Most modern-dance companies are named for their artistic director and sole choreographer: Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, Bill T. Jones. This typically leads to a house style that gives the company its identity. Dallas Black Dance Theatre takes a different tack, either commissioning new work from independent choreographers or buying vintage pieces to perform.
If DBDT has an identity, it’s about the dancers, who tend to be even more physically imposing than their counterparts in other troupes. The way they stretch and contort their bodies into seemingly impossible shapes makes for breathtaking performances, including a program that ran last weekend at Majestic Theatre.
DBDT has begun to make some in-house dances. One of the more complex pieces from the recent show, Phoenix, was choreographed by company member Zach Law Ingram. Over the course of three sections, Ingram referenced pirouettes and other balletic moves, creating a crisp, disciplined dance that emphasized pure movement and the taut muscularity of the dancers’ bodies. Phoenix stood out from the rest of the program, which was more stylized around themes like loss (Evidence of Souls Not Seen), African-American history (A Boundless Journey) and sensuality (Absolute Rule, Pulse).
The program closed with the world premiere of Jazz Course 101 — Dallas Black University by Christopher Huggins, who has choreographed for DBDT before. While more of a bravura showcase for the dancers’ personalities, Jazz Course shared a love of pure movement with Phoenix, and both Ingram and Huggins are veterans of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Could this be the beginning of a DBDT house style?
Zach Law Ingram
Image courtesy Dallas Black Dance Theatre