Movers & Shakers

A guide to Austin's dance scene

Ballet Austin Artistic Director Stephen Mills (Photo by John Anderson)

When the discipline under discussion is dance, it's the nature of the artists to be on the move. And in Austin, they certainly are, pirouetting, lunging, stomping, leaping in scores of works annually, the eclectic mix of styles typical of our town: classical ballet, modern, aerial dance, tap, folklorico, flamenco.

It's where they do the moving that's often surprising: across the faces of skyscrapers and in office lobbies, atop utility poles and under bridges, in trash trucks and Barton Springs. But that's because the dance scene here runs on risk and experimentation, as other disciplines do. It may not be as expansive as the visual arts scene and may not crowd the calendar with performances as the theatre and classical music scenes do, but the artists in it are every bit as daring as their creative kin. They seek out new places to dance, new ways to move, and new collaborators – in their field and outside it. They are inspired by all kinds of movement and invite all kinds of people to move with them. They break new ground, and their innovations have earned Austin's dance artists and troupes attention across the globe.

Ballet East Dance Company (Photo by Sandy Carson)

They've made these strides, artistically and professionally, while remaining in one spot: this city. And while the physical challenges of dance leave many artists with careers as brief as athletes', much of the most original and dynamic work being created in Austin today is by people who have been making dance here for 10, 20, 30 years.

With a number of the city's "movers and shakers" presenting work this week and the next ("December Dancing," below), it seemed an especially fitting time to provide an overview of our dance scene. We couldn't include everyone doing significant work, but we've tried to identify some that are making a difference in Austin dance now, that are truly, continuously, on the move.

Ballet Austin

The class act of capital city dance, and not merely because it leads the way in staging classical repertoire. Oh, its traditional ballets – The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Giselle, et al. – delight and have grown in technique and style during the tenure of Stephen Mills, BA's artistic director since 2000. But Mills' brave way with new work is what led this professional classical ballet company – the nation's 12th largest – to repeat gigs at the Kennedy Center and tours to NYC, Slovenia, Italy, and Israel: bracing comic takes on A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Taming of the Shrew; a haunting Hamlet, set to music by Philip Glass; the fantasy Cult of Color: Call to Color, based on Trenton Doyle Hancock's art; and Light: The Holocaust & Humanity Project, a courageous exploration of persecution and survival in movement. Mills' sinewy, sexy, and not infrequently sassy choreography isn't the only new dance at BA; more is shown in the biennial New American Talent/Dance competition and work commissioned for apprentice company Ballet Austin II. BA also spreads the love of dance to the public, via classes in its spacious Downtown home, the Butler Dance Education Center and Community School.

What's new: The ballet's 53rd edition of The Nutcracker, Dec. 5-23, at the Long Center

Ballet East Dance Company

A community arts organization in the truest sense: Its work is as much about the community as the art. Artistic Director Rodolfo Méndez founded Ballet East in 1978 after a stint in the Peace Corps developing performing arts programs for youth in Costa Rica and Chile. Its twofold mission: bring dance to the community; bring the community to dance. Working out of a Martin Middle School gym and performing at the Dougherty Arts Center, the company offers a crucial training ground for young dancers and choreographers on the Eastside. Semiannual concerts feature work by students and guest choreographers local (Andrea Ariel, Sharon Marroquín, Ballet Austin artists) and national (the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Joyce Trisler Danscompany). Its Dare to Dance program has reached thousands of students since 1989 and been recognized by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The effectiveness of Méndez's work can be seen in Ballet East Assistant Artistic Director Melissa Villarreal: She started dancing with Méndez at age 14 and made dance a career. Méndez is a member of the Austin Arts Hall of Fame.

What's new: Nueva Mezcla, a mixed program of original choreography by Andrea Ariel, Sharon Marroquín, and others, Dec. 3-6, at the Dougherty Arts Center

Tapestry Dance

Tapestry Dance

This troupe's custom blend of rhythm tap, modern, jazz, and contemporary ballet has been spicing the local scene since 1989, but now Tapestry is known as the only full-time professional tap company in North America where dancers can learn from a true tap master: company co-founder/Artistic Director Acia Gray, who studied with such legends as Charles "Honi" Coles and Jimmy Slyde, and received the American Tap Dance Foundation's Hoofer Award. The irresistible joy communicated by Gray's rhythmic feet fuels many a Tapestry show, such as 2015 season opener In Your Shoes or The Souls of Our Feet, the National Endowment for the Arts-sponsored, award-winning production re-creating classic tap routines from movies. Gray also keeps tap's legacy alive through Tapestry's ongoing education programs and the annual Soul to Sole Festival, a week of workshops with tap greats from all over the world. An ever-committed advocate for tap, Gray was among the first inductees into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame.

What's new: Tapestry's original take on the holiday staple, Of Mice and Music: A Jazz Nutcracker, Dec. 10-20, at the Long Center

Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company

Established modern dance troupe (founded in 1999) whose abstract patterns and movements may be traced to its founder's studies with José Limón principal dancer Ruth Currier, but whose warmth and accessibility go back to Kathy Dunn Hamrick's East Texas roots. That balance is key to KDHDC's success, as Hamrick likes taking dances into philosophical realms – exploring the structure of memory (The Big Small, 2013), the tenuousness of human connections (The Undoing of Nonet, 2013), the role of the past in shaping the present (Briefs: An Episodic Adventure, 2014) – but doesn't want them to come off as aloof or cerebral. So seeded throughout are grace notes of humor and humanity that allow her big thoughts to feel personal, relatable, and truths to emerge gradually from the dance. Committed dancers are crucial to such work, and Hamrick has them, with multiple Critics Table Award-winner Alyson Dolan among them.

What's new: True Story, a new full-length work, Dec. 3-5, at Salvage Vanguard Theater

Forklift Danceworks Artistic Director Allison Orr (Photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

Forklift Danceworks

Contemporary dance company focused on celebrating the movements of daily existence – routine motions on the job or around the house – and elevating them to art by showing them to us in performance. Isolated in the spotlight, their beauty and grace is revealed, and even the most mundane gestures are artfully compelling. Forklift founder/Artistic Director Allison Orr provides both vision and infectious enthusiasm, making eager collaborators (and dancers) of Venetian gondoliers, Japanese baseball players, Austin sanitation workers, and Elvis impersonators. The scale may be epic, as in The Trash Project, a celebrated 2009 project with the city's Resource Recovery Department (see the award-winning doc Trash Dance), or intimate, as in 2012's Solo Symphony, a haunting work with Austin Symphony Orchestra conductor Peter Bay, but Forklift always makes us see the world as brimming with dance. Outreach efforts serve mixed-ability dancers (Body Shift, with VSA Texas) and children from low-income homes.

What's new: Body Shift's workshops with DanceAbility ("Saying 'Yes' and 'No' with DanceAbility," Dec. 4) culminate in an "informance" street parade from Second & Congress to City Hall Dec. 18. Forklift's RE Source, a collaboration with Goodwill Central Texas, premieres Feb. 6-7.

Blue Lapis Light Artistic Director Sally Jacques (Photo by Sandy Carson)

Blue Lapis Light

Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Blue Lapis Light's dancers, dangling off a 20-story hotel, soaring over the Long Center City Terrace, gliding through Seaholm Power Plant's vast interior. This aerial dance troupe, founded in 2005, grew out of choreographer Sally Jacques' earlier efforts to defy gravity in a series of works that had committed, courageous dancers lean off scaffolds, climb silks, and hang suspended from wires in hangars, warehouses, and other urban environments. Epic aerial ballets such as Where Nothing Falls (2003) and Whispers of Heaven (2005), made with spectacularly gifted dancers, musicians, and designers, set a new standard for spectacle and beauty in Austin dance, and BLL has held the banner high since. Jacques, a local pioneer in site-specific work, draws on her three decades of experience to incorporate a space's architecture and character into the performance. The results, such as the ethereal, Critics Table Award-winning Requiem (2006), have audiences looking up in wonder. After 10 years, BLL finally acquired a studio of its own in South Austin. Jacques, one of Austin's most politically engaged artists, is a member of the Austin Arts Hall of Fame.

What's new: Screening of Requiem kicks off the Indiegogo campaign for the Feb. 2016 show Radiance. Sat., Dec. 5, 5pm. 10331 Old Manchaca Rd.

Ellen Bartel (Photo by John Anderson)

Ellen Bartel

Community-minded, stoically subcultural, indie modern dancer-choreographer who gets folks together: Since starting the Creeps, a slow-motion dance troupe, in 1997, Bartel has spearheaded three modern dance companies and two annual dance festivals. As head of Ellen Bartel Dance Collective, she creates skillfully structured short works, arduous either physically (speed and repetition in "In the World of Things and Stuff," 2014) or emotionally ("Somebody Else," 2012). Also, a performer-steward of butoh, the stark-silent-slow Japanese performance art, and a dance collaborator (recently seen in a gorilla mask in Heloise Gold and Natalie George's 1,000 Forest Gorillas in Kansas). Since her husband's illness and death in 2012, Bartel is increasingly focused on suffering and healing – I Begin Where I Grieve (2013) and You Ain't Alone (2015) responded to trauma – and continues to explore dance as help.

What's new: "How Soon After?" at FronteraFest Short Fringe, Jan. 28

Sharon Marroquin (Photo by Todd V. Wolfson)

Sharon Marroquín

Mexico City-born contemporary dancer-choreographer who is constitutionally unable to present cliche. Short solos and group pieces that emblazon real-life traumas – a mining disaster ("Crandall Canyon Mine," 2008), a friend's sudden death ("For You Lucia," 2009), her brother's stroke ("Chambers," 2013) – through supreme musicality, supple physical expressiveness, and keen theatrical sense. Doesn't blink. Often the reason you're bowing-down glad you came out to see a mixed bill or festival program; a regular both onstage with Ballet East and in the Critics Table Awards Short Work category. Primary takeaway from Materiality of Impermanence (2012), her evening-length, award-winning ensemble work based on her experiences with breast cancer (now, thankfully, in remission): Gather round her fire while you can.

What's new: A quartet, "Mezcla," for new dancers, in Ballet East's Nueva Mezcla, Dec. 3-6, at the Dougherty Arts Center

Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre Artistic Director Andrea Ariel (r) in The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Soundpainting (Photo by Kirk Tuck)

Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre

Modern dance that keeps moving beyond dance, breaking through barriers between disciplines and creating art across traditional creative lines. Founder Andrea Ariel, a spritelike dancer of exuberant physicality, is a collaborator's collaborator. Every project is an opportunity to work with someone new or try something new with a trusted art partner. Be it the voice of singer-songwriter Patrice Pike or operatic soprano Cheryl Parrish, the images of videographer (and spouse) Colin Lowry, or a soundpainting score by improvisational guru Walter Thompson, Ariel will use another artist's talents as a springboard for her own, sparking new directions for her dance. Recent works HEART (2013) and The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Soundpainting (2014) have earned Critics Table Awards. A list of artists with whom Ariel has collaborated since starting her company in 1990 would fill a page, and it's no doubt Ariel's eagerness to collaborate that's led her to do so much choreography for film (That's What I Am Talking About, Waiting for Guffman), opera (Candide, Aida, Carmen), theatre (Speeding Motorcycle, The Little Prince, Evita), and light opera (The Pirates of Penzance, The Gondoliers).

What's new: Lumen, a site-specific work, April 21-24, with a work-in-progress excerpt in Ballet East's Nueva Mezcla, Dec. 3-6

Lisa del Rosario (Photo by John Anderson)

Lisa del Rosario

This contemporary dancer who's equally deep, graceful, and idiosyncratic is sought out by indie choreographers like Sharon Mar­roquín (Materiality of Impermanence, 2012) and Alyson Dolan ("Grit," 2014; "Guts," 2015), but she also choreographs her own works, often cheeky with backstory, like "Dance With a Glass of Water" (2006), a solo inspired by traditional Filipino head-balancing dances, and "Familiar Cadence" (2013), a bright and poignant gesture-gloss of her parents' voicemails. Frequent Austin Critics Table Best Dancer and Short Work nominee for work on Ready|Set|Go! and festival mixed bills; also spotted in galleries. Ready collaborator with serious inner strength: embodied a whole world of women and fear in "In Habitants" (2015, produced by Errin Delper­dang and Kelly Hasandras), an April performance installation on poison-ivy-infested (yet lovely) Indigo Island in Lady Bird Lake.

What's new: Performing in Lumen, a site-specific work by Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre, April 21-24 (with a work-in-progress excerpt in Ballet East's Nueva Mezcla, Dec. 3-6)

Rosalyn Nasky (Photo by John Anderson)

Rosalyn Nasky

Micro-muscular contortionist, cerebral slant-taker, choreographer-performer. Tall, blond, lanky, and ready to make you uncomfortable – at least at the beginning of her performances, usually solos or duets with musicians. (Advice: Let the work show you the way.) Critics Table Award-winner for "Poet's Love" (2011), in which muscle twitches gave way to waves of gesture invoked by Schumann's "Dichterliebe" song cycle, performed by a singer at her side. Find her on mixed programs, in galleries and pop-up performance spaces, at Fusebox Festival, and in unexpected collaborations, as when she and Lisa del Rosario slinked around the percussionists of line upon line in their concert soft. Recently seen at First Street Studio, slowly inchworming across the length of a stage in "A part" (2015). Finally across and erect, she donned two top hats and spike heels and grooved in front of a breakneck slideshow of fossils – a revelation.

What's new: a collaboration with Lisa del Rosario and Erica Gionfriddo, now in its early stages

Jaime Lynn Witts in Ballet Austin's The Taming of the Shrew (Photo by Tony Spielberg)

Jaime Lynn Witts

Dependable and ethereal, fierce and funny, ever-versatile ballerina who's equally radiant in ballets by Petipa, Balanchine, and Ballet Austin Artistic Director Stephen Mills. Since her first full-length principal role, Swanhilda in Coppélia (2010), Witts has taken her deep-rooted, classical, seemingly natural technique on a spirited, adventurous journey through the company's repertory. Wry, with impeccable timing, in comic roles like Kate in Mills' Taming of the Shrew (2012), for which she won one of her two Best Dancer awards from the Austin Critics Table. Benevolent, with expansive grace, as Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty (2014). Untamed, evoking the depth of a magical forest, as the avian heroine in Firebird (2014).

What's new: Snow Queen, lead in "Waltz of the Flowers," and the Spanish dance (depending on the performance) in Ballet Austin's Nutcracker, Dec. 5–23, at the Long Center

Deborah Hay at the Austin Critics Table Awards in 2010 (by John Anderson)

Deborah Hay

A choreographic visionary so committed to her art that every cell of her body vibrates with dance. First made her mark as one of the fearlessly experimental choreographers of the Judson Dance Theater in the early Sixties, then in 1976 moved to Austin, where she’s continued her pioneering work. Her 15-year run of Playing Awake workshops, conducted with trained and untrained dancers for four months, yielded a series of memorable large group works and striking solo dances for Hay, which she toured around the world. Local performances have grown rarer as Hay has come into more demand nationally and internationally, with more stars studding her résumé (Mikhail Baryshnikov commissioned Hay to make work for his dance company, including a duet for him to dance with her; Cullberg Ballet in Stockholm, Sweden, commissioned a work for 21 dancers from the team of Hay and Laurie Anderson). Still, Hay herself is less diva than Buddha: equally thoughtful and playful, developing choreography not through patterns of movement meant to be replicated but through questions and theoretical situations that a dancer contemplates and responds to in the moment. She’s documented her unique creative process in the books Lamb at the Altar: The Story of a Dance (1994) and My Body, the Buddhist (2000), and Becky Edmunds’ film Turn Your Fucking Head tracks it in Hay’s Solo Performance Commissioning Project, held annually from 1998 through 2012 in Washington state and Findhorn, Scotland. Likely the only Austin dance maker to receive an honorary doctorate from Helsinki’s Theater Academy, a symposium honoring her work at the University of Texas (“An Uncanny Beauty,” 2010), an exhibit at the Blanton Museum of Art (“Perception Unfolds: Looking at Deborah Hay’s Dance,” 2014), and be named a Chevalier de ‘Ordre des Artes et des Lettres by the French government. Also inducted into the first class of Austin Arts Hall of Fame.

