In nearly 40 years of dance writing, I’ve done interviews with artists in varied, but expected locales — at home, in the office or hotel, in an airport. But never waiting for a bus, which Pearlann Porter, a life-long bus rider, does all the time.
This time the environmentally-minded Pearlann Porter was on her way to the Father Ryan Center in McKees Rocks where she was teaching a collection of students.
The interview would be a good way to pass the time on the bus while in transit.
And for this concert, Pearlann was passing the artistic reins over to her dancers. So everyone in the Pillow Project is directing their own work and Pearlann is “directing them to direct. They all have these ideas on the back burners,” she explains. (All but Kaylin Horgan, who has been choreographing all along.) “We all come from the same feeling, same method and same philosophy about jazz. The ideas are fresh though, because they have a different perspective than I do.”
It turns out that everyone in the company is doing multiple things. PJ Roduta, mostly known for his percussion treatments, also embraces dance. And improv prince Taylor Knight is quite the digital musician. Pearlann notes, “Now we’re able to do totally original work inhouse.”
She continues, “It’s so cohesive because it makes us have more consideration. We’re always so excited about what we’re doing; we’re always so impassioned about what we’re doing. When you work with all these other mediums, it makes everyone pause, be more patient and wait for for them to grow. It’s stretching us in a very profound way.”
Pearlann always thought that she would have a “regular” company, one that would dance for her, be “her” dancers. “It doesn’t feel like that at all,” she remarks. “It feels like I’m dancing with them, even when I’m creating work. It’s with them, not for me.”
It comes down to trust. “There are these little worries in the back of your head if you’re a choreographer,” she says. “Is it good enough?” “Do I really want to do this?” But suddenly she doesn’t have any of that because she has learned to trust herself and, by extension, her dancers.
So she doesn’t have to know everything about their work, which will include Taylor’s piece about “nothingness,” Kaylin’s initial thoughts on a full-length installation and Brent Luebber’s take on a photo of himself. “I know where it’s coming from,” Pearlann begins. “I know the idea. I know it’s directed. But ultimately what they’re doing is as spontaneous for them as it is for me.”
It comes down to a sense of freedom — of assembly, choice and, most of all, expression. That goes for Pearlann as well. She will present “( ),” which represents being in contact with a person physically, but not emotionally. Then she’ll produce an encore of “In Transit,” done with Dance Alloy’s Michael Walsh, where two people are in transit, with no idea where. It’s unlike her bus ride, which has arrived at her destination.