Justin Peck, a name on the tip of everyone’s tongue in New York takes to the subway with some of friends from New York City Ballet. The next generation is breaking ballet barriers…
Justin Peck, a name on the tip of everyone’s tongue in New York takes to the subway with some of friends from New York City Ballet. The next generation is breaking ballet barriers…
DANCE JAM! Pittsburgh artist manager Jessica Marino (JAMpress management) is joining with Green Street Studios of Cambridge, Massachusetts to form Tracks to provide multiple showcase opportunities for dancers. Jessica and friends hope to “foster a creative environment where artists and presenters can meet, network and build meaningful relationships” with a goal of increasing performances, residencies, masterclasses and collaborations. Pittsburgh artists include Maree ReMalia & HyunJung Lee, Staycee Pearl Dance Project, Teena Marie Custer, Shana Simmons Dance, Brady Sanders and Jamie Erin Murphy. Already on tap are Gibney Dance Choreographic Studios in Cambridge, PearlArts Studios in Pittsburgh and Lehigh Valley Dance Exchange in Allentown, PA.
JEWELS. This looks like the ballet equivalent of Hamilton. Bolshoi Ballet! New York City Ballet! Paris Opera Ballet! All together in one glorious run of George Balanchine’s Jewels. Wonder what the tickets will go for? Click on Jewels for more information.
JAMES. James Gilmer, formerly a student at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, now residing and dancing at Columbus Ballet (soloist!) went to Kennedy Center as part of the company’s Nutcracker production. In this video clip from the company, you can spot him in two places, the first one a pirouette about 10 seconds in.
Another Kyle Success. It’s becoming more and more apparent that Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre is passing up on a golden opportunity to hire Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham for a commissioned work. The MacArthur “Genius” Award-winner has turned many knowledgable heads with work on his company, Abraham.In.Motion. and recently produced a duet for New York City Ballet principal and international star Wendy Whelan, which is still touring. Now he garnered a rave review in the Chicago Tribune for a premiere he created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Hopefully it isn’t too late for PBT artistic director Terrence Orr to jump on the Kyle bandwagon…
New Attack. Attack Theatre founders Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope did an entertaining tag team announcement of AT’s upcoming season in their home studio at the Pittsburgh Opera recently. Click on AT for more info. Also on tap — there will be two new dancers for the opening series, Are You Still There? (opening Oct. 3). Both are Juilliard School alumnae (as is de la Reza) — James Jude Johnson, who gave us a sample of his fluid movement at the announcement even, and Brittanie Brown, who hadn’t arrived yet, but has also danced with Kyle Abraham.
Tammies Go Solo. The Duquesne University Tamburitzans, long a staple under the wing of Duquesne University will become an independent, nonprofit organization over the next two to three years. That will enable them to audition students from other universities, as well as Duquesne, which will make up for the 40 percent drop in applicants over the years. DU will still provide scholarships for the Duquesne students and will donate $2 million in buildings, land, costumes, instruments, vehicles and equipment. The school will also provide transitional support while the group establishes itself and hires an executive director with a volunteer board. In the meantime, the Tamburitzans Executive Council will provide additional support.
A Day to Celebrate. The Pittsburgh City Council is declaring September 23 Mary Miller Dance Company Day for 30 years of excellence in dance performance and education. Congratulations!
Nurturing at PearlArts. With their welcoming studio on North Braddock, Staycee and Herman Pearl have become an indelible part of the community. Recently they sponsored a night for young urban artists, many from the Alumni Theater Company. Led by Len Starr and Cherish Morgan, this was a night of dance, song and just hangin’ out.
Under artistic director Terrence Orr, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre has developed a theatrical path reminiscent of his alma mater, American Ballet Theatre, one of a few American companies to do so. Most others have built some variation on the speed and contemporary flair of George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet.
Mr. Orr mounted four separate casts for the company’s latest encore of Swan Lake, which produced backstage drama all its own when it was reduced to three. Read about it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
His balletic philosophy will apparently continue as PBT celebrates its 45th anniversary season next year, where four of the productions will be large and classically oriented. Given classical ballet’s limited full-length repertoire, we will again see The Sleeping Beauty, always a challenge for the company due to its pristine technique, and the annual Nutcracker.
Mr. Orr has also chosen La Bayadere, another Russian masterpiece, full of exotic aromas. He has subsequently reached into his own past for Lew Christensen’s Beauty and the Beast, a marketable title and apparently garnering good reviews, but choreographed in 1958.
That leaves the singular repertory night, next year moving from the August Wilson Center, currently an arts question mark due to financial difficulties, back to the Byham Theater.
PBT only announced Dwight Rhoden’s 7th Heaven, created for the larger Benedum Center stage and panned when it was condensed for the smaller Joyce Theater in New York. It will need trimmed for the Byham.
The other two ballets on the program were not announced. They will celebrate “innovations from its 45-year collection.” I would like to suggest Ohad Naharin’s Tabula Rasa (1986), by far the best commission that PBT has produced (I can still see it), a ballet that has been performed all over the world with PBT’s name attached.
And then there is the obvious — a brand new commission for Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham and a harbinger for a bright future as PBT nears its 50th. He recently received the MacArthur “Genius” Award and was tapped by Wendy Whelan, principal with New York City Ballet and one of the premier ballerinas dancing today, for a duet commission in Restless Creature. Why not give him a chance?
But then, you might have some other suggestions. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DRESSING UP FOR JANET. She’s been one of the pillars of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre over the past 40 years. And most certainly, costumier Janet Groom has been one of the reasons behind PBT’s success. Having seen other regional companies and some of the costumes that have been imported for various productions, I can easily say that Janet has been a hidden treasure. Mostly, that is. She often views performances, sometimes in a handmade Groom original that picks up on the theme of the evening’s ballet. PBT honored her at Perlè, one of Pittsburgh’s newest and coolest venues, a versatile contemporary space in Market Square. There Janet was in the spotlight, honored by board member Carolyn Byham and current artistic director Terrence Orr. Also in attendance were founding and first artistic director Nicolas Petrov and the always elegant artistic director Patricia Wilde, amid a fine “turn out” by board and company members. As a bonus, several of Janet’s exquisite costumes adorned the walls, so that we could get an up close and personal look at her remarkable attention for detail.
KUDOS TO PATRICIA. Speaking of Patricia Wilde, she was recently honored by Dance Magazine, putting her in some stratospheric company, including the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Merce Cunningham and Pina Bausch.(Click on DM for a complete list.) “Oh, I thought was long forgotten,” she said when we talked at the PBT company studios. But when she was contacted for a Dance Magazine article on batterie — she was known for her sparkling footwork — her name resurfaced for editor Wendy Perron. When all was said and done, Patricia was noted as a real triple-threat. She moved from a hard-working principal at New York City Ballet (she once attended a rehearsal on the day of her wedding) to a ballet mistress and globe-trotting teacher to a 15-year stint as PBT artistic director. These days she still can be seen at rehearsals and performances and is still in demand as a teacher. Pittsburgh is truly lucky.
MORE FOR YOSHIAKI. Newly-appointed PBT soloist Yoshiaki Nakano broke through as a winner of the Beijing International Ballet Competition this past summer. Now he has capped that by being named to Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch for 2014. Congrats!
SOPHIE. And last but not least, PBT student Sophie Sea Silnicki,16, will be participating in Switzerland’s Prix de Lausanne, one of the major ballet competitions in the world. Follow her journey beginning January 27 by clicking on Sophie.
THE BRAZZIES. Greer Reed concluded her Reed Intensive performance this summer at the Father Ryan Center in McKees Rocks with a special award called the Brazzies. Named for Leslie Anderson Braswell, who performed with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Stuttgart Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem before coming home to mentor so many young dance hopefuls, the first winners are Gia Cacalano, improv queen and founder of Gia T. Presents, and James Washington, former member of August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble and budding choreographer. Congrats!
WENDY AND KYLE. The dance world has been abuzz with Wendy Whelan’s project, Restless Creature, and Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham’s participation. (Catch it in March at the Byham via Pittsburgh Dance Council.) Click on the New York Times feature and review.
ANOTHER SIDE OF JULIA. We’ve seen Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre principal Julia Erickson in luminous performances on stage. We’ve see her entrepreneurial spirit via her own health food bar, Barre, available at Whole Foods. Now, through the magic of Sonja Sweterlitsch’s portraiture, on view at Box Heart Gallery in Bloomfield through Sept. 17, we can seen Julia from yet another angle (or angles). Small and life-sized. The Swan Queen and the woman. All a softer interpretation without losing Julia’s always-glittering essence.
A STAR IS BORN. Yes, she’s at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, but this star is not a dancer. Alyssa Herzog Melby is a member of PBT’s talented young administrative staff. As PBT Director of Education and Community Engagement, she has not only been articulate about the ballets, but has promoted accessibility in a variety of new ways, including programs for the visually impaired, autism and, most recently, Parkinson’s disease. For her efforts, the Kennedy Center LEAD Awards for Excellence in Accessibility Leadership recognized her at the 2013 LEAD conference in Washington, D.C. Way to go, Alyssa!
They say you can’t go back, but the Pittsburgh Dance Council is ignoring that with its upcoming 2013-14 season. Executive director Paul Organisak, perhaps inspired by the Pittsburgh Festival of Firsts (exciting news in itself!) this fall and which he curated as well, has gone back to the adventuresome, experimental, what-the-hell-was-that programming that many of us knew and loved.
It appears that the PDC companies will include their own list of firsts: two North American premieres in partnership with the Festival, four new companies/projects out of six and seven new choreographers armed with local premieres.
Montreal’s Marie Chouinard will open both the Dance Council season and the Festival of Firsts. Gymnopedies, set to Eric Satie’s minimalist piano pieces, is the North American premiere, and will be paired with Michaux Mouvements, based on the poetry and drawings of Belgian Henri Michaux, which served as the literal jumping off point for the choreography. This will be the Quebec choreographer’s fourth visit to Pittsburgh, which has in the past produced The Rite of Spring and 24 Preludes by Chopin (a personal favorite of Organisak’s), among others (Sept. 28, Byham Theater).
Another sneak peak at the Festival line-up comes with Swiss artists Zimmermann & de Perrot, a physical theater duo, who will be literally thinking out of the box and inside it during Hans was Heiri. According to Organisak, Pittsburghers will see this event before it gets to New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music (Oct. 18, Byham).
On to the debut of the Brazilian group Compagnie Käfig, an international sensation that takes hip hop and puts it to samba and bossa bova. A company guaranteed to raise the spirits, it has appeared at Jacob’s Pillow and the Spoleto Festival, among others. What more can you do with plastic cups? (Feb. 1, Byham).
One of the highlights of the season is sure to be Ballet du Grand Thèâtre de Genéve and the start of a balletic finish to the season, but showing us where ballet is headed. Yes, this is the only company where George Balanchine served as artistic advisor (1970-78), but it has worked with numerous artists, including Baryshnikov, Kylian and Forsythe. Founded in 1962, the 22-member company brings two emerging artists on the international scene — Andonis Foniadakis’s Gloria, which will create a stylish new symbiosis with music by Baroque composer George Frideric Handel, and Ken Ossola’s Sed Lux Permanet, with sculpted shadow play to Fauré’s Requiem. (Mar. 8, Byham)
Acclaimed New York City Ballet principal dancer Wendy Whelan will be bringing her Restless Creature project, set to debut at Jacob’s Pillow this summer. She will dance four duets with four emerging choreographers — Pittsburgh’s Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks and Alejandro Cerrudo, whose Lickety Split was a sensation recently at Point Park University’s annual Byham concert. This one is creating a lot of buzz in the dance community. (Mar. 22, Byham)
The final contemporary ballet event will mark the return of Wayne McGregor l Random Dance, (Apr. 26, Byham). He is the resident choreographer at The Royal Ballet in London and it is his company. He has a scientific bent on ballet — using film, music, visual art and technology — that is truly unique (Apr. 26, Byham).
For ticket information click on Pittsburgh Dance Council.
They are hidden in what looks like Russian, but this is the Dance in America series with choreography by Balanchine. This segment has Tzigane, Divertimento No. 15 and The Four Temperaments with stellar casts.
TO THE LAKE. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will make its debut at Chautauqua Institution this summer (Wed., Aug. 21 at 8:15 p.m.), a bit of a surprise since the historic Amphitheater, outdoor performing space, has been the turf of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, Patricia McBride and North Carolina Dance Theatre for over 25 years. It’s a company with a decided Balanchine look, a given since the two artistic directors once starred with George Balanchine’s officially “starless” New York City Ballet. So it should provide a tangible style comparison for residents there. If you’re interested in making the drive (a little over two hours from Pittsburgh) up to the picturesque Victorian community and surrounding attractions, check the website for more information.
BACK TO THE MOULIN ROUGE. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s production of Moulin Rouge translated well for all three casts over a weekend of performances (click on Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for an article on opening night). Because the movement phrases often were plucked from familiar classroom exercises, tombe pas de bouree glissade (and substitute your favorite jump) — the dancers could relax and exchange choreographic pleasantries all night long.
That also meant that each audience could peruse different (although never bawdy) takes on the world’s most famous (and infamous) cabaret. Let’s take the Nathalie/Matthew combination first, where there were varying flavors, enough to keep things interesting.
Opening night cast Christine Schwaner and Luca Sbrizzi had an independent clarity and freshness, more in a classical vein, while Friday night’s Alexandra Kochis and Christopher Budzynski, always on top of the technical elements, also connected on an intimate level that helped to sustain the dramatic line.
The Saturday matinee featured a pair of corps members who jumped at the opportunity and did surprisingly well. Caitlin Peabody had plenty of spunk and determination in her first starring role. While hers was a cozy technique, it had a thoughtful, yet piquant quality that suited this role. Her partner, Nicholas Coppula, was detailed in drawing his character as both an art student and a fine romantic lead.
It was hard to pick a favorite between the two Zidlers, Robert Moore’s brooding owner or Nurlan Abougaliev’s more flamboyant villain. Joseph Parr posed no such problem , however — he was cast as Toulouse-Lautrec for all five performances. In fact, choreographer Jorden Morris singled him out at a post-performance soiree downstairs at the Benedum Center, calling him one of the best among 14 casts that he has worked with on the ballet.
Among the women, La Goulue, the iconic redhead from the famed Toulouse-Lautrec poster, was a juicy role. Elysa Hotchkiss had the snap of a whiplash in her deep backbends, while Julia Erickson brought the requisite star quality to dominate the Can-can. Eva Trapp could use her sensuality at full force, something that also played exceptionally well as the tango lead dancer with Alexandre Silva. Elysa showed off her flickering footwork with partner Alejandro Diaz.
Historically speaking, Moulin Rouge was marvelously detailed, including the Top Hats, perhaps a reference to Valentin the Boneless (also partner of La Goulue), but here a chance to give the men a chance to show off their ballet technique.
I am still puzzled, though, by the woman in green, not to be confused with the Green Fairies, although they appeared all together in Matthew’s absinthe-driven hallucination scene. There was a woman who appeared in Toulouse-Lautrec’s art work, but she had only a green cast, most likely from the eerie lighting inside the club. In this production, she seemed to serve as some sort of muse, but the color coordination with Green Fairies, might have indicated something else. To confuse things more, she was played by the dancers (Amanda Cochrane and Garielle Thurlow) who also appeared as Mome Fromage, without any distinction in the program.
By the way, kudos to this increasingly versatile company, who sometimes played three roles or more.
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FOUR OF 25. I have often said that Pittsburgh is a treasure trove of dance talent, but was still surprised that Dance Magazine had not less than four Pittsburgh area talents, both born and current, on its 2013 list of 25 to Watch. McKeesport native Frances Chiaverini has been scoring some good press at her latest gig with Benjamin Millipied’s L.A. Dance Project, which led to her selection as cover girl on this edition (along with successful turns at Morphoses and Karol Armitage). But inside you will find Emily Kikta, alumnus of Thomas Studio for the Performing Arts in Bridgeville and now at New York City Ballet. And if you don’t want to travel, it will be easy to see Texture Contemporary Ballet’s Alan Obuzor and recently-appointed Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre soloist Amanda Cochrane. Congratulations!
HIGH ON PILS. kNOTDance’s Maddy Landi bid auf wiedersehen to Pittsburgh when he joined Pilobolus. Now he is in the midst of a German tour performing in the group’s Shadowland for the next few months.
JINGLES. Wexford Dance Academy’s Elizabeth Mackin Karas once again unfolded her annual holiday treat at Shady Side Academy in December. It included a tap variation on the Rockettes’ soldier dance, Liz’ own brand of Nutcracker divertissements and the loveliest of finales, where the complete cast, all dressed in the purest white and carrying candles, lifted the spirits.
INDIAN JOURNEY. Guiding Star Dance Foundation’s Varun Mahajan is looking for male and female dancers to perform in an all-English production of Arranged Marriage at the Charity Randall Theater in Oakland in April. Practices will be held at the Guiding Star facility in Carnegie every Thursday, beginning this month where selected dancers will be trained in semi-classical, Bollywood and folk. Final rehearsals and performances will run from Apr. 22-28, 2013. For more information, go to www.gsdfonline.org, call 412-877-7502 or emiail email@example.com.