Dance Beat: chelfitsch, AWCDE, Nora, Mara, Frances

CHELFITSCH THEATER COMPANY. It may not sound like it, but chelfitsch is a movement theater company, internationally-renowned, from Japan. The group had some trouble assembling in Pittsburgh — a cancelled flight for director, a delayed cab ride for the others. But they were able to turn in two performances of Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, & the Farewell Speech, at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. All of the performers were listed as actors, speaking in their native tongue, but with amusing translations projected onto the wall of the set. Drenched in absurdist theater, the script by director Toshiki Okada focused on the artifice of life by the use of repetition in the movement and speech as filtered through a Japanese lens. Well done, particularly the archly dry/cute humor and taut minimalism, but it occasionally struggled with itself because the subject matter — choosing a restaurant, the air conditioner temperature in the office and the farewell speech of a co-worker so closely mirrored and heightened the boredom of an everyday office existence.

HEADING SOUTH. Members of August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble are headed for the company’s first international sojourn, a trip to Suriname, which lies just above Brazil on the northern coast of South America, sandwiched in between Guyana and French Guiana. The Deputy Chief of Mission for the U.S. Embassy spotted the group at the Three Rivers Arts Festival last June and arranged the trip where Andrea Young, James Washington, Kaylin Horgan, Annalee Traylor and Kendra Dennard will teach and perform in an outreach program Oct. 14-20.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        NORA. It was a summer of previews from the Kelly-Strayhorn, the last being the luminous Nora Chipaumire, who spoke about her upcoming project, Miriam, set to unfold next April. She talked about the mesmerizing South African singer and advocate and how “she was so bigger than life.” How she “wandered 30 years in exile,” yet retained her her stature as an artist.”  About the way “grace with which she held herself.” Nora wanted to find a way both to mourn her loss and celebrate her. But Miriam was “a deeply complicated woman, an alcoholic who hated white people,” although Nora still described her as an “unattainable idyllic beauty.” She said that “the scope of ‘Miriam’ is her most ambitious yet.” Can’t wait.

FILLING IN. Mara Mandradjieff may be gone (Atlanta, Georgia, where she is an adjunct professor at Emory University) but not forgotten. Nor has she forgotten Pittsburgh. Mara instigated a Facebook page called Pittsburgh-area Dance Substitute Teachers/Dance Community. It seems to be an efficient way to get a substitute if you need one. Hope a large community starts to use it…

FRANCES IN L.A. When McKeesport native Frances Chiaverini surfaces in the news, it’s always with a bang. Beginning with Nederlans Dans Theater II, she headed to New York for Karole Armitage and Morphoses, plus some independent choreographers and now is entrenched in Benjamin Millipied’s (New York City Ballet, Black Swan choreographer, recent uncomfortable guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance) newly-formed L.A. Dance Project (also seen on SYTYCD), where she received a great mention in the Los Angeles Times. “Star ballerina,” indeed! High praise from Lewis Segal, although I consider her strengths to be contemporary. Francis has always had a real allure in her approach to movement.

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