About the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble's 2020 film Orchid People:
"Healthy, attractive, dance-trained individuals in lovely costumes paying homage to a glory of forests and jungles in the midst of a metropolis under the encompassing sky. I was interested in the use of what seemed to be day-for-night in the second section, and the final gesture, a salute to the city, was poignant and welcome. There's a quality in the film that reminds me of the open-hearted modern dances made when New York jazz was taking off after WWII."
- Mindy Aloff, Editor, Journalist, Essayist & Dance Critic
"Orchid People really captured so much in shape, the sensitivity-strength, the gestures so formal and heroic yet tender."
- Eva Yaa Asantawaa, Writer, Curator, Community Educator, Editor of Imagining: A Gibney Journal
About the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble's 2019 premiere of Dancing The Blue Hour at the MATCH.
"Michele Brangwen's creation is magic. Seeing these group of artists perform together is intoxicating". - Pin Lim.
"Wonderfully inviting to behold. The combination of choreography, music and improvisation make one feel that contemporary dance & music scene is alive and doing well." - Paul Connolly, composer
About the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble's February 2017 performance at the Mark Morris Dance Center of IN AND OUT OF THE SHADOWS, inspired by John Cassavetes' film SHADOWS from 1959:
"Lovely dancers and intensely focused musicians. The late-'50s era of Cassavetes' American take on the New Wave was unquestionably evoked."
- Mindy Aloff
The Village Voice: Voice Choices, 2/25/2017:
By Elizabeth Zimmer
Michele Brangwen's troupe divides its time between New York and Houston; her skilled dancers have the distinct advantage of performing to live jazz by trumpeter/composer Tim Hagans. This rare local appearance includes In and Out of the Shadows, an exploration of the power of love originally made for one of the company's video "artcasts," inspired by John Cassavetes's 1959 film Shadows. (Hagans has been working on a jazz tribute CD dedicated to Cassavetes.) Completing the forty-minute, cocktail-hour showing is the improvisational work Unending, to a score by Hagans inspired by the music of John Coltrane. Following the form of a traditional jazz number, it mixes set choreography with duets improvised by the five dancers and four musicians. Stay after for wine and pastries.
About ARTCAST, the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble's Internet Television Series that premiered on YouTube in June 2013. ARTCAST features dance, music and film created in New York City & Houston. ARTCAST Season 2 Premiered in 2014:
"Wonderfully produced little gems of stories."
- Virginia Johnson, Artistic Director, Dance Theatre of Harlem, New York City
"I was watching a moving and fluid sculpture garden. The dancers danced, engaged the musicians…danced with them, without them, around them and used the space so that the space became a world of its own. The environment they created became part of the choreography; it all meshed together in an intertwining of shapes and sounds; dancers playing freely in a garden of musicians."
- Nancy Bielski, Teacher & Coach, American Ballet Theatre & STEPS Studio
"A beautiful and lovingly curated series of short films--dance, sound, recitations of various kinds--that will worm around inside your mind for days to follow. Beautiful, moving, surprising, and well worth the (brief) time each episode takes to watch. One of the very best channels you're likely to find on YouTube or on any tube."
-- Christian Kiefer, Novelist, California
"As a film professor, I'm always interested in those who use the medium in innovative ways. It's generally understood that film is a collaborative art form, in that (no matter what auteur theory might suggest) the final product is the result of many people's creative work. But what gets overlooked, I think, is that film has the potential to showcase collaboration across different art forms and modes of expression. Yes, we understand that movies have soundtracks, but film can go further than that--it can engage music, dance, and literature, for instance, in ways that surprise us, and bring those other art forms together in new ways as well.
To me, this is what ARTCAST is doing--when the camera peeps from afar, and then closes in, as musicians and dancers take their performance out onto the streets, or when a musician stands up on stage to interact with a dancer, or when the camera lingers in an uncomfortable close-up on the confused face of a man drifting through a Tolstoy reverie. I'm always frustrated when a film keeps a safe, static distance from the "high art" taking place in its designated space, but that doesn't happen here--the camera nudges, urges, and gets as involved with the artists as they are with each other. "
- Dr. Stacey Peebles, Assistant Professor of English and Director of Film Studies
Centre College, Danville KY
"It is a beautiful episode 1, "No Standing Any Time. Amazing choreography, music and dance."
