Bruce Wood’s work is part of a cultural vernacular—impulsive dance fusion

often laced with perfectly timed humor and infused with raw emotional content.

Danna Reubin, frontrow.dmagazine.com

Three-Time

Winner

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.

Ellen Kendrick Creative, Inc. TACA—Performing for the Arts
Brian Guilliaux Photography

Bruce Wood is a registered trademark.

Review: Rise I Bruce Wood Dance

On the Hillside

For Bruce Wood Dance, Joy Atkins Bollinger delivers another stunning premiere with Hillside, beautifully complementing two of Wood’s works.

By mixing in a little Disney-fairytale brilliance you might have some idea of what hit you with Joy Bollinger’s stunning Hillside. And then, maybe not.

If there was one wee shortcoming to this imaginative dance performed Friday and Saturday night at Moody Performance Hall as the closing work of Bruce Wood Dance’s Rise, it was too short. Those sweeping, up-in-the-air lifts! Those swirling patterns as dancers fan out! Those desperate attempts to escape!

Talk about the influence of Bruce Wood®Hillside was one heady rush of striking, gorgeous movement that you wish would never end. Beyond the pure aesthetic display of grace, however, Hillside offers a tantalizing tale of danger and rescue with, at its center, one terrific character.

Ms. Bollinger coaxed Kimi Nikaidoh, who is now the company’s artistic director, to play the role of a musing, dreamy girl who wanders on a hillside and encounters all sorts of trials and tribulations. The music comes right out of Hollywood.

The hillside—an abstract dense-foam construction 32-feet long and five-feet deep of rolling, dipping planes designed by Bollinger’s architect brother—serves as the launching pad for all the action. The ballet opens with dancers nestled in a curving slope, the only thing visible are legs that stick skyward. Twenty legs sway in the breeze. Ms. Nikaidoh wanders in, brushing the legs/wheat stalks. When she reaches the edge of the hill, she slumps into a twilight sleep.

Then the action turns from dream to nightmare with our dreamer entangled by those limbs she has so casually touched, desperately trying to break free. She’s rescued by woodland creatures in outfits of mottled leaves, attacked again by creepy, crawling monsters, fights them off with help from the woodland creatures, and with one grand, desperate act, runs the length of the hill and leaps off.

The scenes rush by at a breathtaking pace, fairly tripping over each other, with a few slow and ominous moments: in one, lighting and thunder rip over a brooding, empty land; in another, high up on the hill, monsters twist and writhe. (Tony Tucci is responsible for the stunning lighting; Nathaniel Atkins for set illustration and Carlos Nicholls and Roberto Riesco for set construction.)

The most stunning scene takes place when the stage fills with dancers on the ground and atop the hill swirling and sweeping and shooting skyward, looking like airplanes swooping daringly low. In the midst of this, our heroine flits in and out, reveling in the surging stream.

As for Ms. Nikaidoh, not only does she dance with willowy softness, she also projects such bare emotion that the tale goes beyond fanciful to something real and close to home.

We see a bright future for Ms. Bollinger (she made a stunning debut last year with Carved In Stone, a work that made the top of every local list of best dance performances of 2016), but we need not fear that Wood’s own works will lose any of their power. Ms. Nikaidoh and Ms. Bollinger as the company’s rehearsal director and répétiteur, respectively, have seen to that. Wood’s The Only Way Through Is Through, a driving, intense dance set to the equally driving music of Philip Glass, fairly boiled, while his Lay Your Burdens Down went in an entirely different direction, Zen-like in its quiet gravity.

The Only Way Through Is Through opens in silence, as seven dancers emerge lunging and stamping, hitting the floor with bare hands. In swiftly changing patterns, they move with ferocious energy, covering the stage in great gulps. Austin Sora breaks away, moving in snake like surges, then magically joins the others as they whiplash across the stage. That image is repeated by Akilah Brooks and then again by Emily Drake, the image of three indomitable women.

The work builds in dramatic intensity and at its height, we watch as each woman runs through a gauntlet of dancers. With great force, each breaks the stretched-out hands only to rejoin the line.

