Best Bets • 05.13.16

Saturday 05.14

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AIN marks 30 years of sowing seeds of hope with annual fundraiser Bloomin’ Ball

AIDS Interfaith Network has been doing good works for people living with HIV/AIDS for 30 years, and for 10 of them, the Bloomin’ Ball has been the major fundraiser helping them get money to further their efforts. The decade-old event is a cocktail party with entertainment, followed by dinner and dancing … and all very chic. It may be hot out, but it’s still spring, so time to blossom and enjoy one of the season’s best parties. Gary Lynn Floyd is in charge of the entertainment.

DEETS:
Hilton Anatole
2201 N. Stemmons Freeway
Cocktails start at 5 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., dancing at 9 p.m.
BloominBall2016.eventbrite.com

Tuesday 05.17 — Saturday 06.04

Pharrell-Williams

Soluna visual arts festival returns starting with ‘Rules of the Game’

The Soluna festival began just last year, and was such a hit, it has returned for a second iteration of music, dance and multimedia displays. Kicking it all off is a new work that combines dance and video with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra performing a piece by Pharrell Williams. It’ll make you happy. Soluna runs for two weeks.

DEETS:
“Rules of the Game”
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora St.
May 17 at 7:30 p.m.
For a full lineup of events, visit mydso.com/soluna.

Friday 05.20 — Sunday 05.22

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‘Mamma Mia!’  returns to North Texas for one weekend only

We’ve loved our ABBA since the days when disco was new, and unlike those fly-by-night friends, we never gave up on the ’70s supergroup. And we were rewarded in 2001 with one of the first megahit jukebox musicals built around the catalogue of a single artist, with hits like “Dancin’ Queen,” “The Winner Takes It All” and of course the title song from Mamma Mia!, the delightfully campy musical that swings into Fort Worth’s Bass Hall for one weekend of glitter and fun in the Greek Isles. Go, and have the time of your life.

DEETS:
Bass Performance Hall
525 Commerce St., Fort Worth
BassHall.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 05.06.16

Friday 05.06 — Saturday 05.14

Deferred-Action

DTC, Cara Mia cross the border with ‘Deferred Action’

What happens to a DREAM Act deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? That’s the question posed by the world premiere play Deferred Action, a co-venture of the Dallas Theater Center and Cara Mia Theatre Co. Locally developed by authors David Lozano and Lee Trull, the play explores the effect of the federal immigration DREAM Act and how its enforcement affects undocumented aliens and their families.

DEETS:
Wyly Theatre
2400 Flora St.
Through May 14.
DallasTheaterCenter.org

Saturday 05.07

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TITAS celebrates dance with annual Command Performance Gala and dinner

Every season, TITAS imports some of the most innovative, new and storied dance companies in the world for months-worth of magic. But every spring, you get a sort of chef’s selection of the cream of the crop at the Command Performance Gala, which invites artists back to deliver a slate of amazing performance. This year’s line-up includes performers from MOMIX, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Joffrey Ballet and more. It’s a once-a-year extravaganza.

DEETS:
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora St.
7 p.m.
ATTPAC.org

Sunday 05.08

Womens-Chorus-of-Dallas

Celebrate Mother’s Day with Women’s Chorus of Dallas

Mother’s Day is almost upon us, and so is the Women’s Chorus of Dallas’ annual spring concert, this year entitled Voices of Wonder. The outdoor concert at Fair Park’s Texas Discovery Gardens combines nature and formal music performances as well as a butterfly release. In addition, this year marks the inauguration of a shorter matinee concert, starting at noon.

DEETS:
Texas Discovery Gardens
3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Noon and 2 p.m.
TheWomensChorusOfDallas.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Barihunk … or 1 in tenor?

You have your choice of vocal ranges at Dallas Opera’s ‘Manon,’ with out singers Troy Cook and William Ferguson

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ARIA THERE YET? | Troy Cook, left, and Will Ferguson are old friends reunited as rivals on the Winspear stage for Dallas Opera’s production of ‘Manon.’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

In many ways, Will Ferguson and Troy Cook couldn’t be more different. Ferguson is an operatic tenor, with a peripatetic repertoire that has taken him to New York City Opera and The Met (in the city where he lives), in addition to recitals specializing in interpretations of new composers. Cook, a baritone (so typically cast in heavier roles) has been gifted with an international career of mostly classical roles, including recent appearances in Madrid and London’s Covent Garden, but lives in rural Bucks County, Penn.

But they share one commonality: In addition to having featured roles in the Dallas Opera’s latest production, Massenet’s Manon, they are both out gay singers in the rarified world of opera.

There was a time you didn’t see that much — directors, conductors and designers? Yes. But onstage? Not so much. That has been changing, though … for men and women.

Although both have been openly gay in their personal and professional lives for decades, they agree that the practice of greater openness has grown.

Screen shot 2016-03-03 at 12.24.23 PM“I have seen singers who are gay but don’t talk about it much — but they are mostly non-U.S. citizens,” Ferguson observes.
“Their [native countries] are less accepting [of gay people], and they are often huge national celebrities there. In the late 1990s, there were a bunch of people who started to come out — largely women, like Beth [Clayton] and Patricia [Racette]. Then countertenors like David Daniels — I’m not sure why that is. But I also think the audience is changing.”

Cook is quick to agree. “Opera companies have been cultivating that market. It’s a way to create a sense of community around the opera — a ‘rainbow series.’ We have been fighting for full acceptance [in mainstream society] — to be just like everyone else. And now we seem to have it.”

Still, acceptance hasn’t seriously altered how openly either singer  has lived — both enthusiastically talk about their husbands, to whom each have been partnered for 16 years or more and now legally married. Ferguson’s husband, Kim, is also a singer (though of the pop-cabaret variety); Cook’s husband, Rob, is a gardener (who, he says, couldn’t carry a tune with a handle). For Ferguson especially, marriage equality has made a significant difference in his home life: Kim is a native Australian, and federal recognition of their marriage has facilitated his immigration status.

Ferguson and Cook both extol their fondness for Dallas — from its cosmopolitan qualities to its architecture and people. This is Ferguson’s fourth production with the DO in three years, and Cook’s first … though he performed years ago with the Fort Worth Opera. And they can’t say enough about the Winspear.

“I have to say, this opera house is one of my favorites in this country,” Ferguson says. “Aesthetically, it’s gorgeous but just to sing in there is great — the sound in there is amazing.”

“It’s a more intimate experience, more purpose-built,” Cook adds. “It’s the right shape, the right style for our art form.”

Audiences will get a chance to see how good they can sound in it for four performances of Manon, in a production originally conceived by out opera director Sir David McVicar. The two share a lot of stage time together, though they are something of romantic rivals for the attentions of Manon (played by the breakout star of last year’s world premiere of Great Scott, Ailyn Perez).

“I’ve done Manon at The Met before, but in a different role,” Ferguson says. “I guess that’s the kind of singer I am — different companies hire me for different kinds of ways. It’s great.” For Manon, he’s playing a much older character than he is. “The character is so different from what I look like or who I am —  I get to play dress up and be the villain!”

Cook, by contrast, “plays the savior of Manon who truly falls for her, all the while knowing she admires him and all he’s done for her but doesn’t really love him.”

Yeah, we’ve all been there.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Let’s hear it for the Boyz

BalletBoyz may be an all-male troupe, but don’t expect a campy take on dance during its Dallas debut

'Mesmerics'-by-Christopher-Wheeldon-3

MESMERIZING | Choreographer Chris Wheeldon created ‘Mesmerics’ for BalletBoyz, one of two pieces that will mark the all-male company’s Dallas debut this weekend.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

When William Trevitt co-founded his U.K.-based dance modern troupe BalletBoyz around 2000, he and co-founder Michael Nunn were not setting out to turn the world of dance on its head. The goal was far more practical.

“Michael and I first started the company knowing that we could rely on ourselves to turn up for the show and be available for rehearsal,” Trevitt says. Of necessity, they ended up “doing a lot of male duets.” That’s when people started to take notice.

“We had the idea there was more to [this concept] than just the two of us, so we set it up as an all-male dance company, which is relatively unusual. We invited choreographers to work with an all-male cast, and they were fascinated by the possibilities. Choreographers continued to want to have a play with us.”

Screen shot 2016-02-10 at 2.31.14 PMFifteen years later, the idea of a men-only dance company continues to surprise and challenge audiences and artists alike. Trevitt and Nunn are still the artistic directors of BalletBoyz, but neither dances anymore; they have turned those duties over “to this group of 10 enthusiastic, energetic young dancers,” he says. And they continue a legacy that had its roots at the Royal Ballet.

That’s where Trevitt and Nunn were both soloists. A documentary filmmaking company decided to “make a dancer’s-eye-view of ballet. We had a working title for it of Michael and Billy’s Royal Ballet, but the Royal Ballet wasn’t a fan of that,” Trevitt laughs. “The production company said, ‘Well, we’re calling it BalletBoyz with a Z.’ We thought it was awful, but we couldn’t come up with anything else in time, and the marketing people thought it was catchy.”

The name of the company sends mixed signals, for sure; it is not, Trevitt insists, true “ballet;” but neither should the “boyz” spelling suggest anything campy or even hip-hop. Rather, it’s a hybrid of styles — exactly as they set out to make.

“It’s not ballet, but there are a lot of elements you would associate with ballet — it’s lyrical, beautiful. I like to think of it as a progression of ballet,” Trevitt says.

The challenges in establishing an all-male troupe ended up being multifarious. For one, the skills involved on the dancers’ parts were different.

“Obviously, they have to be very physically very strong — they are lifting men their own sizes above their heads,” Trevitt says. And the dynamics of the company are different as well. “What you end up in the studio is a very tight group like firefighters or soldiers — that same camaraderie… though of course they are not saving lives.”

Another hurdle was the fact there simply was not a significant repertoire of male-only pieces. If the company was going to work, they decided, they would need to create a catalogue. So they set out hiring inventive choreographers to create unique works exclusively for men.

“We look to people who are willing to collaborate. We have a few people who we have hired more than once, but we are looking not to repeat ourselves. We’re always looking for the next challenge, the next person who can make this group of 10 men and do something different,” he says.

“Everything we do is created new for us, with the exception of one of the pieces we’re performing in America — it was created for two men and one woman,” Trevitt says.
“We always loved the ballet and thought it was a shame we couldn’t do it anymore. So we hired [choreographer Christopher Wheeldon], who came to our London studio and reworked it.”

A lot of it had to be changed — the woman had to be en pointe in the original, for instance, and the number of lifts had to be reduced. Nevertheless, Trevitt says, the end result was exciting.

“I wouldn’t say I prefer [the all-male or co-ed] version over the other, but what’s so special about Chris is, he comes up with the unexpected, turning this classical piece into something appropriate for our company.”

And, Trevitt stresses, while BalletBoyz may not be classical, neither is it camp — audiences should not confuse what they do with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the dragtastic all-male ballet of gay men affectionately called “the Trocks.”

“I guess it’s inevitable that some people will think that’s what we will be,” Trevitt sighs. “But by the time the performance is a few minutes in, I hope you forget it’s all-male and that it’s just a company of dancers performing beautifully. They are artists in their own right, each of them. No one goes into dance because they are going to get rich or famous — you go into it because you just have to do it… and happen to look fantastic. I hope [the appreciation for what we do] goes beyond a sort of visually pleasure and you’re appreciating the art they are creating and not being Magic Mike … though the dancers do look like that!” (Indeed, like Mike, both Trevitt and Nunn are straight.)

The company, in fact, doesn’t consciously create homoerotic dances, though sometimes they do venture into the risque.

“This time last year we were deeply engrossed in creating a version of the Kama Sutra for television — for that we hired a group of female dancers as well. Caligula it wasn’t quite … but it wasn’t far off,” Trevitt says.

Saturday marks the Dallas debut of the company, who will perform a one-night-only show at the Winspear Opera House. And Trevitt and his dancers are as excited as dance fans about the premiere.

“This is the second tour of the states for this group of men,” he says. “Austin is about as close as we’ve managed to get to Dallas, but for the dancers, it’s all a big adventure.”

It would be, since the company members are all quite young — all 10 are ages 21–26. That’s part of the plan with BalletBoyz’s aesthetic.