- Mirka Siwek, Independant Arts Consultant, Sweden
"The dance is hypnotic and intriguing."
--Mark Morrow, Writer, Photographer, Virginia
"Very intense -- love it! I especially enjoyed the interaction on the aural and visual improvisation"
-- Steve Traylor, Musician, Kansas
--Danielle Reich, Musician, Texas
"That was a very nicely done, high quality program. Besides the dance and music, I thought the lighting was exceptional as well."
--Wesley Morgan, Professor, University of Tennessee
"A total pleasure--and multiple Cassavetes! It's great to hear Tim Hagans in those contexts, including the theme music for Artcast. In Episode 4, No Standing In St. Petersburg, Elena Shadrina is a dream. Those smiles pure wish-fulfillment. I think the whole thing is a dream from the tea."
-- Jay Ellis, Professor, University of Colorado
"Elena Shadrina in No Standing in St. Petersburg is a breathtakingly beautiful woman. In the film, she's tasked mostly with answering Raymond Todd's monologue. That kind of thing is difficult to do in live theater, let alone on film. She was superb in part because she looks like a dream to start with, but primarily because you can read her eyes. They're expressive, and they say what she means."
-- Marty Priola, Writer & Professor, Georgia
About the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble, From the Houston Press 100 Creatives Article ,February 2013:
The presentation of both dancers and musicians in dialogue creates a seamless marriage that's a true joy to watch.
-- Adam Castaneda, Houston Press
Read the entire article here
About KATSU, a new work created for the FotoFest 2012 International Biennial, with choreography by Michele Brangwen; music by Tim Hagans and Thomas Helton; film, and live camera:
"FotoFest's international photographic arts programs have benefited greatly from dance and music collaborations with the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble. The multi-disciplinary and innovative character of the Michele's Brangwen's choreography and breadth of the musical compositions she commissions are an exciting complement to FotoFest's visual arts. The company's ability to create site specific performances has allowed us to partner with the company on many exhibitions in many locations, most recently with her performance of KATSU in conjunction with the FotoFest 2012 Biennial exhibitions of contemporary Russian photography."
- Wendy Watriss
Artistic Director and Co-founder
About the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble's premiere of CARESS THE THOUGHT with music by legendary composer and bassist Rufus Reid in May 2010:
My time in Houston with The Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble and Tim Hagans Subversive Jazz Ensemble was an incredible experience for me. Michele choreographed a dance to my composition, “Caress The Thought” from my latest “Out Front” recording. That has never happened to me. Ever! It was incredible. The dancers, Michele Brangwen, Scarlett Barnes and Brooke Barnes-Meeks were magnificent.
I was an invited guest into an uncharted realm. For my composition, I was positioned almost center stage with the dancers dancing all around me. That was truly a new and exciting experience, and tons of fun! The choreographed dance and the music combined produced another dimension for the audience and for the performers. Michele Brangwen's vision is to combine improvised music with improvised dance. I truly enjoyed this combination and I look forward to future explorations.
-- Rufus Reid
About GET OUTSIDE a work created in collaboration with the Norrbotten Big Band of Luleå, Sweden that premiered in December 2009 at the Acusticum Theater in Piteå, Sweden:
“The Introduction, titled "Outside My Window" is so good, so good. It consists of four short sequences, which become a kind of conversation between four different pairs…beautiful instrumental monologues get a physical interpretation by the dancers and the result is, to say the least, a delight for both eye and ear, a thrilling experience.”
-- Anders Sandlund, Piteå-Tidningen
“The film section involved both the big band and dance company. It was recorded last year, partly outdoors in a snowy Luleå, and carries the same fundamentally poetic spirit of the evening's other choreography…It was fun when Tim Hagans newly written music was released in a cacophony of many dancers and musicians out there together on the dance mat. Beautiful, in a fragile and interesting way, is also the beginning where Jan Thelin, Karl-Martin Almqvist, Tim Hagans and Mats Garberg, with their wind instruments, in pairs interacted with the dancers. The work closed with an exciting section by Thomas Helton on double bass.”
