On Stage: “Hearing” Murphy/Smith

November 14, 2013
Jamie Murphy and Renee Smith

Jamie Murphy and Renee Smith

At first glance, Jaime Murphy and Renee Smith couldn’t be much more different. Jaime has dark, curly hair framing her big eyes, and an edgy look, while Rene is a strawberry blonde, all arms and legs and angles.

As you might suspect, Jaime likes to play with dance, while Renee feeds on technique and line.

But there’s more than meets the eye (and ear) as the rising choreographic duo prepares for their first formal performance at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, See What I Hear.

The Point Park University graduates noticed each other in the dance program there, but didn’t really communicate until well into their college careers. Jaime, younger by a year, admitted to being intimidated by upperclassman Shannon at first.

But one day in a modern dance class, Renee, then a senior, walked over and admired a new tattoo that Jaime, a junior, had acquired.

That broke the ice.

The friendship didn’t heat up until after graduation when Jaime was choreographing Gravity + Grace and hired Shannon. They bonded over the project and now consider themselves to be best friends.

That bond led to collaborative projects and Murphy/Smith Dance Collective. At first they stuck to their individuality, creating independent phrases to be performed at the same time.

Now they’re getting to be two sides of the same artistic coin.

They always shared a home state, Ohio, and a similar sense of humor. Now they have discovered a state of constant compromise.

“It involves a lot of trust,” explains Renee. “But it’s starting to feel very comfortable. Now I’m  not as much of a control freak.” Jaime adds, “We kept the integrity of how we work, but we’re able to adapt things together.”

See What I Hear began as a 25-minute work-in-progress called Sound Project at The Alloy Studios this summer. Using some of the kernels of creativity formed there, the piece will arrive at about an hour’s length in its transfer to the KST stage this weekend for two performances.

With original music, mostly textured percussion by Gordon Nunn and his revamped sound sculpture, eight dancers will deal not only with sound, but communication.

Organized loosely around six parts, it will begin with a segment based on memories, specific to each of the dancers. Jaime calls it “really special.” But they both particularly love the ending, where any miscommunication encountered in subsequent movement is resolved.

Says Renee, “It feels really right every time we go through that section.”

Contact KST.

Dance Beat: Dueling Festivals — PIFOF and newMoves

October 1, 2013
Henri Michaux: Mouvements

Henri Michaux: Mouvements

I love it when Pittsburgh has dueling festivals and the Fall 2013 pairing is particularly rich. The Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts (PIFOF) already grabbed national press from the BIg Rubber Duck and the first performance was well-nigh perfect, from Compagnie Marie Chouinard. See the review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, then what is coming next. Click on Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.



But don’t forget the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s newMoves Dance Festival, now in its fifth year and chock full of adventurous dance, workshops, lunches with the artists, parties and so much more. Click on KST for tickets and more info. In the meantime, here’s the press release:

Over the course of three evening presentations, works by 18 different choreographers are performed onstage Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Emerging and established choreographers from Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia, State College, and beyond showcase excerpts, new works, and works-in-progress, providing a lush mix of performances that will energize artists and audiences alike.

Tickets are $10 for students and artists, $15 for 15206 residents, and $20 for general audiences. Each day of the festival is ticketed separately, and a festival pass is available for $45. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. each night and run approximately 75 minutes. The theater will open one hour prior to show time for ticket sales and pre-show mixers at 6:30 p.m.

Note the Sidra Bell Workshops on Wednesday and Thursday and that Pennsylvania Dance Theater will conduct auditions on Friday, both at The Alloy Studios.

New for 2013, Kelly Strayhorn Theater co-presents the premiere of the interactive performance group
on Saturday, October 5 in partnership with VIA Festival. group is a two-person stage performance that draws upon conventions of rock concerts, spiritual rituals, exercise classes, team-building exercises, self-help seminars, and group therapy. group debuts at The Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Avenue on Saturday, October 5 at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Both showings are free. Seating is limited and pre-registration is required.

