Dance Beat: A New Season at the Dance Council

More and more people are declaring the Pittsburgh Dance Council series the best in Pittsburgh, both for its challenging and entertaining repertoire, gleaned from around the world. But that just puts more responsibility on Paul Organisak’s shoulders…and he feels the weight, especially after this year’s terrific line-up. So when we met for our annual talk about the state of dance here and abroad — always a treat — he was anxious about unveiling the 2014-15 season.

With the PDC comes a certain element of trust, because many of the companies are new to Pittsburgh. Organisak travels the world in search of the best, immersing himself in everything that comes to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. But the Dance Council occupies a special place in his heart. “This is my one-and-only first-born,” he says. (Aren’t we lucky?)

Two of the companies have already set foot in the city. Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet came here in 2010 with a program featuring ballet icon William Forsythe and Nicolo Fonte and Jorma Elo, who have since carved out important international careers. This time they bring back Fonte, who will unveil his newest work, Heart(s)pace. The new names include Norbert De La Cruz III, who has worked with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Alvin Ailey, and Cayetano Soto, who has Ballet Hispanico, Stuttgart Ballet and Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal on his resume. Both are already in demand. As Organisak puts it, “I love how they are committed to working with emerging choreographers.”

The other company is somewhat of a favorite here, Ronald K Brown/Evidence. This time though, there is a twist. Brown will have a week-long residency in Pittsburgh, where he will select a group of multi-generational dancers from the community to participate in On Earth Together, set to music by Stevie Wonder. The company will also perform The Subtle One, with music by jazz musicians Jason Moran and Tarus Mateen.


Company debuts will come from France, England, Sweden and Scotland, but will stretch the ways we think of those European countries. “Union Tanguera is not your mother’s tango show,” Organisak says. “It pushes boundaries, is highly theatricalized and has a live quartet.” He calls it a French mash-up with Argentina.


From England comes Michael Clark. “I don’t know why we haven’t brought him here before,” Organizak admits. “He has been the bad boy of modern dance.” But it was on a different path from witty raconteur Mark Morris or attitude-rich Rasta Thomas, who have tagged with that same label. The Royal Ballet-trained Clark descended into a widely-publicized hell of drugs and hedonism, but did not self-destruct. He emerged better than ever…with an undeniable dark edge. During his 30-year career, Clark has collaborated with numerous artists in the arts world. His signature work, which will come here, has a Pittsburgh connection…sort of. Called come, been and gone and set to the music of David Bowie, among others, it also touches on some of his influences, including Andy Warhol’s house band, the Velvet Underground. In fact, the individuality of his works have been compared to a Warhol print. We also get Swamp, bathed in the experimental punk music of the Wire and Bruce Gilbert and lighting by Charles Atlas, which completes the program. Be prepared to rock on.

Pontus Lidberg is a “new discovery,” as evidenced by this poetic clip on Vimeo. The Swedish artist has transferred his talents to New York City and will bring Snow, a new version of Rite of Spring. (Think about it — snow in spring.) “It doesn’t follow the score verbatim,” says Organisak. He calls Lidberg’s style “exquisite.” Four dancers, including Lidberg himself, will take the stage in a never-ending snowfall along with a Bunraku puppet.


The season ends with what might be termed an exclamation point when the Scottish Ballet brings its own version of A Streetcar Named Desire by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa in conjunction with award-winning theater/film director Nancy Meckler. We’ve seen Ochoa’s work before with Ballets Jazz de Montreal (Zip Zap Zoom) and Ballet Hispanico (Mad-moiselle). Organisak has “high expectations” for its impact.

The production comes virtually on the heels of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s version by John Neumeier in 2012. It will be interesting to gauge audience comparisons…hm-m-m.

All performances are at the Byham Theater. The full schedule is: Aspen/Santa Fe Ballet (Oct. 11); Michael Clark Company (Nov. 1); Ronald K Brown/Evidence (Feb. 7); Union Tanguera (Mar. 28); Pontus Lidberg Dance (Apr. 18); Scottish Ballet Presents A Streetcar Named Desire (May 19).  Click on Trust.

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