When Gayle Halperin, president and producer of Bruce Wood Dance Project, took center stage at the company's studio to introduce the entertainment for Mistletoe Magic II, its holiday fundraiser, she said her goal has always been to "bring New York to Dallas."
The statement wasn't just applicable to the Broadway performers who had flown in to sing that weekend: The respected company has been working hard to expand its reach beyond Texas.
Bruce Wood, whose untimely death last year left BWDP without its namesake choreographer and leader, was known nationally for his innovative dances. His acclaim has spread so wide since the company's founding in 1996 that when artistic director Kimi Nikaidoh proudly announced four professional dancers would be moving to Dallas to join BWDP in 2016, it seemed only fitting.
And the magical two evenings that gave Dallas a sneak peek at what playful, lyrical performances are in store from the company next year was icing on the cake.
Following an elegant dinner prepared by Abraham Salum, the exclusive crowd was treated to nearly two hours of holiday and musical theater tunes from Liz Callaway and Hugh Panaro.
Callaway, a Tony-nominated performer, is known for such varying roles as Grizabella in Cats and the original Ellen in Miss Saigon, as well as providing the singing voice for several Disney heroines. Panaro holds the distinction of not only having played both Raoul and The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, but also donning the famous mask more than any other performer (more than 2,000 times!).
The duo was accompanied by six of Bruce Wood's company dancers along with award-winning music director Joseph Thalken and a four-person band. Holiday standards such as "Let It Snow" and "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" were rounded out by songs that nodded to the singers' Broadway roots: "All I Ask of You" from The Phantom of the Opera, "If I Loved You" from Carousel, and "The Music That Makes Me Dance" from Funny Girl.
After the performance, patrons were invited to stay and mingle with dancers and singers over Champagne and hot cocoa, allowing the audience to express its support of Bruce Wood Dance Project in person.