If the Only Way Through Is Through is linear, loud, reckless and sharp, Lay Your Burdens Down is as slow and quiet as melting ice. There are three shallow bowls spaced at distances around the stage; occasionally water drips from the ceiling. The dancers, clad in white with long dresses that fan out, touch and cradle each other gently, taking turn leaning over a bowl and catching water in their cupped hands. At the end, the dancers split apart, and as eight slowly sink to the floor, Kevin Pajarillaga leans over a bowl, looks up to the heavens and catches the falling water in his hand.

Like many of Wood’s poetic works, Lay Your Burdens Down asks tantalizing questions and creates a state of awe.

Margaret Putnam I TheaterJones.com

November 22, 2017

 

Falling Up

Bruce Wood Dance prepares for the physically taxing elements in Joy Atkins Bollinger’s Hillside, part of the company’s Rise performance this weekend.

Against what will be a backlit stage, Kimi Nikaidoh slowly walks across the space in Bruce Wood Dance’s (BWD) main studio with a pensive expression on her face. Her left arm habitually reaches out to brush across the other dancers’ feet, which are swaying haphazardly as the dancers lay prone on a sloping 32-foot-long 5-foot-wide replica of a hillside made of dense Styrofoam and reinforced with half inch plywood. As Nikaidoh moves further downstage, the dancers start a series of quick lower body exercises, including flex and pointed toes, turned out feet and crisscrossing legs, which they perform in tandem as well as off time. Even without the lighting this image is striking thanks to the dancers’ simplistic movements, which stir up a wealth of emotion, and are also recurring themes in choreographer Joy Atkins Bollinger’s new work, Hillside, for the BWD’s Rise performance this weekend.

 

Bollinger says the inspiration for Hillside came from an image she kept seeing in her head of just a slope.

“I just couldn’t shake this image of an abstract hillside that looks like someone just took some marley and squished it from the sides so it just has a ripple in it,” Bollinger says. “And I could also see the dancers starting out with their legs in the air and a figure just walking by and brushing their hand against that.”

To bring this idea to life, Bollinger had her brother who happens to be an architectural engineer help her create an architectural file, which is what the Styrofoam factory referred to when cutting the material. From there the prop had to be assembled and then reinforced so the dancers would be able to run across and perform on it. “So the meat of it is actually a dense foam that weighs between 200 and 300 pounds that we then covered with a thin carpet and marley flooring.”

In addition to the even, smooth look on top, Bollinger also needed the prop to be light enough to slide around the stage, which the dancers do a couple of times throughout the piece. Bollinger explains that the prop begins up stage and will move to mid stage during Nikaidoh’s personal struggle before being shifted to a diagonal, which will represent Nikaidoh’s new perspective on life. She adds, “The first transition will have these flashes of light and as the music changes the downstage will be lit, but the upstage will be dark so all you can see is the front edge of the prop creeping into the light.”

If you had to opportunity to see Carved In Stone, you will be able to see some similarities between that piece and Hillside, most obviously Bollinger’s penchant for large casts and captivating stage design and lighting techniques. She has also taken a page out of Wood’s book with the use of understated movement and silky smooth partnering sections. Like Wood, Bollinger also relies heavily on instinct so that her movement always has a continuous flow to it, but keeps in context with the piece’s narrative and imagery.

This is most clearly seen in the large group section near the end when all 14 dancers run into the space, including three dancers on the hillside, to perform a breathtaking series of body arcs and under-curves, which Bollinger layers with balletic legs and textured arm movements to fast-paced instrumentals. With the use of creative pathways and musical timing, Bollinger avoids the clutter and chaos that generally comes with such large dance works; instead making smart choices that add more dimension and emotional depth to the already deeply empowering work.

And as for why Bollinger decided to work such a large cast she says, “There is just something so satisfying and fulfilling about seeing a lot of bodies on stage. The piece reads stronger with more bodies and the music is so big and powerful, and there are so many layers at the end that I just wanted there to be a moment where everyone can see the big picture.”

