trust that much," says Nikaidoh.

But, she is finding a through line to communicate with Bruce's spirit and to translate those ideas into a language that the dancers can understand. "In almost every rehearsal, I have a moment when I stop and think, 'Oh! That's why Bruce was always saying breathe together,"...or on days when I am completely exhausted from 16 plus hours of non-stop work, I think, 'That's why it was sometimes hard to catch Bruce on the phone'."

The choice to have Nikaidoh in this position makes complete sense. She danced so many of the pieces that will be presented this weekend at the Dallas City Performance Hall, and has danced, or worked on, many others that will more than likely be restaged in the future, so she is intimately familiar with just what Wood was thinking. These ballets were his masterpieces, and only a trusted and dedicated student could attempt to revive them. The works were made for dancers to live within and enjoy, and for audiences to experience and respond to emotionally, and it's that message that Nikaidoh kept going back to while preparing for Lovett + More.

Under her leadership, BWDP will be restaging three of Wood's most pivotal pieces: Being, Piazzolla de Prisa, and Lovett! "The ballets included...were selected to remind our audiences how many years of fantastic material there are in [our] repertoire. All three works were created nearly fifteen years ago, and each piece has a distinctive character, are brilliantly constructed, and full of spirited, invigorating movement and beautiful images," says Nikaidoh.

Being, which first premiered in 1998, was Wood's fifth work and exemplifies his specialized understanding of the classical structure of ballet and its relationship with music. It was also personally chosen by the dancers as their favorite piece to perform. Wood himself said that, "Being was a very deliberate attempt to make a ballet that would be so strong structurally...[it] would always work," and Nikaidoh is ready to prove that the statement true.

With Piazzolla de Prisa, Nikaidoh is continuing a plan that Wood was pursuing before his passing. That plan: a collaboration with the Dallas Chamber Symphony, and the first of its kind between a contemporary dance company and chamber music in this region. Made possible by a special, one-time financial gift, BWDP will perform the contemporary ballet with the help of the 36-piece chamber symphony as they play the sultry and seductive tango music of Astor Piazzolla. "Working with Dallas Chamber Symphony has been an exciting endeavor," says Nikaidoh, "the musicians sound wonderful. The audience will be treated to a total feast for the ears and eyes!"

Closing the program is an audience favorite and one of Wood's most requested dances, Lovett! This signature work, which premiered in 2000, explores Wood's experiences working on ranches, raising horses, roping cattle, and riding in rodeos, and plain and simply, it personifies his love for Texas; because, it really doesn't get more Texan than country music in a performance hall. And this homegrown Texan company, and the Texan audience (whether you were born here, or have adopted Texas as your home) will more than likely enjoy this piece--because history dictates it so.

As they continue to move forward, this show is just the first step toward the future of BWDP. Nikaidoh is committed to pursuing Wood's mission to engage dancers and dance-makers whom share his distinctive artistic values and priorities, while also reviving past ballets and creating new works that continue his line of thinking. What will happen in the future can't be predicted, but it will be exciting to see what comes next.

Lovett + More, 8 p.m. Saturday, September 13 and 2 p.m. Sunday, September 14 at the Dallas City Performance Hall, 2520 Flora St., Dallas. $15-$100. More information at brucewoodance.org.

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