On Stage: The Other Three Musketeers

October 30, 2010

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s “The Three Musketeers” had a surprisingly delightful comic vein as I reviewed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I also had a window in which to see the alternate cast, which allowed me to assess the depth of the company further. This cast played it a little too seriously, although the dancing itself had quality. Elysa Hotchkiss (Queen Anne) was too sad to allow the audience into her world and Eva Trapp (Milady) too exotic and sensual a spy for this light-hearted look at the story. Christine Schwaner, though, showed some spunk within her creamy style. Among the men, Nurlan Abougaliev had a terrific weekend as he shifted from Athos to D’Artagnan. Joining him were Luca Sbrizzi (Athos) who displayed a burgeoning presence and Alejandro Diaz (Aramis) who is developing quite nicely. Stephen Hadala (Louis XIII) minced his way through his role and Joseph Parr (Rochefort) took full advantage of the opportunity to display new strength. Score one for the men.


Off Stage: Alloy at 35

October 25, 2010

Oh, I wish I were 35 again, with life moving at an exhilarating pace. But then, there would be less dance in Pittsburgh. Right now, it’s great to see that Dance Alloy Theater is celebrating 35 years and I’ve been around the whole time and more.

This season Greer Reed-Jones and Susan Sparks have (surprise!) 35 events to celebrate those 35 seasons and I’m already playing catch-up on CrossCurrents. They snuck in a couple of things even before the official announcement.

The first was the beginning of the Alloy’s Unblurred series, this one called “Pittsburgh Choreographs” and beginning with an intimacy improv, “Bae,” by the ever-so busy Kaylin Horgan with Taylor Knight. Annalee Traylor followed with an ensemble work “Free,” then new Alloy faculty member Gino Vaccaro with a competition-style solo for Caitlin Cahill, “The Answer is Yes.” New Alloy member Gretchen Moore closed the program, showing good structure in “Realization.” The major point here was the big emergence of young talent that is electing to remain in Pittsburgh, part of a welcome trend that I am seeing.

And I missed  another Unblurred, “Movin and Groovin’ with DAT” and labeled a “dance party,”  but was able to attend the Official Opening on Oct. 7, where the company performed and all of the new dancers were introduced. It’s the biggest change for Pittsburgh’s oldest modern dance company in seven years and garnered three new dancers. Maribeth Maxa and Michael Walsh will remain to lead the company while the others moved on — Christopher Bandy to devote more time to family and teaching, Stephanie Dumaine to retire and Adrienne Misko to make the transition to New York City.

In their place, Ms. Reed-Jones new choices put the company on a decidedly more youthful keel. The afore-mentioned Ms. Moore has been part of the Pittsburgh scene for a number of years, most noticeably with LABCO, while Jasmine Hearn and Raymond Interior both made the transition from Point Park.

I had to miss Behind the Curtain, a sneak peak at the December concert at the Hazlett Theater where the program will mostly focus on the Alloy of yesteryear, including former artistic director Mark Taylor, former Alloy member Kevin Maloney and Ms. Reed-Jones.  But I caught up with former Alloy member and now Pennsylvania Dance Theatre artistic director in State College Andre Koslowski at a rehearsal where he was “layering” with the dancers. The program might have a focus on the past, but none of these choreographers have stagnated.

Now there are 30 or so more to enjoy. Now when I was 30…


On Stage: The Musketeers Take to Youtube

October 22, 2010

Despite an advertising campaign that touts a vintage look, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has a video up on Youtube that plays with impressionism, using light and shadow, both on stage and off  at the company’s dress rehearsal for “The Three Musketeers.”


On Stage: 21 and Still Counting…

October 19, 2010

"Romeo et Juliette"

When someone reaches 21, it’s a significant number that signals a coming of age and a new-found maturity. The same could be said of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre principal Erin Halloran, who has smashed the record for career years with the company. (Of course, that doesn’t include two staff members at PBT — long-time finance director Jay Romano and costumier Janet Groom, who has been stitching the company into shape since the beginning. But Jay lifts numbers, not ballerinas. And Janet orders pointe shoes and doesn’t have to wear them.) Click on Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the article. In the meantime, enjoy a heavenly Halloran gallery of recent performances.

"Swan Lake"

"The Junk Duet"

"The Nutcracker"

"Cinderella" with Christopher Rendall-Jackson


On Stage: NYCB Comes Home

October 13, 2010

Here’s a program with wonderful potential, an opportunity to see some of New York City Ballet’s most talented young dancers. Principal Daniel Ulbricht has a few friends, including three Pittsburghers, that will perform a lovely and balanced Balanchine program at the Byham on Friday. Read more in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


On Stage: Remembering at the Pillow

October 8, 2010

Photo by Cassie Kay PhotographyThe older I get, the more memories I have to categorize in my mind. So it is with great anticipation and a bit of trepidation that I will watch Pearlann Porter’s latest mind-tripping adventure for the Pillow Project, “Paper Memory,” about a writer finding a story…or a story finding a writer.

