Whenever the Kelly Strayhorn Theater chooses to produce its newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival, it has a profound effect on Pittsburgh dance. This time was no exception. Tune in to newMoves via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
It was our second confrontation with Pittsburgh Dance Council snow. Not the kind you shovel, but the kind you watch in wonder. The first came during the autumn of 2008, when the Inbal Pinto, ironically from Israel, introduced us to Shaker, a piece inspired by a snow globe where dancers slid on Styrofoam beads. This past April brought Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg (perhaps more appropriate given his history with snow) and his own Snow, which used white socks and flooring to give that slippery impression. They were very different and so much more than snow, though.
More than any of her other Projects for the Pillow, Pearlann Porter convincingly is saying “Welcome to my world” with her latest, now on view at The Space Upstairs.
She has always changed the relationship of The Space, converting it to the subject at hand. But this “Time” you may get a healthier glimpse into the workings of her mind.
I arrived at 8 p.m. on a Wednesday, perfectly midway through the installation’s 16-day run.
Yes, installation. That is what the director, dancer and artist is calling it. I found her hard at work drawing parallel lines on a large piece of paper with a crayon.
The rest of the rectangular papers lined the black chalk wall. Pearlann had calculated how long it would take her to work through a full box of 64 crayons and still finish on April 30. (It looks like she’ll save white for last.)
Most of the installation lay along the fringes of her own great, Great Room atop Construction Junction..
There were some nifty large multiple image photos by Aaron Jackendoff in keeping with the dance concept. Some collectibles were placed in still life arrangements — a couple of dusty manual typewriters, keys askew, a slide projector (one of Pearlann’s favorite anti-technology gadgets.)
A large sign saying “Pittsburg.”
You could see some former productions on old T.V.s (like Beth Ratas strikingly striped in Fripp Out/The Book).
I particularly loved the juxtaposition of Eighty Hours — a large black canvas, partially covered with grains of white rice. It was next to One Second, with one grain of rice.
Pearlann wore down a pencil in One Hour and Forty-four Minutes (the same time Apple earns $14,246,575 and there are 64 gun deaths in the U.S.).
There are more facts, some fun, some not.
By now you get the idea — time in so many configurations. Everyone can add to the mix during some integrated activities.
But take time to peruse the installations of this artistic hoarder (and aren’t we glad?). Yes, she saved the pile of clocks, so artfully arranged among the trunks that they once occupied.
As I see it, Pearlann has also become the latest variation on modern art master master Jackson Pollock (think splatter paintings). Why? Because movement, mostly repetitive, is a major part of her art work, which dominates The Space.
But there is more. Can we say obsessive?
Not so much with Accumulation of Nows, performed by mover Taylor Knight and music-maker Anna Thompson. When I saw it, there were 8 Taylors, one live and the rest recorded. They all entered through a door and used a chair and the floor. Fascinating — as he were dancing with shadows of his former self — well-planned and mesmerizing.
Pearlann had one more interation, as performer in Un/Re. A duet where she held a large tree branch and Bekah Kuczma was wrapped in a diaphanous cocoa of tulle, the two performers created a sweet tension as they gradually switched places…in a way.
Although there was no need for it, the evening concluded with improvisation as suggested by the audience. “Half way done.” “Slack.” “Godzilla.”
And, as Pearlann put it, we’re “all out of time.”
MARIA. Maria Caruso closed one door — performing with her company, Bodiography, here in Pittsburgh at the Byham Theater — and opened another, a solo career that will take her far afield. But before we get to that, she choreographed (and will continue in the future) a duet, Light By Love, quite lovely, yet controlled for Misa Pascarella and Dan Savage, with Theo Teris at the piano (a nice touch) and then moving on to Follow the Light, a ballet set to Cold Play, which showed how she has developed her rock roots with a larger sense of phrasing. Her solo, My Journey, relied on her own rock solid performing style. The piece was obviously heartfelt, detailed and much of it quite literal as Maria went through her life, following her own ups and downs through a scrapbook of memories, especially significant for those of us who have been there from the start.
