Dance Beat: KST, Pillow Project, Pride, Dancing Classrooms

The freedom of movement was everywhere you looked last weekend — it was hard to believe we were in the throes of summer, when dance usually starts to come to a halt. But then, that’s been the way with this past season, packed with performances, many overlapping. I don’t believe we’ve ever had a busier schedule here in Pittsburgh. Here’s hoping it continues next season…

FULL BLOOM. The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater set its summer season off on the right foot, so to speak, with a spirited dance party. I caught part of the VIP party on stage, with Janera Solomon leading things and dance community members like Attack Theater’s Michele de la Reza, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Harris Ferris and Dance Alloy Theater board member Mark Taylor. Although I missed Staycee Pearl’s dance project, the company will have a full-fledged performance in August, along with  Bodiography’s Maria Caruso, plus Columbus, Ohio’s Baker & Tarpaga Project and in July. Dance on!

THE PILLOW PROJECT. Next was a sort-of encore of Pearlann Porter’s “A Pale Blue Jazz,” which had its premiere at the Dance Alloy Theater in April. However, I caught the Sunday afternoon performance there, where the piece, all about star-gazing and pondering the universe via people like Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking, had to be altered with music improvisations where performers were planted among the audience members. Last Saturday Pearlann’s own improv dancers put another accent on the piece. Because it was evening, I saw Mike Cooper’s starry-eyed projections (a multitude of pale blue dots) that gave this dance meditation a wondrous feel. Unfortunately the afternoon temperatures marinated in the Space Upstairs, putting an air blanket over the nighttime activities, giving the slow, probing music and dance a sense of lethargy. PJ Roduta and Charles Hall had an energizing jam session beforehand, culminating in a finale where Charles passed out a passel of rhythm instruments and had everyone join in (shades of DAT). It was still good to note that, while numerous small dance organizations have different ways of engaging their audiences, the Pillow has built its own ardent and seemingly solid following.

PITTSBURGH PRIDE. The next afternoon I paid a quick visit to the street celebration that is Pittsburgh Pride and saw Jasmine Hearn and Beth Ratas in a casual, intertwining duet that tickled the crowd. Then the signature rolling chords of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 rang out and I knew more dance was at hand, this time Michael Walsh, topless in a long blue tutu, and a female partner, not topless, who I couldn’t make out. The dance was apparently about self-centered satisfaction, although it oddly ignored the excesses in the music. But then, there was plenty of that to go around in the Pride’s signature atmosphere.

DANCING CLASSROOMS. Following the Pride,  it was over to the Westin Convention Center for Mad Hot Ballroom Pittsburgh, a benefit for the local Dancing Classrooms program in the Pittsburgh public schools that included a buffet dinner, a silent auction, a performance by the year’s winners, Pittsburgh Linden elementary school, and a contest between adult amateur dancers. Emcee extraordinaire Pierre Dulaine had energy to spare, impressing all, and took time to visit runners-up, Pittsburgh Carmalt. He also left a message for everyone at Dancing Classrooms Pittsburgh.

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