Thursday, October 3 

Sidra Bell | Contemporary systems workshop 2

10 a.m. – 1 p.m. @ The Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Avenue; $15

Artist lunch and talk

12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. @ Kelly Strayhorn Theater Lobby, 5941 Penn Avenue Open to all Festival Pass holders, pre-registration required.

Pre-show Mixer, Box office open

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. @ Kelly Strayhorn Theater Lobby, 5941 Penn Avenue

newMoves – Program a

7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. @ Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Avenue

Mar ́ya Wethers new york, ny (w)hole, again

Created and performed by Marýa Wethers, (w)hole, again follows a solitary character through a landscape of debris and discarded objects, navigating a psychological and energetic journey through loneliness, aggression and surrender, alternating between a perceived need for protection and a desire for transformation.

Abigail Zbikowski ColuMbus, oh guttural Fling
Guttural Fling is a duet about the futility in the release of the body and the necessary emergence of

form as a performance tactic.

Annalee Traylor Pittsburgh, Pa blue

Revealed through the eyes of two different characters, this piece is a journey through the thoughts, feel- ings, and emotions of a man who has been left by his woman, and the woman who chooses to leave her man.

Megan Mazarick PhilaDelPhia love-joy diver

love-joy diver is a re-mixed, re-mastered, and re-imagined duet originally created in 2005. It is a col- laboration between Megan (a post-modern choreographer) and her partner, Les Rivera (a hip hop dancer and performer). The duet initially looked at how differences (racial, sexual, political, artistic, physical, etc) informed perception in their relationship both onstage and offstage. Seven years later, they are incor- porating new ideas and focusing on the intersection of “us” as artists, people, archetypes, and moving bodies.

Staycee Pearl Pittsburgh, Pa encryption Cipher Variations

An algorithm that turns information into a secret code. A new work based on the up-coming release, Encryption Cipher— a series of locally grown hip-hop projects electronically remixed by Soy Sos of Tuff Sound Recording.

Friday, October 4

Pennsylvania Dance Theatre Auditions

10 a.m. – 12 p.m. @ The Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Avenue

Founded in 1979, Pennsylvania Dance Theatre (PDT) has earned a reputation for staging intense dance theater works that are challenging and thought-provoking. Under the direction of German-born chore- ographer André Koslowski, the company has performed on national and international stages, and has brought to central Pennsylvania the type of powerful, progressive dance experience enjoyed by audi- ences in cultural centers like New York City and Berlin. pdtdance.org

Artist lunch and talk

12 p.m.-1:30 p.m. @ Kelly Strayhorn Theater Lobby, 5941 Penn Avenue Open to all Festival Pass holders, pre-registration required.

Site visit: Attack Theatre

2:30 p.m. –3:30 p.m. @ 2425 Liberty Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Attack Theatre has been making personal and collaborative dance performances for 19 years. Based in Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District neighborhood, their interdisciplinary productions have toured through- out the US, Europe, and Asia – including the Avignon Festival, the 7th Next Wave Dance Festival/Japan, Indonesia Arts Festival, Monaco Danses Forum, the Spoleto Festival, the Broadway production of Squonk, and over two dozen operas and symphonies worldwide. Open to the public. attacktheatre.com

Pre-show Mixer, Box office open

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. @ Kelly Strayhorn Theater Lobby, 5941 Penn Avenue

newMoves – Program B

7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. @ Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Avenue

Gia T. Cacalano Pittsburgh, Pa still liFe 2013

STILL LIFE 2013 reflects a concentrated focus over the last ten years in the study of and interest in understanding improvisation and instant composition in live performance. Made using a composed and loosely set framework of spatial patterns, the movement is created in the moment of choice to show real time in performance and the desire to connect with public by being.

Katie Rose Mclaughlin new york, ny Fun Molly
FUN MOLLY investigates transcendental moments of commonplace virtuosity set to bad pop music in the back of a dirty bar.