JASMINE. Jasmine Hearn’s inviting face tops an always curious body. But it also harbors a probing intellect that comes up with such intriguing concepts. Her latest at PearlArts Studio was a “response” (her favorite word lately) to the Bill T. Jones/Keith Haring collaboration called Long Distance at New York’s The Kitchen in 1982. There Bill created a dance using the sound of Keith’s brushstrokes as he painted on the wall behind them. Jasmine paired with Chicago artist Ayanah Moore on this occasion for what they titled FLOW. Judging from a brief clip on YouTube, the women were more connected, both with each other and involving the audience. Ayanah’s large brown paper swatch had microphones attached to the perimeter so that her brushstrokes resonated more fully. Jasmine, in the meantime, worked the room — she has a real sense of personal theater, tempered with a naturalness that is always engaging. Beginning in a kneeling position, her back to most of the audience, she undulated, rising and arching her back to expose her breasts. Her sexuality was a part of it all — covered, uncovered, bared and recovered. But it was only a part of the response, where the movement could curl up and pop open, mingle with the audience around her, engaged in shadowing and playful repartee with Ayanah and jiggle with ecstasy. There were a few snatches of whispered songs, too. Oh, and Ayanah gradually uncovered the message: BOTH WANTING BOTH LOVING, written twice in raw, mirrored images. ALSO: Check out Jasmine’s gritty/elegant stop/start, always fascinating video with Paul at jasmine+Paul, also available for subscription:
ALEXANDRA. Lastly, Alexandra Bodnarchuk just sent notice that her cross-disciplinary dance project (also with video) has been accepted for the 2015 Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. It’s called Dance From the Inside Out, but hey, let Alexandra tell you about it in her message: click on DFIO.
Attack Theater is in the midst of a 20th anniversary season and it’s time for a reunion. Read about it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But also read what their dancers have to say, always a mark of a top-notch company —
Dane Toney: This is my 7th season with Attack Theatre and it has been extremely rewarding and fulfilling. Attack Theatre is about collaboration and there is a tremendous amount of respect that flows between artist, performer, administration, audience and community. Each day is different and continues to present new challenges. Those challenges range from transforming an abandoned building into a performance space full of life and energy to creating and then implementing a lesson plan centered on movement about the solar system for a 3rd grade class. There is always something new to learn or discover and explore.
1. Working with Attack Theatre is like drinking from a fire hydrant: the constant creative, physical and emotional challenges involved in keeping up with the rehearsing/performing/teaching/inventing is drenching, mostly in a very good way.
2. Everyday we come to work, the job is different.
3. As a dancer, I’d expect my body to matter to my job. As an Attack Theatre dancer, my mind also really, really matters to my job. That’s cool.
4. I like being asked (by children after an in-school performance): ‘How do you do all them tricks?’
5. I love performing to live music.
Kaitlin Dann: The reason why I keep coming back to Attack Theatre is because the company truly is anything but stationary. Over the past few years, I have had the privilege to continue evolving as a teaching artist, performer, and collaborator. We build our shows from the ground up giving us accountability in all aspects, from the construction of a stage to the final bow. The cherry on top is simply the astounding way Attack Theatre makes sure to take care of its dancers and administrative staff with salaried contracts and health benefits. I’d be hard pressed for find a more fulfilling company to work for.
Ronald K. Brown returned to Pittsburgh for what was his most cohesive performance yet, one that gave African traditions a contemporary accent. He also gave his program a Pittsburgh accent, inviting a group of local dancers to rehearse and participate, much to their and the audience’s delight. Read about it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
How can you look back when you’re always looking forward? Maybe by linking the two in a fresh new way, which is exactly what Pearlann Porter did to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the The Pillow Project.
She led off the evening with improvisational performances, her current mode of dance transportation. Taylor Knight was in a zone of his own as resident DJ.
There was a detailed time line along the big wall, ladled with the presentational flair that Pearlann exudes, from her first review of Z-zzz to, well, The Tenth.
An overflow crowd turned out to see the impact of Pearlann’s decision to remain in Pittsburgh. It was readily apparent.
She chose five fragments to give us a hint of the past. There was a tasty trio to start. Anna Thompson so fierce in 2084. Breanna Albright hugging the shadows in a solo from Til the Bitter Fucking End and that memorable table sequence from Striped, so sweaty raw with Alex Bright and Weylin Gomez.
We saw from just that trio how her dancers have evolved their bodies to flow like lava with veins of hyper-heated intensity.
Later came a duet from Concept Album, with Kaylin Horgan digging so deep, with Rebekah Kuczma hovering over her. (Has it been ten years since we first saw her in The Pillow Project…and she’s only 24?)
The fifth piece was a part of Paper Memories with Taylor recreating the role of the writer, something that came to define him, and Anna as his inspiration.
We saw these pieces in a new way, though. The dancers had taken Pearlann’s current jazz style and layered it over the fixed choreography, providing a connecting link between Year One and The Tenth Year…and The Future.
Thank you, Pearlann.