On Stage: From Whence They Came…

I was in a momentary flashback, walking in on Dance Alloy artistic director Mark Taylor giving notes on “Swan Lake” at the company studios in Friendship. No, I wasn’t swept up in some kind of time warp, even though former company dancer and original cast member Andre Koslowski was also there, pony tail and all.

Freaky.

It was all a part of current artistic director Greer Reed-Jones’ idea to gather former Alloy artists and create a program called “From Where We Come…” at the Hazlett Theater. “It’s the thirty-fifth anniversary of the company,” she says matter-of-factedly, even though no Pittsburgh modern dance company ever made it that far. “I thought it would be appropriate to pay tribute, to examine the roots of the company and how it got to this point.”

She noted, “All the artistic directors who came before me had such unique voices that contributed to what the Alloy is today. Each one was valid and I think that’s the reason that we still exist — the organization cannot clearly go forward unless it knows where it came from.”

In addition to her own premiere for the program, Greer set about selecting artists from different eras. And when the dust (and schedules) had settled, she had assembled Kevin Maloney from the early era, Mark, artistic director for 14 years and Andre, who was with the Alloy for 10 years under Mark. Different eras, different backgrounds, certainly different voices.

Kevin Maloney. Kevin performed with the Alloy from 1980-86, when the Alloy helped him “grow not only as a dancer, but as a choreographer.” But the most important thing he took away from the Alloy was his wife of 25 years, fellow Alloyer Patty. Kevin went on to form his own company, Kevin Maloney Dance Theater, but also carved out a career at Community College of Allegheny County, West Mifflin campus, where he is now a full professor, and Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, where he is on the adjunct faculty. (Actually he taught alongside Greer for a number of years.) A triple threat, he is not only a choreographer and former dancer, but highly knowledgeable about lighting design.

Although he is currently the father to two daughters, Stephanie and Hillary, Kevin will be re-staging “The Son is Father to the Man (1994)” for Alloy dancers Michael Walsh and Raymond Interior. This will be the third incarnation, following the premiere featuring Kevin with Attack Theater’s Peter Kope, then an encore (apart from the Alloy) with Point Park University’s Doug Bentz and former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre principal Willy Shives.

Now he’s telling Michael and Raymond, “You’re going to make it your own. Peter and I were two different individuals and different movers — let’s work towards a common goal.” Although Kevin jokes that he comes from the days when “we recorded dances on stone tablets with chisels,” Greer was able to view a video. She tells me, “I thought it would look really great on Michael and Raymond.

Andre Koslowski. Andre felt returning to the Alloy was “a little like coming home, the same television and VCR,” although he never went that far away. Currently artistic director of Pennsylvania Dance Theatre in State College, he occasionally ventured back here to work with LABCO and still maintains close ties with Slippery Rock’s Jennifer Keller and other Western Pennsylvania artists.

It was “weird” to see the company rehearse “Swan Lake” for him. Speaking in the sweetest German accent you’ve ever heard, he noted that it was “funny how much you remember.” While Mark Taylor was on business in Mexico, Andre took a look at a run-through and commented on one phrase, “I think it’s this.” Then he did the ten-year-old phrase as if it were yesterday, impressing the dancers.

And they say the body is the first to forget.

But he will not easily forget his experience with the new Alloy, for whom he created “When You Hear Hoofbeats, Think Horses.” (Think about it.) “It was great to work with them,” Andre reveals. “They really came with me to wherever I wanted to go.”

As a choreographer who is interested in the people and not in the bodies — the current Alloy is the most diverse collection of dancers in the company history — Andre still “didn’t think so much that I’m twisting things around. Sometimes I see something that I find interesting and I insistently follow that. That might sometimes be a place they haven’t gone before,  but I certainly didn’t superimpose that for them.”

Mark Taylor. This Alloy project might have been the biggest step for Mark, who directed the company from 1991-2003. Currently directing the Center for BodyMindMovement, based in Pittsburgh, Oregon and Mexico, Mark says that the move to the Alloy from New York City changed his life. “The fact that it really gave me space not to look over my shoulder at what 300 colleagues in lower Manhattan were doing artistically,” he begins. “I really appreciated the chance to grow here, to establish my own voice.” Along the way he was also able to do several important inter-cultural collaborations, including Hawaii and the Caribbean.

But the BMM center has been a logical outgrowth since then and he’s committed to it. ‘I haven’t enjoyed doing choreographic projects since I left the Alloy,” Mark freely admits. “I anticipated them, but I always felt like I was rusty. I wasn’t committed to it like I was when I thought of myself as a choreographer.”

He believes that it’s “a part of my life that’s complete and I’m happy with it” and likens the choreographic process to picking up a violin after 25 years, “feeling uncomfortable to know what I was able to do, but not having the neurological pathways to accomplish it.”

But Mark then noted that the Alloy event was “a nice way to go back into it that’s less pressured and just fun.” So he chose “Swan Lake, Act II,” which was originally created as a compact modern dance version, seriously. But the first audience reacted with laughter and it became a company favorite for years.

Although he prefers not to choreograph now, Mark felt that Alloy dancer Maribeth Maxa was a getting short-changed in this version, so he did create a new solo for her. “It’s been a total gas,” he says. “I really enjoyed working with dancers.”

And he’ll be sticking around for a while, for Mark has been asked to join the Alloy board, to “help support the company in its current configuration.” Now he’s committed in another way “because I want to ensure the vitality of contemporary dance in Pittsburgh.”

Who says you can’t go back?

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