Shana Simmons Pittsburgh, Pa Dancing solo (excerpt)

Dancing Solo is a piece of music originally composed for clarinet player Caroline Hartig by composer Libby Larsen. It is a nationally known piece that originally premiered in 1994 at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Larsen composed it to interpret through a clarinetist what a dancer does on stage. The piece has been played countless times, but never with a dancer. In Larsen’s words, “The music is the dance and the dance is the music.”

Samantha Speis new york, ny the way it was and now

The Way it Was and Now looks through the lens of Samantha Speis and her experience as a black woman grappling with internalized racial oppression and the multiple ways it presents itself in her life. Conditioned to think and behave as society has instructed and been constructed, Speis teeters on the precipice of the need to overstate her blackness and the struggle not to retreat from it.

Mana Kawamura new york, ny cloud
cloud is a duet exploring the movements of body and their textures when manipulated and affected by imaginary things. cloud follows the theme of childhood, summer vacation, and restlessness.

Andre Koslowski state College, Pa Wiegenlied (excerpt)

Wiegenlied is the German word for lullaby. The piece takes place in a damaged landscape occupied by dead trees and trash. The dancers perform solo, often with their eyes closed, like lonely people who are dancing to comfort or calm themselves. The performers wear each other’s costumes, as if they just found something to put on. Their clothes don’t fit, men wear dresses, women wear men’s clothes, as if they don’t care—or aren’t even aware—that they are dressed strangely, or in the clothes of another gender. Isolated individuals keep looking for things they’ve lost. One woman keeps digging through the trash, finding cigarette packs and hoping one might still be in there.

Site visit and After Party: the Pillow Project

10 p.m. – 12 a.m. @ 214 N. Lexington Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15208

The Pillow Project is a band of artists who create, perform and share their work out of The Space Upstairs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The artists involved are passionate jazz experimentalists who are driven to develop a new idea in physical movement and public performances and happenings. Open to the public. www.pillowproject.org

Saturday, October 5

Artist lunch and talk

12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. @ Kelly Strayhorn Theater Lobby, 5941 Penn Avenue Open to all Festival ticketholders, pre-registration required


1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. @ The Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Avenue

newMoves co-presents group in partnership with VIA Festival. group is an interactive performance that draws upon conventions of group therapy and contemporary performance. Free, registration required. iamgroup.me/register

Site visit: Pearlarts Studios

2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. @ 201 N Braddock Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15208

PearlArts Studios is a unique private art space shared with the public through artist residencies, re- hearsal rentals, informal showings, and short term movement and art workshops. PearlArts Studios is the home of STAYCEE PEARL dance project, a contemporary dance organization that exists to interpret and mirror culture and community. pearlartsstudios.com

Pre-show Mixer, Box office open

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. @ Kelly Strayhorn Theater Lobby, 5941 Penn Avenue

newMoves – Program C

7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. @ Kelly Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Avenue

Alexandra Bodnarchuk Pittsburgh, Pa Connotations: unknown, Part one

CONNOTATIONS: unknown, Part One uses dance as a medium to explore the ways in which we as people come in and out of each other’s lives for short or long durations of time. This is a section of the longer work, Connotations Unknown, which will premiere in Spring 2014.

Anthony Williams Pittsburgh, Pa back to black
Organic movement inspired by personal experiences related to identity, color, and the human condition.

Jasmine Hearn Pittsburgh, Pa mama, am i clean yet?
A solo exploration of a young middle class black American girl and her journey with the rituals of wearing white. This work is a memory wash of her story.

Devynn Emory New York, NY

In the early stages of development, this work is interested in finding structures and patterns that could marry dancer Aretha Aoki and devynn’s distinct styles in the service of a movement pallet that speaks to both an improvised self exploration as well as returning to a use of formally designed spatial patterning, creating portals where subtlety can interplay. As they have both broken away from classical trainings, they return to and embrace it through choreographic choices and modalities. This feels similar to the actions of self organization and pattern existing in queer and trans culture that can serve as a container, although often reveal intimacy, truth and genuine awkwardness of a body. The work you will see per- formed will continue into an evening length work and premiere in January at the Actors Fund.

Gierre Godley new york, ny 3 breaths
3 breaths is an abstract exploration on what are the most important stages in a persons life: their first breath, their last, and their first love.

Reed Dance Pittsburgh, Pa Chaos

Day of wrath and doom impending, David’s word with Sibyl’s blending, Heaven and earth in ashes ending! // Oh, what fear man’s bosom rendeth, When from heaven the Judge descendeth, On whose sentence all dependeth. // Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth; Through earth’s sepulchres it ringeth; All before the throne it bringeth. // Death is struck, and nature quaking, All creation is awaking, To its Judge an answer making.

Festival Closing Party

10 p.m. – 12 a.m. @ Kelly Strayhorn Theater Lobby, 5941 Penn Avenue

Dance Beat: ELCO/Shana, David, Pearlann, John

September 24, 2013

ARTS BAR. Eclectic Laboratory Chamber Orchestra teamed up with Shana Simmons Dance at Bar Marco recently. It was my first visit to the Strip District spot, which has a versatile gallery/concert space on the second floor. The owner(s) have been encouraging to rising artists, which is much appreciated. It turned out to be a modern-day salon, you might say, where this particular group of adventurous spirits took us from drummer Jim Platania’s nuanced solo, Horizon and Dread, to Black Orchid String Trio’s Eyes That Say I Love You by Beck Hansen to Claude Vivier’s Indonesian-inspired Pulau Dewata. There was some fine clarinet work from Tony Negron in Gunther Schuller’s Duo Sonata and Amanda Morrison in Libby Larsen’s Dancing Solo, articulated as well by dance collaborator Shana Simmons. Shana and also brought a strong visual interest, using the long, lea1236842_10151595218235866_1749564593_nn space with an appropriate sense of weight and a burgeoning authority.

DAVID TALK. Get an insight into the mind of one of the world’s great dancers, David Hallberg, in this interview at Kennedy Center. Of course the footage is to die for…such impeccable technique!  Click on Kennedy Center.

CHALK IT UP. Pearlann Porter has toyed with various movement concepts. But this one created a sense of movement by drawing tidal patterns around the dancers, who ever-so-slo-o-owly rolled along Strawberry Way in two-hour shifts. Then dance, the most ephemeral of the arts left behind echoes of its existence.

reynolds_john_175x225JOHN AND MARY. As we head into the 2013-14 season, It’s important to take note of those who contributed to the dance community in a meaningful way. This couple’s names had a real simplicity, but their support of dance was rich. The conversation always centered around each program, particularly Dance Alloy, although John Reynolds was a highly respected computer science professor in Carnegie Mellon University’s Computer Science Department. He passed away April 28 — click on John to read more about this passionate dance lover. By the way, it was good to see Mary recently at Gia T. Presents.

Dance Beat: Yoshi, Kyle, Maribel, Thomas, Alan

August 16, 2013

YOSHIAKI NAKANOYOSHI IN BEIJING. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre corps member Yoshiaki Nakano, now starting his fourth year with company, made good use of his summer “vacation.” He went to the Beijing Ballet Competition and came away with the gold medal, worth $10,000 and the Morningstar Foundation Special Award, worth $2,000.

KYLE IN NEW YORK. Kyle Abraham continues to make the news. This one is a New York Times article on the Restless Creature project with noted ballerina Wendy Whelan. Click on Times. But we get to see it anyhow March 22 at the Byham Theater. Talk about bated breath…

MARIBEL IN MIAMI. Former Maribel ModronoPittsburgh Ballet Theatre principal Maribel Modrono is part of the educational restructuring at Miami City Ballet under new artistic director Lourdes Lopez. Not only will they benefit from her teaching, but her trademark ebullient personality will bring out the students’ best. Click on Miami.

THOMAS IN VEGAS. The Thomas Studio of Performing Arts was named the Peoples’ Choice Award winner for the Federation of Dance Competitions in Las Vegas. The company were also crowned the National Champion, with 15 overall high score awards. Congratulations!

