During the fall dance season, there were three groups that offered dances that were designed by company members. They were, in chronological order, Point Park University’s Conservatory Dance Company (Student Choreography Project), Bodiography Contemporary Ballet (Multiplicity) and Dance Alloy Theatre (Side By Side). Different labels, same philosophy.
This approach has been part and parcel of the local dance scene for a number of years. One good reason might be finances. But, at a deeper level, some company members might show a gift for creating dance and this is a wonderful way to develop those talents.
Opportunities such as these benefit all of these budding choreographers, talented or not, because they come to know the inner workings of movement. By participating in this process, they also develop a finer appreciation of it and an ability to explain it to others.
And perhaps when they work with another choreographer in the future, they will be able to respond more fully. After all, choreography is often a partnership.
Student Choreography Project
Conservatory Dance Company. This was a real surprise as I watched the student choreographers and realized how far dance has come in the 40 years or so that I’ve been watching Pittsburgh move. In the early days, a dance would often start with a concept and then meander through a series of new ideas without providing connective tissue or structure. The CDC choreographers, 12 in all, not only had some intriguing ideas, but the ability to develop them in a structured way, most likely under the guidance of Point Park staff members.
There was a prize to be had. Two of the choreographers would go on to the American College Dance Festival Association regional conference at Mercyhurst College in Erie and the possibility of participating in the national festival at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. next May.
It would have to be said that all of the works on the 2009 program had a certain polish, although the
Student Choreography Project
selective process was responsible for that improvement. The faculty took great care in paring down the applications from 24 to a dozen and the program reflected their input.
Who won, you ask? This had to have been the closest decision yet, but the faculty members chose senior dance majors Ahmad Simmons’ “Unconscious Entrapment” and Michael Bagne’s “De Facto.”
Bodiography Contemporary Ballet. Bodiography took the stage at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater last weekend with a new outlook, not only in choreography, which is what its “Multiplicity” program is all about, but with a bundle of new dancers. As a small contemporary ballet company, artistic director Maria Caruso has dealt well with the rather frequent performer transitions that come with the territory.
She faced this first program of the season without experienced dancer Lauren Suflita, the rehearsal director and longtime friend who has been with her from the start. Thus the company skews young at this point, but with graduates from substantial programs at Mercyhurst College, North Carolina School of the Arts and Point Park University.
But this may be the Bodiography group that has the greatest potential. Every dancer had technical expertise as a foundation with which to build a company. As for “Multiplicity,” Caruso interspersed newly ordained choreographers with more experienced fare, amounting to a stronger program.
Caruso is building a partnership with Cello Fury (formerly Cellofourte), a good move when it comes to live music. I’d never heard the previous configuration, but Cello Fury has a parallel energy to Bodiography that should work well. However this particular concert had some intonation problems in the higher registers and the players’ aggressive playing style sometimes seemed overly raw.
Caruso provided two pieces, one a reworking of “Intimate Liasons.” It focused on loss and featured some of Kelly Basil’s best work with Colleen Landwerlen in the emotional landscape of the piece. “No Bad Hair Days” included three breast cancer survivors who related their stories during a solo by Meghan Dann. It signaled a significant change from Caruso, who showed a sculptural sense that was ultimately satisfying. That carried over into her solo, “The Red Dress,” by Ilana Suprun Clyde. Except for an unexpected series of pique turns that seemed out of context, Caruso made it into a powerful showcase.
Although Landwerlen’s “Swing Into the Night” was a lively opening selection, it relied too much on geometric patterns and chorus line elements, and Kaitlin Dann’s “No Character for Every Actor” lacked dimension.
However, Nicole Cerilli’s “Alone in Kyoto” had the linear aesthetic of the Far East and Alex Salerno, company apprentice and student at Point Park, provided a silky little solo in “Child.” Claudie Morris Lawrey contributed an entertaining finale, “Nuances de Chocolat.”
Dance Alloy Theatre.
Pittsburgh’s oldest modern dance troupe is once again changing its configuration (or “alloy”) under the leadership of Greer Reed-Jones and there were signs of change flitting through the Friendship studio in “Alloy on Alloy.”
One would expect a certain depth of perspective, given that this company has a seasoned roster of veterans and the dancers’ choreographic selections bore that out. Maribeth Maxa led the evening with “302,” the code number for an involuntary admission to a hospital. It was a turnaround for Maxa, who always exudes a dewy disposition, but set the stage for quirky dance behaviors and straitjackets. I particularly liked Maxa’s astute character observations, although “302” could have been trimmed a bit.
It’s been particularly satisfying to watch Christopher Bandy open himself up to new possibilities at the Alloy. Just last spring, he was still in a balletic mood. But this time he presented a whimsical duet, “Maestro,” where Adrienne Misko seemed to lead Bandy’s a capella vocal accompaniment. Bandy also gave Michael Walsh and Maxa an interactive duet, “Where You’re Not Strong,” based on their longtime friendship. They were playful, supportive and occasionally twisted into a headlock, cementing both their partnership and Bandy’s modern dance transformation.
There was plenty of connective tissue in Walsh’s “Dance By Post-It,” with the premise that anyone could make a dance. Beginning with the words on scraps of paper and a scattershot style, the piece gradually gained a formal structure and a strength that showed Walsh’s increasing sophistication.
Reed-Jones made her choreographic appearance with “Remembrance,” a solo for Caitlin Cahill that drew from recent deaths in Reed-Jones family. It came from a deep emotional core, but marked a change of direction from Reed-Jones in a choreographic break from her own Ailey tradition and the willing establishment of a new Alloy tradition.