|ACB dancer Juliann Hyde, photo courtesy avantchamberballet.org|
Aside from the pillars of dance education who are churning out the future elite, Dallas has been sorely lacking a professional ballet company to bring the city any repute. With my generation’s advent of contemporary dance culture, classicism, it seemed, was dead.
Never before in the Dallas community have I seen a young, homegrown company so refreshing, so dynamic, I was practically twitching with excitement. Classical ballet is alive, and it’s Avant Chamber Ballet.
Opening their new season at Eisemann Center Saturday evening, ACB’s Fall Dance Concert served mixed repertoire and superb guest artists. Artistic Director Katie Puder “gets it”. From all aspects of the performance, Puder has crafted a company that is reminiscent of what would only be available to the upper crust of New York society. The dancers perform to live musical accompaniment; a menage of talented young artists who compose original scores and master the classics. Puder’s choreography is exquisite. If Balanchine hit the nail on the head, Puder hammered it in last night. Her “Italian Suite” set to Stravinsky was a vibrant homage to the Balanchine aesthetic. Soloists Brittany Bollinger and Juliann Hyde performed spirited variations, ripping through the choreography with grace and precision. In her world premiere “Exactly Woven” Puder arranged a neo-classical harmony of energy and tedium. Its initial calculated intensity culminated into a tsunami of sharp allegro that would wash over the dancers, creating a tightly knit machine. With her gorgeous line and exacting manner, Sarah Marr was slaying in contrast to her sunny disposition in previous roles. Overall, Puder’s dancers are polished, professional, and have upped the ante for local ensembles.
Among other reasons this company wins, Puder is bringing diversity and novelty to the table. The audience got an excerpt from old-school Russia with Yulia Ilina portraying the Dying Swan, while in the same breath getting to experience the works of acclaimed choreographers like Christopher Wheeldon. The stunning Michele Gifford gave nothing less than a perfect performance in Wheeldon’s “The American”, while guest choreographer Joshua L. Peugh’s company, Dark Circle Contemporary Dance, blew the proverbial lid right off. His use of traditional Korean motifs in “Jjigae” combined with the electric talent of his dancers made for a fresh, unforgettable performance; almost like a Korean Pina Bausch. Noteworthy was the engaging Jennifer Mabus, who always manages to stand out despite her being the most petite dancer in the crowd. Praise be to Peugh for employing such a fantastic variety of dancers.
Ok, Puder. You have our attention.
-October 13, 2013