Hillside makes it premiere at Bruce Wood Dance’s RISE performance at Moody Performance Hall Nov. 17-18. The program also includes Wood’s Lay Your Burdens Down and The Only Way Through Is Through. This program will be dedicated to choreographer/instructor Kim Abel; and to former BWDC dancer Doug Hopkins, both of whom passed a way in recent months.

Katie Dravenstott I TheaterJones.com

November 15, 2017

Cult of Brucenality

Three years after its namesake’s death, Bruce Wood Dance thrives in all-new ways

It is a few weeks before Rise, the new performance from Bruce Wood Dance is set to open, and the company’s producer, Gayle Halperin, is hosting one of her salons. Held before each show, it previews the works that will be presented and gets longtime patrons, recent donors and some newcomers a peek into the creative process. But this time, as she gives her usual pitch, she chokes up. Bruce Wood—the company’s founder and artistic director—died suddenly more than three years ago, and the pain of that loss still stings. But Halperin also realizes something while glancing at the current company: Not including the creative team, none of the dancers ever worked directly with Wood himself.

That resonates not only with Halperin, but with all those present. It’s a realization just how far the troupe has come against impossible odds.

Bruce Wood was already an established and respected dancer, choreographer and company founder when Halperin approached him, in 2010, to do “a project”—bring his talents back to North Texas stages for a recital. Initially, it was just going to be a one-off, but the success of it triggered an itch both had to scratch. The Bruce Wood Dance Project was born, and it completed three seasons before Wood succumbed to complications from AIDS just weeks before the start of its fourth season. Halperin and the remaining dancers soldiered on through that production, and decided to see if they could maintain it. Kimi Nikaidoh, who had danced with the defunct Bruce Wood Dance Company during its stint in Fort Worth, was tapped as artistic director; Wood protégés Joy Bollinger and Albert Drake were given leadership positions. And the company grew. And grew. Earlier this year, the word “project” was officially dropped — it was no longer a temporary enterprise, but a going concern in the artistic tapestry of North Texas. In addition to the two annual concerts, the company performs in festivals and with groups like the Turtle Creek Chorale. But growth also meant some dancers—who tend to have a finite career span anyway— moved on. And on this day last month, it occurred to Halperin that almost everyone dancing under the banner of “Bruce Wood” had never even met the man.

One sort-of exception was Néstor Leonardo Pérez. His experience with Wood—which he told at the salon—was met with hushed respect. Pérez began studying dance when he attended Texas Woman’s University in Denton in 2009. When he graduated, he auditioned in front of Wood . . . but was passed over for inclusion in the company at that time. But it didn’t end there. Wood took him aside, Pérez explained, and put his hand on his shoulder to give him advice and support. He encouraged the young man to keep at it. After Wood passed, Pérez auditioned again; he is now in his third year as an apprentice with the company.

“Where I come from was very horrible,” Pérez, a native of the southern tropical region of Mexico, explained at the salon. “I was not accepted for who I was.” Wood was an inspiration and guiding light; not entering the company on his first audition wasn’t an impediment but a challenge to succeed. (For her part, Halperin expressed amazement at Perez’s accomplishments and dedication.)

Two of the dances to be performed at Rise—The Only Way Through Is Through (originally from 1998) and Lay Your Burdens Down (performed only once before, and now making its Dallas debut)—were original Wood works; the third is a world premiere, Hillside, created by Bollinger, who cannot help but be influenced by her mentor. The pieces themselves continue Wood’s legacy, but it’s in the dedication and commitment of dancers who never worked with Wood that his spirit remains.

Arnold Wayne Jones

Executive Editor I Dallas Voice

November 10, 2017

New Moves for a Revered Dance Company

Bruce Wood® is the best choreographer of the past 20 years whom most dance fans have never heard of. That oversight should change when the late Fort Worth native’s company begins touring his unparalleled body of work outside Texas. Formerly known as the Bruce Wood Dance Project, the group has shortened its name to Bruce Wood Dance to reflect its permanence and signed with Austin-based KMP Artists for both national and international bookings.

