Since the 1800s, ballet in Geneva has benefited from being bred in a culture that values and supports the arts. Its longevity and notability in dance communities across the globe, however, is the result of dancers who are versatile and leadership that isn't afraid to try new things.
On Saturday at the Byham Theater, Downtown, the Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve of Switzerland will showcase the breadth of its background with works that straddle the realms of classical and contemporary. The performance is part of the Pittsburgh Dance Council's 2013-14 season and includes creations by two of the international dance scene's influential choreographers, Andonis Foniadakis and Ken Ossola.
Parts of the company's history span periods with former artists from New York City Ballet and the Paris Opera at the helm, bringing with them a taste of repertoires from their previous troupes. In 2003, Philippe Cohen was appointed to head the ballet and has used his tenure to seek out new choreographers to set works on the company's 11 male and 11 female dancers (representing 10 nationalities).
"They are all classically trained dancers, most of them coming from different contemporary backgrounds," Mr. Cohen said in an email interview.
This focus on fresh artistry has helped keep the ballet viable at home and abroad.
"We mainly do creations, young choreographers and original works," he said. "We are established in a country that gives us all necessary conditions to develop dance at its perfection."
In the previous season, touring has taken the group to several countries, including Mexico, France, Italy, Germany, China, Israel and Thailand. It also has participated in dance festivals across the United States, such as Jacob's Pillow in 2007 and 2011.
At its Pittsburgh premiere this weekend, the Geneva Ballet will present a pair of works that accentuate dancers' diversity. "Glory" by Mr. Foniadakis brings to life a Handel score with movements that play with symbiosis of dancers' bodies, shifting from fluidity to tension. In contrast, Mr. Ossola's "Sed Lux Permanent" uses their bodies to sculpt shadows, coloring the piece with a more sensitive, ethereal aesthetic that's complemented by Faure's "Requiem."
"You can see all the emotional facets that they are capable of [in these works] -- a light and delicate sweetness in 'Lux,' while poetically dramatic in their technical skills in 'Glory,' " Mr. Cohen said. "The ballet artists from Geneva ballet are men and women whose sole ambition is to convey emotions to the public."
Sara Bauknecht: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.