Hm-m-m.

It may be familiar territory to this writer, but Pearlann always has a twist. Like “thoughts go on without us. Ideas we haven’t had yet already exist someplace, just waiting to be found.”

It could be a variation on the tree falling in the forest. But, no, Pearlann is leaving that up to the viewer. She wants to talk about the process. The show itself will go for more than six weeks, from Oct. 9 to Nov. 20. Now we all know that one of the major attractions for dance is its ability to exist in the moment, how it changes from day to day.

But Pearlann is taking it one step further. The run is extended not only because the physical set-up will result in a reduced number of seats, but because of her process, where “the show never stops evolving.” So the final rehearsal was not the final rehearsal.

“Ideas will change and morph,” she hints during her machine gun patter. “Something might be added to P.J. Roduta’s soundtrack. I might become a part of the show.”

Literally, then.

“If people come to the beginning of the run and then come later in the run, they will have a memory of what the show used to be as opposed to what it has evolved into,” she continues. So the story will be the same, as will the concepts, main themes and much of the “visualization.” But the show itself will constantly evolve.

Hm-m-m.

This is the first time she’s calling herself a director and not even mentioning choreography. That’s because her trio of dancers has been working intensively on a new idea of jazz playing the body as an instrument. She “coached” them on method and philosophy as opposed to choreography.

“I had an interesting opportunity with this work to not set choreography because then they would feel compelled to do my steps every night,” Pearlann explains. “Then if they’re not doing my steps, my role is diminished. But because I’m directing it, I’m telling them the conept of the story, the feel of it, where it goes, what has to happen. I let them move thru it loosely based on thematic ideas that we come up with collaboratively.”

And in the end…but wait, will there ever be a definitive end? Will “Paper Memory” continue to exist on its own? Says Pearlann, physical poet extraordinaire, “It’s like a memory that you don’t remember having, but it’s still there.”

For more information, go to Listings.


Dance Beat: Performing Arts Exchange, Day 3, Plus…

October 4, 2010

It was a perfect arts storm last Friday, made up of the Performing Arts Exchange showcases, the season opening of Pittsburgh Dance Council, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Gallery Crawl and the premiere of the Pittsburgh Festival of Lights.

“Why not sample it all?” I thought and dragged friend Michael along to get a lot more than he bargained for.

We began with some delicious tapas at Seviche’s on Penn, then swung by the PennPat Dances! showcase to see Attack Theatre. Down the street at the Cultural Trust’s Education Center we found Pearlann Porter and a variation of her upcoming production with The Pillow Project at the Space Upstairs in Breezewood. (This one was a sweet little love story that bordered on performance art.) Upstairs (I didn’t know there was a studio here!) was Dance Alloy Theater’s Michael Walsh, exploring movement with some young families.

After a stop at a gallery, we moved over to Sixth Avenue and up three flights of stairs at Verve 360 to catch  the end of Maddi Landi’s high-stepping French production. Speaking of the French, Rioult came next, opening the Pittsburgh Dance Council season at the Byham Theater — packed house. (See Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the review.)

Then it was dark enough to take in the Festival of Lights, a great activity if you’re having dinner Downtown (and fewer calories than dessert). It’s mostly a straight shot up (or down) Penn Avenue, with four main installations.

We began with Heinz Hall and “Cascade.” This year they’ve added movement to three of the four installations and, in “Cascade’s”  case, a woodsy sound environment. “Old Bones,” a tribute to The Carnegie’s dinosaur collection, was just past the Benedum Center on the opposite side of the street (you have to look behind you).

Don’t forget to take in the smaller light installations in storefronts along the way — it’s part of the ambience.

The Ninth Street find was the smallest installation, called “Hope,” and filled with tendrils. And the finale for us was “Splendors,” located on Tenth Street and actually an advertisement for the History Center’s Vatican exhibit. Still striking, though.

We then swung around Tenth to Liberty Avenue to see Attack Theatre and its patented “Game Night Plus.” Packed as usual with Attack fans, new and old.

But the surprise was August Wilson Center’s installation, part of the Festival of Lights. Designed by Teddy Sosna with white globes and bars that changed color, it elevated this singular Pittsburgh landmark to a new level.

Like dance’s ephemeral nature, the performances are over. But the Festival of Lights continues through Oct. 17, dusk to midnight — check it out.


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