Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Gala. It’s called En Pointe, one of Pittsburgh’s top parties. This year’s theme at the Westin Hotel was West Side Story Suite, a salute to the upcoming Jerome Robbins triple bill later in the season. Gala goers saw excerpts from the real West Side Story Suite that will anchor the program, Scherzo and Somewhere. Before that, PBT principals offered duets, first Alexandra Kochis and Luca Sbrizzi in another Robbins’ piece, the lovely In the Night. (By the way, PBT has announced the third ballet on the May program, Fancy Free, about three soldiers on leave in New York that later became a hit Broadway musical and a movie starring Gene Kelly.) Swan Lake was the other inspiration, featuring flowing lines from Hannah Carter and Alejandro Diaz in the White Swan Pas de Deux and the bravura elements of the Black Swan Pas de Deux from Amanda Cochrane and Yoshiaki Nakano.
Attack-ing Braddock. Attack Theater’s Some Assembly Required has been a true delight to watch over more than ten years. The company provides an interactive learning experience for new audiences and true insight into the improvisatory process for the many fans who follow them. After reviewing a performance at Contemporary Craft, I drove to Braddock, a historic steel mill city showing signs of regrowth along its vital Main Street, to see the company at the gallery, right next to the ‘s restaurant, with a view of the steel mill at work. The subject here was the material and cultural legacy depicted by artist Liz Ensz, most dynamically in sculpture that resembled strip mining. By the way, that was the last time we’ll see company member Anthony Williams for a while. He’s off to pursue his own projects in Europe, but will eventually swing back to the ‘Burgh.
Benedum Center. The venerable performing arts facility celebrated its 30th anniversary this fall, an achievement that was an important marker of the rise in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District out of the ashes of a red light district. During that time, it has played host to thousands of people, enhancing their lives with top-notch programming, and providing a venue to an ever-adventurous group of local performing arts organizations. It was a group of performances that signaled its arrival and I was there for the world-renowned Pilobolus and a world premiere of Zoology with a score by Pittsburgh composer David Stock. Pittsburgh showed its support of dance here, a community that has continued to grow and prosper and something that I have been privileged to watch along the way. It is part of a quartet of theaters, three of them renovations (Heinz Hall and Byham Theater in addition, plus the contemporary Public Theater) that I think are the best in America. Thanks to the Cultural Trust!