Dance preview: Exploring the Texture of 'Life, Love & Jazz'
July 17, 2014 12:00 AM
Kelsey Batman and Alan Obuzor of Texture Contemporary Ballet.
By Jane Vranish / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Life, Love, & Jazz." It's the title of Texture Contemporary Ballet's latest venture at the New Hazlett Theater and, given the sweep of those three words, full of unlimited possibilities.
Likewise founder and artistic director Alan Obuzor likes to keep himself open to anything and everything. His first piece of choreography was a duet for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancer Julia Erickson and himself. But his second work negotiated the endless options of 12 dancers from the PBT school.
"I liked the range of that," Mr. Obuzor explains. "I went from considering one person and then having a huge power over many. Although I like both, the option of maneuvering that many bodies had a whole different energy."
Now he's still maneuvering back and forth, from the more intimate five-member group during the winter to nearly 20 dancers for the summer performance, when there are more resources available to the young company.
The program, featuring three premieres, will widen its scope, beginning with associate artistic director Kelsey Bartman's quirky "Fun.," set to music from the Grammy-winning indie-pop band of the same name. Longtime friend and colleague from BalletMet, Gabriel Gaffney Smith, will produce "Detachment. Without Reason." Set to original music by Sylvan Esso, it also will use the spoken word stylings of Listener.
In the premiere of his own work, also named "Life, Love, & Jazz," Mr. Obuzor will explore the potential of all three, but he will concentrate on the jazz portion in a live collaboration with Marty Ashby and the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild. By using original music by Mr. Ashby, he will come full circle in a sense.
As a student at PBT, Mr. Obuzor was introduced to the jazz idiom in another Manchester collaboration, "Indigo in Motion," which honored Pittsburgh jazz greats Ray Brown, Lena Horne, Billy Strayhorn and Stanley Turrentine and premiered in 2000.
"The biggest thing about jazz is the improvisation," he says. Given the complexities involved, PBT stuck to a musical script. At Texture, Mr. Obuzor will be receptive to any changes in the musical feeling or atmosphere.
Besides, he likes the arc and range -- from an abstract ballad to a quick, bluesy atmosphere -- of Mr. Ashby's compositions. That inspired choreography that might be sensual, tease playfully or become high energy. And he thinks that today's dancers and those in his company have an enormous versatility, remarking that "it's not that much out of anybody's wheelhouse."
Nor is it for Mr. Obuzor, who embraces the notion that "life is nothing except what you make of it," thus opening the doors to his own unlimited possibilities.
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