Dance Beat: PBT, Point Park, Hip-Hop

It’s time to play catch-up on a very busy spring season (April/May), which brought buckets of dance.

PITTSBURGH BALLET CELEBRATES — TWICE. PBT officially closed out its 40th anniversary season with a reception after the Sunday matinee of “Swan Lake” at the penthouse suite in Piatt Place. Costumier Janet Groom provided an elegant display of costumes, which provided counterpoint for a collection of pointe shoes designed by local artists (bids were welcome).

MORE PBT. Then the PBT dancers took matters into their own hands at the Dancers’ Trust performance at Point Park’s George Rowland White Performance Studio, to benefit the inevitable transition into other careers. This was the best of the series so far. The classics included an assured “Diana & Acteon” by Christine Schwaner and Alexandre Silva, a beautifully-detailed “White Swan” encore from Erin Halloran and Nurlan Abougaliev and a lovely pas de deux from “Coppelia” with newbie corps member Amanda Cochrane and the stylish Luca Sbrizzi. Julia Erickson was picture-perfect in George Balanchine’s “The Man I Love” with Nurlan, while Hiroyuki Nagasawa acquitted himself well in a solo from “Flames of Paris.” Likewise with Robert Moore in his first effort, “Ondes do Mar,” for Ashley Wegman and Alejandro Diaz. But the sentimental favorite was anything associated with former PBT member and now PBT staff teacher/choreographer, Alan Obuzor. A performer of undeniable charisma (I’d pay to watch him pedal a bike across the stage), he offered a solo (“Permanent”), a nifty duet with Erin (“I Know” by Fiona Apple) and a finale to the Dave Matthews Band, “Trouble.” You wouldn’t know that he has knee issues from his ¬†plush dancing. I could see him with any contemporary company, perhaps with his own using homecooked choreography — he has a talent for it. At any rate, we should have more of Alan. This event could be a hot ticket, if things continue this way in the future.

HIP-HOP UPDATE. Jame Samuels had a healthy group at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts to work with Sean Bankhead, hip-hop choreographer to stars such as Beyonce and Brittany Spears. The group was attentive and disciplined for his rhythmically quirky and difficult routine. It demonstrated the interest that lies waiting in Pittsburgh. Also, as a result of my article on Pittsburgh’s hip-hop history in the Post-Gazette, Barry Rabkin contacted me. He’s the proprietor of the “largest street dance store in the world,”, with over 1,000 videos available. A native Pittsburgh, he has worked with mr. wiggles, Ken Swift and Mr. Freeze, already famous for their contributions, and rising stars such as machine and roxrite. Check out his web address at CypherStyles.

SENIORITIS AT POINT PARK. Speaking of transitions, it’s hard enough to make the move to the university dance level. But the conversion into a professional career is almost impossible. PPU put together its inaugural Senior Showcase, two-day event where 14 graduates performed for and took class with seven U.S. company representatives, including Giordano Dance Company, Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Danceworks Chicago and Ballet Arkansas. A great way to provide a springboard into the future!

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