We all know that women wear many faces while they perform many things — nurture children, run a home, hold down a job and create new and wonderful things. But it’s great to see younger women realizing this, as in Elisa-Marie Alaio’s feminist-inspired Eff.Ul.Gents. Read about it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Sometimes big ideas come in small packages.
Such was the case with fireWALL’s latest dance offering, Admission, at the postage stamp-sized off the WALL Theater in Carnegie.
It was the fourth piece choreographed by 23-year old Point Park University graduate Elisa-Marie Alaio and her works have created a steep learning curve over the course of her first season. Admission was the apex of that growth.
Right now, whether by design or necessity, Admission was the second all-female work.
It was driven by a corporate glass ceiling concept — very smart. Instead of glass, though, there was a crosshatch of bungee cords attached at the midpoint of the tiny off the WALL theater and also at the foot of the audience risers.
Eight women started at the back, cast in silhouette behind panels. They were seated on stools, moving from one pose to another. Some were bunheads, but these were no ballerinas.
Hands shook. Anxiety? Maybe, but then there was a “power” fist. Something else was afoot.
When the women finally emerged — the section went on for a while — we got the answer to the cables.
Made of the thick kind used to jump off bridges, they produced their own soundscape in addition to Ryan McMasters’ equally tensile accompaniment, full of voices whispering, an underlying beat, water and opera.
It was the stress of the workplace. The release. The manipulation. The constraints of society. And it all became faster, more frustrating, even dangerous in this most compelling of the sections.
The dancers began to unhook the cables. Success, perhaps?
They took off their corporate-driven black jackets to reveal loose-fitting white blouses. Then the dance became more prop-driven — I’m not sure why — with the use of six white chairs.
It turned out that the choreography doled out a sense of equal opportunity among the women. But would there be a winner at the end?
There were group-supported lifts. They linked arms. They huddled like a corporate sisterhood. But the finale turned out to be a jazz group number, more entertainment than substance. So there was no apparent winner, except Alaio and her dancers, who could take pride in their growth.
It was a concept I haven’t come across before, to present an original play alternating with a dance program, both differing visions of the same subject matter. But off the Wall productions, a postage stamp of a company in Carnegie with big visions, did just that.
Intrigued as I was, I was only able to make my way, finally, at the end of run. And why shouldn’t I be interested? Both centered around a strong-willed female writer and the creative process. Needless to say, I was taken in by it all.
OR, came first. Written by Liz Duffy Adams, it was a play built on contrasts, whirling around the life and thoughts of English writer and playwright Aphra Behn, played by Erika Cuenca. She was backed by a wall of doors, which allowed for a fast-paced and quick-witted exchanges. There were just three actors, but Robin Abramson playing famed actress Nell Gwynne and others and Ethan Hova switching between King Charles II and William Scott, it seemed like more. Kudos to director John Shepard, who kept things moving seamlessly and to a talented veteran cast.
Off the Wall’s dance wing, fireWALL dance theater, alternated performances with the theater work, but with a different angle on that theme. Elisa-Marie Alaio and Cuenca (also assistant artistic director of off the WALL) joined together to construct a plot that concentrated more on the creative process of the writer. Called Uproar, the trappings bore a more than a passing resemblance (and rhyming rhythm) to OR, but the characters, danced by four dancers in multiple roles as well, were figments of Alaio’s imagination.
There was a significant improvement over fireWALL’s first performance, On the Rox, last spring. Uproar had more depth to the choreography, which was still athletic, but with more sophisticated phrasing. All in all, that growth whets the appetite for what’s ahead as the company matures.