It's not that Dallas Black Dance Theatre doesn't have aches and pains at 45 years old. In fact, they're using one of the most painful years in their history as a springboard into the next season and beyond.
After a year of all-virtual performances due to the pandemic, DBDT is launching its 45th anniversary season in a big way: Debuting four world premieres, including a cultural, artistic exchange with musicians halfway around the world in North Macedonia.
The season will include both onstage and live streaming virtual options, all around Dallas-Fort Worth.
“We thoughtfully looked at the restrictions facing us at the start of the pandemic and developed a unique plan to move forward,” says DBDT Artistic Director Melissa M. Young in a release. “I feel like sometimes the dance world waits on someone else to move first. You don’t have to be a copycat. It’s okay for you to look different because that is the beauty of dance."
According to the release, during the summer of 2020, DBDT became the first professional dance company in the world to consistently present paid-only virtual performances as a new business model after the closing of live performances during the pandemic.
This year, they're building on that success with a new hybrid model.
“Our virtual performances last season attracted audiences across the U.S. and 12 other countries,” says DBDT Executive Director Zenetta S. Drew in the release. “We want to continue offering virtual options as a part of our new business model so we can grow our audience worldwide and offer DBDT art to audiences who have never experienced it before. We are excited to be able to deliver DBDT artistry directly to their homes.”
Themed "Catalyst for Change," DBDT's 45th anniversary season promises "high caliber, thought-provoking performances that illuminate African American culture through modern dance," they say. It also includes a fresh take on the holiday favorite The Nutcracker.
Here's a closer look at the season, with descriptions provided by the company:
"Dancing Beyond Borders-West," September 25
DBDT kicks off the season in Fort Worth with "Dancing Beyond Borders-West" at the W. E. Scott Theatre. DBDT: Encore! dancers appear to levitate across the stage as they perform Opaque, a mysterious and majestic work choreographed by Nycole Ray. In Nineteenth, another Ray showpiece, the dancers portray a historical tug-of-war for power. I. M. Terrell Academy for STEM & Visual Performing Arts Dance Ensemble from Fort Worth ISD is the guest artist for the evening, directed by Christen Reyes, a former DBDT: Encore! member.
"DanceAfrica," October 1-2
The sights and sounds of the 16th Annual "DanceAfrica" series fills the Moody Performance Hall in Dallas. The evening performances feature guest artist Bandan Koro African Drum and Dance Ensemble producing powerful movements to heart-searing drumming of African traditions and history. Award-winning DeSoto High School A Cappella Choir will be singing melodic and inspiring songs that capture the spirit of the African tradition. This family-friendly event includes the free daytime DanceAfrica Festival and Marketplace on Saturday, October 2, with mainstage performances, vendors, and fun activities at Klyde Warren Park from 10 am-2 pm.
"Director’s Choice," November 5-6
Dallas Black Dance Theatre celebrates its 45th anniversary with internationally acclaimed works at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre. Like Water by award-winning choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie received standing ovations during its nine-performance world premiere at the international Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival on August 4, 2021, in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe described the new work as “gifts for us all,” as it ebbed from “waves of grief” to “bubbles with joy.” Like Water was commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow as the inaugural recipient of the Joan B. Hunter New Work Commission.
Milton Myers combines contrasting grounded African and airy Eurocentric movements into the masterpiece Pacing. This artistic equation enveloped with Asian-inspired melodies makes the creative kaleidoscope of the work a satisfying ride.
In the collaborative duet Absolute Rule, choreographed by Elisa Monte and David Brown, they investigate the coming together and going apart of various emotions during the course of a relationship. Elisa Monte describes the duet as a look into the “push and pull of emotional forces that surround the interaction of two people.”
"Behind the Scenes," November 22-23
Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s Thanksgiving holiday gift will shine a light on what goes on behind the scenes of Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s five performing companies at the DBDT studios. Guests can meet the dancers, check out the rehearsal process, and peek at upcoming new works during the noontime performances.
"Black on Black," December 3-4
"Black on Black" delivers a holiday party-feel with original new works choreographed by DBDT and DBDT: Encore! dancers. They take the reins and fully produce this fun-filled evening. Promising to bring good tidings and cheer, it’s the perfect all-inclusive holiday dance experience, including a complimentary happy hour at 6:30 pm, an eclectic performance in the intimate setting of DBDT’s studios, and a festive after-party.
Espresso Nutcracker, December 11
The holiday tradition of sharing magical moments authentically captures the beauty of different cultures, showcasing them in Espresso Nutcracker. Dallas Black Dance Academy students take this classic story to another level by “jazzing” up select scenes set to Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite. The students will whisk guests away through a wondrous journey to the Land of Snow and Sweets. The evening starts at 7 pm in the Majestic Theatre.
"Cultural Awareness," February 18-19
DBDT dancers demonstrate breathtaking brilliance as they bring a cultural collaboration to the Dee & Charles Wyly Theatre stage for the "Cultural Awareness" series. North Macedonian jazz guitarist Toni Kitanovski and his Romani band let the music flow into an original score as DBDT dancer/choreographer Claude Alexander III transforms it into passionate movements for DBDT dancers. The result is The Way of the Clave, a live music and dance world premiere woven from the tapestry of this cultural collage.
DBDT audiences never get tired of seeing the 89-year-old work Awassa Astrige/Ostrich by Asadata Dafora. A male soloist regally glides across the stage with fluid and awe-inspiring controlled movements becoming The Ostrich.
“Edgy, thrilling, and evocative.” That is how The Berkshire Edge described Night Run by in-demand choreographer Christopher L. Huggins. The artist combined modern dance and classical ballet over Flamenco-influenced guitar and a slow waltz in the work, as he explored the transformation of social interactions when night falls and time seems to become an illusion.
"Dancing Beyond Borders-North," March 26
This time DBDT: Encore! is "Dancing Beyond Borders-North" at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts in Richardson. DBDT: Encore! dancers appear to levitate across the stage as they perform Opaque, a mysterious and majestic work choreographed by Nycole Ray. In Nineteenth, another Ray showpiece, the dancers portray a historic tug-of-war for power.
"DBDT: Encore! - Rising Excellence," April 22-23
"DBDT: Encore! Rising Excellence" has always been a catalyst for showcasing young artists. In a first for Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s organization, dance/choreographic duo Derion Loman and Madison Olandt jointly created The Long Wait, a drama of cosmic proportions for DBDT: Encore! that will make its world premiere at the Moody Performance Hall. This relevant and revealing work is an introspection of the human spirit refusing to give up even when it can’t see the finish line.
It’s a match made in artistic bliss. Diaspora synthesizes DBDT: Encore! with the volunteer musicians of the New Texas Symphony Orchestra. The Encore! company performs to NTSO live in a new work choreographed by Nycole Ray and Richard A. Freeman, Jr. The new work is based on a West African percussion song named “Diaspora” by composer Conni Ellisor.
"Spring Celebration," May 20-21
The grand finale of the 45th season celebration as DBDT takes the performance to soaring heights at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre. Audiences can never get enough of the spellbinding aerial duet What to Say? Notes on Echo and Narcissus. Co-Chair of the National Dance Committee for SAG-AFTRA, Southern Methodist University graduate, and former DBDT dancer Jamal Story brings to life the heartbreak of the Greek tragedy of unrequited love by weaving mesmerizing, passionate movements throughout the work. Jamal is the aerial dance supervisor for the Cher Tour.
Kameron N. Saunders, a co-founder of The K/P Project in St. Louis, MO, is set to create a world premiere for Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s "Spring Celebration" series. This premiere will be a physically demanding and captivating work exploring human connection and its direct parallels to creative thinking with an original score.
"The BIG Dance," June 4
The grand finale celebration of DBDT’s 45th anniversary will culminate in the annual fundraiser "The BIG Dance" benefiting the educational outreach and scholarship programs of Dallas Black Dance Academy — The Official School of Dallas Black Dance Theatre. The dance party will fill the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center with live music, food and fun.
"Dallas Black Dance Theatre is limiting seating capacity to allow for social distancing in all performance venues," the release says. "Block seating will be provided for two or four people with 6 feet separating each set of block seats. Tickets must be purchased in blocks of two or four to attend the performance. Because of the limited ticket inventory, DBDT will not be able to give discounts on groups or subscriptions this year."