We talk with Adam Hougland, a Booker T grad and now one of the hottest choreographers in America, plus Clifford Williams – a dancer appearing in Hougland’s commissioned duet, premiering for TITAS.
In early April 2015, choreographer Adam Hougland returned to Dallas, his hometown, from Bristol, England. Dallas is also his constant launching pad. He’s had a three-year long residency at Southern Methodist University and now a newly commissioned piece for TITAS’ annual Command Performance—the highlight of TITAS’ dance season at the Winspear Opera House. Awaken, his new duet, will be danced by former Complexions Contemporary Ballet dancer Clifford Williams and Albert Drake of the Bruce Wood Dance Project.
Since graduating from Booker T. Washington High School and Juilliard, Hougland’s career skyrocketed. He is currently the principal choreographer for the Louisville Ballet, a resident choreographer at Cincinnati Ballet, and is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand choreographers in the United States. Earlier this month, his latest piece, Ask Me, premiered at Smuin Ballet in San Francisco. The current commission is just another step in this upward climb, and it reunites him with fellow Juilliard classmate Williams.
How did the commission come about?
AHCharles [Santos, executive director of TITAS] approached me earlier this year at the Dark Circles performance [ironically another company that will perform at this year’s event]. He said he wanted to talk to me about a possible commission and that he wanted me to make something for Albert [Drake] and Clifford [Williams]. Clifford and I were at Juilliard together and I have worked with Albert at SMU, so I was super excited about the idea.
How did you start developing this piece? Was it a collaboration with TITAS, or were you given free rein to make what you chose?
AHCharles sent me a few pieces of music, just things he thought I might like. One of them was a movement from a Bach Cello Suite. I’m a big fan of the Suites, but wasn’t so familiar with this particular piece. I thought it really suited Albert and Clifford, so I just started listening to it and becoming as comfortable with it as I could before we started working with it.
What inspired the piece, and what can we expect from it?
In rehearsal: Clifford Williams and Albert Drake
AHI was inspired so much by these guys! They are so different in so many ways, but they both have this amazing organic, fluid quality. They have beautiful lines and are both very musical. It has been such a pleasure giving them something they can really sink their teeth into. I think it’s just really incredible to see two men dance with such sensitivity and yet still be powerful. It has a lot of different textures to it! There’s no real narrative — it’s an abstract piece, but with a lot of spirit.
What are you most looking forward to with Command, and how does it feel to be asked to choreograph for it?
AHI’m just thrilled we could make it work! It is such a special event and to be commissioned to make something new for it is really wonderful. Charles really had to move mountains to get Clifford, Albert and me in the same place at the same time. We did the piece in four days, and they’ll have one more rehearsal when Clifford comes back a couple of days before the show, but I won’t be there. I’m sad I can’t be there for the event, but I’m just so happy to have the privilege of working with these beautiful artists. A sentiment echoed by Clifford Williams who I was able to connect with a few weeks ago.
How was it like working with Adam and reconnecting after Juilliard?
CWIt was great! Creating this work with him for Command has been simply lovely. Adam is so creative and he allows you to bring yourself into the creation. It was a wonderful process.
You’ve become almost a regular to the Command Performance stage, and you’ll even be performing twice this year. What are you most looking forward to as a returning Command alumnus?
CWI’m most looking forward to the performance in general! And while I’ll be performing twice, the pieces couldn’t be more different from each other. They are two very different works with two beautiful dancers. Albert Drake is a dynamic powerhouse. And I get to dance with the exquisite Yuan Yuan Tan [of the San Francisco Ballet]. I’ve always wanted to dance with her, and now I can cross it off my bucket list!
Tan, Williams and Drake are just a few of the performers coming into town this week to take the stage at the Winspear Opera House. The 2015 TITAS Command Performance will feature dancers from some of the nation’s top companies, such as Davit Karapetyan (San Francisco Ballet), Sarah Mearns and Tyler Angle (New York City Ballet), Rebecca Rasmussen and Steven Ezra Marshall (MOMIX), Cervilio Amador and Janessa Touchet (Cincinnati Ballet), and Lil’ Buck—who will dance two works, including his incredible version of the Dying Swan solo. But this year will also highlight talent right in our own backyard. In addition to Drake, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance will stage their critically acclaimed duet, Critics of the Morning Song, performed by Artistic Director/Choreographer Joshua Peugh and dancer Alex Karigan-Farrior.