Dance review: Point Park Conservatory Dance Company's 'Five' a visual feast full of twists, turns
February 7, 2016 2:11 PM
Point Park Conservatory Dance Company's Christian Warner, center, dances the lead male role in Ruben Graciani and Kiesha Lalama's new work "Five." Alex Hathaway, center in back, dances the role of his conscience.
Skylar Schultz, center, with Hailey Turek dance the roles of the conscience and lead female, respectively, in "Five."
By Jane Vranish / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For those with a desire for dance, the biggest must-see in Pittsburgh may be located at Point Park University’s Conservatory Dance Company. With the latest in American choreographic trends, hundreds of student performers knee-deep in talent and bargain-rate ticket prices, the program has generated the kind of excitement that befits its national reputation.
They have divergent choreographic personalities — he still exudes New York’s Lower East Side experimentalism and she is a constant current of traditional jazz exuberance. But they share a common aesthetic, a sharp eye for the structure of dance.
Tickets: $20-$24 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors at www.pittsburghplayhouse.com or 412-392-8000.
In some ways, though, this led to a Rubik’s Cube of ideas, full of twists and layers that were sometimes confusing. But there was no denying the stunning impact of “Five.”
Elements abounded, backed by Michael Thomas Essad’s terrific industrial landscape of movable metal scaffolding, striking in general effect, although sometimes a heavy-handed steel spider web in the second act.
Jeff Sherman’s dramatic lighting could capture red scarves that danced in the air, but Jessi Sedon-Essad’s usually tasteful and meaningful projections seemed like an afterthought here.
The musical score, some of it conveyed by a dozen surprisingly robust singers from the Bach Choir (I particularly loved the soprano solo in Mozart’s “Kyrie”), ranged from, yes, Bach to the post-minimalist Billband, with some “Carmina Burana” to spice things up.
Erin Heintzinger, while appropriately creating contemporary gray outfits with red accents in keeping with the industrial atmosphere, did not allow the main characters to stand apart.
That was the primary reason for the confusion. This was a journey of a Man/Woman and his/her relationship to a Conscience. It served a message, particularly to the young people performing, of the importance in making the right choices, of thinking before acting.
Without preaching, it was a good thing.
Yes, CDC was able to field two complete casts (17 dancers in each) — one led by two males, the other by two females — a fascinating concept about gender equality.
Saturday afternoon at the Pittsburgh Playhouse was led by Alex Hathaway (Conscience), a tall, supple presence, and Christian Warner (Man), a compact emotional powerhouse. They were able to take advantage of their differences in size to capture the physicality of the male dancer through impressive lifts.
Saturday night featured Skylar Schultz (Conscience), a powerful emotional powerhouse, and Hailey Turek (Woman), an elegant, supple presence. Similar in size, if not in temperament, they did not perform the lifts in the same fashion, although they were still arresting in their own way and brought a viable, if different, interpretation to the piece.
So, in a way, there was some artistic overlap in the pairings, just as the important roles of the five senses — hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch — had in educating the lead protagonist about life. Those casting roles also were reversed — two men and three women and vice versa.
Unfortunately, it was difficult to identify the senses in the first act (which like the second act, had five sections), leading to the afore-mentioned confusion. (Hint: they wear red belts in the ribbon section, demonstrating the undeniable hold that life has over us.)
Highlights included the inspired opening, where the cast emerged from a mist, confused and naive; the struggle of Man/Woman while bound by the giant ribbon of life; and the first act duet between Man/Woman and Conscience.
“Five” is a visual feast, one that stretched not only the choreographers, but the performers. Enjoy that impact, first and foremost, and take in both casts to plumb the story behind it.
I might head for a third.
Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish: firstname.lastname@example.org. She blogs at pittsburghcrosscurrents.com.
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