Back for its sophomore year, the Dallas DanceFest has something to prove. Was last year’s success a fluke? Will this year’s selection of dance companies provide the same excitement and entertainment? Will this festival help put Dallas on the map as a go-to venue for traveling dance companies? Are we prepared to host a dance festival of this magnitude?
Promoted as Dallas’ premiere dance festival, the Fest has some big shoes to fill as its predecessor, The Dallas Morning News Dance Festival, was a community staple. The 20-year institution became a Labor Day tradition and provided an outlet and venue for emerging and established dance companies, dance programs and dance studios in Dallas and Fort Worth to present works from their repertory — along with experimental projects.
When the festival folded in 2004, the backlash was incredible. No one wanted to see this opportunity disappear. Festivals allow room for successes and failures, and for the latter to be reworked into future successes. There is no other environment quite like a festival. It’s invigorating – a melting pot of ideas and people. Festivals allow you as an artist to meet like-minded individuals and to present your work in a welcoming space. Gone is the nervousness of hosting your own show. You go in knowing the stress of production is handled for you. It’s your time to perform and present yourself as best as you can.
The Dance Council of North Texas knew this and after nearly 10 years of sorting out a way to re-establish a dance festival in Dallas, they finally did it. Now, in a partnership with the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, the second annual Dallas DanceFest will take place September 4-6 at the Dallas City Performance Hall. This event will feature performances on Friday and Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m., and a Sunday matinee will honor the recipients of the 2015 Dance Council Honors at 2:00 p.m., with a performance to follow at 3:00 p.m.
With this second year, the DanceFest is continuing the format they established last year: a panel of top dance professionals acted as a jurors to review and select the performers. This year, the panel included, Houston Ballet dancer Lauren Anderson, Fred Darsow, associate professor of dance at the University of Texas-Pan American, Dallas native and former Booker T. Washington High School teacher Bridget L. Moore, and Catherine Turocy, co-founder of the New York Baroque Dance Company. They selected 20 companies from the 55 that applied. While some popular local companies were not selected this year, and others who had performed last year were unable to apply or return, this year’s offerings show promise. The Dallas DanceFest can be a festival that represents local dance-works and brings national artistry to our growing movement landscape here.
Seven out-of-town acts fill more than a third of the bill, with Natyananda: Joy of Dance coming from Birmingham, Alabama, Bell House Arts from Tulsa, Oklahoma, three companies from Houston will be attending, as well as artists from Austin. Both the main and junior companies of Dallas Black Dance Theatre will be performing, as is the Bruce Wood Dance Project, Mosaic Dance Project of Dallas and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. A full list of performers is below.
Even so, there is not a single professional ballet company represented. Last year’s invited guests, Texas Ballet Theater, are opening Dracula this weekend at the Winspear Opera House, and previously selected companies Avant Chamber Ballet and Mejia Ballet International are not returning. Ballet, instead, will be represented by student ensembles from Texas Ballet Theater’s school, the Ballet Ensemble of Texas and Chamberlain Performing Arts.
Additionally, selected artists were invited as special guests. The Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blues Dancers will be performing, while Rhythmic Souls were commissioned to create a new work honoring Chicago tap pioneer Lane Alexander, one of the eight dance figures being recognized by the Dance Council on Sunday. LaQuet Sharnell Pringle, a Broadway dancer/choreographer, is setting a commissioned work on the Bruce Wood Dance Project.
And about those awards on Sunday. For 27 years, the Dance Council has selected individuals whose passion and commitment to the dance community has greatly affected the art form in North Texas. This year, eight individuals will be honored. Each of the awards memorializes a talented and prestigious person in our dance community. The 2015 Dance Council Honorees are: Lane Alexander, Ronelle Eddings, Pat and Tanju Tuzer, Gwen Owens, Shalini Varghese Chandragiri, Tony Tucci and Susan Savarese.
Will this weekend live up to the hype of last year’s event? The festival has been touted as presenting the highest quality of local dance artists, “curated to reflect vibrancy, vitality, diversity and excellence.” The only way to find out if they are living up to that mission is go and see for yourself.
The 2015 Dallas DanceFest, opening Friday, September 4 at 8 p.m, second show on Saturday, September 5 at 8 p.m., and the Dance Council Honors on Sunday, September 6 at 2 p.m.
Dance Festival Programming
Friday, September 4 at 8 p.m.
- AJ Garcia-Rameau
- Ballet Ensemble of Texas
- Booker T. Washington HSPVA Repertory II
- Bruce Wood Dance Project
- Dallas Black Dance Theatre II
- Dallas Cowboys Rhythm & Blue Dancers
- LaQuet Sharnell Pringle
- Mosaic Dance Project
- Texas Ballet Theater School
- Amy Morrow with The Bell House
Saturday, September 5 at 8 p.m.
- Booker T. Washington HSPVA Repertory I
- Chamberlain Performing Arts
- Dallas Black Dance Theatre
- Dark Circles Contemporary Dance
- Houston Repertory Dance Ensemble
- LaQuet Sharnell Pringle
- Natayananda: Joy of Dance
- NobleMotion Dance
- SMU Meadows Dance Ensemble
Sunday, September 6 starting at 2 p.m.
- Silent Auction and Reception
- Awards and Performance