Smart - Human - Physical - Fresh

Muscle Memory Dance Theatre subtly pushes the boundaries of performance & the art of dance. M2DT is a collaborative company that honors and encourages dance professionals from around North Texas  in their evocative use of dance as an organic, communicative art.

Loop Review - The Rubber Room: Muscle Memory Dance Theatre creates a compelling story through movement and dialogue.

By Margaret Putman, Theater Jones  

It’s a strange and compelling story. One teacher is sent “to purgatory” for saying a four-letter word in the empty hall, unaware that students are within earshot. Another loses his temper when the class is too loud, so he screams and throws a chair against the blackboard. Others don’t even know why they are sent to the rubber room. They continue to get paid, but have nothing to do. To pass time, they play cards, read, watch movies on their portable CDs, give Spanish lessons or draw. Having no power, teachers fight over a chair.

To turn this sad tale into dance form, Muscle Memory Dance Theatre’s co-artistic director Lesley Snelson-Figueroa approaches the subject as though seeing events from the viewpoint of an anthropologist. Appropriately, the title is The Rubber Room, and it features six dancers clad in clever outfits of red, black and white. Perhaps because they are teachers, they move about the stage in an orderly fashion, arms often bent at the same angle, legs straight. From time to time, they maneuver shiny red classroom chairs, tipping them over, stepping up on top of one, or fighting to claim it.

At times the spoken voices threaten to overpower the dance, as we hear one teacher after the other describe his or her months in the rubber room. But wisely, Ms. Snelson-Figueroa avoids the pitfall of making gestures and movements too literal, and when she does, they are effective. One teacher shoves another away, battling for a particular chair. Another sits still, glassy-eyed, head bobbing as she struggles to stay awake.

The movement is both streamlined and yet ever-changing, and its effect is to give this modern cautionary tale a cool, clinical air while below the surface it throbs with tension.

Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill and Dance Magazine.


You Are Here: Muscle Memory Dance Theatre and Ghost Town Arts Collective come together for an interesting dance-art installation.

By Cheryl Callon, Theater Jones

A performance from Muscle Memory Dance Theatre is never cut-and-dry, nor is the experience one size fits all. This is especially evident in You Will Know When You Are There: A Journey in Art and Modern Dance, presented in collaboration with Ghost Town Arts Collective at LIFE in Deep Ellum.

This gallery show/dance performance/art installation provides an up-close-and-personal experience with the dancers and the art. The proscenium and subsequent fourth wall are dismissed in favor of an oblong "stage" on the floor of the theater space with seating on three sides, including on the actual stage. A fabric road leading from the entrance and winding around to the performance space and through the seating consists of many colors, textures and patterns stitched together in just as many shapes and configurations. Two fabric panels hung from the ceiling provide the only vertical border in the space, and lanterns adorn the edges.

Three things to know about this performance before you go (because you should go). First, it's one solid 40-minute stretch, which could be a blessing or a curse depending on your perspective. If you're the type who sits through dance concerts thinking, "Is there no end to this?" then you're in luck. However, you might get so caught up in the experience that the ending comes way too soon.

Second, even though it's an intimate performance, the seating arrangement is varied enough so that you only have to be as involved in the action as you want to be. The stage seating provides a raised, more remote view of the action, while the floor seating provides two rows of intimate interaction.

Third, the performance as a whole actually goes beyond itself and what it's trying to portray. It gives a lesson in experiencing art. The choreography does not always present a clear meaning, but then again, M2DT never prized itself on having straightforward, literal works. They want you to think, to question, maybe even be puzzled and think some more. In time, it might click or it might not.

And that's okay. These types of performances might not be the ones you rave about on Facebook during intermission with all caps, exclamation points and hearts, but they are worth seeing nonetheless.


Another View of 2011 Dance: Cheryl Callon muses on the dance scene in 2011, and what she's looking forward to in 2012.

I love countdowns. Whether it's the top-whatever countdown on MTV or VH1 (when they actually played music videos) or the year-end countdown of top news stories, it's always fun to see how others reflect upon the year and see if it matches my own opinions.

