On Stage: Patricia’s New Complexions

April 1, 2010

Complexions, perhaps the most visible contemporary ballet company right now, is in town this weekend. Click on my Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article for further details. It boasts the trendiest choreographer around (Dwight Rhoden), a must-see male dancer (Desmond Richardson) and some of the best movers to be found.

But there is an added bonus for Pittsburgh dance fans. Former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre corps member Patricia Hachey can be spotted among the swirling landscape of dancers (and smack in the middle of the photo above). The Montreal-born dancer gravitated to the PBT school for three years and graduated to the company for seven years. I caught up with her last year in Washington D.C. when Complexions was appearing at George Mason University.

The lithe, sophisticated dancer with a vibrantly red pixie haircut (it’s a little longer now) was a total surprise to me, given the quiet brunette that danced at PBT. Although Patricia always had a soft spot for contemporary dance while in Pittsburgh, she has clamped onto Dwight’s choreography with a new-found fierceness.

It was quite a transition moving from the more classically-oriented PBT philosophy to bending classic dance at Complexions, something she talked about openly.

“I was used to moving around and starting over,” she says over the phone. “but I was a bit nervous because this transition meant a new job, a new city, making new friends. Pittsburgh had become very comfortable and safe for me and I’d grown quite fond of it.”

Now she lives in Brooklyn and heads to company class every day with ballet master Jae Man Joo, or assistant ballet mistress Sabra Perry, or even once in a while with Dwight. “I was fortune that I had worked with him at PBT,” she notes. “I knew what to expect in term of style.”

She knew that he used the strengths that dancers have, hence his reputation as a “dancer’s choreographer.” But he also wants a dancer that takes more chances and doesn’t hold back. “It helped me to grow a lot.”

But Patricia is still glad that she had the classical background and the roles that PBT artistic director Terrence Orr gave her. She recalls that, even while in the PBT school, she was able to work with choreographer Kristopher Storey’s more agressive contemporary style. “Right away it worked for me,” she says. “I could express myself more. But I wanted to do tutus and pink tights.”

That being done, she was ready to immerse herself in the Complexions philosophy to “take chances, take risks, make it your own. We have more freedom to explore and it’s kind of fun to be able to play that more.” That being said, Patricia admits that it “puts more responsibility on the dancers in a way — it’s a real challenge.”

But she admits that the high energy and off-center sparks found in Dwight’s choreography means that she has to take care of her body. She found it in Bikram yoga, also known as “hot yoga” and performed in a room with extreme temperatures. “It’s very regimented and uses twenty-six positions,” Patricia explains. “But it realigns my body after absorbing Dwight’s style all day.”

She also trusts herself more, “because both Dwight and Desmond are very good at bringing that out in a dancer — they see the potential.” They also “push” and are “intimately invested in every single dancer. It puts more pressure on you. If you want to coast, this isn’t the company for you.”

Doing Complexions’ repertoire goes a long way to keep her in shape, Patricia confesses. And the hefty travel schedule is demanding. “It may be a bit extreme, but this is the time to do it.”

Patricia (red hair) can be found in the center of the top photo. The Complexions promotional video features her with pixie haircut and she dances in second video with Desmond Richardson on So You Think You Can Dance.

On Stage: Stepping Out!!!

January 20, 2010

There seems to be a plethora of exclamation points associated with step dance. Like tap, it’s all about the sound — both use shoes that have metal cleats attached. But unlike tap, step dance doesn’t yet have the range of dynamics that would make it a more pertinent art form. It only operates at full throttle.

Yet Step Afrika!, in its second performance here in Pittsburgh, showed that it can engage an audience. Certainly the  packed house at the Byham Theater thoroughly responded to the unbounded energy put forth by this Washington D.C. company of ten dancers.

Essentially it was the same program that this group offered in its local premiere in the August Wilson Center’s “First Voice,” its initial presentation of a black arts festival in 2007. (There will be a second festival this spring May 21-23 — click on August Wilson Center for details.) It took the format of a lecture-demo introducing the audience to the history and various angles of step dancing.

With the inspiration of a couple of movies (“Stomp the Yard,” “How She Move” and, of course,”StepUp”) and a current groundswell of interest, things at the Byham Theater Sunday nightcommenced  with an onslaught demo of step dancing, downlit and dramatic. The troupe didn’t waste any time bringing on the rhythms in the hands and the feet. And the audience didn’t waste any time participating with rhythmic clapping.

This step dance show made the most of its engaging core rhythms. The first section took its cue from the streets, moving from unison patterns to a challenge dance between the guys and the ladies, where attitude was a must. One of the ladies clearly channeled Pam Grier, while the guys responded with a pose resembling Rodin’s “The Thinker.”

As might be anticipated, the challenge ended in a tie, setting the stage for a series of historical related styles, which included a re-enactment of a  fraternity/sorority initiation, American takes on African rites of passage with dance and drumming, South African gumboot and my favorite, a tap solo of considerable skill (that employed the use of a variety of dynamics).

Some things for consideration: a romantic duet or a lyrical take on step dancing. At any rate, that would add an additional layer to what is undeniably an emerging and exciting art form.


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