Friends, family and fans of acclaimed choreographer Bruce Wood will gather tonight and tomorrow to appreciate his legacy. Wood died two weeks ago in Fort Worth from complications of pneumonia. KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports, for Wood’s memorial, his company, the Bruce Wood Dance Project, will perform two shows in Dallas’ City Performance Hall.
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Bruce Wood’s family and his producer, Gayle Halperin, chose a public memorial for Wood based on something he said so often, it was practically a motto of his: It’s the work that counts. That’s why, instead of a conventional service, two evenings of Wood’s dance work will be used to mark his passing. These new performances would have been the opening show for the Bruce Wood Dance Project’s fourth season.
Having danced for New York City Ballet, Twyla Tharp and the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Wood became a hero to the area dance community: In 1996, he returned to his hometown of Fort Worth and started a modern dance troupe that not only excelled with sophisticated works, it paid its dancers. But the Bruce Wood Dance Company folded in 2006. Then, in 2011, Wood — backed by Halperin — tried again with the Bruce Wood Dance Project. It started as an experiment to see if there was enough interest and support in Dallas for a modern dance company. It took hold, and Wood started creating ambitious new pieces. This new season would also have been the first for the Project to offer contracts to its dancers.
In an interview in 2011, Wood explained why a choreographer as good as some of the best in New York would try – twice – to establish a significant modern dance company in North Texas:
“This one thing has stuck in my head since I was a little kid. We had this old cowboy once, when he had heard I was going to school in New York and all this stuff, he told me, Bruce, you should grow where you’re planted. And I blew it off as crazy old cowboy stuff, but as I’ve gotten older, you know, it’s not such a bad thing. This place has given me a lot. So I see nothing but good things in trying to give back.”
The new show is called Touch, same as the name of the world-premiere dance Wood was working on when he died. Ironically, Wood also programmed a revival of an earlier piece titled Home. It’s set to one of his favorite pieces of music: the Requiem by composer Gabriel Faure.