Sarah Parker likes to pack her dance into bundles. This summer she not only engineered a weeklong summer intensive at the New Hazlett Theater, but also tacked on something called “THE BOOM,” event that brought together area companies.
The bubbly choreographer is into community, gathering emerging dance talent in Pittsburgh together. As for the intensive, the performance showcase was called “4-3-2-1 — From BROADWAY to the STREETS,” with an army of choreographers including Renee Danielle Smith, Shana Simmons, Maddy Landi, “Nine” (2003 revival) associate choreographer Gustavo Zajac, who happened to be in town at Point Park University, and, of course, Sarah, who turns out big production numbers at the snap of a finger.These students had no less than 15 numbers to remember, including Pearlann Porter’s nifty improv and Gabriel Ash’s popular hip-hop creations.
The next night at “THE BOOM” featured a number of young dance professionals, coming together to show the intensive students how it’s done. Among those companies represented, the oldest was Bodiography, with Chelsea Shott holding the fort .
Pearlann’s Pillow Project was next, having been founded in 2004. It was represented by Taylor Knight, who gave the event an intriguing start in “Luminography,” a sort of duet with “luminographer” Mike Cooper. So Taylor initiated the movement, with images resembling a discus thrower or a stylized hip hop artist. Then Mike took over so taht the screen behind Taylor became one of those flip books, where a figure seems animated. Crucial to the success of the process was Taylor’s choice of movement, interesting enough to be repeated, sculptural enough so as not to blur the screen.
On the whole it was a strong program, composed mostly of a new tier of companies that have cropped up recently and demonstrating that they are worthy of attention. August Wilson Center’s James Washington was a lyrical miracle in Antonio Brown’s “Solo” and Staycee Pearl showed that she was onto something new and different and exciting, coming deep from her African American heritage, in an untitled duet for Renee and Seth Grier.
Renee cropped up along with partner Jamie Erin Murphy in several pieces — the two have recently started the newest kid on the dance block, Much More Than Bones. And it was good to see something by Maddi, in collaboration with performer Katarina Danks in “Life Cycle,” an insectile solo somewhat inspired by Cirque du Soleil.
I also had my first acquaintance with Poof!, another new company and one that promotes social change through art, in a quirky little number, “Lucille and Eddie,” choreographed by Annalee Traylor and performed with Raymond Ejiofor.
Filling out the bill were Gabriel’s K.G Dynasty, Sarah’s Continuum Dance Theater and Fluidity Dance Company, an ambitious group out of Altoona that is benefitting from its Pittsburgh connections.
All in all, it seems that a whole new tier of Pittsburgh dance, one where the companies interact frequently through workshops and performances, is taking shape. Under the leadership of Pearlann, Sarah and Bodiography’s Maria Caruso, these groups seem to forging their own community identity, something that can only expand an increasingly vibrant dance scene here in Pittsburgh.