On Stage: Peter and “Billy”

January 31, 2012

Photo by Kyle Froman

Billy Elliot: The Musical comes to town this week, full of a lift-your-spirits warmth, perfect for the winter season. I had a chance to talk with choreographer Peter Darling, who really was during the course of our conversation. He gave a certain insight about the creative process involved with this award-winning production. Read about it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Photo by Kyle Froman








Dance Beat: Dutch, Crawl, Emily, Dance Dangereuse

January 25, 2012

Photo by Chris Nash

Going Dutch. There was gouda arancini, smoked mackerel potato salad, red cabbage with smoked sausage and apples and slavinken, all signature dishes of the Netherlands and meticulously prepared by Meat & Potatoes restaurant. Yum Well, if Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s upcoming Distinctly Dutch Festival is as tasty as the food, we’re all in for a treat that will take us through the spring. I have loved the Trust’s previous festivals (Montreal, Australia, International Festival of Firsts), which gave us the opportunity to explore different cultures without leaving home. Of course we already knew that that the Pittsburgh Dance Council will be presenting Dance Works Rotterdam/Andre Gingras, which will open the festival Feb. 18, and Last Touch First, co-choreographed by Michael Schumacher and Jiri Kylian (a national and international choreographic treasure). But there will be plenty more to sample. For theater buffs, there will be Detroit Dealers, which is oddly set against the American car industry, Diespace, an interactive multimedia performance set against the Internet, and Jean Cocteau’s La voix humaine, featuring one of Holland’s foremost actresses. Halina Reijn. Music lovers can catch The News, a video/opera, or Dutch Women of Jazz. Girls ‘N’ Guns and Global Navigators will enhance the Pittsburgh art scene and Dudes and World of Rhythm will be geared to families. Accompanying it all will be workshops, wine tastings, a tulip display (of course) at the Phipps, film and more, including menu offerings at local restaurants. Hungry?  Intrigued? (I am and will attend as many events as possible.) For more information, click on Distinctly Dutch.

Crawl-ing. The Trust also sponsors the Gallery Crawl four times a year, a great (and free) way to explore the Cultural District. This go ‘round on January 27 will feature Maddy Landi’s kNOTdance transferring your own drawing of a dream into a dance. Also interact with a digital installation, Summer Sky Eternal, and see how your personal movement affects it (604 Liberty Ave.). Or interact with a partner at Arthur Murray Dance Studio, with free lessons and demos (salsa at 7:30 p.m., tango at 8 p.m., swing at 8:30 p.m.) Much, much more, from Norwegian artist HC Gilje at Wood Street to a Cell Phone Disco. A real bonus — Chatham Baroque rocks the Trust Arts Education Center with three performances. From 5:30 – 9 p.m. Click on Gallery Crawl.

Emily Kitka. The Pittsburgh dancer, who joined the corps of New York City Ballet last fall, got her first real review in The New York Times. Congrats, Emily!

Risky Business. Top Dating Sites website has posted 10 Dances You Should Only Attempt if You Are a Pro. Really? How do you actually become one? See for yourself when you click on Dangerous Dance.

On Stage: A Pillow-y Performance

January 18, 2012

Photo: Cassie Kay Photography

I write a lot about “P’s,” but not so much “Q’s” when Pearlann Porter and The Pillow Project open up The Space Upstairs for Second Saturdays. The air is casual, where audience members can walk about and talk about, well, anything during the performances, perfect for those of us who can’t sit still for long. Just joking…I’d call this one a collaborative, inspirational effort between a virtual army of performers and the audience itself.  Read about it in the Post-Gazette.

Dance Beat: Gabe, Dennis

January 17, 2012

Lock It Up. Hip hop is coming alive in Pittsburgh. Gabriel “Kg” Ash just held a successful two-day workshop, Kg Dynasty Presents: Due Season, at the August Wilson Center, with over 60 participants. In other words, Due Season is the burgeoning professional wing of Gabe’s Kg Dynasty. It was the prelude to what he hopes is a big dance storm because Gabe and Due Season (Gabe plus LJ Duncan, Sean W. Green, Asia J,  Antwane Younger and Sharnell Younger) have big plans to conquer the New York City auditions January 21 for America’s Best Dance Crew, the hit series on MTV.

Board-ing. Choreographer Dennis Nahat comes to Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre as a man under fire. His board at Ballet San Jose has gradually been moving him out of the picture and officially fired him yesterday, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. The beleaguered director will be in town for the week of PBT’s Uncommon at the August Wilson Center, where the company will perform his Brahms Quintet, along with Mark Morris’ Maelstrom and Dwight Rhoden’s world premiere, Chromatic. This seems to be developing into a trend. Miami City Ballet board bungled the retirement of iconic artistic director and founder Edward Villella  last fall. And of course, we still are stinging from the bite the Dance Alloy Theater board put on artistic director Beth Corning, who had actually brought them onto the board, and the abrupt dismissal of all employees, including successor Greer Reed and the dancers, just last summer. Is dance, particularly ballet, going corporate?’

