The Start of an Epoch 

Choreographer Brittany Bass’ evening of dance, EPOCH, was presented by the Houston Metropolitan Dance Center on December 18th, 2021 to an enthusiastic and engaged audience. Subtitled “an evening of dance, film, and conversation,” Bass hosted the evening herself and seasoned each piece with warm and honest commentary.  

The audience sat on three sides of the massive marley floor at the recently relocated Houston Metropolitan Dance Center. The vast space supported the large cast of the live dance, Untitled, but the distance made the viewing of the three screen dances a challenge 

The evening opened with Social Islands, a screen dance by Bass and video production team SETSVN who were the videographers and editors for all three video pieces that evening. This work was originally created to be a live performance but was adapted for film due to the pandemic. Five undulating dancers dressed in denim blended and popped from the grey blue hues of Surfside Beach. The cannons and lifts not only made sense but were especially pure because of the tides in the background. A pandemic blessing, Social Islands is an example for how dance can be stronger on film than on stage when the location and the movement support each other.  

The second film on the program was the premiere of S.L.A.B., set in an empty white warehouse with metal windows. Bass’ choice of rap music spawned a movement language entirely different from her first work. The dancers looked down the lens of the camera with the sharp and enticing physicality usually experienced in a fitness video or commercial. The energy was high, but the voices of the choreographer and the videographer seemed disconnected  

Untitled, the live performance on the program came next with swift and revitalizing movement. Nine dancers dressed in wine red and black dresses shifted between expansive darts across the stage and luxurious goddess postures. Bass use of stillness made the locomotive movement stronger. She assembled a strong, diverse cast of women. Kristen Frankiewicz, with undemanding power and prowess, was a standout. Dancers seemed to eat up space with dynamic leaps and expansive spirals, a welcomed experience after being away from live performance for so long. The women’s spines danced like snakes and they held their own feet in contortions. Dancers ran across the large space and rolled back like the tides of the waves, a spatial theme of the evening. The piece was unfinished, as the choreographer admitted in her comments. The finished sections of choreography had no single, specific facing. When successful, the dancers operated in their own world as the audience observed. The unfinished sections were flatter. Bass’ source movement vocabulary was dynamic and varied, and the finished version of Untitled will be something to see.  

White Sands, the final screen dance on the program explored more camera angles and techniques. Bass’ dancing was both powerful and languid with particularly striking motion against the hot, empty sand dunes. Again, the camera work and choreography didn’t always seem in sync, and the relationship between the dancer and the camera was unclear. 

EPOCH held to its subtitle’s promise: there was conversation. Bass invited questions and comments after every piece, a brave bidding for any artist. This vulnerability to share unfinished works and to receive public feedback will take the choreographer far. Bass is a choreographer to watch.  

About the Author

Lydia Hance is a choreographer, filmmaker, collaborator, and educator. Lydia Hance is the Founder and Artistic Director of Frame Dance Productions, a contemporary dance company making collaborative works for the screen and stage.

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