-- Regine Nordström, Norrbottens-Kuriren
About the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensembles 2008 Performance of Sanctuary Moon:
The middle movement of Sanctuary Moon, while similar in style to the live music and dance onstage, happened to be a lovely short film by Yunuen Perez Vertti, with incredibly warm lighting by Jeremy Choate. The dancers – Brangwen herself, the ever-welcome Lindsey McGill, Brooke Barnes and Scarlett Barnes – floated and flowed through the musicians just as they’d been doing onstage and would do again. It was a lyrical video postcard of what MBDE does best, breaking down what Brangwen must consider an artificial division between the sound instruments make and what dancers chose to do in their thrall. The film was followed by a memorable live pas de deux between McGill and Brooke Barnes, sensuous and poetic, and then a finale that set to the ever-rising volume of three large gongs. Any finale that pastes together the sound cascades of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the chaos of the Beatles’ A Day in the Life and the cannons that close the 1812 Overture must be a finale and a half.
-- John DeMers, September 2008 issue of ARTSHOUSTON Magazine
About the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble's October 2007 performance of Petrified:
The Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble performs with an unmistakable blend of meticulous discipline and pure spontaneity. The music, always unique, perfectly chosen and always performed live, combines with Brangwen's choreography in a way that engages the musicians themselves as part of the dance, more like an essential element for the dancers to complement and interact with as opposed to a mere accompaniment. The choreography and execution is so arresting that it pierces the audience's sensibilities with an urgency that transcends the rules of space, mannerism, and rationality. The evening's performance had the audience breathless, our eyes glued to the movement; absorbed and engaged regardless of how much knowledge we had of either contemporary dance or music. One had the impression that we were witness to something very special -- a happening -- and this owes more to the inherent, effortless intimacy of Brangwen's choreography and the expertise in execution of her troupe than the space itself. In short, there was no where else anyone wanted to be but at the performance of Michele Brangwen's Dance Ensemble.
- Adam Tendler, Artistic Director, Foundation for Modern Music
You've been missing out if your nightlife pursuits haven't included seeing the Houston-based world-traveling Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble.
- Chris Kelly, HOUSTON Modern Luxury Magazine
About the Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble's summer 2007 performances of two premieres: A Note From Guantanamoand Petrified:
Petrified gives form to just that. The synthesis of sound rarely heard from a stand up bass, characterized as much by stasis as by movement, and dance providing the same, reflects the ways in which we are caught by our own thinking. Wanting to move forward but held back by apparently unseen forces, we find we are our own captors. Petrified is precise in its execution and translation of human emotion into a performance."
- Frank Rose, Publisher, ArtsHouston Magazine
I have been a fan of Michele Brangwen’s graceful and poignant work for many years and have had the pleasure of witnessing her growth as a serious artist. Her ability to magically balance movement, texture and sound draws the observer deep into its fold, captivating and manipulating the senses. Her vision global and her spirit willing, Michele Brangwen emerges as a poet of the highest order
- Joe LoCascio, Pianist/Composer/Recording Artist Heart Music Label
Petrified was wonderful.
- Toby Atkinson, Foundation for Modern Music
About Confusion of Angels, a short film made at the Rothko Chapel, Houston TX, with choreography by Michele Brangwen and music by Thomas Helton, in collaboration with Director of Photography Yunuen Perez Vertti:
“One of the challenges of choreography is finding an appropriate balance between the literal and the allegorical, and Michele Brangwen's Confusion of Angels finds that balance. It lets us be unseen witnesses to a literal ceremony full of grace, lyricism and especially light amidst the darkness, yet it also teases us into guessing the precise nature of that ceremony. Part Hellenistic in costume, part Hindu in movement, and universally radiant in impact, Confusion of Angels invites us into a spiritual moment that ultimately forms inside ourselves.”
--John DeMers, Editor in Chief, ARTSHOUSTON MAGAZINE
About Sweet Land, a work for five dancers and four musicians, that celebrates the legacy of the nation's uniquely American spirit and speculates where it will lead us:
Michele Brangwen continues to create visual images that play into the very center of our emotions. "Sweet Land" is poetry for the soul. The combination of music, dance and video are brilliantly handled. Artistic Director Brangwen, composer Carol Morgan, and lighting genie Kris Phelps have given us something beautiful, unique and solidly American throughout.
-- Composer/Pianist Joe LoCascio
Just wanted to pass along our thanks and compliments for a wonderful performance last night. We really enjoyed the choreography on plane with the musicians. Lovely piece.
-- Robin, Audience Member at Barnevelder Theater
About Desesperados, a series of tangos for three dancers, three musicians, and an actress, that explores the mystique of this evocative and its passionate music:
“The essence of tango ruled the stage in Michele Brangwen’s Desesperados”
-- Nancy Galeota-Wozny, DANCE SOURCE HOUSTON, November 2005
“The musicians – bassist Thomas Helton (who composed the music), violinist Vladimir Kotsiouruba and accordionist Greg Harbar were the constants, the stars around which the evening’s three dancers twirled, pitched and rolled. Items changed hands between dancer and player, right along with enigmatic glances, and hands were held or set free. No literal meaning seemed necessary.”
– John DeMers, Editor, ARTSHOUSTON, August 2005
“ The appeal of “Desesperados” is the understated way that things happen. The performers do not emote. Instead the intensity of the tango songs, performed with expertise and passion by Vladimir Kotsiouruba on violin, Greg Harbar on accordion, and Thomas Helton on string bass, provide the dramatic foundation for the action. Dancers Deanna Green, Arneita McKinney, and Michele Brangwen give polished performances with appropriate commitment to the dramatic intention. Actress Sandra Tapia is mysterious and interesting in her role as observer and narrator of poetry written by Brangwen. Kris Phelps’ moody lighting enhances the piece greatly, and Summer Dawn Collins’ costumes of elegant evening attire hit the right mark. “
– Linda Phenix, HOUSTONDANCE.COM, July 2005
"My family and I attended your tribute to the tango, and what a show it was! The dancers interacting with the musicians transformed the experience completely, adding a whole new dimension: not only live music, live dancers, but live musicians too. The whole blended together perfectly and really came ALIVE!"
-- John Mullee, MBDE Audience Member
About Black Rain, an octet for dancers, saxophone, guitar, string bass and percussion that explores the dark poetry of rain by looking back to the fallout at two Ground Zeros -- Hiroshima and Lower Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks:
“Finally a choreographer gives heart, soul, and depth, to a global issue.”
- Nancy Galeota Wozny, Dance Writer & Critic for DANCEHUNTER.BLOGSPOT.COM
“Brangwen and Helton blended their visions artfully, and they delivered a piece that was rich with dynamic changes and fascinating imagery.”
- Linda Phenix, DANCEHOUSTON.COM
About Madrid, a quintet for dancers, string bass and electronics that contrasts the beauty of the ancient city with its most recent tragedy:
"I have to say at the very end -- I’m not going to give away the end of the dance -- but it is so arresting, I got chills, because it really has impact, and it really has meaning.”
-- Elaine Kennedy, KUHF Radio
"Both the music and the dance were beautiful and riveting. The entire program was impressive."
-- Julia Olivarez, JAZZHOUSTON
"The Michele Brangwen Dance Ensemble held candles in Madrid, a dark, slow-motion ritual/peace statement that focused on the chaotic heat from composer/bassist Thomas Helton's impressive string work.
-- Molly Glentzer, HOUSTON CHRONICLE
About Talk to Me, a quintet for dancers, saxophone and string bass, that reminds us to not neglect the magic of what cannot be spoken:
"Talk to Me is witty, creative and proof that dance is expressive between dancers, musicians and the audience. Brangwen reaches new depths in her exploration of physical technique and emotional communication. I loved it."
-- Nancy Bielski, STEPS STUDIO and AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE, New York
About Louie's, Key West, a quintet for dancers and piano that tributes the miracle of place and its capacity for stimulating emotion:
“Really lovely work”
-- Nancy Galeota Wozny, Dance Critic HOUSTON PRESS and ARTSHOUSTON magazine
"With its eccentric score and graceful, deceptively simple movements, Louie’s, Key West captures the insouciant rhythms of a Caribbean afternoon.”
- Rick Wallach, University of Miami