Let's dance

Maybe the last dance performance you saw was your sister's ballet recital. Perhaps you vaguely remember long hours spent at the obligatory Christmastime Nutcraker and how the men in tights made you squirm. Maybe you're one of those people who just never cared for dance, and you don't see why you should start now.

That's why you should try the Dallas Dance Gathering. It reintroduces skeptics to dance, feeding them bite-sized choreographies by eight or nine different artists a night. Most pieces are premieres, and their variety and brevity are bound to keep even MTV-bred attention spans entertained.

The main objective of the show, however, is to "give independent artists who are not attached to a company a production and performance venue," explains Lily Cabatu Weiss, the Gathering's artistic coordinator. The format is also a boon for those who already love dance, giving them the chance to watch some of the up-and-coming performers and choreographers in a heady combination of styles and subjects.

The Gathering, now in its 11th season, started as a way to support independent choreographers and get their works onstage. What began as an ad hoc collection of freelancers has become an institution--and something to look forward to. Now, the Gathering draws together local and national talent, bringing in out-of-town performers and Arts Magnet graduates who have gone on to perform with internationally recognized companies, such as Jay Franke (formerly with the Twyla Tharpe Dance Company of New York City, now with the Hubbard Street Dance Company of Chicago). This weekend Franke will premiere a piece of his own creation.

And if you happen to be really inspired by what you see, the nice people who put together the Gathering will even let you do a little dancing of your own--with some of their help.

"We wanted to bring all kinds of dance opportunities to the Arts District: not just performances, but classes too," says Weiss.

Saturday morning they will offer free ballet, modern, and jazz classes taught by the performing dancers. And yes, there will be beginner classes too. You never know, maybe the Mikhail Baryshnikov inside you is just waiting for that chance to break out. Or maybe not.

--Juliana Barbassa

A Dallas Dance Gathering will take place at 8 p.m. January 22 and 23 at the Dance Studio Theater of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, 2501 Flora. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for members of the Dallas Dance Council, and $5 for students and seniors. Master classes in beginning, intermediate and advanced ballet, jazz, or modern are free. Call (214) 871-8967.

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Juliana Barbassa