Dance Review: Two choreographers show talents

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Presented by the Pittsburgh Dance Council, Ballet de Grand Theatre de Geneve opened its first North American tour in Pittsburgh at the Byham Theater with two emerging European choreographers — Ken Ossola, formerly of Nederlans Dans Theater, and Andonis Foniadakis, who has worked with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet and created a premiere for the Martha Graham Dance Company in New York City later this month.

Both choreographic styles overlapped somewhat, yet ultimately suited the winsome but deceptively strong and passionate dancers who could both hug the stage floor and skim it at will.

There the two works parted company. For “Lux,” Mr. Ossola chose Gabriel Faure’s “Requiem,” a sublime work that emits a comforting caress. Twenty dancers stood with their backs to the audience, alienating, perhaps symbolizing that final parting. All at once, eighteen of them dropped to the floor. One couple remained to begin what amounted to a beautifully controlled choreographic journey, starting in what looked like limbo during the slow, transcendent movement.

Cast in a haze of fog and shadow, and, yes, light, they were moving through the vestiges of death, their limbs darting like flickering memories. It turned out to be that very journey, marked by billowing trios and a particularly wonderful duet near the end. It didn’t harbor dark emotions or regret and, at the finish, simply moved toward the light.

In a great programming move, Mr. Foniadakis’ “Glory” emerged from its own light, down a few steps that ran the length of the stage and into a work that boasted a score alternating the Baroque splendor of Handel with electronic compositions. It turned out that Mr. Foniadakis took the lion’s share of the program with the hour-long work.

Beginning with a single woman dressed in black and evolving into a cauldron of movement, Mr. Foniadakis had his own contemporary vision of the ornate Baroque era with a mind-numbing complexity of patterns.

Complexity was the key — fast and furious for the most part, even including Tassos Sofroniou’s myriad costume changes in mostly blacks, reds and grays. But audiences could hold on to the gleeful side kick, so celebratory, that periodically poked its way into the dance. He also created duets with helicopter lifts that traveled across the stage as opposed to communal gatherings where the group opened up like a flower.

As “Glory” progressed, Mr. Foniadakis seemed to gather strength, a significant indication of his potential and talent. He produced a woman in a gigantic black skirt that was manipulated by a bevy of attendants. The dance itself began to resemble the rise and fall of the ocean, heavy, yet majestic.

Then, like an exclamation point, he inserted the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Here he switched choreographic gears to create a segment that had clarity in its more conservative group movements.

There was no doubt that both Mr. Ossola and, in particular, Mr. Foriadakis, could occasionally wallow in an explosion of choreographic ideas. While editing would be the goal here, it was still obvious that they could be poetic, dramatic and, most importantly, mesmerizing.

Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish can be reached at She also blogs on

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