With Point Park University's Byham series focusing on established dance works, the idea of Pittsburgh Connections, with mostly new pieces created for the student group by local choreographers, Conservatory Dance Company, took on a greater significance.
This year Point Park extended its vision beyond Pittsburgh to rename the program Contemporary Choreographers, but there was still a strong local connection to be seen. Former Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre member Alan Obuzor now heads his own company, Texture Contemporary Ballet, and Alan Hineline, CEO and resident choreographer at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, is just a few hours' drive east in Carlisle. New York choreographers Sidra Bell and Darrell Grand Moultrie, while making a substantial impact on the trendy dance scene in the Big Apple, have made strong connections with the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble.
Better yet, three of the four works were world premieres, underscoring the importance of having these students participate in the creative process, where they can learn to impact dance that is specifically made for them.
Only Mr. Hineline brought an already existing work, "Twist." A succulent little chamber work, "Twist" had a smart subtext with a Stravinsky-esque tone by Jerome Begin, who has worked with Bill T. Jones and is the music adviser on the faculty of the Juilliard School Dance Division.
Mr. Obuzor likewise took his cues from his score, a collection of world music, in "On the Other Side of Now." But what began as a softly African rhythmic pulse in the first section, moved to music with a distinctly Asian feel, which led to some confusion on the part of the viewer.
That spawned an Oriental look to the movement, enhanced by ritualistic semicircles surrounding two duets that could have gone either way. Mr. Obuzor's choreography often comes in waves, like the heat of the air rising from the desert -- there is no beginning or end to the undulation. There is also no doubt that his dance mesmerizes the audience, but he would do well to establish a more defined point of view from the start.
Mr. Moultrie's "Modes of Expression" took a bolder approach with dancers seemingly lurching out of control. With its inventive physicality, full of crouching and caressing arches and flailing jumps, he was able to set up a large dance landscape.
The cast took advantage of the neon-bright dance, especially Darren McArthur with his singular intensity and intelligent movement choices.
But if Mr. Hineline's "Twist" had a winsome cohesiveness much like a delicate pencil drawing, Ms. Bell's "Lily" was like a choreographic sponge, absorbing all around it and squeezing out a mad mix of juicy ideas.
The basic premise dealt with "female portraiture imaging and satire in contemporary culture."
The images were plentiful -- touching the body, processionals, shaking (fear, ecstasy?), a collective penguin walk -- and indelible. Posing and posturing. Lipstick and Barbie.
Give credit to these nine young women who performed as if part of a tight-knit sisterhood in a tantalizing performance.
Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .