On Stage: Dance Bundle — PBT, MAC, CMU

ON THE SHADY SIDE OF BALLET. I caught Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in one of its community performances at Shady Side Academy in Fox Chapel. It had been a couple of years and it was good to see that there was a buzz about the company at the pre-performance reception and a much larger audience than the last time I caught the company here. The repertory program, last seen at Hartwood Acres, was what could be termed accessible, with Derek Deane’s Hungry Heart…we all have one!!, sporting a mini-jukebox that played only Bruce Springsteen songs in a ’50’s setting, and Viktor Plotnikov’s Gershwin-inspired Shall We Dance, which had a better focus in the shortened format (gone were the Penguin players/penguin suits bit, barefoot ballerinas doing the worm and the mobile sofa sequence). With Christopher Budzynski still out due to a sore knee, the men’s roles moved around a bit, so Robert Moore successfully connected with his inner mojo to perform the biker dude in Hungry Heart and Joseph Parr tackled Shall We Dance. Upon viewing that ballet once again, it now seems that Mr. Plotnikov is out to poke fun at the arts, to get rid of the stuffiness. The problem still remains with his overly-active proliferation of ideas, which can turn things into a circus — just using a few threads will tie it all together and probably be funnier. Julia Erickson and Alexandre Silva were smoothly in control in George Balanchine’s Sylvia Pas de Deux, though, the gem of the evening. And there was a welcome bonus. When can you talk to someone like Richard Rauh, who commissioned Shall We Dance, while in the Richard Rauh Theater?  It was almost surreal.

NEW PARTNERS.  The always amicable Gerard Holt found some new friends in Anime’ BOP! and it may be a good partnership to pursue. Their program at the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks was called Now See Hear: A Collaboration of Sight and Sound and served as a casual introduction to the arts, using often humorous quotes about music and dance that were projected on a screen and a full-fledged Wile E. Coyote/The Road Runner cartoon for a hilarious ending.  But that didn’t mean there wasn’t an air of sophistication. Made up of musicians from Pittsburgh’s fine professional pool (bassoonist Linda Morton Fisher, oboist Robin Driscoll and pianist Robert Frankenberry), Anime’ BOP! accompanied the cartoon characters’ antics with a Jean Francaix trio, but also delved into some fresh pieces by Andre Previn and Francis Poulenc. Usually historically-minded, Gerard provided Last of the Trojan Women, which had a lovely flow, and his co-founder Miriam Scigliano created a skillful premiere, Tryst. While the dancers, all of who studied at La Roche College under the two directors had less stage space with the trio visibly tucked into a corner, the choreographers made good use of what they had. And the dancers themselves showed a burgeoning emotional maturity as they moved.

ULTRA NEW PARTNERS. With my interest fully piqued, I headed to Carnegie Mellon University to view choreography by a science graduate in collaboration with a student composer called Darkness and Light. Physicist Dara Krute unveiled her first choreographic quintet at the Kresge Theater with original music by Adam Field. Adam showed some intriguing concepts (an out-of-tune guitar and a 60-second long duo for piano and live electronics) and a real talent for string quartets. Dara had an array of inspirations — existentialism, the emotions, abstract musicality and a fistful of dance influences — but should trim back a bit to sharpen the focus. She was at her best with a solo for Iona Newell, formerly of Louisville Ballet and Ballet Quad Cities (some might remember her Swan Queen at Pittsburgh Youth Ballet), although the ending faded. Hopefully this will set the stage, though, for more dance at CMU.

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