Its first showcase for presenters comes next month at the Arts Midwest Conference in Columbus, Ohio, but tour dates likely won’t be set for a year or two. The project formed in 2011, four years after Wood closed his first troupe. If not for the strength of the 80 or so pieces he created between 1996 and his death in 2004, the 53-year-old’s legacy might have been lost. Instead, the project has carried on with revivals of his humanistic dances and new work by like-minded choreographers.

Manuel Mendoza I The Dallas Morning News

July 19, 2017

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 12, 2017

 

Bruce Wood Dance Project Changes Its Name to Bruce Wood Dance and Signs with KMP Artists for National and International Touring Opportunities

 

DALLAS, Texas—Now in its seventh year, Bruce Wood Dance Project continues a tradition of excellence and growth established by its late founder, the acclaimed Texan choreographer, Bruce Wood.®  The company announces its name change to Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) to reflect its evolution, success, and stability.

Says BWD president Gayle Halperin, “The name change to Bruce Wood Dance reflects our permanence and strength. We are here to produce and preserve the artistic legacy of Bruce Wood® (1960–2014), and cultivate new works by in-house dancemakers and national artists whose work is about the emotional undertones of daily life.”

BWD also announces its contract with KMP Artists. Established in 2004, KMP Artists is one of the foremost international arts agencies representing dance, theater, family, and music programs. In its new relationship with BWD, KMP will represent the company as its agent for touring outside Texas.

KMP’s founder, Kristopher McDowell, states, “We are happy to partner with and represent this outstanding company from Texas for domestic and International touring.”

“We’re excited to partner with KMP to share our invigorating, inspiring repertoire with new audiences. BWD’s future is bright with possibilities, and I’m grateful to Bruce, whose brilliance paved the way for all of them,” says artistic director Kimi Nikaidoh.

BWD is available for performances and residencies that consist of dance classes for all ages from beginners to professionals. Its repertoire comprises 17 Bruce Wood® revivals. Ranging from poignant to hilarious, and from fiercely dramatic to holiday cabaret, these dances showcase the dynamic breadth of Wood’s oeuvre. The company also performs commissions from acclaimed choreographers Katarzyna Skarpetowska, Bryan Arias, and Andy+Dionne Noble. New works by artistic director Kimi Nikaidoh, rehearsal director Joy Bollinger, and artistic associate Albert Drake III round out the company’s exceptional offerings.

To book the company, email info@kmpartists.com, or call 512–888–9895.

BWD has experienced many significant milestones in its short history: BWD received a 2015–2017 Bloomberg Philanthropies/Arts Innovation Management Grant; and was named to the 2016–2018 Texas Commission on the Arts Touring Roster. The company was awarded the 2016 TACA Donna Wilhelm Family New Works grant for the creation of Chasing Home, a collaboration between New York composer Joseph Thalken, Albert Drake III, and the Dallas Chamber Symphony to raise awareness of refugees in this region. BWD has been featured on every Top Ten Dance Media List in Dallas since 2011 and was listed as the #1 dance company for three years running by the Dallas Voice in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and 2013 and 2014 Editors Choice in the BEST of BIG D in D Magazine. Resident choreographer Joy Bollinger’s Carved In Stone was named the #1 best work in the 2016 Top Ten Dance Events by critic Mark Lowry of The Star-Telegram. BWD has toured in Texas, Colorado, and New York.

 

Review: Journeys I Bruce Wood Dance Project I Dallas City Performance Hall

Seeking Refuge

The Bruce Wood Dance Project debuts Albert Drake’s ambitious work about refugees, Chasing Home

“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?

Margaret Putnam I TheaterJones.com

June 19, 2017

FULL ARTICLE

A Dance About The Refugee Experience Debuts Tonight. Meet The Choreographer.

National Refugee Day is Tuesday, and this weekend, Bruce Wood Dance Project will debut a work created to speak to the refugee experience. It’s called Chasing Home and the company received a $70,000 grant from TACA Donna Wilhelm Family New Works Fund to make it. Journeys—three dances from Bruce Wood Dance Project, including Chasing Home, is tonight and Saturday at City Performance Hall.

