October 7, 2014
This was a program with a heavy-duty sense of purpose. Addiction. Poverty. Mental illness. But in the hands of Marjani Forte, being Here… /this time was woven together like a feather-light pashmina. It’s something that we don’t find much in American choreography, which likes to be direct, almost obvious in its intention. Here there was almost a sense of beauty about this project, despite the subject matter.
It induced a sense of respect for those suffering.
Audience members had the chance to see the work from beginning to end from three different perspectives. Chairs divided The Alloy’s spacious studio. My favorite was the first, where the seating backed against Everett Saunders’ 3-D audio installation, allowing for the widest physical perspective. Viewers wore a headset in this section, making for a spellbinding sensory experience. There was text: “It’s okay. You’re okay.” Laughter (a monkey/baboon?). Mixed with piano. It had the ability to subtly grab the attention, but not away from the three dancers who moved about the room. (And something I’ve never encountered.)
For the second installment, I headed to the foyer, where Marjani herself had set up shop (actually a chair) on top of a bench in a very confining space. The musical accompaniment came from (probably) her iPod and a ghostly slide played next to her on a loop. This was the most difficult segment to watch. “I had some weary days.” “I had hills to climb…” She grabbed her mouth. Her body shook. She was physically bound and emotionally bound to the material. And there was nowhere to escape for those of us who gathered around her, even mentally.
I watched the final segment from the diagonal slice of chairs that cut the studio in half. This put the emphasis on partially-bound wheelchair dancer Alice Sheppard and the luminous Jasmine Hearn. They were performing again, but I had a partial view before. This time it heightened the dramatic impact as we wove through the laughter, through stoicism and ultimately through strength.
One of the best programs of the dance season.
October 7, 2014
Attack Theatre has reached yet another milestone in dance annals — the 20th anniversary — an accomplishment for any company. They had a tongue-in-cheek approach and called it Are You Still There? Well, yes they are — at the Pittsburgh Coliseum. Check it out in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
October 6, 2014
It was heartwarming to see the passion that H2O Contemporary Dance put into its last program. Called Pivotal Moments, the evening was intended for Point Park University’s George Rowland White Performance Studio, but a scheduling problem led the group back to its home base at The Dance Conservatory of Pittsburgh, which could be termed a safe haven for women who are balancing their love of dance with family.
No matter. With movable scrims, some basic lighting and a row of battery-operated tea lights separating audience from performers, things worked out just fine. The bones of the choreography were still there and the dancers were deeply involved in the execution. The program, which had many personal touches that made it so meaningful, began with Viewing Options by Taylor Knight and Anna Thompson, notable for its slow, deliberate movement design. Allison Garcia’s message was Clearer Skies, featuring Wind, a Thunderstorm and A Tender Farewell, while She Said, by Scott Romani, was a play on the telephone game, where the beginning statement generally doesn’t follow through to the end, something that kept the attention.
But Dana LaSota’s The Clot of Life, a dance rendering of her recent health problems, was both meaningful and compelling, bringing some members of the audience to tears. And Danielle Pavilik’s In and Out of Moments brought the thematic dance contents to a climax with dance that reached, grabbed and turned in on itself, savoring, as she always does, the organic impetus of movement pattern.
October 6, 2014
Texture Contemporary Ballet usually downsizes for the fall/winter season. But it looks like more talented dancers are sticking around. Maybe that inspired the choreographers in this convincing program, especially Alan Obuzor and Kelsey Bartman, who took us in some intriguing new directions. Read about it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
October 3, 2014
Michele de la Reza walks on water with the help of Attack company members. Copyright © 2014 Attack Theatre. All rights reserved.
Swimmingly. Attack Theatre zipped up to Mt. Washington for a Season 20 Kickoff and the wonderfully layered home of Anna Singer and Don Kortlandt. After negotiating 20-some steps to the main floor, guests could head up to the roof for a spectacular view of Pittsburgh (with the help of an in-house elevator if needed). Or they could head outside, replete with pool, and a site-specific number that started on the wide concrete lip surrounding it. Yes, the five dancers eventually plunged and dove into the water for more. Then founding co-directors Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope began a sculptural duet before Peter jumped in to join the fun (shirt, vest, pants and all). Michele began to pick her way across the surface of the water, buoyed by Attack hands (we always knew she could walk on water!). But we know the ending, as we know Peter — after all the pool was heated. Even board member Jamie Todd took to the waters, all in the name of raising money for her favorite company and Pittsburgh celebrated with a fireworks display (actually courtesy of the Pirates).
Spilling Ink. It was so appropriate, in a way, that Spilling Ink unfolded its Indian dance wares in The Carnegie’s Hall of Sculpture because the ancient dance form was originally connected to temple statues. Vijay Palaparty (formerly of Carnegie Mellon University) was in fine form — forceful, yet flowing. Using her highly expressive face, Nalini Prakash explored the binaries that exist in all human beings during a lovely demonstration of the half man, half woman form of Shiva. The duo then capitalized on those themes in a more developed work that was thoroughly satisfying. Finishing with two stories of Krishna, the two dancers demonstrated a wide-ranging skill in an all-too-rare performance of the Bharatanatyam style.
PPU On TV. Can’t get to the Point Park University Student Choreography Project this weekend? Well, the local university will go global by streaming both the 2 and 8 p.m. performances (two different programs) on Saturday. The Conservatory of Performing Arts is teaming up with C360 Technologies of Wexford, Pa., to offer a unique interactive viewing experience that will not only give viewers at home a 360-degree view, but also allow them to independently control the camera to their liking. In 2011, C360 was the first company to successfully transmit real-time interactive 360-degree video stream to fans during NASCAR Sprint Cup races. We’ll see how the dance version turns out — click on www.pittsburghplayhouse.com.
October 3, 2014
Beth Corning and Arthur Avila Photo: Frank Walsh
Just when we think it’s the end of a dance career, it can trend to yet another beginning. Beth Corning believes that older dancers don’t fade away; they just access a more minimalist, inner dramatic thread that has been there all along. So she gave Pittsburgh dance fans another shot at seeing the charismatic Arthur Avila, who we lo-o-oved in his performances here with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, in her latest production, Parallel Lives. Check it out at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
September 16, 2014
Another Kyle Success. It’s becoming more and more apparent that Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is passing up on a golden opportunity to hire Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham for a commissioned work. The MacArthur “Genius” Award-winner has turned many knowledgable heads with work on his company, Abraham.In.Motion. and recently produced a duet for New York City Ballet principal and international star Wendy Whelan, which is still touring. Now he garnered a rave review in the Chicago Tribune for a premiere he created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Hopefully it isn’t too late for PBT artistic director Terrence Orr to jump on the Kyle bandwagon…
New Attack. Attack Theatre founders Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope did an entertaining tag team announcement of AT’s upcoming season in their home studio at the Pittsburgh Opera recently. Click on AT for more info. Also on tap — there will be two new dancers for the opening series, Are You Still There? (opening Oct. 3). Both are Juilliard School alumnae (as is de la Reza) — James Jude Johnson, who gave us a sample of his fluid movement at the announcement even, and Brittanie Brown, who hadn’t arrived yet, but has also danced with Kyle Abraham.
Tammies Go Solo. The Duquesne University Tamburitzans, long a staple under the wing of Duquesne University will become an independent, nonprofit organization over the next two to three years. That will enable them to audition students from other universities, as well as Duquesne, which will make up for the 40 percent drop in applicants over the years. DU will still provide scholarships for the Duquesne students and will donate $2 million in buildings, land, costumes, instruments, vehicles and equipment. The school will also provide transitional support while the group establishes itself and hires an executive director with a volunteer board. In the meantime, the Tamburitzans Executive Council will provide additional support.
A Day to Celebrate. The Pittsburgh City Council is declaring September 23 Mary Miller Dance Company Day for 30 years of excellence in dance performance and education. Congratulations!
Nurturing at PearlArts. With their welcoming studio on North Braddock, Staycee and Herman Pearl have become an indelible part of the community. Recently they sponsored a night for young urban artists, many from the Alumni Theater Company. Led by Len Starr and Cherish Morgan, this was a night of dance, song and just hangin’ out.