Dance Beat: PBT, Rockettes and River City Update

January 12, 2012

Photo by Rich Sofranko Taking a Break? Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is heading down to Hilton Head Island January 14 and 15 thanks to former board member Fred Beard and his wife, Dottie. But that doesn’t just mean two days of fun in the sun for 18 of the company members. Fred and Dottie are underwriting a pair of performances at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, with a program featuring Raymonda Variations, Sylvia Pas de Deux and Dwight Rhoden’s Step Touch and Ave Maria, That might mean a healthy glow for PBT’s upcoming Uncommon at the August Wilson Center in February.

Kickin’ It. Do you have big dance dreams? Well, they don’t get much bigger than Radio City Music Hall and the world-famous Rockettes. So if you hanker for precision and eye-high kicks, dance your way over to the Benedum Center on Sunday at 1 p.m. where they are holding auditions for the Rockettes Summer Intensive, scheduled for June 23-August 3 at the afore-mentioned Radio City in New York. “The Rockettes Summer Intensive is a pivotal program for serious dancers who want to gain the training and technique of the Rockettes precision dance style,” said Eileen Grand, Rockettes Director and Choreographer. “Our dance education programs are invaluable for dancers and one of the best training tools for these talented Rockette hopefuls who strive to become part of the legendary dance company. For more information and other cities, visit rockettes.com.

New York Update. It looks like River City Arts Management had a successful series of showcases at the APAP conference in the Big Apple, with groups like August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble. Linda Reznik posted an SRO on her Facebook page.

Face-ing It. If you want to get notified of new articles posted on CrossCurrents, just friend me (Jane Vranish) on Facebook.

On Screen: Waiting for Pina

January 10, 2012

So we’re playing the waiting game for Pina, Wim Wenders’ extraordinary 3D documentary (by all accounts) inspired by the legendary German choreographer. AMC says it has no plans to bring it to Pittsburgh and Cinemax, which offers the Metropolitan Opera, isn’t answering. Hope the Academy Award nomination (Best Documentary) moves things along a bit. In the meantime, here is a trailer, full of  its own breathtaking moments, although the 3D version is supposed to be even moreso. As Pina puts it “Tanzt, Tanzt… sonst sind wir verloren” or “Dance, dance…otherwise we are lost.”

Dance Beat: January, AWCDE on 25, APAP/Focus, MAC

January 5, 2012

New Year, New Month. January 2012 dance is up and running. See Listings.

“Watch”-ing AWCDE. The August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble has made an impact in Pittsburgh already, primarily through its unquenchable thirst for performing and some smart choreographic choices by artistic director Greer Reed. As a result, the company made my Top Ten list for 2011. Now the group’s scope is widening. Dance Magazine has placed AWCDE on its national list of 25 to Watch, certainly a terrific achievement for the fledgling group. Congrats!

Focus on Focus. The Association of Performing Arts Presenters takes over New York City’s performing arts spaces every January. The dance wing is called Focus Dance and comes in several tiers, with events at The Joyce Theater, Dance Gotham (New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on Washington Square South) and Studio 4 (New York City Center) Jan. 6-8. There will be a strong Pittsburgh presence this year. Kyle Abraham will perform at The Joyce on a program with Kate Weare, in whose group Point Park grad Luke Murphy will dance. But River City Artists Management’s Linda Reznik will showcase a good portion of her complete dance roster at Studio Four, including the above-mentioned August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble (see Facebook) and Duquesne University Tamburitzans. (Others will include LehrerDance, Chicago Tap Theatre, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater and Dance Now! Miami.) And surprise(!), Braddock mayor John Fetterman will be a featured speaker at APAP. A Harvard Kennedy School graduate and leader of “Allegheny County’s poorest community,” he will talk about his rebuilding efforts, which have garnered national attention. Check out Pop City’s video on John, which is the opening segment on the APAP website.


Have a MAC. Mid-Atlantic Contemporary Ballet (MAC) artistic director Gerard Holt, former member of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, will start up a new ballet class, geared to dancers 14 years or older who wanted to start ballet again or have a basic knowledge of the vocabulary. He promises “a fun and light approach,” with “ability-appropriate positions, exercises and combinations for the barre and center floor.” Gerard joins the dance faculty at the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks. Click on schedule for more information.