Dance Beat: New Security Regulations

October 1, 2018

FYI Arts Lovers: The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will be instituting new security measures in the near future. Below are the details from the Trust:

 After a thorough benchmarking and vetting process against numerous performing arts venues across the country, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is launching enhanced guest entry practices for the Byham Theater, the August Wilson Center, and Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. These practices are designed with the convenience of our guests in mind to ensure a safe environment in which outstanding performances in the arts can be enjoyed by all.

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust always seeks to meet national best practices regarding the safety of our guests. These new protection measures will now require persons entering or reentering our largest performing arts venues to be screened by our onsite security personnel. Our staff will utilize equipment and practices similar to those in place at airports, concerts or sporting events. The new screening process will include a walk through metal detectors and bag inspections. Not only are more and more performing arts venues switching to similar practices, but venue third-party users and renters are also now requiring theater operators to implement these new security measures to better protect their audiences.

These practices will begin to roll out separately at each theater:

  • Byham Theater: October 13th, 2018 during Deborah Colker Dance: Cão sem Plumas
  • August Wilson Center: October 20th, 2018 during Soul Sessions Faith Evans
  • Benedum Center for the Performing Arts: November 16th, 2018 during Billy Gardell

“We’re always excited about providing amazing experiences and performances in the arts, while at the same time, increasing our ability to reassure our guests they are well protected while with us,” Kevin C. Wilkes, Chief Security Officer of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust stated. “We’ve made sure our new systems utilize the most current and effective screening technology without interfering with the arts experience.”

While these new procedures were designed with audience convenience in mind, it is highly recommended that guests arrive to these venues up to 45 minutes earlier than they have in the past, to ensure a timely entry into the venue for the start of the performance. To entice guests to take advantage of this early entry into the theater, the affected venues will offer discounted drinks and concessions during a “Happy Half Hour” prior to each show.


On Stage: Kyle Comes Home

November 12, 2017

It was a real pleasure to see the magnificent Kyle Abraham and his dancers at the August Wilson Center, which was reviewed at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. But I have to underscore my last statement, that Pittsburgh should support him now, not years from now. He is a real arts ambassador for Pittsburgh, which has inspired much of his personal style and content. Perhaps the Pittsburgh dance community can join forces, filtered through the Heinz or Pittsburgh Foundation. Pittsburgh Dance Council, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, August Wilson Center, Point Park University, Kelly Strayhorn Theater can all offer performance, choreographic and grant opportunities, plus workshops and creative residencies. It’s a great collective opportunity for Pittsburgh, given our history with Martha Graham, Paul Taylor and August Wilson.

On Stage: A Millennial Response to “Dora” and World War II

November 29, 2016



This critique was written by Annette Elphinstone, a senior dance major at Point Park University from Freedom, Pennsylvania. It was given as an assignment in the newly-created course, “Dance Aesthetics and Criticism” 

We have all read and discussed the tragic and forever changing event we call World War II. When brought up in history class, we do not realize the anguish and complexity of the war through the ink that describes the happenings of the past. Even through film, we cannot begin to understand how the humanity of each individual was stripped away each moment during the war. However, when this event is explained to you in person through physical and oral representation and conversation, the observers feel an impact and connection to the events that occurred decades ago. It is through human to human connection that people can begin to empathize all of the experiences the survivors and victims have endured. By watching Bill T. Jone’s “Analogy/Dora: Tramontane,” I better understand the complexities of human beings and the influences of war.

Starting off, I noticed that the show itself was visually minimal. When initially thinking about historical themed performances, I tend to believe that all of the details – costumes, sets, décor, etc. – have to be time appropriate. Otherwise, the depiction of the happenings could be incorrect. However, due to the simplicity of the set, costumes, and even makeup, observers were able to create the scene for themselves and live in the moment being described as they heard it to be. Another interesting factor is that the characters of the overall story switched between performers. On one hand, it was confusing as to who was playing who in each section. On another, it allowed for observers to understand that the experiences Dora (a survivor of WW II and the central voice of the show’s concept ) could have, and most likely did, happen to other people. While the visual display of the show was at times confusing or too modern for the subject, the simplicity and fluidity of the performance invited creativity and human connection on the historical events orated by Dora.

