An “Ode” to transformation: contemporary ballet this weekend at the Modern Art Museum

By scott@360westmagazine.comApril 11, 2024April 30th, 2024No Comments

An “Ode” to transformation: contemporary ballet this weekend at the Modern Art Museum

Choreographer Alexandra Light explores the nature of cycles while actively breaking them

By Charlotte Settle

This weekend, on April 13-14, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth will present “Ode,” a new contemporary ballet choreographed by Alexandra Light, principal dancer at Fort Worth’s Texas Ballet Theater. The free performance will be held in the museum’s expansive Grand Lobby, illuminated by natural light from the surrounding glass walls.

“Ode” marks the fifth installment of Dance at the Modern, a series created by Light and Tina Gorski, the museum’s film and performing arts programs manager. The dance reflects on generational growth and the life cycle, particularly in the context of Light’s Jewish faith. Paying homage to a previous work she presented at the Modern, “Ode” is Light’s second exploration of the Hebrew concept “l’dor v’dor,” or “generation to generation.” The title of the piece aptly nods to the Hebrew word ”od,” meaning “again.”

Originally from Washington, D.C., Light began her dance training at the Maryland Youth Ballet, where she unwittingly started choreographing dances from the age of 11.

“My friends and I put on shows at our local retirement home with full routines and makeshift costumes,” she laughs. “I find it so funny how that mirrors what I do now.”

Light started her professional dance career immediately after high school with Houston Ballet’s second company. In 2012, she was offered an apprenticeship with Texas Ballet Theater. She quickly ascended to dancing lead roles, and 12 years later, has become one of the company’s most esteemed principal dancers. During her early career, Light had laser focus on excelling as a performer — ultimately sidelining her other passions.

“I had blinders on for the dance world,” she admits. “I was very private about having other interests because in the ballet world, you’re made to feel like you’re cheating on dance.”

At one point, Light set her sights on becoming a repetiteur, staging other choreographers’ work for dance companies. Her pursuit led to a paradigm-shifting revelation.

“I realized I had never worked under a female choreographer my entire professional career,” she said. Almost every repetiteur she had worked with, on the other hand, was a woman.

This disheartening epiphany inspired Light to become that female choreographer she never saw at the front of the room. Right when she recommitted to her lifelong passion, the pandemic hit.

As stages and studios shuttered, Light seized every opportunity to reclaim her creative agency. She earned her bachelor’s in psychology — a dream she had set aside for her career. She also dove head first into a mixed-media visual arts practice, which has landed her exhibitions in galleries from Fort Worth to France.

In early 2021, the stars finally aligned for Light to create her first professional choreographic work, “The Way We Change.” With a cast of four women from Texas Ballet Theater, she filmed the first iteration of the project at the Sandhills in Monahans. “It felt like a return to my younger self — a re-entry back into the thing I love so much,” Light said.

Later that year, Light met with Gorski to propose performing “The Way We Change” at the museum, giving rise to the first Dance at the Modern event.

The museum has provided Light with a platform to present new dances every year since — sometimes twice a year. In 2022, following Light’s spring presentation, Gorski commissioned a second piece to complement the museum’s “Women Painting Women” exhibit. Titled “Three Portraits,” the piece brought three female artists’ paintings to life through dance.

Though she is responsible for everything from creating the piece, to fundraising, to coordinating and scheduling rehearsals, Light happily shoulders the workload for Dance at the Modern.

To her, the series fills three vital needs: providing dancers with work during their off-season, amplifying the voices of female choreographers, and making dance more accessible to the community.

“An evening at the ballet can be very expensive,” she said. “It’s been incredible to witness people’s reactions to this art form, which they might have never seen before.”

Light’s choreographic range has attracted national attention and landed her a variety of creative opportunities.

In 2022, she was invited to perform her own work in the Kimbell Art Museum’s award-winning docu-series, “Kimbell Stories.” She has choreographed music videos for electronic artists, Laura Brehm and Nikonn, with upwards of 100,000 views. From competitors in international ballet competitions to selective artist residencies, patrons are eager to support Light’s talents. Later this year, she will announce momentous upcoming presentations in Fort Worth and New York City.

Whether she’s performing, choreographing, or creating visual artworks, one thing is certain — Light is redefining what’s possible for women in dance, and she has no plans of stopping.


“Ode” performances: April 13-14, 1:30 p.m.-2 p.m., Grand Lobby of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Admission is free. To keep up with new choreographic works by Alexandra Light, visit alexandralight.art. For information on the performances, click here.