The Modern Dance Legacy Continues: Buglisi /Foreman Dance

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Buglisi Foreman Dance
Photo by Kristin Lodoen.

Buglisi/Foreman Dance is a small modern dance company with big ambitions, gorgeous production values, and a deep heart. Known for their lyrical and highly theatrical work, Buglisi Formean Dance is proof that modern dance is continuing its astonishing tradition. “Dance sends a tremendous energy into the world,” says Jacqulyn Buglisi, the Artistic Director. She should know; she brings decades of dancing with several dance legends, most notably, Martha Graham.
Buglisi /Foreman Dance are not strangers to Houston audiences. The company appeared in Dance Salad in 2001-2004 and several of the members performed in the Graham company during their Houston performances. Buglisi also has family connections here.

Jacqulyn Buglisi, Donlin Foreman, Terese Capucilli and Christine Dakin, all leading dancers the Graham company, founded Buglisi Foreman Dance in 1994. “We were all had a common philosophy,” says Buglisi. “We felt so deeply about our commitment to the artform.”

Since then, the company has amassed a large repertoire of works that not only embrace the Graham cannon, but move it forward. “I very much continue the basic elements of Graham’s legacy,” says Buglisi. “I have also furthered the technique. I use tension, release, and opposition to illuminate the dramatic moment. I also use a heightened theatricality like Graham. I like to bring all the elements of staging, the lighting, costumes and sets together.”

Buglisi graciously acknowledges Graham’s tremendous influence, but was destined for a path of her own making. “Martha was my mentor,” she says. “I danced with other companies but my destiny was to work with her.”

Buglisi has selected a quartet of works to demonstrate the enormous range of their repertoire for the Houston show. Sand is part of a trilogy of works concerning the environment. Venezuelan artist Jacobo Borges created 26 panels that literally drape the stage in a desert world. He is known for his environmental landscape painting. Buglisi traveled to the cloud forest while creating the work and spent considerable time visiting the great deserts. “You never forget those experiences.” Sand was recently presented at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in NYC with a live performance of the Philip Glass String Quartet.

Against All Odds, a moving exploration of Sarah Bernhardt’s exotic life, was created especially for Terese Capucilli. “It takes a great dance actress to do a work like that,” says Buglisi. The work entails Bernhardt playing many different characters from Joan of Arc to Napoleon. Capucilli, one of the most renowned Graham dancers of her time, is known for her captivating rendering of Bernhardt colorful life.

Next on the program is Requiem, a work that started out being an exploration of the work of baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi Buglisi was working on the piece in late August shortly before 9/11. Afterwards she visited the site at ground zero and the work grew to mean something else. “For me it was a sacred ground. It was filled with white dust, the white dust and these huge flood lights over this cavern, like a cave; it was like an open heart,” she says. “It was like a huge cathedral. That experience fell right into the work.” Audiences have found the work to be a healing experience. “It’s a big prayer to peace.”

Costuming is crucial in all of Buglisi’s works. The women in Requiem are wrapped in 10 yards of silk. She works with the costume ideas right from the start. “The fabric becomes an extension of your inner landscape,” says Buglisi. She credits her know-how with fabric from her time dancing the work of Ruth St. Dennis and Ted Shawn while with the Trisler Danscompany.

The closer, Donlin Foreman’s Mean Ole’ World, shows off the company’s versatility in an uplifting piece set to an original score by Lisa DeSpain. This very serious dance company finally lets their hair down for some jitterbugging fun in this playful piece. “The program starts with something stylized and ends with a piece were we are able to burst out,” says Buglisi. “We take you through the whole spectrum of humanity.”

S.P.A. presents Buglisi/Foreman Dance on Saturday, April 8 at 8 p.m. in Worthan Center’s Cullen Theater. Call 713-227-4SPA or visit http://www.spahouston.org/.

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