What's new: Using the Sky: a dance, Hay’s fourth book, just out from Routledge Books; a week in San Diego to begin work on a trio commission at University of California San Diego and San Diego State University, Dec. 10-17; the premiere of the solo my choreographed body at the aMID festival in Chicago, Jan. 21-25.

Heloise Gold

One of the city’s longest working dance artists and still one of the freshest – much like Deborah Hay, a fellow New York City expat with whom Gold worked after moving here in 1978. Fresh from NYC’s experimental performance scene, Gold began touring with Hay’s dance company and creating her own full-length works – Bird Dream Dances and Songs, the Watching From the She Palace series, Maggs: The 10,000 Year Old Woman – that helped lay the foundation for Austin’s independent experimental dance scene. Like many dance makers here, Gold has thrived on finding collaborators who will explore unknown territory with her: Hay and Diana Prechter (Genius of the Heart), composer Pauline Oliveros (Deep Listening), actor-writer CK McFarland (Hot Flash: A Comic Coming of Age Tragedy), musician Leticia Rodriguez (Chicken and Beans). Recent work with Julie Nathanielsz (Gold Show|Rose Show) has garnered acclaim, and her duet with percussionist Nick Hennies (“Resonance,” 2014) earned a Critics Table Award. Also a co-founder of Art From the Streets, Gold is a 2015 inductee into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame.

Julie Nathanielsz (left) and Heloise Gold (by Jana Birchum)

Julie Nathanielsz

Jolly adventurer; quirky dancer-choreographer who is smarter than you. In the solo “Yo, Genesis” (2013-14), she approached the body as a library full of facts and histories to be unlocked and made, thrillingly, available. Collaborators include the uncategorizable performers Heloise Gold, Elaine Dove, and Beverly Bajema. Bringer-in of far-flung ideas: dancer–voice artist Lily Kiara, from Finland (Saya Ikan/I Am a Fish/Ik Ben Een Vis + What Is Common, 2012), and Karen Nelson, international teacher of contact improv (The Tuning Project, 2015). Nathanielsz’s shared concert with Kiara and her two with Gold (Gold Show|Rose Show, 2013, 2014) were Critics Table nominees for Outstanding Dance Concert, and her quartet “Working the Line,” shown at Fusebox Festival 2011, was named Outstanding Short Work. Ready improviser; mixed-ability movement leader with Body Shift.

What’s new: Collaborating with Bay Area movement artist Margit Galanter June 10-12, 2016.

Aztlan Dance

Aztlan Dance Company

Maria Salinas started a folklórico troupe in 1974 to teach her children about their Mexican heritage, but it quickly became much more than that. She contacted government officials in Mexico about bringing her young dancers there to study, and soon, she and her students were in Mexico City, taking summer courses at the Academia Nacional de Danza and Instituto de Bellas Artes. They returned to Austin with new knowledge, new skills, and authentic costumes. Salinas’ efforts succeeded beyond her wildest dreams: Her son Roën not only got involved in the company, he took over as artistic director and has run it for 27 years. Aztlan’s ties to Mexican cultural tradition are still strong, but its mission has expanded to include contemporary Latino dance and music. Productions typically reflect Aztlan’s mix of old and new, the “dash of Mexicana and splash of Americana,” in Roën’s words: LoteriaLandia, Xicano Dreams, The Enchilada Western, El Gran Lucha Libre. Technique and experience varies among the dancers, but energy levels are always high, with the vigorous stomping and clapping of hands, and sheer joy expressed by performers, threatening to blow the roof off the Santa Cruz Center for Culture, its humble home on East Seventh.

A'lante Flamenco

A’lante Flamenco

In a relatively short time – the company debuted in 2011 – A’lante Flamenco has put its stamp on the Austin dance scene. In its first four productions, Artistic Director/Choreographer Olivia Chacón and Music Director Isaí Chacón have shown a knack for relating this traditional dance form to the modern world, creating a virtual dance jam via Facebook in Prophecies, addressing immigration and gentrification in Desplazados. And the artistry of its 11-member ensemble – five dancers, six musicians – has netted A’lante critical acclaim: one Critics Table award for Olivia Chacón for her performance in The Red Shoes: A Flamenco Fairytale and another to the entire company for their ensemble work in Prophecies.

Alyson Dolan

Alyson Dolan

Key modern mover on the rosters of Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company and Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre. Named Oustanding Dancer by the Critics Table in 2014 for prowess in two evening-length dances by Hamrick, fluidity among roles in Ariel’s kaleidoscopic The Bowie Project: A Rock & Roll Soundpainting, and aplomb in a duet of her own making, “Grit.” This year, an Oustanding Duet award to her and Jack Anthony Dunlap II for a deep-diving section of Hamrick’s Briefs: An Episodic Adventure. Brings to the potluck: stamina, concentration, a big jar of real.

What’s new: Dancing (possibly in another duet with Dunlap) in Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company’s True Story, Dec. 3-5, at Salvage Vanguard Theater.

Anuradha Naimpally (left), with daughter Purna Bajekal (by Jana Birchum)

Anuradha Naimpally

Patra (Sanskrit: vessel; steward, performer, teacher) of bharata natyam, traditional dance form of Tanjuvar, India. Born in Canada, Naimpally has won international acclaim as a soloist but made Austin her home. She’s an eager collaborator with local artists – Blue Lapis Light, Tapestry, Cowboys and Indians (a collaborative of East-West musicians), et al. – and headed teaching/performing/producing organization Austin Dance India for nearly 25 years. Inspires multitudes of students, enlists international guest artists, and performs concerts with jewel-box tradition and contemporary sensibility (the child Krishna’s misbehavior continues at today’s sandboxes, and the narrowing of women’s eyes when the gaze of a love interest wanders is the same everywhere). Frequent Critics Table nominee; Best Dancer awardee in 2000.

What’s new: Living on the Hyphen, a collaboration with LuckyChaos Theater Projects exploring Asian-American experience through classical dance, movement, traditional drumming, puppetry, and spoken word, March 31-April 3, Long Center’s Rollins Theatre.

Steve Ochoa

Steve Ochoa

Physically powerful, adventurous, and gutsy dancer most often seen with Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre (Detour, Heart, The Geometry of Proximity, The Bowie Project) but who has created work for and danced with Ballet East and Big Range Dance Festival. One of the few men to have a lasting presence on the independent dance scene, a fact made more remarkable considering he started showing up in local dance productions after a very full 18-year career in New York City, mostly in musicals on Broadway (Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Cats, Carousel, Sweet Smell of Success), off-Broadway (The Wild Party), and national tours (Fosse, Chess, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway). But indie dance appears to have given Ochoa a second lease on life, as he just looks stronger and stronger with every show.

Dance Venues

AustinVentures Studio

Tucked into the western end of Ballet Austin’s Butler Dance Education Center is this 300-seat studio theatre. Its unusual width and relatively low ceiling combine to make the space feel even smaller and more intimate than it is – you feel right on top of the dancers, and every footfall can be clearly heard. The space is used regularly by Ballet Austin (Cult of Color: Call to Color, The Studio Theater Project) and its BA II apprentice company (The Crucible), but it’s also available for rental and has been the site of dance performances by Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company, Performa/Dance, Fusebox Festival, and others. 501 W. Third.

Dell Hall

The Long Center’s 2,442-seat Michael & Susan Dell Hall is primarily the performance home of Ballet Austin, but it also hosts a number of touring dance productions during the year, as varied as Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Riverdance, and the Chinese production Shen Yun. 701 W. Riverside.

What’s new: Ballet Austin’s The Nutcracker, Dec. 5-23

Rollins Studio Theatre

Downstairs from the spacious and elegant Dell Hall is the black-boxy Debra & Kevin Rollins Studio Theatre, a space that can seat up to 250 and which has become one of the most popular venues for dance since the Long Center opened. Its intimacy and versatility make it suitable for almost any kind of work and keep the audience feeling close. Tapestry Dance Company uses the Rollins as its performance home, and it’s seen productions by Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre, Arcos Dance, A’lante Flamenco, Austin Dance India, Ballet Afrique, Forklift Danceworks, Sharon Marroquín, Deborah Hay, and others. 701 W. Riverside.

What’s new: Tapestry Dance Company’s Of Mice and Music: A Jazz Nutcracker, Dec. 10-20

Bass Concert Hall

This palatial 3,000-seat performance facility on the University of Texas campus was once the performance home of Ballet Austin, but since that company moved to the Long Center, presentations of local dance have been rare. But Texas Performing Arts still makes a point of booking world-class dance companies in the space, which makes it the venue for you to see the likes of Mark Morris Dance Group, Martha Graham Dance Company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Twyla Tharp. 2350 Robert Dedman, UT campus,

What’s new: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan’s Rice, April 8

Collegiate Dance

UT Department of Theatre & Dance

The Department of Theatre & Dance’s faculty-directed student dance troupe, Dance Repertory Theatre, performs eclectic concerts on campus. What you’ll see: diverse student choreography. Maybe a work of African-derived contemporary dance by professor Charles O. Anderson. Maybe a cheeky multimedia piece by Mark Morris alum and professor Holly Williams. Maybe one of Israeli-born professor Yacov Sharir’s dances utilizing wearable technology. Maybe – if you’re the luckiest – an all-in student performance of a masterwork (recently: Merce Cunningham’s Beach Birds, Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, and Mark Morris’ Grand Duo). Also near the drag: the annual Eyes, Ears, and Feet multidisciplinary concert, student choreography and performance alongside the theatre works in the Cohen New Works Festival, and, programmed by the university’s Texas Performing Arts, a smart smattering of national companies, all season long.

What’s new: Dance Repertory Theatre’s Bodies & Souls, April 8-17 at B. Iden Payne Theatre, UT campus

Austin Community College Department of Dance

An “open door” is the distinguishing feature of Austin Community College’s dance program: Any student can take dance classes, regardless of their previous training or experience. A number of notable independent choreographers/artistic directors are on faculty to help aspiring dancers and dance makers find their niche in the contemporary/modern field: Forklift Danceworks’ Allison Orr, KDHDC’s Kathy Dunn Hamrick, Ellen Bartel, Julie Nathanielsz, and a longtime champion of original dance work, Darla Johnson. Choreography informances and showcases near the end of the fall and spring semesters give students an opportunity to present their work to the public, and an associate degree in dance can be applied toward the first two years of a BA or a BFA.

What’s new: Fall Choreographers’ Showcase, Dec. 4-5, at Rio Grande Campus Mainstage Theater

Texas State University Division of Dance

Enough performances by students, faculty, and guest artists to consider the drive. Merge Dance Company, a faculty-led troupe, presents dance-film fusions by professor Ana Baer-Carillo and choreography by contact-improvisation maven and professor Pat Stone, along with work by other faculty members and Austin-based and international choreographers – often performed by the faculty themselves. Opening Door Dance Theatre hosts alumni concerts and collaborates with other organizations; recent partnerships with faculty member Shay Ishii’s company and New York’s Erick Hawkins Dance resurrected stunningly designed, deep-thought works by Hawkins, the midcentury modern dance pioneer. A student-led group, Orchesis, presents student work.

December Dancing

The last month of the year is one of the busiest for Austin's dance companies, not just with the annual visits from The Nutcracker, but semiannual programs from a few of the scene's stalwarts. Here's a select list of dance events you can sample before year's end. – R.F.

Austin Community College Department of Dance: Fall Choreographers' Showcase
Featuring faculty work from Darla Johnson and student work from the Dance Composition class. Dec. 4-5, Fri. & Sat., 8pm, Rio Grande Campus Mainstage Theatre, 1212 Rio Grande, 512/223-3384.

Ballet Austin: The Nutcracker
The 53rd edition of the holiday staple, choreographed by Artistic Director Stephen Mills.Dec. 5-23, Thu.-Sat., 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm; Dec. 21-23, Mon.-Wed., 2pm, Dell Hall in the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside.

Ballet East: Nueva Mezcla
A mixed program of new choreography by Sharon Marroquín, Andrea Ariel, Danny Herman, Esther Bramlett, Lindsey Taylor, and Miguel Marroquín. Dec. 3-6, Thu.-Sat., 8pm; Sun., 2pm, Dougherty Arts Center, 1110 Barton Springs Rd., 512/385-2838.

Blue Lapis Light: Requiem screening
Screening of BLL's acclaimed Requiem kicks off Indiegogo campaign to fund Radiance, a new work set for the Long Center City Terrace in February 2016. Sat., Dec. 5, 5pm, Blue Lapis Light Studio, 10331 Old Manchaca Rd.

Forklift Danceworks/Body Shift: A DanceAbility "informance" street parade
Fri., Dec. 18, 4–5:30pm, beginning at the Wells Fargo Bank Plaza, Second & Congress, and ending in front of City Hall.

Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company: True Story
Dec. 3-5, Thu. & Fri., 8pm; Sat., 3 & 8pm, at Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd.

Tapestry Dance Company: Of Mice and Music
Tapestry's original "Jazz Nutcracker," performed to live music by a jazz quartet.
Dec. 10-20, Thu. & Fri., 7:30pm; Sat., 2 & 7:30pm; Sun., 2pm. Rollins Studio Theatre at the Long Center, 701 W. Riverside, 512/474-5664.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Austin dance
ISHIDA Dance Company's <i>Beginning / αρχή</i>
ISHIDA Dance Company's Beginning / αρχή
This contemporary dance troupe's dynamic debut with "small bites" whetted the appetite for a full meal

Robert Faires, Jan. 10, 2020

ISHIDA Dance Makes Its Debut
ISHIDA Dance Makes Its Debut
A world-class contemporary dance troupe for Austin makes its first moves

Robert Faires, Jan. 3, 2020

More by Jonelle Seitz
Blue Lapis Light's <i>Belonging, Part One</i>
Blue Lapis Light's Belonging, Part One
The work's dancers, whether on the ground or sailing through the air, were beacons of human hope and empathy

Sept. 28, 2018

Aztlan Dance Company's <i>The Enchilada Western: Texas Deep Fried</i>
Aztlan Dance Company's The Enchilada Western: Texas Deep Fried
In the troupe's latest choreodramas, dancing desperados persisted and partied

Aug. 31, 2018

More by Robert Faires
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Last Bow of an Accidental Critic
Lessons and surprises from a career that shouldn’t have been

Sept. 24, 2021

"Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams" Tells the Story of an Artist
The first-ever museum exhibition of Daniel Johnston's work digs deep into the man, the myths

Sept. 17, 2021


Austin dance, Ballet Austin, Stephen Mills, Tapestry Dance Company, Acia Gray, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company, Forklift Danceworks, Allison Orr, Blue Lapis Light, Sally Jacques, Ellen Bartel, Ballet East, Rodolfo Méndez, Sharon Marroquín, Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre, Lisa del Rosario, Rosalyn Nasky, Anuradha Naimpally, Austin Dance India, Jaime Lynn Witts

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle