“This dance is about reminding men of their own humanity and its impact on other men…I like being a man.” –Bruce Wood, from the program notes of, My Brother’s Keeper
Last Friday at the Booker T Washington High School For the Performing and Visual Arts, Montgomery Arts Theater, The Bruce Wood Dance Project premiered a one hour, one act, social commentary titled, “My Brother’s Keeper.”
The performance opens with twelve men dressed in dark suites, sitting still across a row of simple benches far up a bare stage near the cool blues and purples reflected against the cyclorama. Accompanied solemnly by the voice of Gary Lynn Floyd singing “Nature Boy,” Albert Drake, the smallest man on the stage, casts a spell over all as he begins unfolding the evening’s movement narrative. He is a diminutive tower of strength gliding and shifting whilst intermittently being hoisted and carried across the stage by dancers and actors alike. Trust and dependence abound in the first half of the hour, and throughout the evening, individuals break off to comfort another — or to expose their own vulnerabilities — but they each return to the bench before long.
Struggling between conformity and defiance, the ensemble perform repetitive movement patterns — rhythmic hand claps and palms beating down on the benches in unison — which blend seamlessly with more stylistic, curvilinear dance phrases that allow the dancers to reach out and break the grid. For example, Joshua Peugh frees himself of the dark suit jacket, languishing in the new movements his body can now experience, but the ever remaining dark suit jacket that suspends the work in a constant state of conformity is returned to Peugh in a soulful, comforting duet with Larry Lane. The performance culminates in traditional A-B-A form where Wood returns us to the first individual, Albert Drake, quietly moving to the flute like voice of Garry Lynn Floyd singing only the first line of Nature Boy, “There was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy…”
The all-male cast continues Bruce Wood Dance Project tradition of utilizing local talent, ranging in age from 18-78, including Theatre Three’s Jac Alder, musician Gary Lynn Floyd, actor and top Iyengar yoga instructor Larry Lane, and former professional ballet dancer Tom Fowler. Dallas Blagg, Harry Feril and Albert Drake returned for a second season with BWDP. Domingo Estrada joined BWDP for season three after retiring from Mark Morris Dance Group, along with Booker T. Washington High School alum Christopher Vo, who is currently playing on NBC hit show SMASH. The youngest men in the cast, Alex Druzbanski and Aaron Kozak are currently enrolled at SMU in the Division of Dance.
Many choreographers, like writers, have a difficult time editing their own work even though it’s the most critical part of the process. They blast audiences with multiple complex movement phrases, enlist every choreographic devise they know, and over produce lights, costumes, props and scenery. But Wood seems more akin to a visual artist than a writer. You want to treat each scene of his one hour show as you would a canvas or installation in a gallery, to look at it again from a different angle, to hold it up for scrutiny, to let your mind wonder. You need to spend time getting into what it’s getting at. This performance begs to be seen more than once. Too bad there were only opportunities on Friday and Saturday evening.
Photo by Brian Guilliaux via