Dance has always been one of those art forms that amaze me. Whether it is trying to memorize the moves of one of my favorite music artists; watching in awe as it is used to tell a story in ballet; or rising to my feet in pure joy when the cast of one of the touring Broadway musicals sets the stage on fire with their choreography.
Recently, I had the opportunity to check out TITAS/Dance Unbound at the breathtaking Winspear Opera House, and I walked away with a new appreciation for the art form.
For those of you who’ve never heard of TITAS/Dance Unbound, it’s a 37-year-old tradition that presents the coolest, the most innovative, the most remarkable dance artists touring the world today. It’s cool.
In his letter to patrons, executive director and artistic director Charles Santos says, “words that speak to what sets TITAS/DANCE UNBOUND apart: forward-thining, surprising, intriguing, and relevant are all precepts that guide the curation of the annual seasons we put together.
I attended the opening night a few weeks ago, not too sure of what to expect.
The crowd was not robust, but those that were there were bristling with excitement–something that grew with the start of the production. One girl in front of me was exceptionally emotional with the movements she saw, telling a friend, “this reminds me of home.”
The production I saw was from Evidence, A Dance Company, and directed by dance community veteran Ronald K. Brown. Deeply rooted in African dance techniques and merged with contemporary genres of modern dance, the movements on stage were so special as the dancers told a story about rising from oppression and shutting down the spirit of division that plagues our world today.
Here is our short Q&A about the program.
Now that the 37th season has begun, can you tell me a bit about the series (are there any themes, what is significant and noteworthy, what should we be looking out for)?
CS: Well, a couple of things. TITAS/DANCE UNBOUND has now been bringing global artists to Dallas for nearly four decades. We see a lot of dance from around the globe, and in this time in global turmoil and unrest, I am always amazed at the transcendent effect a dance performance can have on an audience and a culture. Through all the varieties of dance – both cultural and technical – dance is a universal language. You don’t have to know anything about dance, and you don’t have to speak a different language to enjoy it. Watching a great dance performance is a visceral experience.
We have also seen major cultural shifts in our city, and that’s been very important for us to consider as we curate each season. We live in a culturally diverse and vibrant Metroplex community, and it’s essential to bring cultures from around the world to Dallas. Our goal is not only great performances but to build “blended audiences,” together enjoying the art form and the cultural representations from around the world.
This season, in particular, is very compelling. There are six countries represented within the ten companies TITAS/DANCE UNBOUND is presenting in Dallas this season. Companies from the U.S., Mexico, Canada, France, China, and South Korea. All amazing, entertaining, and different. Four of those companies will be presenting their Texas debuts with TITAS/DANCE UNBOUND.
I am excited about this year’s entire season, and truly it is our honor to introduce the Dallas community to award-winning choreographers and companies like Victor Quijada of RUBBERBAND, China’s LDTX, France’s Malandain Ballet Biarritz, and Mexico’s Delfos Danza Contemporánea.
We live in an era of mobile devices, and people experience culture through a display screen. We are losing the irreplaceable live experience. When you come to a performance, and for those lucky enough to attend the entire season, you can expect to be awe-inspired and surprised by the outstanding art and performances you are about to experience. There’s nothing like the live experience!
I see there was a name change this year, it is said to go with the addition of the international dance troupes, can you tell me a bit about that evolution and how the series has changed?
CS: When the organization was established in 1982, we were the Texas International Theatrical Arts Society, or more commonly known as TITAS. We have made two major changes to our name since then. Though TITAS has always been known as the preeminent dance presenter in North Texas, we have always been a music and dance presenter, at least for 28 years anyway. To the general public and sometimes the press, we were often mistaken as a dance company. So, a few years back, we became TITAS Presents in hopes of establishing that we are a presenting organization. But that name didn’t really resonate with the public mostly because “presenting” is an industry term. Also, as we are in partnership with the AT&T Performing Arts Center, TITAS migrated away from presenting music to being a dance-only presenter.
During a rebranding exercise, we decided that TITAS/DANCE UNBOUND more accurately represented who we are and what we do. The name change was carefully considered. TITAS has very strong international relationships, and we felt that part of our name had to stay. The reaction to our new name has been very positive. And before you ask, we moved away from presenting music because of our partnership with the Center. I’m a big believer in the importance of curation. There has to be a reason to bring a particular artist or company to our city. A strong curation of a series also helps establish the brand with the public. As The Center and TITAS were both presenting similar music, it made sense to leave the music to the Center and for TITAS to focus on what we do best: present dance. Hence, the new name.
What role, would you say, are the arts and dance playing in shaping Dallas, particularly with welcoming international artists to Dallas?
CS: North Texas is a welcoming region for global citizens, and Dallas is quickly becoming an international city. We are a city with many different cultures, world views, and international business relations. I view the arts and dance as building bridges and connecting people from diverse cultural, social, and economic backgrounds. We are creating opportunities for people to deepen their understanding of the world and open up more dialogue.
What I find most interesting is, when the lights go up after each performance, I see this melting pot of people in the audience, the blended audience that we are working towards. It’s really beautiful. These blended audiences are people from all different backgrounds, coming together for one night to be captivated, challenged, and inspired through the universal language of dance.
Additionally, to become an international cultural destination city, you have to do the work. The work makes you famous. This is the message I’ve been saying over and over to my colleagues in the city government.
The only way to become known as a culturally rich community with international relevance and importance is to do the work. We have to promote our local artists, and we have to challenge audiences with great works of art from across the globe. We have to develop an international reputation, and the only way to do this is to do the work.
Additionally, TITAS commissions new works every year. We have built connections between local artists and internationally touring artists, establishing new relationships, and exciting new works. The world must see Dallas as a city that is committed to culture and to fostering new artists and new cultural works.
What do you think Dallasites need to know about this series and why should they attend?
CS: The most common response we hear from first-time audience members is, “I had no idea that this would be so cool! I loved it.” TITAS continues to be the coolest ticket in town.
There is something for everyone this season at TITAS/DANCE UNBOUND, and there are many different opportunities to engage with us. So, be curious and experience the unexpected. This season is an amazing collection of a stunning, surprising, mesmerizing, and fun group of performances you’ll experience.
We also want people to know that dance is for everyone. It’s for the creators, innovators, thinkers, doers, dreamers, and more, from our city and beyond. You don’t need to know anything about dance or have studied it to enjoy it. And you don’t have to be an aspiring dancer to come out for one of our masterclasses. We make those open to the public so that anyone – at any skill level – may participate.
So, I hope you will make it to one of the amazing performances this season, or come out for one of our masterclasses. But, if you can only do one thing this season, then come to our gala, Command Performance. There’s nothing like it!