The Dinner Dance. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre gave a farewell dinner at the Fairmont Hotel, one worthy of retiring principal dancer Erin Halloran’s personal and artistic elegance. In response to her popularity, a healthy crowd turned out for one last very graceful bow. Former PBT artistic director Patricia Wilde said that Erin and husband Steven Annegarn would make terrific artistic directors — a hint for the future? And current artistic director Terrence Orr shed a few tears. As for Erin herself, she handled her speech with her usual aplomb, the result of being always so beautifully prepared. Because she was “a little bit overwhelmed and amazed that all of you are here tonight,” Erin began modestly, saying that her initial hiring by Patricia was “a dream come true.” She then “watched and tried to learn” from ballerinas Laura Desiree, Janet Popeleski and Tamar Rachelle. FYI: Her first production was to dance in the third act of Swan Lake, where, coincidentally, the Prince was her eventual husband, Steven Annegarn, who also would become her “coach, supporter and sometimes toughest critic.” Somehow she “survived” a student matinee of the Nutcracker, where she was the Sugarplum Fairy, further admitting that “I knew I wanted to do more.” It turned into PBT’s longest career move, over 20 years, so Erin had quite a lengthy thank-you list, neatly covering her large family, both personal and professional, who made up a large group who “believed in me when I did not believe in myself.” Her gifts included a PBT scholarship established in her name and a terrific quilt, made of costume scraps from all her major roles and lovingly stitched by PBT costumiere Janet Groom and her staff. In the end, though, they didn’t compare to the riches that Erin bestowed on her audiences over the years, something she will continue in the classroom and with her two sons, Aiden and Leo, and the soon-to-be ???. Yes, Erin is expecting her third.
Happy Hour. It was a euphoric gathering at Elements for Attack Theatre members and their fans. A good time was had by all at this Happy Hour, the latest in a successful series by the good-time troupe, and featuring scrumptious hors d’oeuvres with drink specials. The bonus was the Big Reveal of the Dirty Ball location — May 19 at 2401 Penn Avenue in the Strip District and virtually next door to Attack’s headquarters. See you there!
Working to Play. The Pittsburgh Dance Council sponsored a workshop by master improviser Michael Schumacher, who was performing in Last Touch First as part of the Dance Council series. Over a dozen local professionals showed up to explore the Benedum Center’s fourth floor studio — the curtains, piano and a number of chairs. Michael called it “playing,” but the atmosphere was nonetheless intense for three hours. He talked about senses — the shifting focus of the eyes (“let the movement come to you”), the ears that “allow us to travel through solid matter,” a sense of smell that “allows us to travel through time,” the skin outside and inside the dancers (touch) and taste, which is the “best, because the mouth involves everything.” It was not dance, not movement, but sensory perception. As the dancers searched the room without music, it took on shades of composer John Cage, the element of chance heightened. It was fascinating to watch as the artists traced the experiential side, the analytical side, repetition, but could not copy. The group included Attack Theatre’s Ashley Williams,The Pillow Project’s Pearlann Porter, Jasmine Hearn, Kaylin Horgan, choreographer and Pittsburgh ex-pat Kris Storey of Germany, Point Park University’s Doug Bentz and Pittsburgh Dance Council’s Randall Miller.
A New Arena. I inadvertently omitted Arena’s Performing Arts Centre from the Post-Gazette’s Dance Recital List for 2012. Join them as they go Around the World June 9-10 at Ambridge Area High School. 412-264-9925 or www.arenaspac.com.