Dance Beat: PPU, LightLab, Mary, Michele

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DANCE ON THE UPSWING. There’s something happening in the fast-moving developments to be found in Point Park University’s Student Choreography Project and we can only hope that this a global trend. Last year’s group had good structure, but many of this year’s group took that structure and developed imaginative and individual choreography to heighten it.

Oscar Carrillo shared top honors last year on Detached, which was chosen to represent PPU at the American College Dance Festival Association at the regional conference. This year he has upped the ante, scoring with a work for Texture Contemporary Ballet this summer and his latest at SCP, Rem Abstracto, a smart sojourn through sleep with a high degree of awareness in its dance patterns and slip-and-slide vocabulary (and owing a debt to Texture’s Alan Obuzor and Kelsey Bartman). He’s already on a roll, demonstrating a widerange in his trio of works and the best young talent I’ve encountered at PPU.

Then there was an already established partnership between Jennifer Florentino and John Michael O’Neill, who looked like professional ringers in Til the End, an organic shapeshifting number with extraordinary lifts. The students in attendance rewarded them with a standing ovation, a first that I’ve seen in the middle of the program.

They were only two of a dozen works, each of which made their own mark on the program. Among them were Isabella Jessen’s ▲ (shades of the Artist Formerly Known As Prince) and full of alien beings, angles and extreme dancing versus the swirling glamazons in Brittney McCarthy’s more traditional, but sweeping Beauty Bovine.

Congrats to mentors Doug Benz, Kiesha Lalama, Kellie Hodges, Judith Leifer-Benz Jason McDole, Danielle Pavlik and Ron Tassone who helped provide a professional  polish.

A NEW LIGHT. Wood Street Galleries often graciously shares its installations with performances pressed against vivacious contemporary backdrops in the intimate space. But LightLab, progressive collections of independent artists co-curated by David Bernabo and Taylor Knight, put most of the focus on experimental movement recently. Maree ReMalia has been reworking her slants series and this version’s “slant” had a delicate, but deliberate touch with its miniature projection. Jasmine Hearn, so ethereally connected with musician TIm Vernon, and Riva Strauss’ gritty film choreography tended to meander, though. Pittsburgh veteran artist Mark C. Thompson’s excerpts from flight from himself, a retrospective of a man, was, surprisingly, classic mime that nevertheless still touched the emotions. Overall this is a new and welcome avenue for artists to stretch their muscle, a benefit for the Pittsburgh scene.

MARY,MARY. Mary Miller Dance Company is gearing up for the group’s 30th anniversary season. Besides reconstructing some of her favorite works (and hiring dancers), Mary has a new producing director, David Maslow., a local veteran who comes via the Open Stage Theatre.

IMG_0066_2KOREA, KOREA. Attack Theatre’s Michele de la Reza is off to Korea and Taipei as she builds her global connections through former Pittsburgh Dance Council artistic director Carolelinda Dickey’s American Dance Abroad.

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