Another aspect I want to focus on is the structure of the performance. While it focused on a historical plot, the sections did not follow sequentially to the time period. It is interesting that the artistic choice was made to seem like each new memory was discovered in conversation. In fact, the order of events was probably in the same order as spoken by Dora with her one-on-one with Jones. In following this choice, the audience became like Jones and saw how the questions that were asked stirred up specific memories and experiences. Also, for how dark the theme of the concept was, I highly enjoyed and appreciated the lighter moments. In dark times, humans tend to create lighter situations to remember to celebrate life as they can and to strive to find that life again after the darkness ends. With the shifting dynamics of mood from serious to playful to tragic to loving, the conversation orated was highly human and kept interest.

Overall, “Analogy/Dora: Tramontane” was an impactful representation of one person’s experience during a time of suppression and desolation. While there may have been many struggles and much of humanity lost, such stories provide listeners the courage to strive for a better and more loving future. With the events happening today, this work greatly encourages the audience to find that positivity and remember to not allow the mistakes of the past to circle about again. It is works like this that educate the general public and aim to better humanity. Hopefully one day text books are replaced by art like “Analogy/Dora: Tramontane” so our community can begin to better understand that history is more than just the past – it is a part of the now.

05_analogy_dora_photobypaulbgoode 16_analogy_dora_photobypaulbgoode 15_analogy_dora_photobypaulbgoode 10_analogy_dora_photobypaulbgoode 01_analogy_dora_photobypaulbgoode

On Stage: “Uncommon” Afterthoughts

March 1, 2012

It is a “Grand Experiment,” this partnership between Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and August Wilson Center, bringing that most aristocratic of European art forms to a facility dedicated to African-American history.

So far, so good it seems.

PBT has held several social and educational events over the last year, but this was the first performance series. And PBT was the first local organization to stage multiple performances over a two-week period, something it has wanted to do for a long time, but could not afford in a larger house.

An extended run gives the dancers invaluable stage time and helps them to achieve a new comfort level. It allows for a new perspective as the dancers  explore their roles at a deeper level.

So PBT looked like a whole new company the second week, although it has to be noted that the it possesses a strong quartet of principals who were fearless right from opening night — Nurlan Abougaliev, Christopher Budzynski, Julia Erickson and Alexandra Kochis, who had an ethereal Giselle moment when she bourreed onto the stage in Mark Morris’ Maelstrom.

Photos by Rich Sofranko

Soloist Luca Sbrizzi and corps member Danielle Downey were perhaps the biggest surprises. Always such clean, elegant dancers, they both found an expressive groove. And it was nice to delve further into the corps, where the women took advantage of the numerous dance opportunities: petite Caitlin Peabody and Gabrielle Thurlow looking larger-than-life, the winning stage personality of Kaori Yanagida, the unerring musicality of Amanda Cochrane.

You had to give the men credit throughout, uncorking some great pirouette and jump combinations and allowing the women to preen in the complex, off-center partnering of Chromatic. Nicholas Coppula, Yoshiaki Nakano and Joseph Parr seemed to be extending their lines with more fluidity and newcomer Cooper Verona moved exceptionally well.

Certainly Mr. Rhoden is a real asset to the company. He encourages the dancers, who can often appear to be focusing on control on the stage, to move at full tilt in his works. It is perhaps the secret of his success with Pittsburgh audiences over the years — that physicality that is so appealing here. And Morris repetiteur Tina Fehlandt staged Maelstrom with a real weight and quality to the dance.

The challenge will be to take the attitude and interpretation from the second week and move it up the ladder, speed up the creative process. And move that sense of fearlessness all the way down the ladder, giving PBT a more cohesive, exciting look right out of the starting gate, whether that be opening night at the Benedum Center or on tour in New York City.

