Review: Journeys I Bruce Wood Dance Project I Dallas City Performance Hall
The Bruce Wood Dance Project debuts Albert Drake’s ambitious work about refugees, Chasing Home
Margaret Putnam I TheaterJones.com
June 19, 2017
“War took everything away, war took everyone away,” a voice says, setting the tone of Chasing Home, Albert Drake’s ambitious new work dealing with the plight of refugees.
Making its debut Friday at the Dallas City Performance Hall as the closing work of Bruce Wood Dance Project’s Journeys, Chasing Home set a somber tone, low key and yet full of yearning, hope, fear, and yes, boredom. How do you cope in a refugee camp when all is in flux and the future a blank?
Our first view takes place at night as a young boy (Diego Riesco) stands alone, head down, arms pulled around his chest. He slowly moves forward, uncertain and tense, and then returns. Suddenly his father (Gabriel Speiller) flies in, alarmed, and scoops him off to safety.
The ballet is full of such short vignettes, but at the center is a wedding: the ultimate symbol of hope. Emily Drake and David Escoto meet in the camp, and their first encounter is accidental and tentative. Their distrust turns to love, poignantly expressed by a simple gesture: Ms. Drake tenderly touches David Escoto’s face. He whisks her up and spins her around as the others look on to celebrate.
Dressed in the simplest of clothes, loose white t-shirts and worn pants, the refugees make do with what they have, entertaining themselves with soccer drills, friendly chats among the women or a spirited dance similar to an Irish jig. Throughout we see the influence of Bruce Wood’s style: big, swooping, soaring lifts, loose and sinuous movements, a taste for tension and release.
As a reminder of what refugees have endured, a mound of red rubble—low at first—slowly inches its way from the far edge of the stage into the middle until the mound has reached the height of tall buildings. The rubble creates an ominous mood, but the real drama comes from the original score by Joseph Thalken, performed by the Dallas Chamber Symphony. It rumbles, whispers, blasts and moans, with its closest counterpart the music of Aaron Copland. It sets the mood much in the way music does for a movie, switching gears for each scene.
Chasing Home ends at daybreak, the refugees lying face down before Olivia Rehrman gently awakens them, and the day starts all over.
Also on the program were Bruce Wood’s 2004 Schmetterling (German for “butterfly”) and his 1999 Zero Hour.
Schmetterling, set to several of Mozart’s piano concertos, was simply a joy, beginning with formal bows and angled limbs, making a turn into the comic, and ending with those signature glorious, high-overhead lifts.
The simplicity of the beginning—dancers take tilted poses, legs out, one arm at a two o’clock angle, and then shift into a different stance—had a Baroque formality, every gesture so clear it could have been freeze-framed. The comedy came with a wobbling Albert Drake speeding up and slowing down, while his comrades moved like rabbits.
The harsh, grating tango music of Piazzolla and Lalo Schifrin inspired not a single tango step in Zero Hour, but nevertheless captured the tension in sharp, elegant movement. It begins with dancers all in black, their backs to us, moving forward with their legs tracing rond de jambes, and then retreating backward. The movement is even more formal than the opening of Schmetterling.
The dance grows in tension, coming to a climax as men swing their partners upward in great arching lifts, and then ends as coolly as it began as the dancers turn away, backs to us, as the light dims.
Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.
ARTICLES ABOUT JOURNEYS
Journeys News + Reviews
The mission of Bruce Wood Dance Project is to present high-caliber, original, contemporary choreography that
harnesses the power of dance as a tool for entertainment, enrichment, and healing. Fortified by Bruce Wood®’s
aesthetic, BWDP produces and maintains his repertoire, commissions new work by resident choreographers and
guest dance-makers, and contributes to the quality of life in Dallas Fort Worth, Texas, and across the nation.
Bruce Wood Dance Company is a 501(c)3 non-profit arts organization. We are grateful for the support of our sponsors.
Bruce Wood is a registered trademark.
VIDEO BY JEVAN CHOWDHURY
VisitDallas partnered with visionary British director Jevan Chowdhury to produce Moving Dallas, an acclaimed short film that celebrates the marriage of dance and transportation in Dallas. Capturing international performers in real settings, Moving Cities features cities through the medium of film and dance and the concept of shared space between city life, art, and locomotion.
In 2016, Chowdhury selected Dallas as the latest Moving Cities project to showcase the city’s vibrant growth, amazing architecture, and rich cultural landscape of working artists. Dallas is the first American city to be featured, joining cities such as London, Prague, Athens, Brussels, and Paris in the Moving Cities movement.
“There’s no better time to explore the cultural heart of America,” Chowdhury said. “Dallas, a mythical city rich in American legend, has accelerated full speed into this century. Big cars, trucks, and skylines—it truly is a stage for amazing dance talent.”
Moving Dallas premiered at the VisitDallas Annual Meeting on December 1, 2016 and will be shown at art and film festivals around the globe, where these stunning films have been celebrated and awarded, including at the Aurora public art event in Dallas.
“We’re honored that Moving Cities chose Dallas as their first film project in America,” said Phillip Jones, President and CEO of VisitDallas. “It makes perfect sense. We have the largest contiguous arts district in the United States and a rich diversity of people, dance styles, and cultures. It’s a modern and moving demonstration of Dallas’ performing arts scene.”
Using Chowdhury’s trademark kinetic cinematography, Moving Dallas marries classical ballet, line dancing, contemporary dance—and even cheerleading—with the iconic Dallas cityscape, hidden streets, freeways, and Fair Park, all showing the vibrant, exciting energy that is Dallas.
The almost eight-minute film features Bruce Wood Dance Project, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dance Council of North Texas, TITAS, and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, among others.
“The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are thrilled to have been chosen to represent Dallas in Moving Cities,” said Shelly Bramhall, Associate Choreographer. “We love that the iconic uniform was taken out of the stadium and into the cityscape of downtown Dallas, showcasing the art and movement of dance. Being one of several established performance groups on this project is truly an honor.”
The project was sponsored by VisitDallas and executed by a steering committee that was instrumental in bringing the film to fruition.
“Moving Cities celebrates our city like never before,” said Charles Santos, Executive Director of TITAS and steering committee member. “Our skyline, ever evolving with cranes and buildings, big personalities and big ideas—this film pays homage to the diversity and excitement of growing Dallas.”
Shot during three grueling weeks in the blazing heat of Dallas’ September weather, the film features 17 locations and 56 dancers from 10 dance companies and organizations.
“When people think of Dallas they tend to think of us in only one way, and we wanted to show off the breadth of Dallas dance, from folklorico to classical Indian to hip-hop,” said Gayle Halperin, steering committee member and President of the Bruce Wood Dance Project.
Chowdhury founded Moving Cities in 2014. It stems from his love of dance and fascination with the standardization and mechanization of cities. The project has transformed from a cultural European initiative to an award-winning global inventory with productions in Nairobi and Barcelona planned for 2017.
Cities are mesmerizing. Moving Cities celebrates this.
“This film shows our city in a completely different light—expression, energy, progress, change, diversity. I’ve never seen a city through dancers’ motion, and it just graced everything so beautifully.”
PHOTO BY JEVAN CHOWDHURY
MOVING CITIES CAPTURES THE SPIRIT OF DALLAS THROUGH DANCE