Dance Beat: Performing Arts Exchange, Day 2

Twenty-minute showcases are but a snapshot of a company, but they are the lifeblood of the Performing Arts Exchange. Given a short time slot, companies make their case for an audience of professionals, although PAE opened up the showcases to the public this year.

On Day Two, I headed over to Liberty Avenue to see the talent selection. Linda Reznik of River City Arts Management had her own independent showcase with three clients. Philadelphia has an enviable dance scene, still growing and attracting artists who come there instead of New York City now.  Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers represented the City of Brotherly Love well. Splitting his time between Philadelphia and his native Taiwan, he showed obvious Asian influences from various martial arts. Alternating between the aggressive and the meditative, there was always a deep inner beauty to the rhythmic structure. Dance Alloy, with its new audience-friendly formate, performed snippets from Christopher Huggins’ Holocaust-inspired “The List,” and, with the aid of the August Wilson Dance Ensemble, harnessed the free-flowing energy of Robert Battle’s collaboration with Pittsburgh jazz trumpet player Sean Jones, “Crossing.” It was also a brief look at two new Alloy members, Gretchen Moore and Jasmine Hearn. Then Mary Miller offered a piece of her own collaboration this summer with composer Charles Hall. This is the youngest incarnation of MillerDANCE by far. While they showed an affinity for Mary’s new-found sweep to her lyricism, it will take a while to develop perspective.

Just up the street at the August Wilson Center, the juried showcases opened up to an enthusiasticcrowd of presenters, who seemed to enjoy clown/mime Jamie Adkins catching oranges tossed from the audience with a fork in his mouth. River City Brass scored with new conductor James Gourlay, who can easily parlay his Scottish accent into favor with the audiences and I Musici de Montreal, a small string chamber ensemble that unfolded its “Pictures at an Exhibition,” with choreographed award-winning film accompaniment. Yes, the hatching chickens, through various film techniques, seemed to dance.

I was there to see the real dance, though. River North Dance Chicago was impressive for its unremitting intensity in a trio from, I think, artistic director Frank Chavez’ “Forbidden Boundaries,” where a female was deftly manipulated by two men holding onto a stretchy shirt, and “Train,” where Robert Battle brought his own signature heat. Before he took on the directorship of the Alvin Ailey company, Mr. Battle was a busy man — he left his choreographic mark on many American companies and universities, a journey that helped him to develop his distinctive style.

DanceWorks Chicago had a more European approach, giving a sneak preview of its upcoming world premiere, “Paradigm,” by Christian Spuck, resident choreographer of Stuttgart Ballet and director designate of Zurich Ballet — decidedly more formal in a ballet tradition, but structurally enticing. Then, surprise, they offered a portion of Gina Patterson’s “My Witness,” which had a wonderful fluidity. Small world — she’s a Pittsburgh native who went to Ballet Austin and is returning to do a work for Point Park University in November. The robust session concluded with Harrison McEldowney’s “Dance Sport,” a funny twist on play-by-play announcing as applied to dance.

Dance on tonight with more showcases, Pittsburgh Dance Council’s season-opener Rioult and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Gallery Crawl.

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