On Stage: Alexandra

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Dance is an art form that, more than any other, exists in the moment. So there will be changes, some minute and some large, from day to day. But let’s consider the work-in-progress. This has always existed — Twyla Tharp brought a work-in-progress, with live video cam, to the Pittsburgh Dance Council at Heinz Hall.

Even now we see works prior to their formal debut in the Big Apple, much like the previews of a Broadway musical. It has become prevalent at the local level as well within the past few years. Alexandra Bodnarchuk’s CONNOTATIONS: unknown is a case in point.

We first saw part of the piece at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s newMoves Festival last year. But that was then and this is now. The work at KST was lopsided and disjointed. What emerged at PearlArts was a classic case of the ugly duckling that was transformed into a swan.

The piece was based on Alexandra’s theatrical experience at Bricolage Production’s STRATA in 2012. She stayed in a dimly lit room, the last girl at the prom, meeting people one by one, absorbing and interacting with the emotions they allowed themselves to present. Certainly that series of brief relationships was the basis for CONNOTATIONS.

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But you didn’t have to know the history to discern the humanity of her piece and appreciate it for its own identity, especially given the strong team that Bodnarchuk had assembled, including Steve Hudock’s evocative soundscape and the striking costuming, a gray/neutral palette with red accents.

Cut into three sections, it approached the material from three differing perspectives. The first with four women in red, might have been the facets of Bodnarchuk herself. The second, a blindfolded duet with Zek Stewart, was an intense compilation of those multiple meetings in a nameless room, ranging from tentative touching to violence. Very powerful and the strongest segment of the piece.

In the final section, she responded to what had gone before, perhaps trying to make sense of it and learn from it, wrapping up the whole experience, but not too neatly.

We appreciated that.

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