Dance preview: Point Park student dancers train with masters

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For an aspiring performer, working under the wings of renowned choreographers is a gem of an opportunity.

For years, students in Point Park University's Conservatory Dance Company have had a chance to unwrap that gem through their annual performance at the Byham Theater, Downtown. This weekend, the school will continue this tradition by featuring the work of internationally recognized choreographers Alejandro Cerrudo, Ben Stevenson, Rennie Harris and the late Jose Limon.

Point Park University's Conservatory Dance Company Performance

Where: Byham Theater, Downtown.

When: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $18-$20; 412-392-8000 or pittsburghplayhouse.com.

Each year, the Point Park dance department searches for choreographers whose styles can highlight the skills of its dancers.

"We, as faculty of the dance department, look at the student body and their strengths and weaknesses. Then, we look for choreographers that can inspire, challenge and help them to grow artistically," said department chair Susan Stowe.

This year's lineup is a mix of romantic modern pieces and fresh and fun hip-hop. Point Park students will perform "Lickety-Split," a piece choreographed by Mr. Cerrudo of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to the music of Devendra Banhart. The sensual modern dance piece was taught to students by Tobin Del Cuore, also of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

The company also will perform a classical modern piece, "A Choreographic Offering" by Limon, founder of Limon Dance Company and a crucial figure in the development of modern dance. It is set to the sounds of Johannes Bach and was staged for Point Park by Ryoko Kudo, a Limon member and expert Limon reconstructor.

"The End of Time," a pas de deux choreographed by Texas Ballet Theater's Mr. Stevenson, was set by former Point Park student and Texas Ballet Theater assistant artistic director Li Anlin. This emotional piece between two dancers was created for the 1984 International Ballet Competition in Japan, where it received a gold medal.

"A Movement" and "Front Street Walk" are both new pieces choreographed by Mr. Harris. Renowned hip-hop dancer and break dancer Raphael Xavier of Rennie Harris Pure Movement worked with students to stage it.

The artists stay in residency for two weeks, during which time they select their dancers and set the choreography. During the remaining four weeks, the students rehearse for the show.

"Our students are trained in ballet, jazz and modern, so our program reflects the training that they're receiving," Ms. Stowe said. "From casting the work to the actual opening, our dancers, who are so bright, pick everything up very fast."

She also emphasized the nature of networking inherent in a high-profile performance like this one.

"It's an amazing resume builder. Our dancers can accrue these professional credentials on their resume before they even graduate, and often the resident choreographers network for these students and help them get a job," she said.

A current Point Park senior recently landed a job with Philadelphia-based contemporary ballet company BalletX through an interaction with Mr. Del Cuore during his latest residency.

"Dancers might get recruited by either the representatives who come set the piece, or the choreographers themselves to their respective companies. If they establish a connection, or if the choreographers like their style, it often results in a job later down the road," Ms. Stowe said.

theater

Noel Um: num@post-gazette.com.


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