Dance

The Dallas Dance Fest Is Back, Bigger than Ever

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Santos, along the rest of the panel of jurors that included, dance instructor Kim Able, dancer-choreographer-actor Christopher Vo, tap dancer and teacher Misty Owens, and classical Indian dance teacher Revathi Satyu, viewed applications for 48 companies and choreographers. They then sent in their rankings to Halperin and the Dance Council, who put together the final program that features 18 companies, three of whom are invited, non-juried, participants: Texas Ballet Theater, Dallas Black Dance Theatre and the Bruce Wood Dance Project.

The local companies that were selected this year are Avant Chamber Ballet, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, DBDT's second company Dallas Black Dance Theatre II, the Indian Cultural Heritage Foundation, tap group Rhythmic Souls, and newly selected Ewert & Company (they are replacing New York's BODYART). Additionally, a number of educational ensembles made the cut--Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Dance Repertory I and II, Movers Unlimited of Tarrant County College, Southern Methodist University Dance Ensemble--as did ballet school companies Ballet Ensemble of Texas, Chamberlain Performing Arts, Dallas Ballet Company, and Mejia Ballet International. Finally, the out of town performers come from Kansas City (Chado Danse) and Houston (MET Dance).

While most of us could have predicted the local companies that would be selected--and there are a handful of popular companies who are not represented this year--it is exciting to see 14-year-old Ewert & Company being recognized. Directed by Anna Marie Ewert-Pittman, a much-loved instructor and whose company always wows when they grace the stage, their work promises to bring something inventive and risk-taking, while tapping on your heart, willing you to let them in.

"My pieces are usually very personal and I keep them very close, but I always hope that everyone in the audience will find something to connect with...I am excited to share Not so Carefully Kept with the Dallas DanceFest," says Ewert-Pittman.

It is also exciting to see tap dance represented, as it is commonly the most overlooked and under-appreciated dance form. But tap has gone through a transformation since its heyday in the Hollywood movie musical era--from a form of entertainment to a form of artistic expression and emotional exploration. It's truly unique in the way that it requires the performer to be both musician and dancer. And Dallas has something unique to offer for the tap dancer: we are one of the few cities that hosts a full-time professional tap dance company, Rhythmic Souls.

"When I got the news that we had been accepted to perform, I was immediately excited, and when I saw the list of performers that we would share the stage with, my jaw dropped," says Rhythmic Souls founder Katelyn Harris. "Dallas has everything it takes to become one of the national leaders in arts and culture, and this annual performance is just the thing we need to let the community know just how much talent and ingenuity exists right here at home."

So regardless of the night you attend, there is a little bit of something for everyone. "It will be an enjoyable weekend of dance," says Santos, and "the inclusion of non-Dallas based companies raises the bar for local companies. It pushes them to create and perform on a national level."

That can only produce positive results, one of them being the integration of technique from these varying companies, the opportunity for an exchange of ideas, and the possibility of future collaborations and group performances.

"Dance in Dallas is booming...and I see more collaboration within the dance community than every before. [We're] thrilled to be a part of the festival and share the stage with some many amazing dance groups," says Katie Puder, artistic director of Avant Chamber Ballet, who will be performing Christopher Wheeldon's pas de deux from "There Where She Loved."

Joshua Peugh, artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, echoes Puder's feelings: "I think it's really important to showcase work that is made and produced in the region. The potential for Dallas to become a major voice in the dance industry is huge, and having a dance festival that celebrates excellence in locally made work will certainly aid in that."

Further, the DanceFest offers local writers the chance to up their own game and cover dance at a new level. "I think it goes without saying that more dance performances inspire more dance writers," says Katie Dravenstott, a writer for TheaterJones.com. "The Dallas DanceFest is just the kind of event that can demonstrate to aspiring writers that there are tons of great opportunities to write about dance right here in their own backyard."

It's been 10 years in the making for the festival to return. The city is primed and ready for it, as we are witnessing a boom in an interest for dance. Only time will tell if the DanceFest will be able to sustain itself once again, and if the local dance community will continue to turn out in support of itself.

The Dallas DanceFest performs at the Dallas City Performance Hall August 29-31.

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Danielle Georgiou