Members of Wayne McGregor | Random Dance perform "FAR." w
By Jane Vranish / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
While perusing dance during 2014, it quickly became apparent that Pittsburgh Dance Council had an uncommonly robust year, reinforcing the idea that this is the best series in the city, one that brings a global focus to local arts. We saw the lasting power developing on the independent dance scene as Attack Theatre launched its 20th year and The Pillow Project celebrated its first decade. And considering the high quality over the past 12 months, there is a runner-up list for the first time, considering the young choreographic talents that are knocking at the Top Ten doors.
Note that the top trio had remarkably cohesive performances, with barely an extraneous thought to the artistic blend of movement, music and technology. And at least four addressed the beautiful struggle of life and art. But then, dance on the whole is always a struggle, yet alluringly beautiful.
1. Wayne McGregor | Random Dance (Pittsburgh Dance Council, Byham Theater, April 26): Random Dance's full-length ballet "FAR," an acronym for Roy Porter's brilliant philosophical epic, "Flesh in the Age of Reason," concluded one of PDC's most important seasons. A dance treatise on the relationship between mind and body, it both confounded us and confirmed Mr. McGregor's place as one of the definitive choreographic voices of the last decade.
2. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (PDC, Byham, Oct. 11): Aspen Santa Fe opened PDC's current season and attracted a large and knowledgeable audience. Its philosophy of nurturing young choreographers was apparent with works by Norbert de la Cruz III, Nicolo Fonte and especially Cayetano Soto, so similar in many ways and showing Mr. McGregor's influence on a new generation of artists.
3. Corningworks (New Hazlett Theater, Sept. 10): Beth Corning provided a dance theater commentary on how technology keeps us in touch, but at a hefty price, in "Parallel Lives." An extended duo with noted performer Arthur Aviles, this was a sad but hauntingly wonderful piece following two lonely people, one that made great use of Akiko Kotani's fiber art scrims, Hsuan-Kuang Hsieh's projections and lighting designs by Iain Court.
4. Baker & Tarpaga Dance Project (Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Feb. 21): Straddling Columbus, Ohio, and Ouagadougou, West Africa, this company had a unique perspective on a "Beautiful Struggle," one that encompassed political, racial and sexual tensions in such a compelling way.
5. Carmen de Lavallade (KST, Sept. 12): Still luminous after all these years, this grande dame of dance had her own beautiful struggle throughout her career. Called "As I Remember It," her solo performance told a personal story with film clips, text and movement. This 83-year-old master not only conveyed the art of dance, she got to the heart of dance.
6. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (Benedum Center, Sept. 24-26): "The Sleeping Beauty," the most transparent, yet rigorous of all the classics, will always be the domain of Russia's Mariinsky Theatre where it originated. But PBT unveiled its version with such loving care, caressing the steps in such a way that it really brought this fairy tale to life.
7. Attack Theatre (Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum, Oct. 3): In a way, co-founders Michele de la Reza and Peter Kope went back to their roots for the start of their 20th season but added yet another new location to their long and important list of alternative Pittsburgh spaces. Always on the lookout for something different, these Attackers asked "Are You Still There?" and emphatically answered "Yes!"
8. The Pillow Project (The Space Upstairs, Nov. 8): Pearlann Porter celebrated her company's 10th anniversary with an enthusiastic overflow crowd. Literally backed by a wall of memories, the evening was filled with her signature jazz improvisational style. She also chose to recreate a handful of favorite segments, a move that made it glowingly aware of how much she had transformed the performers themselves and contributed to expanding the Pittsburgh dance scene at large.
9. Compagnie Kafig (PDC, Byham, Feb. 1): This hip-hop group brought a serious jolt of Brazilian sunshine to an otherwise dreary Pittsburgh winter. 'Nuf said.
10. Marjani Forte (KST, The Alloy Studios, Aug. 15): Another beautiful struggle with Ms. Forte's "being Here.../this time." A piece dealing with addiction, poverty and mental illness, the New York-based choreographer was somehow able to give it all a delicate, yet realistic touch in a work that made exceptional use of the singular Alloy space.
The runners-up: Luke Murphy's "The Room Was All Set For Us" (Conservatory Dance Company, George Rowland White Performance Studio); Maree ReMalia's "The Ubiquitous Mass of Us" (New Haz-lett Theater, CSA Series); Alan Obuzor's "Looking Back and Moving Forward" (KST, Fresh Works, Alloy); Shana Simmons' "Passenger" (National Aviary); Alexandra Bodnarchuk's "CONNOTATIONS: unknown" (PearlArts Studios); Martha Graham's "Steps in the Street," (Conservatory Dance Company at the Byham): Boomerang (Three Rivers Arts Festival, Trust Arts Education Center, Peirce Studio); Royal Ballet of Cambodia (Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Byham); Texture Contemporary Ballet's "Synergy" (KST).
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