Dance Bites: Gia T., Stein l Holum, Brain Dance

MORE THAN A TRIO. Gia Cacalano was only supposed to do a quick turn and leave the evening to Ravish Momin’s Tarana. But the evening went above and beyond. Ravish is a Carnegie Mellon graduate with a B.S. in Civil/Environmental Engineering. He bases his music on Indian influences, including rhythmic speech, but with a more contemporary use of meter and syncopation. On July 13 at Wood Street gallery, Tarana, which varies in size with collaborative artists, was a duo with Rick Parker, noted jazz trombonist in New York. It was so much more, however, via a smart use of electronics. Perhaps inspired by Ravish’s background, Gia appeared with scarves wrapped around her bodice both at the beginning and later in the performance with large, satisfying chunks of dance. She responded to the sophisticated musical backdrop with pirouettes that swirled into deep knee drops and a use of open hips, with dramatic tensions that took her performance to another level.

Suli Holum

Suli Holum

PLENTY OF HEART. Stein l Holum Projects is a New York duo, the latest artists tagged by Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s janera solomon. As is her method, she brought them in for a workshop, culminating in a sneak peak at Dance Alloy Studios. While The Wholehearted was a work-in-progress, only excerpts, it was a terrific tour de force for the talented Suli Holum, nominated for a Drama Desk award in 2012. The tale, written by co-director and writer Deborah Stein, is that of a former boxing champ, set to make a comeback but hampered by an emotional past. With KST’s Joseph Hall expertly guiding the Q&A, the audience offered a penetrating feedback, where the artists listened intently. And the production company itself transformed the Alloy space into a boxing ring, with projections, lighting, original music, choreography, live video work — and possible tips for KST in the future. Put the KST’s workshop series on your calendar, well worth the time and modest admission.

A FRICK PARK WALK. Ella Mason has joined the Pittsburgh dance community, forming Yes Brain Dance Theater, and is in the midst of a series of site-specific works. This one, the second in the series, Of Snails and Lips and Walking Sticks, took place in Frick Park, opposite the museum and heading down the trail to the bottom and out again. With a morphing group of dancers (the thoughtful Jasmine Hearn, Beth Ratas, Taylor Knight, Anna Thompson and more) and musicians (percussionists Dave Bernabo and Ketan Bakrania nuanced and effective, with cellist Gordon Kirkwood soulful) at hand, Ella lead the walk herself, gradually unraveling a knit skirt like Hansel and Gretel’s crumbs. Over 25 people and several companion dogs followed her as we had about 10 “encounters,” including a trio improvising on a fallen tree, a conversation/hand dance that descended down the hill, a scene around a giant pile of sticks, a treehugger and cello and a group of creatures that didn’t seem to be snails in this particular environment. Watz the German shepherd playfully nipped at Ella’s skirt to everyone’s delight. Then we all exited up through Tranquil Trail, punctuated by human statues, and gathered around Ella and Gordon and Watz for closure. It was a cool walk on a hot day.

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