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At Booker T. Washington HS, A Dance/Music Collaboration 30 Years In the Making

by Danielle Georgiou 11 Oct 2012 3:21 PM

There was a very special performance at the high school for performing and visual arts last night. Guest blogger Danielle Georgiou was there, and reports you have another chance to see it tonight.


Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is the artistic director and choreographer of DGDG: Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. She also serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble. And she’s a member of Muscle Nation.

  • Pushing Boundaries continues today, Thursday, October 11, at 7pm the Montgomery Arts Theater at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

On Wednesday, the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts opened their first dance and music collaborative show ever.  Despite an unexpected technical issue—they were unable to use their fly system, the part that controls all the curtains and the cyc—that left the stage exposed, showing all the nuts and bolts of the backstage, the show went off seamlessly. In fact, the barebones-look highlighted the work, allowing the audience to focus on the dancers and the musicians.

For Pushing Boundaries, the dance and musician faculty came together to create works that utilized the talent and potential of their students. They pushed them to work outside of their comfort zones, as they are used to staying on their side of the campus, in their own rehearsals halls, and doing their own individual shows. Six premieres were the result of this experiment, and each showcased the wonderful technique that both the dance and music students are working on all while bringing live music to a stage in Dallas.

Dance faculty member Kate Walker’s work, “Arise from Arms,” with the Meistersingers and the Rock Ensemble was a great example of this collaborative process. The Meistersingers began on stage, dressed all in black, moving through the space, as the dancers appeared out of nowhere. The choreography began before the movement ever did, and it involved every single body, not just the dancers. And the set, two giant pieces of scaffolding and a rock band set-up, was pivotal to performing this work: I can’t imagine the work without it, because it all just made sense. It was an explosion of energy, an athletic and fierce feat of movement and music.

Dance faculty member Linda James worked with Rhythm & Blues Director Roger Boykin and vocal soloist Rachel Dupard to bring forth a lounge feel in “Cry Me A River.” Dupard wowed with her beautiful melodies and commanding vocal range, and James’ choreography pushed her dancers to find a sense of gravity that was honored and then tossed aside allowing them to fly across the stage.

Jennifer Mabus, dance faculty, brought opera to the evening, with the help of Opera Director and soloist Nicole McWilliams, vocalist Chabely Rodriguez, and accompanist Larissa Kieffer in “Tempra, O Diva.” Mabus’ choreography simmered with aggressiveness but was coupled with a mature sense of sensitivity. It was chilling in the most satisfactory way. Mabus spent a part of her of summer training with Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, and their intimate control of craft was an obvious influence upon this new work.  It was a great representation of why teachers should continuously be training themselves, because it allows them to bring new styles back to their students, and advance their knowledge.

Dance faculty member Bridget L. Moore’s collaboration with the Jazz Combo, “Sophisticated Lady,” had an enticing swagger. It was a masterful use of jazz and African movement vocabulary, as well as a control of the work of Miles Davis and Foot Prints by the musicians. It was fluid and seamless, as the choreography fit the music perfectly, and the music belonged to the movement.

Jenny Johnston’s contemporary ballet piece, “Danse de Huit,” utilized the String Ensemble, and showed that ballet is still alive and needs to be a part of our education system. The dancers had control of their bodies, control of their pointe shoes, and control of their technique. Aspects every ballerina needs to have.

The evening ended with Lily Weiss’ “Thrown for a Loop.” The stage was filled with musicians from different areas of the department: there were drummers, strings, and horns. The dancers exploded and responded with precise detail to every beat, every bang, and every pop. It left the audience breathless as the music enveloped them and pushed them forward to respond to each arabesque, pirouette, and jeté from the dancers.  They were stunning, lithe creatures that showed the future each of these dancers will have.  It will be a good one.

This show was more than just a “high-school dance show.” It proved how important the collaborative process is. Without a healthy working environment and positive communication between the departments, this show could not have happened. More than that, it showed the future of Dallas dance; these students are already dancing at a level that most professional dancers strive for: a growing knowledge of their bodies, a sense of maturity and emotion in performance, and the willingness and ability to adapt to change (the spontaneity that can come with live music and technical issues that could throw even the most seasoned dancer).