On Stage: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre in the Four B’s

February 8, 2012

Photo by Rich Sofranko

Yes, I know it’s the three B’s — Bach, Beethoven and Brahms — but you have to add ballet in this instance, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s contemporary program, Uncommon. It continues through Sunday at the August Wilson Center (see Listings for more information) and is definitely worth the trip. Read my review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Photo by Rich Sofranko

Dance Beat: PBT, Rockettes and River City Update

January 12, 2012

Photo by Rich Sofranko Taking a Break? Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is heading down to Hilton Head Island January 14 and 15 thanks to former board member Fred Beard and his wife, Dottie. But that doesn’t just mean two days of fun in the sun for 18 of the company members. Fred and Dottie are underwriting a pair of performances at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, with a program featuring Raymonda Variations, Sylvia Pas de Deux and Dwight Rhoden’s Step Touch and Ave Maria, That might mean a healthy glow for PBT’s upcoming Uncommon at the August Wilson Center in February.

Kickin’ It. Do you have big dance dreams? Well, they don’t get much bigger than Radio City Music Hall and the world-famous Rockettes. So if you hanker for precision and eye-high kicks, dance your way over to the Benedum Center on Sunday at 1 p.m. where they are holding auditions for the Rockettes Summer Intensive, scheduled for June 23-August 3 at the afore-mentioned Radio City in New York. “The Rockettes Summer Intensive is a pivotal program for serious dancers who want to gain the training and technique of the Rockettes precision dance style,” said Eileen Grand, Rockettes Director and Choreographer. “Our dance education programs are invaluable for dancers and one of the best training tools for these talented Rockette hopefuls who strive to become part of the legendary dance company. For more information and other cities, visit

New York Update. It looks like River City Arts Management had a successful series of showcases at the APAP conference in the Big Apple, with groups like August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble. Linda Reznik posted an SRO on her Facebook page.

Face-ing It. If you want to get notified of new articles posted on CrossCurrents, just friend me (Jane Vranish) on Facebook.

Off Stage: GIMP — Part One (FISA)

October 12, 2011

“DISABILITY IS: natural, beautiful, original, artistic, amazing, normal, individual, sexy, vibrant, confrontational, mainstream, paradoxical…”

So reads the announcement of a partnership between FISA Foundation and The GIMP Project. It was a great solution to a ticklish, but pleasant problem — how to honor FISA’s century of service to Southwestern Pennsylvania, a century of improving the lives of women, girls and people with disabilities.

As executive director Kristy Trautman puts it, “How do you help the community change and adapt and really see people who have disabilities not as victims or deserving of pity, but just as a little different? We wanted something that would be a showcase of some of those core values.”

While scouring the Internet, she and her staff came upon GIMP, created by former Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company dancer Heidi Latsky. The website “absolutely captivated” them. “It was exactly what we are trying to do,” explains Kristy. “Heidi and her dancers are evocative, perhaps a little edgy, even confrontational about living with disabilities.“

But within minutes of watching the video, you start to forget about the fact that these people have disabilities,” she observes. “It’s much more about their abilities, power, emotion. By the end, it’s all about the artistry and the ability to transport people through art, from a place of feeling a little uncomfortable into just being part of something and moved by something. That’s a lot of what we hoped to do.”

And for Kristy, that’s what inclusion is all about. “It’s about how we come together as a community, recognizing that everybody’s different somehow, but that what is underneath the difference is where all the good stuff is. That’s where our strengths are. That’s where the power is. That’s where the connection is.”

With the rapt attention of the August Wilson Center and Pittsburgh Dance Council, FISA set about connecting this performance to everyone. FISA had worked with Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council for the past several years on inclusion in arts and cultural organizations.

She recognizes that many smaller arts organizations have good intentions, but limited resources. So with FISA support, GPAC sponsored a series of lectures and discussions on accessibility, inclusion and accommodation “in a way that is practical, meaningful and infinitely implementable, as opposed to giant and scary.”

With AWC and PDC completely on board, this performance will offer a full range of arts accessibility — seat removal for wheelchairs, sign language interpretation, assisted listening headsets, audio described performance for the blind through headsets (which requires a describer who specializes in dance) and read-time captioning for those not fluent in sign language. And all proceeds from GIMP will go to the Dee Delaney Arts Accessibility Fund (named for FISA’s first executive director).

“GIMP is an amazing thing in itself, but there is so much that is wrapped around it that is really exciting to us, too,” says Kristy, noting that there were additional master classes and talks in the area.

She’s also looking forward to the post-performance talk, where “Heidi says that everybody stays just to talk about this. What does it mean? What was it like? How did it happen?”

“Art is uniquely powerful in letting us look — and one of the things Heidi does is give us permission to look,” Kristy emphasizes. “Parents often give a contradictory message to their children: Don’t look. Don’t stare. I think that the way art is captivating and transporting is that it opens up different possibilities.”

See Listings for more information.

Watch for GIMP: Part Two with Heidi Latsky

Off Stage: Meeting Sidra’s Dance Thru Martha’s Lens

September 15, 2011

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I watched Sidra Bell rehearse the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble on its home turf. But then again, maybe I didn’t, because photographer ©Martha Rial always shows me something that I missed. Enjoy…

On Stage: Africa — Wave of the Future

July 21, 2011

The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater recently presented Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project, which I reviewed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The company’s thick personal ties to Africa reminded me of August Wilson Center’s “first” First Voice a few years ago at the New Hazlett Theater, which had a rich dance substance from Zimbabwe’s Nora Chipaumire, Washington D.C.‘s Step Afrika and Pittsburgh’s Kyle Abraham, Staycee Pearl and (then) Greer Reed. It also presented “Movement (R)evolution,” an acclaimed documentary heralding contemporary dance in Africa. Here are some Youtube clips of that film.

On Stage: Brown on Black

March 17, 2011

I used to think that the old Route 22, which connected Pittsburgh with parts of Pennsylvania mostly occupied by farms and Penn State, was interminably clogged. Then the powers-that-be multiplied the lanes and repaved it. New strip malls and businesses grew up around it…a good thing, as Martha says. But alas, once again it’s clogged and slow as the snow melt this past winter. But I was on my way, set to see Ronald K. Brown/Evidence at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for its appearance on the Lively Arts series.

The program included “One Shot,” a piece inspired by legendary Pittsburgh photographer Teeny Harris that had its premiere at the Byham Theater in 2009.  I wanted to see how the work had changed, if any. And it was accompanied on the program by a more recent work,  “Two-Year Old Gentleman,”  inspired by Brown’s nephew.

I thought that it was not only a great Black History Month program, but would stand on its own any time of the year. Besides it would be my first trip to Indiana in a very long time.

Well,  there were more changes than I bargained for as I neared Indiana. It turned out that Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort and Conference Center, where I planned to have dinner, was hidden a giant Wal-Mart in Blairsville and I missed it. All of a sudden there was the Homer City power plant, a behemoth dominating the landscape — so much so that for a second you think you’re at Three Mile Island. Except there were additional slim stacks spewing smoke into the evening air like giant cigarettes.

I wondered about that as I sipped my water at the combination KFC/Pizza Hut, after which I drove onto the campus, mostly new construction (or as I could see in the waning light), and found the parking garage for Fisher Auditorium. But which building? It took five students to get me to the right one. Once there I zigzagged from a contemporary lobby into the handsome Fisher, which had a quasi-Art Deco combined with wood paneling.

I was not the only one with a note pad — there were obviously academic assignments at work here and Ronald K. Brown/Evidence provided a good lesson.

Ronald appeared to be on a personal path with these two works, seemingly to define his own black history. “Two-Year Old Gentleman” had Jamie Latson in the title role, a natural and enjoyable performer who appeared close to that age. He was surrounded by five men, perhaps symbolizing relatives, mentors and ancestors in his life. The piece focused mainly on solo work for these men who seemed so comfortable in their own skin and brought out a sense of humanity and responsibility. But there was also an undeniable sense of community as they prayed, talked all at once, formed a circle. And when they left the stage, it was with a sense of purpose.

“One Shot” was a quietly undulating segment of the full-length work that premiered in Pittsburgh. Many of Teenie’s photos remained and were a compelling reminder of the rich and vibrant life in the Hill District of days gone by. Gone were the dance segments dedicated to the African diaspora and Lena Horne. What remained was the purity of the dance, so meditative and almost improvisatory.

It was also heartfelt, something that was underscored when the dancers periodically touched their chests. They also would occasionally stand still, reflecting as the screen showed a funeral with three tiny white caskets.

Most of all, “One Shot” recalled a past so brilliantly documented by Teenie and gave it a breath of life. It was worth the trip.

%d bloggers like this: