Dance Beat: PBT, CLO Dance Seasons Plus, Jacob’s Pillow

March 30, 2015


PBT. As it nears the finish of its 45th season, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre seems to be casting its sights on the 50th. For the first time in recent memory it is presenting two mixed repertory nights. The first, with George Balanchine’s Western Symphony, William Forsythe’s in the middle somewhat elevated and Jiri Kylian’s Sinfonietta, opens the season (Benedum Center, Oct. 23-25) and has the potential to be the company’s best program…ever. There is no doubt that this is a great line-up. But more importantly, it has balance, perhaps beginning with the sweeping Sinfonietta, then with the meaty contemporary angles of the Forsythe and finishing with Balanchine’s version of the wild, wild West. The other (Byham Theater, Mar. 10-13) features what appears to be a popular and fairly recent (BalletMet premiere 2010) ballet, noted Canadian choreographer James Kudelka’s Man in Black, inspired by country legend Johnny Cash. It will be accompanied by another local premiere, Michael Smuin’s 1969 pas de deux, The Eternal Idol, and a return of the iconic Jardin aux Lilas (Lilac Garden) by Antony Tudor. The company will bring back Jorden Morris’ version of Peter Pan (Benedum, Feb. 12-14) and, of course, the annual Nutcracker (Benedum, Dec. 4-27). The season will then conclude with the company premiere of Le Corsaire (Benedum, Apr. 15-17), one of those epic ballet warhorses about a pirate who seeks to liberate the woman he loves from kidnappers. The orchestra will accompany the opening program and Le Corsaire. For more information, click on PBT.

CLO. Not falling into the season category (but it will in the future) is the exciting news about the new production of An American in Paris, choreographed by balletic superstar choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, who is also making his directorial debut. It got rave reviews in Paris for this reimagining of the classic Gene Kelly film and set to open on Broadway . The cast is to-die-for, led by New York City Ballet principal dancer Robert Fairchilds  and The Royal Ballet’s Leanne Cope, certain to be a dead ringer for Leslie Caron onstage. Check it out at American.

PITTSBURGH ON BROADWAY. Dance aficionados will want to catch Mathilda the Musical, with choreography and movement by Peter Darling, whose other credits include Billie Elliot: The Musical. The Sam Mende/Rob Marshall version of Cabaret returns to Pittsburgh via the 2015-16 Broadway across America season direct from Broadway and The Wizard of Oz gets a bit of a facelift from Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber with some new songs (choreographer is Brit Arlene Phillips). For those who are musical-ly driven, Beautiful — The Carole King Musical will be of interest plus some familiar favorites like Jersey Boys, The Sound of Music and Blue Man Group. For more information, click on Broadway.

JACOB’S PILLOW. Well, well, well. Pittsburgh beat the Pillow to the punch on a couple of appearances taking place on its 2015 season, including Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host  (the Ira Glass/Monica Bill Barnes collaboration presented by Pittsburgh Dance Council in February), Daniel Ulbricht & Stars of American Ballet (independently presented at the Byham Theater and Cuba’s Malpaso (presented by Kelly Strayhorn Theater with two North American premieres). Of course, Alonzo King LINES Company and Martha Graham Dance Company have touched base here along the way as well. (In a real departure, there will be only one Graham work on the program and a premiere by Mats Ek to celebrate the group’s 90th anniversary.) Keigwin + Company open the season and will include tap sensation Michelle Dorrance and L.A. Project, founded by Benjamin Millepied. Click on Pillow.



On Stage: A Festive Summer

June 4, 2014

Studio Session-072Pittsburgh has its own flurry of dance activity over the summer, which can be accessed at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

But if you are on the road, there is plenty of dance up and down the Eastern seaboard, The Big Three are Jacob’s Pillow, American Dance Festival and Kennedy Center. Click on the names and see a world of dance unfold.

On Stage: A Fitting Finale at The Pillow

August 25, 2013

AWCDE PILLOWAugust Wilson Center Dance Ensemble is no more. Officially.

Greer Reed’s brainchild, which blazed like a comet across the Pittsburgh sky to become one of Dance Magazine’s Top 25 to Watch in 2012, had its last official performance at the venerable Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts on Saturday. (And it looks like there was a reunion going on, with many of the original dancers weighing in…)

But Greer is striking out on her own, renaming the group Reed Dance (probably a mistake on the part of the August Wilson Center) and carrying on. She is currently forming a board and attending to all the nitty gritty details that go along with shouldering your own dance company.

While we wait for those details to emerge (and hoping the remarkably fine repertoire travels with her), Greer sent some photos from AWCDE’s appearance in the Inside/Out portion of the Festival, located on a lovely stage with a forest backdrop.

She messaged, “We are here @ The Pillow and there are no words, just truly humbled.” The Pillow’s Alyssa Mayfield commented on Facebook, “It was great seeing you all perform yesterday!! Stunning job…”


This slideshow requires JavaScript.




Dance Beat: Yoshi, Kyle, Maribel, Thomas, Alan

August 16, 2013

YOSHIAKI NAKANOYOSHI IN BEIJING. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre corps member Yoshiaki Nakano, now starting his fourth year with company, made good use of his summer “vacation.” He went to the Beijing Ballet Competition and came away with the gold medal, worth $10,000 and the Morningstar Foundation Special Award, worth $2,000.

KYLE IN NEW YORK. Kyle Abraham continues to make the news. This one is a New York Times article on the Restless Creature project with noted ballerina Wendy Whelan. Click on Times. But we get to see it anyhow March 22 at the Byham Theater. Talk about bated breath…

MARIBEL IN MIAMI. Former Maribel ModronoPittsburgh Ballet Theatre principal Maribel Modrono is part of the educational restructuring at Miami City Ballet under new artistic director Lourdes Lopez. Not only will they benefit from her teaching, but her trademark ebullient personality will bring out the students’ best. Click on Miami.

THOMAS IN VEGAS. The Thomas Studio of Performing Arts was named the Peoples’ Choice Award winner for the Federation of Dance Competitions in Las Vegas. The company were also crowned the National Champion, with 15 overall high score awards. Congratulations!

ALAN FROM DALLAS. Okay, this is fudging things a little. But Attack Theatre’s Michele de la Reza, primo advocate for the arts in Pittsburgh, stopped in at the Harp and Fiddle in the Strip District. She struck up a conversation with businessman Alan from Dallas. He asked about the nightlife in Pittsburgh and she mentioned Texture Contemporary Ballet. Alan showed up…and stayed for the entire performance. Way to go, Texture! And Michele!

Dance Beat: Jacob’s Pillow, PPU, PBT

May 16, 2013

TAP-ETTE? I’m still surprised as I write this, that Michelle Dorrance received the 2013 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award (the same one awarded to Pittsburgher Kyle Abraham last year), which carries a cash award of $25,000. In a dance form dominated by men, she evidently taps like a butterfly while her rhythms sting like a bee. Check it out on Youtube, by herself and with her company, Dorrance Dance/New York. Love it.

PPU LINKS. Point Park Connections closed the season for the university’s dance department this year. Only in its second year, the program showcased some of the adjunct faculty, which, when combined with last year’s group, seems to be a considerable list. Besides being an opportunity for young choreographers, it gives the students a chance to participate in original works by professionals who included Sarah Everhart, Kellie Hodges, Daniel Karasik, Mariah McLeod, Jill Randolph-Lazzini and Maria Vignone Slutiak.

Photo: Rich Sofranko

Photo: Rich Sofranko

SHARING. Last year Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre broke audience boundaries at the annual Nutcracker with a program designed to enable the blind to “see” the annual holiday favorite. On Dec. 27, 2013 at the Benedum Center, there will be an autism-friendly performance. The entire theater will be reserved for families with individuals on the autism spectrum. The company will create a fully supportive environment, including designated quiet areas and activity stations in the lobby, adjustments to potentially startling light, sound and special effects, an illustrated guide and opportunities for the families to familiarize themselves with the production in advance of the performance. The house lights will remain dimly lit and audience members will be able to come and go as they please. “This is a performance where families can come as they are and be who they are,” said PBT Educational Director Alyssa Herzog Melby, who heads Accessibility Initiatives at PBT. “Whether they are looking for a new artistic experience, bonding time with their family or simply an escape into a magical world, we can offer all of that through this performance. We hope that we can become a model for other ballet companies across the country to open their doors to people on the autism spectrum, sharing the beauty of what we do with all people in our community.” By the way, there will be a PBT edition of No Menu Monday May 20 at Bar Marco in the Strip District. A guest chef will devise the menu, which will be served by company dancers. Food proceeds will benefit PBT’s autism-friendly Nutcracker.

