Bruce Wood, my friend, is dead at 53

Bruce Wood

Many obits are respectful recitations of the cost of a life to the community, but the passing last night of my friend, Bruce Wood, at age 53, is far, far more personal. Bruce — whose next performance with the Bruce Wood Dance Project, Touch, is scheduled for June 12–13 at City Performance Hall — was the first man who got me excited about the art of dance.

He was a gifted dancer in his own right. A Fort Worth native, he studied under the tutelage of George Ballanchine from age 16, and rose to principal dancer with New York City Ballet. In 1996, he founded the Bruce Wood Dance Co., and soon thereafter is when I caught the dance bug. His works were remarkable things, full of energy and wit and breathtaking style. He once said every performance should make an audience laugh, cry and gasp. I, for one, did that, every time.

BRucebackarchThe Bruce Wood Dance Co. closed operation in 2007, but that wasn’t the end for Bruce. He went on to direct theater — in fact, he was scheduled to choreograph a show with Kevin Moriarty directing at the Dallas Theater Center next season, a sports-themed play called Colossal — and was essential to A Gathering, the two-time celebration of life and fundraiser put on by the arts groups in Dallas.

“Honestly, it’s hard for me to put my emotions into words right now,” Moriarty told me. “Like everyone else in our artistic community, I’m devastated by this loss.”

In 2010, he regrouped, forming the Bruce Wood Dance Project, which did several shows per year, thanks in large part to his producer Gayle Halperin, one of Dallas’ most respected dance patrons. That is the company set to perform Touch. The loss to them is unfathomable, as it is to me.

“Our creative work during the pre-production process [on Colossal] was typical of how he approached all of his work: Passionate, intense, smart and filled with invention and deep emotion,” Moriarty said. “Our conversations about football, dance, masculinity and sexuality, which are all theses in the production we were creating, were personal and deeply impactful for me. As a dance fan, I was personally drawn to his work on many levels — both because of the depth of its feeling and themes and because of its formal inventiveness, clarity and grace. I just can’t believe he’s gone.”

“Bruce had a special gift for pulling the best out of the people he worked with,” John Ahrens, his long-time costume designer, told me this afternoon. “Things we never thought we could do, we did for him. I knew every day I had with him was a gift.”

Bruce himself was the gift. He could be grumpy and demanding, but his charisma made it so you didn’t care. He smiled an awful lot for someone as intense as he was, who created works of such beauty.

The last time I saw Bruce in person was the opening night of Fortress of Solitude at the DTC. It was always so great just bumping into him. I’ll miss those moments as much as I will miss his art.

He passed away from pneumonia and heart failure owing to a depleted immune system Wednesday night. The onset was sudden.  No funeral plans have been announced.

Here are some stories we’ve run in recent years ago Bruce. They mean so much more to me now.

On their toes

Get Bruce Wood

Stepping up

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DBDT founder Ann Williams to retire

AnnWilliams_2008

Ann Williams

Ann Williams, the founder and creative director of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre — one of the resident companies that moved into the Wyly Theatre when the Arts District was relaunched four years ago — is stepping down at the end of this upcoming season, her 37th with the troupe.

Williams began her vision 40 years ago when she founded the Dallas Black Dance Academy as a training ground for young African-American dancers. The company followed several years later.

DBDT — one of whose members recently performed with Bruce Wood Dance Project — is in the middle of its summer intensive session. It’s 2013-14 season starts in October and runs through next May.

A national search committee is being organized to find a replacement for Williams.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

IMG_6871It would be difficult to conceive more events of interest to the gay community going on during a single week. Best of all, every taste is served.

Speaking of taste, Savor Dallas returns this weekend with the Friday wine stroll already sold out, but there are still tickets available for the International Grand Tasting at the Irving Convention Center Saturday night and the first-ever Savor at the Arboretum Sunday evening.

We know bears love to eat, but probably most of the gay bears in town this weekend will be on the prowl for fresh meat at the Texas Bear Round Up 18: Casino Bear Royale. The BearDance is on Friday with DJ John LePage, but there are plenty of other events spread out over three days.