The big grant allowed the company to commission original music for the piece, from Joseph Thalken, a composer from New York. And it created an opportunity for Albert Drake. He’s a founding performer with the company, and lately, he’s also choreographing. Chasing Home will be his second major piece for Bruce Wood.

Anne Bothwell I ArtandSeek.org

June 16, 2017

FULL ARTICLE

Homeward Bound

Bruce Wood Dance Project humanizes the refugee crisis in Albert Drake’s Chasing Home, part of the company’s Journeys performance this weekend.

Emily Drake tenderly cups David Escoto’s face in the palm of her hand before he scoops her up and spins her around in childlike glee while the rest of the dancers quietly celebrate in the background. As the duet processes, the two twist, duck and arc around one another while always maintaining their connection through physical touches and eye contact. This marriage ceremony is just one of many poignant moments viewers get to witness in Albert Drake’s new work, Chasing Home, which depicts the day-to-day activities of those currently living in refugee camps as they seek to reclaim their identities. The work features an original score by Joseph Thalken, which will performed live by the Dallas Chamber Symphony at Bruce Wood Dance Project’s (BWDP) Journeys performance June 16-17 at Moody Performance Hall, formerly Dallas City Performance Hall. The program also includes Bruce Wood’s Schmetterling (2004) and Zero Hour (1999) . . .

Katie Dravenstott I TheaterJones.com

June 13, 2017

FULL ARTICLE

Creating a work about refugees, Bruce Wood dancer aims for the heart

Creating a dance work that reflects the plight of Syrian refugees has been a daunting task, admits choreographer Albert Drake III. A company member of the Bruce Wood Dance Project, Drake did his research, watching films about the crisis and meeting with aid workers at the International Rescue Committee office in Dallas.

In the end, he and his collaborator, music composer Joseph Thalken, decided to take a universal, humanistic view of the subject rather than trying to tell a linear story. "It's going to be abstract," Drake says of the piece, Chasing Home, which premieres this weekend at Dallas City Performance Hall as the Dance Project opens its seventh season.

Manuel Mendoza I Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

June 12, 2017

FULL ARTICLE

Leap of faith: Composer Joseph Thalken wades into new waters via his collaboration with the Bruce Wood Dance Project

You could call Joseph Thalken a late bloomer. Take for instance: He didn’t compose his first piece, which he dubbed Late Autumn Leaf, until he was already six years old! His first Latin mass didn’t come until he was pushing double digits.

Yeah, you could call him a late bloomer . . . but you’d be dead wrong.

Except in this instance: After decades as a professional composer, musician, conductor, arranger and accompanist, Thalken waited until now to compose his first work specifically as a dance piece.

Arnold Wayne Jones I DallasVoice.com

June 9, 2017

FULL ARTICLE

The Next Wave: Young Choreographer Tackles Migration Crisis

Home can be an elusive place. It can be a place of origin or an unknown destination. As the current international refugee situation unfolds, for those caught between worlds, it is the latter. It is this crisis that served as the inspiration for Bruce Wood Dance Project’s world premiere, Chasing Home.

While two of the works on BWDP’s June program, Journeys, will be Dallas premieres of work choreographed by the late founder, Bruce Wood,® Chasing Home is the work of choreographer Albert Drake III.

Nancy Cohen Israel I Patron Magazine I Best of the Arts

June I July 2017

FULL ARTICLE

Growing from Within: Bruce Wood®’s Legacy Alive in Journeys

Three years after the death of choreographer Bruce Wood,® his Dallas dance company is thriving. That’s not something anyone could’ve assumed at the time, even the people now building on his considerable body of work so well. It turns out that the Fort Worth native was such a positive influence on his dancers and supporters that he inspired them to become successful stewards of his legacy.

Manuel Mendoza I Arts+Culture Texas

May 23, 2017

FULL ARTICLE

FULL ARTICLE

©2018 Bruce Wood Dance. All rights reserved.  I  3630 Harry Hines Blvd.  I  #36  I  Dallas, TX 75219  I  214-298-9212  I  info@brucewooddance.org