YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE DANCIN’: GAYLE HALPERIN ON DALLAS’ DANCE SCENE

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Dallas’ performing arts scene has been growing tremendously in the past recent years, and although that momentum has mainly been propelled by theater, dance is on its heels.

“We have seen a surge, over the past four years, and it’s wonderful,” says Gayle Halperin about the dance scene. “There are more dancers here now, and there are older professionals who want to create and produce work. Everything has been invigorated, it’s been the hope of the Dallas Arts District and it was this chain reaction. You can find funding; it’s hard, but you can.”

Halperin, pictured, has been a key figure behind that growth, resurrecting Bruce Wood Dance Project (formerly Bruce Wood Dance Company) and, along with the folks at the Dance Council of North Texas, working toward the first Dallas DanceFest, which happens Aug. 29-31 at City Performance Hall.

A preview dance festival took place in Annette Strauss Artist Square where the Winspear now sits, but it folded in 2004. There was much expense with producing an outdoor festival, and always the possibility that weather would cancel performances. Now in the great air-conditioned indoors, DanceFest has the luxury of being at one of the best large houses for dance in North Texas. City Performance Hall is also cheaper to rent in the off-season months of July and August. Even with those perks, Halperin considers a greater perk that the participating companies, which range from small budget to large, are getting: Austin-based dance lighting designer Tony Tucci.

“These companies are going to have the opportunity to work with one of the best lighting designers in the world, Tony Tucci,” Halperin says. “I’m having a top-notch crew, too.”

Halperin, who runs Bruce Wood Dance Project and has taken on a bigger role with that company after the untimely death of Wood this summer, sees the DanceFest as another step to put North Texas dance on the national map. (BWDP will continue, with its next show at CPH Sept. 13 and 14.) She hopes it attracts more companies from outside North Texas as the event grows, but it will always be focused on local groups with diverse styles.

“We selected companies that span from classical ballet to contemporary ballet, and include classical Indian, tap and jazz,” she says.

The showcases are the evenings of Aug. 29 and 30, and feature the following companies: Dallas Ballet Company, Ewert & Company, Indique Dance Company, Rhythmic Souls, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Chamberlain Performing Arts, Houston METdance, Chado Danse, Avant Chamber Ballet, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Tarrant County College Movers Unlimited, Mejia Ballet International, Bruce Wood Dance Project, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Texas Ballet Theater, SMU Meadows Dance Ensemble.

On Aug. 31, the Dance Council will present its annual Dance Council Honors, recognizing the work of Nita Braun, Ann Briggs-Cutaia and Joe Cutaia, Buster Cooper, Dylis Croman, Suzie Jary and Beth Wortley.

— Mark Lowry

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 15, 2014.

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