This is not one of those lists. Think of this more like the Oscars or Golden Globes, as awards in specific categories, but without the red carpet and snooty-but-witty jokes by Ricky Gervais. And my categories are way more fun than theirs.

The envelope please…

Most Likely to Leave You Speechless…And Coming Back for More

Writing a review over Muscle Memory Dance Theatre (even this teeny-tiny paragraph) usually requires several minutes of staring at a blank computer screen. Amazingly, a critic can be at a loss for words, and M2DT brings me to that point for three reasons. First, their choreography can be pretty abstract, sometimes to the point where this modern dance enthusiast will throw up her hands and say, "I have no clue." Second, regardless of the meaning of the choreography, the actual movements are usually quite fascinating. Lastly, the company members are beautiful dancers. Even the most subtle movements can be wonderful to watch. Those three elements combine in such an odd and intriguing way that sometimes the words don't come. When they do, I usually can sum up a performance in one sentence: I don't get it, but I don't care.

The Modern Connection: Muscle Memory Dance Theatre collaborates with national modern companies in Collateral: Trade Routes in Dance. By Katie Dravenstott

By Katie Dravenstott, Theater Jones

It was rare to see so many modern dance companies on one stage at Friday night’s performance of Collateral: Trade Routes in Dance, presented by Muscle Memory Dance Theatre. Joining M2DT at LIFE in Deep Ellum were MamLuft&Co. from Cincinnati, Ohio; Perpetual Motion Dance from Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Spank Dance from Austin. The performance repeats tonight.

The host of the evening, Muscle Memory Dance Theatre, showed off its softer side with the ethereal Echoes (2007), choreographed by Michelle Moeller of Perpetual Motion Dance, and its sweet and sassy side with When My Beloved Calls (2012), choreographed by M2DT’s Amy L. Sleigh. But M2DT’s most successful piece of the evening had to be (re)build (2012), choreographed by Lesley Snelson in collaboration with the performers. Using red and white bricks, Meghan Cardwell-Wilson, Alison Mackley and Megan Odom went about building and rebuilding their own structures. Even through the movement was quite literal, it was also well thought out and captivating. Their environment constrained the dancers to linear patterns in and out of the brick formations. The dancers periodically rearranged the bricks meticulously before using them as a way to move across the stage, hopping lightly from one to the next. The clanking of the bricks when moved was accompanied by M83 and Scuba, arranged by Snelson.

In the end two of the dancers laid on top of their incomplete stacks

appearing exhausted by the rebuilding process while the third dancer stood over her incomplete stack appearing content and ready to move on, perhaps implying that while the rebuilding process is important, it’s better to move beyond one’s previous state inspired by past challenges.


◊ Katie Dravenstott is a freelance writer and dance teacher in Dallas. 


Year in Review: Dance Margaret Putnam recalls her 10 favorite dance performances of 2011.

We know that at some point rain will again fall, but whether good fortune shines on dance is another question. The dance drought continues with no relief in sight. After a slow decline, Metropolitan Classic Ballet closed up shop while Texas Dance Theater, barely four years old, cancelled its 2011-2012 season. Texas Ballet Theater, TITAS and Dallas Black Dance Theatre all cut down the number of performances.

These were the top 10 dance events of the year (to see the list as a slideshow presentation, click the slideshow icon to the right).

9. Black is the Color of That Kettle, Muscle Memory Dance Theatre at the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival at WaterTower Theatre, Addison (March 5)

No one goes to the Fringe Festival expecting the ordinary, and certainly not in dance. Odd encounters, gestures that fly at odds with each other, and a serious use of crumpled-up aluminum foil inspired all sorts of weird and yet tantalizing images that sparked the imagination.

◊ Margaret Putnam has been writing about dance since 1980, with works published by D Magazine, The Dallas Observer, The Dallas Times Herald, The Dallas Morning News, The New York Times, Playbill, Stagebill, Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine.