At its best, dance maintains a delicious mystery about it, coupled with a flickering play of movement that illuminates the imagination. Texture Contemporary Ballet will be toying with "Shades of Light" in its performances this week at the New Hazlett Theater, North Side.
Although the company is only in its third season, founder and artistic director Alan Obuzor is looking for the "shadow and depth and perspective" in his own life and in those around him. They will emerge in a trio of works, including associate artistic director Kelsey Bartman's world premiere, "This," set to music by Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurosson, and a pair of ballets by Mr. Obuzor.
He will be "Looking Back and Moving Forward" in a piece that came about through the Kelly Strayhorn Theater's Fresh Works program, a creative laboratory for Pittsburgh choreographers in which they receive 80 hours of rehearsal at The Alloy Studios to forge a cross-genre collaboration.
The Texture choreographer chose songstress Anqwenique Wingfield, whom he came across at a local performing arts series several years ago. He wanted to create dance instances in which audience members also could recall memories from their past.
Because feelings dominated the work, Ms. Wingfield chose songs that might fit Mr. Obuzor's concept. For example, "Lush Life" evoked the image of an old-time jazz club, a smoky setting that took a step back in time. The choreography tried to capture the sentiments and connections that might have blossomed there. Various duets subsequently pulled emotions from relationships that the viewer might have -- a mother, an uncle, a best friend.
He also will present the Pittsburgh premiere of "Take ... Taken ... Taking," a piece that was first performed in New York City at Ailey Citigroup Theater in February on a program with Ariel Rivka Dance and Trainor Dance.
Here Mr. Obuzor was inspired by Philip Glass' second violin concerto for soloist and strings. He had choreographed the middle section as a solo for himself at the Kelly Strayhorn's newMoves festival last year and decided that the New York event was a good opportunity to complete the piece.
"I loved the quality of the string instruments -- they're touching and moving, almost like a person's voice," he says. "And I love the way the music is layered and builds on itself. The rich, thick nature of it all lends itself to many interpretations. It's music where you can put 45 steps in half a second or you can do absolutely nothing for a minute."
But one thing is certain: Mr. Obuzor is not one to sit still and do nothing. The past year he has been busy, with numerous performing opportunities in Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York and the historic Jacob's Pillow in Massachusetts.
"The dancers are absolutely amazing and are what makes the whole thing possible," he says humbly, although it all followed his nomination as one of Dance Magazine's 25 to Watch in 2013.
Mr. Obuzor also realizes that he must grow the nonartistic side of the company -- development, name recognition, a smooth running of the business. "That comes with time and manpower," he says, alluding to the many inside and outside of the company who have given their support.
Bottom line: He's an artist willing to talk the talk, walk the walk and dance the dance -- so vitally important in the evolution and success of Texture.
Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She blogs at pittsburghcrosscurrents.com.