“We hire them straight out of school or right after. The original intention was to make something of people who has no experience and we could push them — we could more than make up for their lack of experience with their energy and strength. The program we are doing in the States is great for them as artists, because it requires versatility — one is very physically, masculine and energetic and the other is quiet lyrical refined and quiet. It will really show their range,” Trevitt says.

“We’re very firmly of the opinion that our show shouldn’t be medicine — people shouldn’t leave saying, ‘I have no idea what I saw, but I can tell people I saw it.’ We want to put on a show that is entertaining, but not that is less rigorous or dumbed-down.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Best Bets • 02.05.16

Friday 02.05

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Texas Theatre, Cine Wilde team for screening and party of ‘The Hunger,’ honoring David Bowie

The death of the pioneering artist David Bowie continues to resonate, and Cine Wilde — the monthly gay film fest — has paired up again with Texas Theatre to screen one of his most outrageous and stylish films, Tony Scott’s 1983 film The Hunger. Bowie and Catherine Deneuve play modern-day vampires in a cat-and-mouse pursuit of Susan Sarandon. The screening with be followed by a after-party featuring punkish DJ music. Come ready to dance.

DEETS:
The Texas Theatre
231 W. Jefferson Blvd.
9:20 p.m. screening;
11 p.m. after-party
thetexastheatre.com/movies-events/the-hunger

Friday 02.05 — Sunday 02.28

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Dallas Theater Center revisits the Bard with ‘Romeo & Juliet’

For the first four full seasons with Artistic Directed Kevin Moriarty, the Dallas Theater Center performed one of Shakespeare’s plays — a comedy, a history, a tragedy and a so-called romance — each season. The tradition dropped off, though, after King Lear. Well, it’s back, with another of the major tragedies, Romeo & Juliet. Unlike the last four, Moriarty isn’t directing this one (that role falls to the talented Joel Ferrell) and it moves from Downtown’s Wyly Theatre back to the DTC’s Uptown haunts at the Kalita Humphreys.

DEETS:
Kalita Humphreys Theater
3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.
DallasTheaterCenter.org

Saturday 02.13

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BalletBoyz dance troupe makes its Dallas debut with graceful muscularity

With its innovative combination of weightless elegance and brute muscularity, the U.K.’s BalletBoyz is one of the most intensely exciting dance troupes in the world today. The company makes its Dallas debut on Feb. 13 with a sensual performance at the Winspear. This may be the most anticipated local premiere of TITAS’ all-dance season.

DEETS:
Winspear Opera House
2403 Flora St.
8 p.m.
ATTPAC.org

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 5, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Great Scott! Dallas Street Choir taps opera heavyweights for concert of show tunes

Jonathan Palant

Jonathan Palant

Among his musical projects, maestro Jonathan Palant (formerly artistic director of the Turtle Creek Chorale) proudly leads the Dallas Street Choir, a chorus made up of homeless and disadvantaged people. The singers are all volunteers, and most have little if any musical training. But Palant gets them to make some beautiful music.

So you can understand why some serious singers would be jealous Friday night, when the choir takes to the stage of Hamon Hall (inside the Winspear Opera House) to appear with some of the best-trained voices in the world. Cast members from the recently-acclaimed world premiere opera Great Scott — Frederica von Stade, Joyce DiDonato, Ailyn Perez, Rodell Rosel and Anthony Roth Constanzo — will join Palant and Great Scott composer (and pianist) Jake Heggie for a concert benefiting the Street Choir called The Opera Lovers’ Broadway: Great Voices Sing Broadway’s Favorite Hits.

If you haven’t seen Great Scott, this is a chance to see some of what you’re missing; if you have, it’s an opportunity to revisit these voices and do something great for Dallas’ homeless community.

