ON THE MOVE
The mission of Bruce Wood Dance 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, BWD 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.
Bruce Wood Dance has overcome the loss of its founder to become one of America’s most exciting dance prospects
By Lynne Richardson I August 1, 2017 I International Arts Manager
Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) is poised to join the ranks of international touring companies and bring the big heart of Dallas to the rest of the country and beyond. A dynamic, compelling, contemporary dance company, it is built on the vision and prolific output of acclaimed Texan choreographer Bruce Wood.®
The company has just signed with promoters KMP Artists, meaning international audiences can expect to seem them on global stages in the near future. For now though, the company is focused on upcoming shows in Dallas at the Bruce Wood Dance Gallery and Moody Performance Hall in Dallas on November 17+18.
Wood, who passed away in 2014, created works and excerpts that have been described as innovative, engaging, moving, and often amusing.
“I didn’t want to be cerebral about making dance. That’s an egotistical thing,” explained Wood back in 2013 in an interview with Karen McDonough. “We’re trying to communicate without words to make people feel something. If you can make people feel something, they’ll come back.”
“I believe that when you see a performance, your life should be changed—altered in some way. The echo of it should linger with you for days afterwards. I expect that, when the curtain goes up, you should experience something quite remarkable. Something magical. Something healing.”
Wood himself had a successful dance career before returning to his native Texas “to make dances.”
Besides touring internationally with San Francisco Ballet and Les Ballet Jazz de Montréal, he spent many years with American choreographer Lar Lubovitch, including as assistant on Broadway’s Into the Woods. He also guested with DV8 in London and co-created and performed with Canadian icon Margie Gillis. From these powerful influences Wood picked up his own dance identity and formed his own company in Fort Worth in 1996. He quickly acquired a strong following in the North Texas region and subsequently took Bruce Wood Dance Company on three well-received national tours.
“Wood toured his dancers to acclaim,” said US senior arts reporter for KERA Radio Jerome Weeks in a broadcast memorial in 2014. “He brought cutting-edge clarity, sophisticated style, and humor to his work. He choreographed ambitious works to Ravel and Philip Glass, but also tongue-in-cheek dances to Lyle Lovett songs.”
Wood’s original company folded, but was successfully resurrected in Dallas in 2010 as Bruce Wood Dance Project with support from new backers who took over the management and fundraising, allowing him to focus solely on choreography. Sadly, Woods untimely death in 2014 at the age of 53 meant the company had to carry on without its founder.
The job of leading BWD fell to Gayle Halperin, former dancer and philanthropist, who became its producer on Wood’s death. Although he left behind a devastated company and dance community, the BWD team was determined that his legacy should continue.
But how does the company keep Wood’s work alive? To start with, every program the company presents includes works from Wood’s repertoire.
“I have been in the dance world for 40 years,” says Halperin, when asked why keeping Wood’s work on stages is so important. “The repertoire of this company is transformative and I don’t say that lightly. Its impact is great because it’s about the human experience; about people and their feelings. Our company transforms human nature into dance works that are relatable and relevant.”
Kimi Nikaidoh was Wood’s protégé, working closely together since the days of his first company. She returned to Dallas to dance for Wood after a successful career in New York, and is now the company’s artistic director.
Says Nikaidoh: “I always knew Bruce’s work was special, but after living in New York for more than 10 years, touring nationally and internationally and seeing lots of dance, I know it is special. I want to share that work and the new dances the company commissions with as wide an audience as possible.”
Part of what inspired Wood was his Texan roots. Dallas has a thriving arts community and an outstanding arts district–the largest in the country. This dynamism greatly appealed to Wood, who was constantly looking to widen the audience for dance and found fertile ground in the district.
“Bruce’s Texas roots said everything about his aesthetic,” said Dallas dance critic Margaret Putnam. “The vast sky, the dust and dirt, the wind and the heat and the emptiness made a profound impression on him.
“He once said, ‘I love being on a field where you can see 20 miles in all directions on a hot, hot day. It effects how you think. My aesthetic is different. I don’t mind simple.’ Simple yes, but spare, understated, and oh-so-very sophisticated.”
Perhaps the best example of this aesthetic can be found in Wood’s most acclaimed work, My Brother’s Keeper. It began as a study for an AIDS Awareness event at the Winspear Opera House, the largest venue in the Dallas Arts District, in 2011. After two years of gestation, My Brother’s Keeper premiered to critical acclaim. A ground-breaking, evening-long dance/theatre work for solo-voice, dance and spoken text, it features an all-male cast aged 17 to 78.
Wood wrote at the premiere in 2013: “I like being a man. I never thought of myself as a ‘man’ until my late 40s. I would refer to myself as a ‘guy’. Then I read something that said, ‘The world is full of guys; be a man.’ That little idea changed everything for me. As a result, I really began to wonder: What is it to be a man?”
Another male-centric work, Follow Me, was commissioned in 2004 by RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, Columbus, GA at the Heard Theatre. The work honors the military and was premiered before 1,000 active service military and family members in the audience. A handful of soldiers were included in the cast, and in later performances, reservists from local units were utilized onstage.
“I don’t know what it’s like to be shot at, but I do know what it’s like when all your best friends die beside you, one by one,” commented Wood at the time. The choreographer’s compassionate approach now informs the work of others—for example Albert Drake III, whose recent piece, Chasing Home, was commissioned by BWD. Chasing Home deals with the ongoing international refugee crisis, and was co-created with New York-based composer Joseph Thalken in association with the International Refugee Committee in Dallas.
Bruce Wood® was eloquent about his work, but credited author John Steinbeck with his personal favorite mantra: “My job is to reconnect humans with their own humanity,” he’d quote, adding, “I believe that completely. It is my job, but more importantly, it is my honor.”
My Brother’s Keeper. Choreography by Bruce Wood.® Photo by Brian Guilliaux.