You can still go to Bruce Wood Dance Project’s My Brother’s Keeper dance recital on Friday night and have time to make it to BearDance (it’s what I will be doing). A revised expansion of a piece Wood debuted last year, it runs Friday at 8 p.m. then again on Saturday.

On Sunday, the next exhibit of Cindy Sherman photographs opens at the Dallas Museum of Art. If you’ve never seen a Sherman photo — she’s the model in virtually all of them (pictured), as well as the photographer, conceiver, makeup artist, set decorator and location scout — you don’t want to miss this phenomenal show, which bends gender and identity in disturbing and hilarious ways.

Up in Addison, the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival continues at WaterTower Theatre. Among the offerings: Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays — a collection of nine 10-minute plays from eight different playwrights — is a hit-or-miss affair, but entirely worth Kristin Spires’ frantic performance as a beset GOP woman in Paul Rudnick’s The Gay Agenda and Todd Camp’s touching monologue about the loss of his partner of 36 years, London Mosquitoes by Moises Kaufman. You can catch that one on Sunday at 5 p.m. Before that, be sure to check out The Morning After Show (Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 5 p.m.), Ayala Hamilton’s riotous show.

And with the weather nice, it’s no better time to go out and enjoy Dallas Blooms at the Arboretum.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

The Bruce Wood Dance Project has three more performances of the choreographer’s new show at Booker T. Washington in the Arts District, including an encore of the first program, which debuted last night (with Gary Floyd providing beautiful vocals to the stunning new “I’m My Brother’s Keeper”). Wood is up to his old tricks: The technical beauty of classic ballet combined with the muscular physicality of modern dance plus Wood’s own unique contributions of humor and an emphasis on the potential of the male form. Don’t miss it — it ends this Sunday.

Also over this Sunday is Oklahoma! at Lyric Stage; don’t miss it, either (you have a busy weekend ahead of you!). As we’ve come to expect, director Cheryl Denson has crafted a massive and engaging piece of classic theater with a huge cast, full orchestra and dazzling sets. You have more time to see Jersey Boys at the Winspear Opera House — it’ll be around almost another month — but it’s just as unmissable.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

“A Gathering — 30 Years of AIDS” tonight at the Winspear

Come together

The Dallas arts community is coming together for a spectacular One-Night-Only performance commemorating 30 Years of AIDS. An unprecedented collaboration between some of the finest arts organizations in Dallas, A Gathering: The Dallas Arts Community Reflects on 30 Years of AIDS will feature eleven Dallas cultural institutions coming together and sharing their talents to create a powerful evening of entertainment. With a cast of more than 200 singers, dancers and actors, A Gathering promises to be a soul-stirring performance, and a night to remember.

All the organizations involved are donating their time and talent for this unique performance. 100% of the proceeds will directly benefit four of Dallas’ leading AIDS service organizations. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to be a part of an extraordinary night of song, dance, hope and solidarity.

Participating organizations: AT&T Performing Arts Center, Booker T. Washington High School of the Performing and Visual Arts, Bruce Wood Dance Project, CharlieUniformTango, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dallas Opera, Dallas Theater Center, SMU Meadows School of the Arts, Texas Ballet Theater, TITAS and Turtle Creek Chorale

—AT&T Performing Arts Center

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 7 p.m. $12–$100. ATTPAC.org/Gathering

—  Rich Lopez

Dallas arts community marks AIDS anniversary with ‘A Gathering’ at the Winspear

A dozen cultural institutions around Dallas will mark the 30th anniversary of AIDS with a benefit performance, A Gathering, at the Winspear Opera House on Dec. 6.

The event will feature a cast of 200 volunteers from a variety of artistic disciplines, including opera, dance, music and theater. Among the participating groups announced are the Bruce Wood Dance Project, the Turtle Creek Chorale, the Texas Ballet Theater, the Dallas Opera and the Dallas Theater Center.

Proceeds go to Resource Center Dallas, AIDS Arms, AIDS Interfaith Network and AIDS Services of Dallas. Tickets go on sale Oct. 31 at 10 a.m.  Click here for tickets.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones