Dance led Cole Vernon to find Dallas and himself

RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer
rich@dallasvoice.com

Dancer Cole Vernon is quick to admit that preparing for this week’s performance with Bruce Wood Dance has been a kick in the butt. But he’s quicker to admit that is why he loves his job. He knows that all this hard work will not only pay off in BWD’s new show ReNEW, but that it’s a testament to the company and to himself.

“I’m on the verge of fainting after every run and we are all chugging water and Gatorade,” Vernon said by phone. “It’s been super challenging, but that’s something I always appreciate. My body has had to step up to the dynamics of this show.

“At the same time, we are on cloud nine.”

Vernon describes that feeling as the dancer mentality: Show up, do the hard work and smile through it.

ReNEW opens Friday for three performances at Moody Performance Hall.

In his own way, Vernon sees this particular show as the story of BWD. The show opens with the piece “Liturgy” by Bruce Wood followed by “begin again” by choreographer Yin Yue. The final piece is the headliner, “Elemental Brubeck,” by 20th-century choreographer Lar Lubovitch, which is of particular note: BWD’s founder Bruce Wood danced with the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company during his performance career.

Cole Vernon.Photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy of Bruce Wood Dance

“This is definitely my opinion, but I think this show is a perfect representation of the company,” Vernon said. “For me, what ties it together are these chapters. You have the Bruce Wood element, where we stay truthful to his choreography.”

He credits artistic director Joy Bollinger with taking the company in new directions by incorporating other works into the company’s repertoire. So he sees the other two works fitting in their own way.

“Then you have Bruce Wood’s origins with the Lar Lubovtich piece, and then these more contemporary elements with Yin, so you can see the direction of where the company is from and where it’s heading.”

For Vernon, ReNEW tells the story of BWD’s past, present and future.

Vernon’s own dancing past is rooted in his youth learning martial arts. He found he enjoyed the performance aspect of it over anything else. As a teen he discovered hip-hop and jazz, but upon discovering ballet at 18, he knew that was it.

“I think I knew I had a talent for it then,” Vernon said. But he also discovered something new: Dancing gave him the opportunity to be anybody he wanted and to dip into different emotions.

Vernon identifies as gender fluid today and uses all (or none, however you look at it) pronouns.

Dancing paralleled that in his life. “I can be anything onstage and I can be anything in real life and that’s all fine,” he said. “Dancing was for sure an outlet for me in many ways.”

Originally from the San Francisco area, Vernon is approaching his fourth season with BWD, although he says it feels like he joined just last year. He ended up in Dallas with the company after he checked in on a friend here who danced with BWD.

“So, for dancers, Chicago and New York and,3 commercially, Los Angeles are the cities to be in.

Dallas isn’t on that radar,” he explained. “My friend Olivia moved back here after a company we were in folded. I checked in because I wondered why this high-caliber dancer was still here in Dallas after a while. She was with the company, and because of her I checked it out and auditioned.”

He calls BWD a hidden gem that, while it has a strong reputation, doesn’t get the national acclaim it deserves. “We are doing incredible works that New York or Chicago don’t get. Plus, that market is so saturated,” he said. “So much happens here for dancers through Bruce Wood.”

One thing BDW offers dancers is solo pieces — of which Vernon has a couple this weekend.

“I’m gonna be 30 soon, and I haven’t had all that many solos. So this is an incredible opportunity,” he said. “It’s interesting to replicate moves that are given but still show myself. From learning my solos, you go from learning something physically to understanding why the movement is there. It’s incredible to take my dance and understanding of movement to a new level this way.”