Dance Beat: Attack, SWAN, Wendy/Kyle, Kennedy, Aygul

March 30, 2013

MECLOCKET ME UNDER THE CLOCK. Yes, the final location for Attack Theater’s The Dirty Ball has been revealed. The Attackers and friends are headed for The Clock Building on the South Side (you can’t miss it). The official address is 2101 Mary Street in the vicinity of the Birmingham Bridge and UPMC Mercy South Side Outpatient Center. Sat., Apr. 27. Tickets: $50 (General Admission, 8-midnight), $125 Velvet Lounge, 8-midnight, Dirty Donor Reception, $250 6:30-midnight).


SWAN. The program at the New Hazlett Theater may have run SWAN-weba tad over three hours, but virtually all of the women presenting premieres in dance, theater, music and art rose to the occasion like the graceful bird that figures into the letters of the title. Actually it means Support Women in the Arts Now, a global initiative that plays out during March, and was curated in Pittsburgh by No Name Productions. There was a particularly strong theater contingent, including Tammy Ryan’s Forgiveness, and no less than four local dance companies took part. It was good to note that the disciplined professionalism and a wonderful growth from Bodiography’s Maria Caruso, Texture Contemporary Ballet’s Kelsey Bartman, August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble’s Kaylin Horgan and Continuum Dance Theater’s Sara Parker.

WENDY/KYLE? Jacob’s Pillow executive and artistic director Ella Baff will moderate a panel discussion as part of a Works & Process at a Guggenheim presentation featuring New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan Apr. 14-15. The program will feature excerpts from Wendy’s new work, Restless Creature, to be premiered at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Aug. 14-18. It will consist of four commissioned duets featuring the ballerina and each of her partners, young choreographers Kyle Abraham, Josh Beamish, Brian Brooks and Alejandro Cerrudo. While they are not disclosing which choreographers will perform and/or talk, it might be worthwhile to see it. The Guggenheim performances are currently sold out, but the presentation will be streamed live on Sunday, Apr. 14 at 3 p.m. EST at Check it out now — there are already some intriguing videos to be seen, including NYCB’s Justin Peck, American Ballet Theatre’s Alexei Ratmansky, the Royal Danish Ballet and How Judges Judge — Youth America Grand Prix.

KENNEDY CENTER. The Washington D.C. institution has released its 2013-14 season, which will include bigwigs NYCB, ABT, the Bolshoi, plus Boston and Pennsylvania ballet companies and, on the contemporary dance side, Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty–New Adventures and noted British choreographer Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance. See the full play list by clicking on Kennedy.

aygulAYGUL? Yes, Aygul Abougalieva was on hand for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Unspoken series at the August Wilson Center to see husband Nurlan Abougaliev perform. What was remarkable was that she had just given birth to their son five days earlier. What was even more remarkable was that she didn’t have an extra ounce on her trim figure and looked just like this photo.

Dance Beat: Michele, Jacob’s Pillow, Kyle, Beth

January 12, 2013

ON THE ROAD. Attack Theatre’s Michele de la Reza has expanded her horizons. Last summer she attended Carolelinda Dickey’s bi-annual dance festival in Tanzmesse, Germany. There she met the Karen Cheung, artistic director of the Guangdong Modern Dance Festival, who invited her to China for a panel and where she was the only American artistic director. It was quite an adventure, walking though tiny streets to the three huge contemporary theaters in the city, finding cough drops in a country where no one speaks English, meeting Willi Tsao (the father of Chinese modern dance) and touching base with a range of Chinese contemporary dance, still in its infancy, but quickly playing catch-up. In between she served on the Fullbright Review Panel, perusing through 40 applications in dance, artistic research and performance at the United Nations in New York.

