Best of 2013: Dance


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With dance continuing its upswing in Pittsburgh, it gets more difficult to select the Top10. This year was a squeaker, where Marie Chouinard's brilliant choreographic expose of French composer Erik Satie both soothed and shocked, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre had its best effort in recent memory, inspired by all-American dancemaker Twyla Tharp.

1. Compagnie Marie Chouinard (Pittsburgh Dance Council and Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts, Byham Theater, Sept. 28): After a prelude based on artist Henri Michaux's book of India-ink drawings, "Mouvements," Ms. Chouinard turned to the minimalist beauty and whimsical absurdities of Erik Satie's "Gymopedies," so true to the composer's original intent. A perfect balance.

2. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (Benedum Center, Oct. 25): With the superb staging of repetiteur Shelley Washington at hand, PBT's dancers embraced the various love currents in "Nine Sinatra Songs," then both stomped and skyrocketed their way into a dance heaven, located "In the Upper Room."

3. Mark Morris Dance Group (PDC, Byham, May 4): Is there any current choreographer with such an astute musical touch as Mr. Morris? Nuance abounded in his billowing steps, set to Beethoven, Villa-Lobos and Hummel and buoyed by live accompaniment

4. Abraham.In.Motion (PDC, Byham, Feb.16): Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham hit his "Pavement" running in a production that continued to show why the MacArthur "genius" award winner is defining a new generation of dance. Hard-hitting but teeming with humanity.

5. Murphy/Smith Dance Collective (Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Nov. 15): "See What I Hear" was first inspired by hearing loss but blossomed into a sound examination of cell phones, personal stories, film and the breakout performance of the year for the young company headed by choreographic duo Jaime Murphy and Renee Smith.

6. Corningworks (New Hazlett Theater, June 5): Beth Corning turned a stringent microscope on the details of her past life in a one-woman show called "Remains," created in collaboration with Tony Award-winning director Dominique Serrand and producing vivid images that still remain for the rest of us.

7. Attack Theatre (Spring Way Studio, Nov. 2): In a revised "The Chalk Line," the Attack-ers continued to show how much can be done with a few simple props -- a ramp, chairs, a rope, chalk (of course) and a fierce imagination.

8. Gia T. Presents (Wood Street Galleries, Sept. 6): There were more than 50 shades of gray (and splashes of red) in Gia Cacalano's mostly poetic, cooly improvised work, "The Frequency of Structure and Flow."

9. The Pillow Project (Carrie Furnace, Oct. 12): Pearlann Porter and company braved a whole new world when it took on the vast expanse of The Carrie Furnace in Rankin, both in an exploratory afternoon performance and, in the evening, with dance improvisation, rock bands and theatrical lighting. A heroic first effort.

10. Charleroi Danses (PIFOF, New Hazlett, Oct. 2): Yes, an odd choice, but memorable. In "Kiss & Cry," the audience could take in miniature sets and cameras, working like a Swiss watch, that magnified a woman's romantic life through a pair of larger-than-life hands on a video screen. But after all, the hands are the most expressive part of the body.


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