ALAN FROM DALLAS. Okay, this is fudging things a little. But Attack Theatre’s Michele de la Reza, primo advocate for the arts in Pittsburgh, stopped in at the Harp and Fiddle in the Strip District. She struck up a conversation with businessman Alan from Dallas. He asked about the nightlife in Pittsburgh and she mentioned Texture Contemporary Ballet. Alan showed up…and stayed for the entire performance. Way to go, Texture! And Michele!

On Stage: Innovation at Chautauqua

August 5, 2013
Jamie Dee and Pete Walker in "Shelter." Photo: Christopher Record

Jamie Dee and Pete Walker in “Shelter.” Photo: Christopher Record

North Carolina Dance Theatre is creating its own signature with an array of in-house choreographers — Mark Diamond, Sasha Janes and Dwight Rhoden. Read about the Dance Innovations program by clicking on NCDT.

On Stage: Life As We Know It…Not

July 27, 2013


(Click on the circles for a slideshow.)

Choreographer Andre Koslowski has always seemed to take great pleasure in teasing us. Images from his life, and those who mean the most to him, pepper his dance works, sometimes just rubbing elbows in a casual way, at other times each piercing the audience in their own right.

The images are crafted in such a way that they must be taken seriously. But, as it turns out, often they are not.

The scales definitely tipped that way in Andre’s latest Pennsylvania Dance Theatre production at the company’s home base in State College. His very dry sense of humor blossomed in another direction.

Presented at the State Theatre in conjunction with the sprawling, but meaty Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, the program consisted of one repertory piece, a solo called Guided Tour, that Claire Porter designed for Andre in 2012, and a company premiere, Wiegenlied (Lullaby). So Andre began the program alone, as a museum docent who literally got swept up in his job.

“Ladies and gentlemen, walk this way.”

We’ve virtually all heard those words, but they merely became a jumping off point for Claire’s imagination.

Overall this encore set a different tone than it had in the premiere. The voice and the gestures had a greater sweep from the start and escalated from there, drawing the audience in immediately with the physical humor of it all. Buster Keaton, perhaps?

But the heart of the solo lay in the text. “I know you are trying, but try harder.” “…a re-enactment diorama of another diorama.” Gradually our docent became more frustrated with his invisible group. His sneakers squeaked louder as his voice rose. His movements became more agitated.

Art imitating life imitating art. So outrageously funny.

Things continued in that vein with Wiegenlied, although it took a few minutes to get in sync. We heard haunting strains of a guitar. The lights came up on an arrangement of bare trees surrounded by garbage (Susana Amundarain’s daring design). A usually docile Jennifer Keller lifted her hair and, summoning her most commanding voice, pronounced, “Good ev-e-ning.” Then she walked offstage. No, made one heckuva exit.

Even though the opening moments were seemingly incoherent, it all began to make sense.

These odd relationships would continue, but the audience “got” it.  Andre sauntered to the forefront, dressed in shorts and high heels. He looked great. He was also using a leaf blower.

Later, a pointing finger became a woodpecker. And Andre had a fashion show, enhanced by Naoko Nagata’s costume design. There was a man with an umbrella (composer Efrain Amaya), who slowly began to slide forward from a corner at the back — he was wearing skis. He sang a song with his guitar, ever so slightly out of tune.

These were life scenes, translated to movement and even more out of tune with reality. Long-time company member Tina Kondrath had some of her best career  moments and Jennifer and Andre concluded with complex and seemingly more serious solos, although there could have been a more incisive ending.

Wiegenlied turned out to be a heightened sensory and visual experience, even more so when we realized that our lives would be just as off-kilter if we put ourselves in Andre’s hands.


On Stage: Two For Dance

July 26, 2013
NCDT's Anna Gerberich and Pete Walker Photo: Jeff Cravotta

Anna Gerberich and Pete Walker Photo: Jeff Cravotta



North Carolina Dance Theatre presented its annual Evening of Pas de Deux at Chautauqua Institution, with some excitement. Click on Chautauqua Daily to read the article. CI is trying something new — a Romeo & Juliet Project, which will involve the symphony, opera program and theater in a full-length program that explores various interpretations of Shakespeare’s classic story. NCDT principals Anna Gerberich and Pete Walker will be among 150 artists in this first-ever Chautauqua collaboration. Click on the link below to see a sneak preview of their duet.


Dance Beat: Attack/Boat, LightLab

June 29, 2013
Best Dressed: Peter Kope

Best Dressed: Peter Kope

We were “on a boat” with Attack Theatre, aboard Pittsburgh Luxury Cruises’ Fantasy. The forecast had been dire — rain, thunderstorms. But at about 3 p.m., a window opened up. The rain abated and it looked as if it wouldn’t return until after we returned to dock. So the party, also a benefit for the company, amounted to a dramatic cruise, with occasional threatening dark clouds mixing in with the white and sun-drenched. A-a-a-ah, Pittsburgh!  A great time was had by all, including Chatham Baroque’s wonderful violinist Andrew Fouts, Pitt dance professor extraordinaire Susan Gillis, CAPA’s dynamic duo Mindy Stabler-Rossi and Jerry Ross, former Attacker Donna Goyak, Kelly Strayhorn publicist Pam Golden, the one and only Richard Parsakian and a whole boatload of fun people.

Pittsburgh drama...

Pittsburgh drama…

Tom, Jerry, Katie, Mindy, Jerry

Tom, Jerry, Katie, Mindy, Jerry


I am wallowing in talented young artists these days, who are bowling me over with their adventurous spirit. The latest came at The Space Upstairs for the first in a new experimental series featuring some of Pittsburgh’s best and brightest, called LightLab. Taylor Knight (only 23) put together an improvisational concept about truth and lies. It started, though, with Dave Bernabo, who seems to be on fire these days — he’s everywhere. Dave started with a seemingly innocuous introduction. But what words were real and which were fake? He toyed with audience, beginning a program without a defined start (and finish, as it turned out). Jil Stifel and Taylor seamlessly joined him with spooky flashlights. There followed some Clapper moments — lights on, lights off. Then some percussive treatments, picking apples, a little synchronization — loved the changes in texture and tone, without losing that original concept. It continued with Mario Ashkar’s film, supposedly one that he gave to his “students,” a lecture on veiled women. Protests. “Dealt a Burqa.” And, yes, excerpts from the t.v. series, Designing Women. Mario haltingly, almost comically talked over and under it all. The first section was the strongest with confusing, yet interesting layers. It would be great if the second, a grouping of American women in scarves, and the third, a seemingly disconnected film, could build on that treatment. Anna Thompson’s solo began as she emerged, her head covered in a bouffant cloud of tulle — mostly singing (plaintively) and disrobing (slowly). But it was still compelling. And when she stood there, naked and vulnerable, she exhaled, as if unafraid at thought of concealing nothing. Or was she?

On Stage: Pittsburgh Dance Council 2013-14 Season

May 5, 2013

They say you can’t go back, but the Pittsburgh Dance Council is ignoring that with its upcoming 2013-14 season. Executive director Paul Organisak, perhaps inspired by the Pittsburgh Festival of Firsts (exciting news in itself!) this fall and which he curated as well, has gone back to the adventuresome, experimental, what-the-hell-was-that programming that many of us knew and loved.

It appears that the PDC companies will include their own list of firsts: two North American premieres in partnership with the Festival, four new companies/projects out of six and seven new choreographers armed with local premieres.

Montreal’s Marie Chouinard will open both the Dance Council season and the Festival of Firsts. Gymnopedies, set to Eric Satie’s minimalist piano pieces, is the North American premiere, and will be paired with Michaux Mouvements, based on the poetry and drawings of Belgian Henri Michaux, which served as the literal jumping off point for the choreography. This will be the Quebec choreographer’s fourth visit to Pittsburgh, which has in the past produced The Rite of Spring and 24 Preludes by Chopin (a personal favorite of Organisak’s), among others (Sept. 28, Byham Theater).

Another sneak peak at the Festival line-up comes with Swiss artists Zimmermann & de Perrot, a physical theater duo, who will be literally thinking out of the box and inside it during Hans was Heiri. According to Organisak, Pittsburghers will see this event before it gets to New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music (Oct. 18, Byham).

On to the debut of the Brazilian group Compagnie Käfig, an international sensation that takes hip hop and puts it to samba and bossa bova. A company guaranteed to raise the spirits, it has appeared at Jacob’s Pillow and the Spoleto Festival, among others. What more can you do with plastic cups? (Feb. 1, Byham).

One of the highlights of the season is sure to be Ballet du Grand Thèâtre de Genéve and the start of a balletic finish to the season, but showing us where ballet is headed. Yes, this is the only company where George Balanchine served as artistic advisor (1970-78), but it has worked with numerous artists, including Baryshnikov, Kylian and Forsythe. Founded in 1962, the 22-member company brings two emerging artists on the international scene — Andonis Foniadakis’s Gloria, which will create a stylish new symbiosis with music by Baroque composer George Frideric Handel, and Ken Ossola’s Sed Lux Permanet, with sculpted shadow play to Fauré’s Requiem. (Mar. 8, Byham)

Wendy-Whelan-Nisian-Hughes-Photographer-2aAcclaimed New York City Ballet principal dancer Wendy Whelan will be bringing her Restless Creature project, set to debut at Jacob’s Pillow this summer. She will dance four duets with four emerging choreographers — Pittsburgh’s Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks and Alejandro Cerrudo, whose Lickety Split was a sensation recently at Point Park University’s annual Byham concert. This one is creating a lot of buzz in the dance community. (Mar. 22, Byham)

The final contemporary ballet event will mark the return of Wayne McGregor l Random Dance, (Apr. 26, Byham). He is the resident choreographer at The Royal Ballet in London and it is his company. He has a scientific bent on ballet — using film, music, visual art and technology —  that is truly unique (Apr. 26, Byham).

For ticket information click on Pittsburgh Dance Council.

On Stage: Mash Up Body and More…

April 16, 2013

Mash up BodyDuring the five years that she has performed at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Philadelphia choreographer Kate Watson-Wallace appeared to be the flower child of dance. She took a House, a Car and a Store, everyday places and objects that we encounter, but used her breezy imagination to to present them with a wry and intelligent twist.

KST executive director janera solomon has always seen something in Kate. Her dances resembled a bright, inquisitive childhood, a time to play in the attic on a rainy day, dragging out old clothes, cuddling, laughing about virtually nothing.

All that was present in her latest work. But Mash Up Body, which received its own comfortably cluttered premiere at the Dance Alloy studios (with new lighting and curtains!), had a discerning eye to it that was clearly adult.

And it looked like no one else.

Mash Up Body began quite dramatically, where one dancer stepped into the space, uncorking a deep backbend that seemed to embrace the world. She slapped her thighs, then began to strut and run in a circle.

There were five performers, all in a feminist modality, not only confident, but essentially human. It seemed like they could do anything. Capture the pop culture of the Temptations. Do a lyrical ballet solo…sort of. A lap dance…maybe.

They took a “break” behind the fourth wall, disappearing and challenging the audience’s perception of the performance. Horse masks. Orange chairs littered about. No language filter.

But Kate’s transitions were stronger despite the disparity of the images — there is an artistic mind at work here that was impressive.

It was also a great choice for the Kelly Strayhorn’s first major commission, where major foundation support contributed to its success. This may be a start for Pittsburgh in emulating Philadelphia, where foundations have given the performing arts community a real push. As it so happens, KST is establishing a reputation outside of Pittsburgh, one that could prove to be important on a national scale.

The timing was good for this project, one where an artist, in this instance Kate, made the transition to a higher level. Hopefully this is only the beginning.


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