Review: Texture Contemporary Ballet presents heartfelt program of dance, jazz


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It‘‍s a reunion of sorts this weekend at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side.

Professional dancers with ties to companies near and far have gathered to lend their talents to the latest Texture Contemporary Ballet mixed repertory program, “Life, Love, & Jazz.” 

Texture Contemporary Ballet

Where: New Hazlett Theater, North Side.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: www.textureballet.org.


On Thursday, opening night, there was plenty of all three, starting with the feel-good “Fun.,” which associate artistic director Kelsey Bartman choreographed. A cast of more than a dozen emanated pure joy as they grooved to the music of indie pop band fun. The first few songs were upbeat and featured dancers in orchid tank tops, black shorts and socks, and yellow suspenders. A duet partway through to “Carry On” added some emotional richness and substance as dancers lifted each other up, literally and figuratively. After pausing in this more vulnerable place, Ms. Bartman effectively accelerated the mood back to upbeat and optimistic with the ensemble dancing to “One Foot.”

While a pleasure to watch, it seemed to be a couple songs too long; an abbreviated version would have sufficed, especially with so much else in store.

“Hollowed” by Ms. Bartman and founding artistic director Alan Obuzor delivered some of the love in the lineup. They partnered for a beautiful pas de deux to Lana Del Rey’‍s “Video Games” with Ms. Bartman en pointe, a nice contrast to the jazzier opening. It was filled with fluidity and highlighted by some interesting, unpredictable partner work and lifts. Mr. Obuzor inverted her seemingly effortlessly. Amanda Summers shined in her pointe solo “Spinning Plates,” which Ms. Bartman choreographed to Radiohead music. She made the most of each movement, creating lovely shapes with her lean physique, and commanded the stage from corner to corner.

Dancers tackled spoken word in Gabriel Gaffney Smith’‍s “Detachment. Without Reason.” The voices of rock band Listener tasked a trio of dancers with evaluating their distractions such as tiredness or a lack of self-motivation, but rather than answering in words, they followed one another in a type of call-and-response sequence of movement phrases. It was spicier, edgier than the other works, a window into the troupe’‍s true potential. 

The evening ended with the program’‍s title piece, which included a jazz quartet under the musical direction of Marty Ashby perched on scaffolding above the dancers. Mr. Obuzor‘‍s choreography had heart and ranged from pure dance portions to segments woven together with a loose story, such as a game of cat and mouse between a flirty girl and some guys. The sleek black costuming and derby hats added an air of Fosse-eqsue sophistication and sensuality. Tricks involving dancers switching hats could benefit from a bit more finessing and looked cleanest with fewer dancers on stage. Throughout the performance, Bob Steineck’‍s lighting showed off dancers, sometimes washing the stage in warm tones and creating drama with pockets of shadows at other points. 

You see all kinds in a Texture audience: young, old, black, white, dancers, pedestrians. It‘‍s a testament to the accessibility the group brings to dance. Performances are a fondue of styles, so to speak, melted together and set to a melange of music from current hits to some things more classical. Within this smorgasbord there’‍s a little something for almost everyone to enjoy, and based on the healthy amounts of applause, cheers and whistles dancers received, people did.

Sara Bauknecht: sbauknecht@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.

 

 


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