FORT WORTH Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth usually begins its Modern Dance Festival at the Modern with “CDFW Dance Exchange: A Choreographers Showcase,” but this year, the concert closes the company’s 11th annual festival. This is likely to accommodate the schedule of the guest artists, New York’s Bill Evans Dance Company.
The five works presented by Evans and his dancers, Kathy Diehl and Don Halquist, were the highlight of the performance, which repeats Friday. But they had stiff competition from CD/FW dancer Tina Mullone and composer/dancer Mel Mobley, whose Love and Violence in America 2014 was the most avant-garde and interesting work we’ve seen from Mullone in years.
The work, which opens the second half of the program, begins with Mobley banging on a drum and other percussion as a light outside the Modern building, between the glass and the reflecting pond, shines on Mullone, dressed in an all-white jumpsuit. She’s eager to get inside the building.
Once she does, it’s a series of her responding directly to Mobley’s controlling beats, or of them dancing together, flirting with the two common nouns of the title. He even dances some while drumming (the instruments include a row of circular saw blades), and she takes control of the drumsticks at one point. The recorded music in the background (composed by Mobley) is a jarring, discordant jumble of noises. There’s no way you’ll forget this terrific collaboration anytime soon.
Dallas outfit Elledanceworks presented …so it goes… (2014), a light, airy work danced by Delanie Bitler, Jennifer Dennison and Tracy Kennedy set to Mama Cass’ version of Dream a Little Dream of Me. Also in that vein was CD/FW’s work in progress Just Because, a collection of narrative dances set to the music of Austin country-rocker Leeann Atherton. As usual, choreographer Kerry Kreiman and the performers infused comedy into the drama of modern dance.
Fort Worth-based wild goose chase dance added a lovely set of dances called Distant Songs, the best section being Manuel de Falla’s Nana, with a long strip of blue fabric connecting one dancer to her colleagues in the “wings.”
Bill Evans choreographed the four works presented by his company; and dancer Diehl created a separate solo. The latter was Pleasure Garden, which vividly, and sometimes humorously, had the classical and modern sides of a tutu-clad Diehl battling each other. The highlight of Three Bach Dances was Evans dancing, mostly seated, with expressive arms and hands to Saintly Passion.
In Tango, Halquist and Diehl — she in dramatic red — danced a terrific mix of modern dance and tango to the recorded vocals of Valeria Munnarriz. The best solo of the program was Halquist in Evans’ Climbing to the Moon (1997). Dressed in almost translucent shirt and pants in a dark purple that evoked nighttime, he’s always looking up at the sky, even as his feet and body are moving in elegant and twisted ways.
The last work, Evans’ See You Around (2013), was a performance art piece that probably won’t convert anyone who hates spoken text in dance, but it was a funny look at dog-eat-dog corporate politics, mostly happening in an elevator cordoned off by red duct tape. The final sequence, with the dancers back to back and turning while sitting on the dance floor, was an explanation of what happened to previous workers, and ended with a possible scapegoat. Funny and weird stuff.
Both of those adjectives explain while this was CD/FW’s best Choreographers Showcase in years.