SUMMER DANCE. Okay, Jacob’s Pillow has released an almost complete (!) 2013 season and Pittsburgh will be represented not once but twice. In addition to his commission for New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan, Kyle Abraham’s company, Abraham.In.Motion, will conclude the season with his latest work, Pavement. (After it hits Pittsburgh, of course.) The season also includes O Vertigo and Martha Graham Company, among others. Click on Jacob’s Pillow for the full dance buffet.

kyle-abrahamAND MORE KYLE. When will it stop? Hopefully never. Kyle Abraham received one of 50 fellowships from United States Artists, a national grant-making and advocacy organization, which bestowed an unrestricted grant of $50,000 on each grantee. That is on top of another: as the 2012-2014 New York Live Arts Resident Commissioned Artist, Kyle will receive nearly $280,000 for the two-year residency and the commission of a new work or works for New York Live Arts. Then bring it on home, Kyle.


MAD DANCE. Rub elbows with the choreographic firebrand of Pittsburgh Beth Corningdance, Beth Corning at MAD MEX Shadyside Tues. Jan. 22, where you can build your own fajita, partake of the dessert table and have a 16 oz. margarita (or soft drink). The $40 donation goes to Beth’s latest project, a one-woman show called WHAT REMAINS, directed by Tony Award-winning director Dominique Serrand June 5-9. Click on Beth for more info.

Dance Beat: Jacob’s Pillow, PBT, PearlArts, Ballet in Cinema

December 15, 2012

Wendy Whelan

PITTSBURGH AT THE PILLOW. Mariclare Hulbert is such a tease. It appears that she’ll be giving us the Jacob’s Pillow 2013 season in bits and pieces. A rejuvenated Dance Theatre of Harlem will make its appearance there in Becket, MA June 19-23 with a program that will include George Balanchine’s Agon, Alvin Ailey’s The Lark Ascending and John Alleyne’s Far But Close By. But my thinking is that folks around here will be more interested in New York City Ballet’s iconic veteran ballerina Wendy Whelan and her Restless Creature program August 14-18. The program will commission young choreographers Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, Alejandro Cerrudo and — surprise! — Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham, each of whom will perform a duet with her. It will be an intoxicating pairing as the ballerina takes on Kyle’s deeply-entrenched hip hop lyricism.

A high-flying Luca Sbrizzi

JUMPING FOR JOY. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is reaching out to embrace diversity in its audiences. Not only did the company introduce braille and large-print programs this year, but it piloted a new Audio Description Program at the Dec. 14 performance. Not only did patrons listen to live verbal descriptions during the presentation, but they attended a pre=performance “Touch Tour” in the Benedum Center South Lounge. There attendees could touch costume samples like the Sugarplum Fairy tutu’s stiff netting and intricate embellishment, a textured tactile map of the the stage set layout and signature poses from the choreography, such as the carriage of the hands in the Snow Scene. Volunteers attended a training workshop at the PBT Studios, led by expert dance describer Ermyn King of the Washington, D.C. area. and covering best practice and dance description fundamentals, including Laban Movement Analysis. PBT Education Director Alyssa Herzog Melby, who audio described the production, said that PBT joins “well-established audio description programs for opera and theater,” but is the first to do so for dance.


PEARLARTS2. Staycee and Herman Pearl offered the second installation of their Salon  Series 101 in preparation for a world premiere in February. Called Phrase for Phrase, it attracted an imaginative and smart group of arts aficionados who opened some new doors for dance discussion. Definitely a contemporary take on the word “salon.” Love it.

MORE LIVE BALLET ON FILM. That’s not an oxymoron. Kudos for The Oaks Theater, which posted the next series of Emerging Pictures’ Ballet in Cinema for 2013, where there are several interesting developments to be seen, including a couple of forays into contemporary ballet. Sergei Polunin, an immensely talented Russian and currently the Bad Boy of Ballet, left The Royal Ballet, but curious fans can see him in an encore presentation of “Sleeping Beauty” in January. They can also see a new production with international superstar Natalia Osipova in La Scala’s “Notre Dame De Paris,” the first contemporary ballet, this one by Roland Petit (1965). Also of note are “La Bayadere,” always worthy when the Russians perform it, and The Royal Ballet’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” a big 2011 hit choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon and the second fresh contemporary production, albeit in a classical mode. Complete schedule: The Royal Ballet’s “Sleeping Beauty” Jan. 13 and 15; Bolshoi Ballet’s “La Bayadere” Feb. 17 and 19; La Scala’s “Notre Dame De Paris” Mar. 10 and 12; The Royal Ballet’s “La Fille Mal Gardee” Apr. 7 and 9; The Royal Ballet’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” May 5 and 7; The Royal Ballet’s “Giselle” May 19 and 21. Mark your calendars!

