Bruce Wood setting precedent with all-male dance

SMU alumni and current SMU Meadows School of the Arts students are among the dancers in new all-male dance company The Bruce Wood Dance Project.


My Brother’s Keeper, Bruce Wood’s ambitious new work for an all-male cast, has been almost 20 years in the making. Men-only dances just aren’t done, so the Fort Worth choreographer had little precedent to build on.

“Don’t make it that important,” Wood says with a laugh just as he’s about to complete his long-running quest.

The men in his current company, the Bruce Wood Dance Project, along with a number of guest artists, will premiere the 75-minute piece this weekend at the Montgomery Arts Theater in downtown Dallas. It will be performed without an intermission.

Wood presented a shorter work-in-progress version as part of a mixed program at the theater last year.

Dance works for male groups have been tried before, but they’re rare. Modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn had a men’s troupe in the 1930s, and Lloyd Newson, founder of DV8 Physical Theatre, began creating what Wood calls brutal pieces for men in the ’80s.

“It’s very earthbound,” Wood says of men dancing with men, “where dancing with a woman is generally the total opposite. You get them in the air. It’s much more spiritual and romantic. But over the years, I’ve come up with enough ways to partner men, enough movement vocabulary, that I can actually make a big dance out of it. Choreographically, I find it fascinating.”

The idea initially crossed his mind when he moved his first group, the Bruce Wood Dance Company, from Austin to Fort Worth in 1997. A museum librarian had turned Wood on to photographer Duane Michals, who uses text on his pictures to tell stories.

Wood even considered starting an all-male company, but his board talked him out of it. The dance audience wants to see those soaring women, went the conventional wisdom, not men stuck to the ground.

“I thought, ‘One day I’m going to make a dance about these photographs.’ It’s one of those things you put in the back of your head,” Wood says, “and now all these years later I’m doing it.”

My Brother’s Keeper is a series of vignettes about family relationships — fathers and sons, grandfathers and grandsons, brothers. Wood brought on Theatre Three executive producer-director Jac Alder, who is 78, to adapt Michals’ words into a story told from the point of view of an elderly man looking back on his life....

Playing the younger roles are Wood company members Dallas Blagg, Albert Drake, Harry Feril, Aaron Kozak, Joshua Peugh and 18-year-old Southern Methodist University freshman Alex Druzbanski. Wood also recruited Dallas native Chris Vo of the TV series Smash and Texas Christian University graduate Domingo Estrada of the Mark Morris Dance Group as guest performers....