General admission is $60, and limited VIP seats (which include a signed program) are available for $100. The concert is Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m. 214-871-5000.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS: Dallas Opera ‘first look’ fashion show, opening night gala

The Dallas Opera launched its 2015–16 season this weekend with the world premiere of the Jake Heggie-Terrence McNally opera Great Scott to widespread acclaim. But the parties were a draw as well. On Thursday, the First Look luncheon in the lobby of the Winspear Opera House previewed the upcoming season of five opera with a fashion show featuring original pieces from designers like Michael Faircloth and Edo Popken, as well as accessories from Mulberry. Then on Friday night, despite torrential rains, the movers and shakers of Dallas and celebs including Tyne Daly and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg showed up for the late-night after-party with DJ Lucy Wrubel. Here are shots from both events. (Look for a review of Great Scott here later this week.)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Sarah McLachlan: The gay interview

20140425KharenHillSarahMclachlan_Bedroom_0175While promoting Shine On, her first album in four years — which brings her to the Winspear Opera House on Sunday — Sarah McLachlan breaks her silence in a recent interview with our Chris Azzopardi.

Dallas Voice: At what point in your career did you know you had a big gay following?  Sarah MacLachlan: Hmm … probably Boston 1991.

That’s very specific.  I’m serious. Maybe 1992. It was with my second record [Solace] and I remember going to do a gig in Boston. I hung out with a lot of women after the show and there was one bartender in particular who was really hot! And I’m not gonna say anything else, but yeah.

Wait, no, no. You can’t just leave me hanging like that.  She was a good kisser  — that’s all I’m gonna say! That was my first sort of foray. It didn’t go past that, but that was, mmm, yeah.

I just remember there being a lot of women holding hands in the audience — and not only that, but it was a really intelligent audience. I don’t even know how I could tell that, but I just remember this feeling of, wow, this is just a great, great audience. I wish I could say why, but anyway, that was sort of the beginning of it and I think it just progressed from there.

So girls aren’t just good kissers but also super attentive?  I can generalize with my fans in that way, and all my fans — gay, straight — are coming for the music. They’re coming for church. I say that because that’s how I feel, especially about playing live; for me, that’s sort of my church. I get to be a part of something bigger than myself and be really connected to other human beings on a real emotional and visceral level. It’s very powerful.

It’s a mutual feeling.  It’s a mutual lovin’!

You mention your girl-on-girl foray in 1991, and for the longest time people have made assumptions about your sexuality. What do you think of the public’s interest in whether you’re bisexual?  People are always interested in how people bend. I’ve never shied away from it. I mean, I’m pretty straight. Let me just put it this way: I’ve never had sex with a woman. I haven’t. I’ve made out with more than one woman, but it just sort of happened. And there may have been alcohol involved during one of them.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Pell stepping down as artistic director of Dallas Opera

Pell Jonathan

Jonathan Pell in the Winspear just before it opened in 2009.

Jonathan Pell, who has spent nearly 30 years with the Dallas Opera, currently as its artistic director, and who marshaled its move from Fair Park to the Winspear Opera House, is stepping down from his full-time role with the company, the DO has announced.

Pell started with the DO in 1985 as its artistic administrator and will walk away on Dec. 31 from his day-to-day role. He will stay on as “artistic advisor.”

Pell brought such luminaries to the DO for their debuts as Cecilia Bartoli, Renee Fleming, Patricia Racette, Susan Graham, Denyce Graves and Ruth Ann Swenson. He also spearheaded several world premieres, including The Aspern Papers (which was revived last season), Therese Raquin and Moby-Dick (which will return next year).

The DO will continue its operation under general director Keith Cerny and new music director Emmauel Villaume. The DO wrapped up its 54th season earlier this month.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Reflections on ‘A Gathering 2013′

Last night’s well-attended A Gathering 2013  at the Winspear Opera House was a very special occasion — not only for the collaborative, diva-free atmosphere, but for what it had to say about AIDS and resilience and hope. At times, it was very moving … never more so than during the Turtle Creek Chorale’s “Sure on This Shining Night,” when a video montage of faces of the nearly 200 chorale members lost to AIDS scrolled by. One could not help but be astonished at how so many gone were young, handsome, vibrant, happy folks cut down far too soon.

Markus Lloyd brought down the house at the end of Act 1 with his soulful rendition of “I’ll Cover You” from Rent, and soprano Mary Dunleavy was remarkable on “Nisi Dominus.” It was a stirring performance — not just for them, but all the artists onstage.

Check out some behind the scenes photos of the rehearsal below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones