On Stage: Improv-ability

Improvisation is undeniably a part of the dance process — experimenting with, toying with, molding, sculpting a myriad of movements into some semblance of a structure. But what happens when the improv is the performance goal itself?

That idea has become attractive to several companies. The Pillow Project’s Pearlann Porter relies heavily on improvisation, noticeable in such projects as her street-wise “Urban Experiment” and her fifth anniversary celebration, “Sorta Saturday.” Attack Theatre is in the midst of an improv-based tour of Pittsburgh art galleries, spaces and museums.

And last weekend, Jeff Berman, playing vibraphone and dulcimer, joined with a few musicians (Tony Depaolis, bass, and Dave Throckmorton, percussion) joined with a few dancers (Pittsburgh improv queen Gia Cacalano, along with Allie Greene, Beth Ratas, and Erin Carey of Zany Umbrella Circus hanging out on the drapes).

Yes, Berman apparently initiated the project, simply called “2010,” a collection of movement, sound and film. It was inspired by the moment at hand…but with a little planning. After a brief prelude to introduce the idea, Berman talked a bit, calling the evening a “work-in-progress.”

Berman and Cacalano have been working together for several years and the two obviously share a connection, as evidenced in their latest duo, with Berman on vibraphone and Cacalano in tune. Like two opponents warming up, they cased the joint in front of a backdrop video of Cacalano’s feet.

The pair played a sophisticated game of cat and mouse, viewed Cacalano’s balancing echoed with repetitive motifs by Berman. Their connection brought the viewer into the zone, making time virtually stand still.

The ensemble segment, with full cast, featured themes whirling around whipping, rolling and running backwards. Although it’s more difficult to work with large group improv, there were moments of revelation against the shimmering video backdrop. Yet this ensemble shows promise and already announced a future performance in May.

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