Dance Beat: Attack, Pillow Project, Glue Project, Jacob’s Pillow

June 26, 2012

LA BELLA DONNA. When things are going so swimmingly, we resist any changes. We’ve seen Attack Theatre grow from a spontaneous and likable dance ensemble to a stable artistic force that somehow still retains those great attitudes. Executive director Donna Goyak played a major hand in guiding this everyone-wants-to-Friend-them group with her terrific sense of wordplay and an acute business sense toward that stability. Now Donna feels that it’s time to move on and somehow we’re all happy for her, although we hope she stays close at hand. (With La Donna gone, the group will surely stay on track when associate director marketing and corporate partnerships Rebecca Himberger jumps into place. While we’re at it, I have to note Attack’s recent foray once more into the classical music kingdom with Milhaud’s nifty La Crèation du Monde and the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony. Although it followed a complete Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concert (also dance-oriented, as well as part of the Paris Festival with Stravinsky’s Petrouchka and Gershwin’s terrific American in Paris, along with PSO principal cellist  Anne Williams in Honegger’s cello concerto), many in the audience stuck around for the work. Conducted by the astute Lawrence Loh, with his talented group doing true justice to the difficult score, the Attackers made the two formerly lethargic children in front of me sit up and take notice. But even for adults, Attack always provides a strong visual interest in its collaborations with Heinz Hall orchestras.

Photo: Cassie Kay Photographs

OVERSEAS WITH THE P’S. I caught up with Pearlann Porter about The Pillow Project’s encore trip to Europe. While Paris was once again the centerpiece, with two visits, the two-week May tour also included London, Amsterdam and Dublin. First up was London, where the Pillow dancers could not find any street musicians (“shocking!”), which has rules against that sort of thing. So they headed to a jazz club and then on to Big Ben, Parliament and Piccadilly Circus, where they didn’t loiter per se, but did “intentful and purposeful” neutral movement that perplexed the bobbies a bit, but no more. They found improv master Michael Schumacher in Amsterdam, had some lunch and exchanged ideas and did some similar stillness exercises in this “completely comfortable” and “particular” culture. Paris felt “way more comfortable” because people remembered them. Moe Seager was there and a couple of familiar venues. But the Pittsburgh dancers loved Parisians’ “genuine intrigue about the new — little kids have it.”  As for Dublin, it had an “obscene amount of street musicians.” So the Pillow group just “showed up and started going for it,” moving from player to player, “like bar-hopping, but with musicians.” Pearlann also had news of a mini-tour next spring. The Heinz Endowments has funded the Project’s 2012-13 season, made up of five full performances. It will culminate in a day-long encore at Braddock’s Carrie Furnace sometime in May 2013.

PROJECTS AND PUPPETS. Firebrand choreographer Beth Corning has a new Glue Factory Project set for this September at the New Hazlett Theater. Called “The Life & Death of Little Finn,” it will include “6 puppets, original animation & other numerous moving parts,” including 3 live performers. In the meantime, she’s in New York for her new Solo Project, where she is working with Tony Award-winning director Dominique Serrand (and director of The Moving Company) over the course of a year. The project is funded by an Individual Artist Grant from the Heinz and Pittsburgh foundations. See an animation preview by clicking on Little_Finn_She_Left.html

Photo: David Cooper

THE BIG 80.Yes, Jacob’s Pillow is celebrating a milestone anniversary this year, with plenty of great dance attractions. If you’re in the neighborhood (western Massachusetts), check it out. Click on 

On Film: India Meets Pina

March 27, 2012

Her name, Shantala Shivalingappa, may be confounding at first glance, but her dance, a SOLO created in conjunction with the legendary Pina Bausch, shows a clarity of intent from the first movement.

%d bloggers like this: