Dance review: Texture Contemporary Ballet doesn't disappoint with powerful summer show
July 22, 2016 5:42 PM
Texture Contemporary Ballet joins Cello Fury for "Interfusion" at the New Hazlett Theater.
By Jane Vranish / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Half of the fun in watching Texture Contemporary Ballet’s annual summer explosion — seeing a handful of resident company artists turn into a viable mid-sized company of 17 — is watching the dancers themselves.
In the group’s latest venture at the New Hazlett Theater, “Interfusion,” nearly all had strong Pittsburgh ties, even if they had moved on to other American companies, and many came up through the ranks of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s school, including the leggy Katie Miller (Sacaramento Ballet), who will join Texture in the fall, and Prix de Lausanne participant Anwen David (Nashville Ballet). Three PBT company members also performed — corps members Corey Bourbonniere, Marisa Grywalski and Diana Yohe.
Their faces have changed, becoming more defined. Their bodies have changed, giving them a real stage presence. And their perspective has changed, enabling them to make more mature artistic choices, all to the benefit of Texture.
Tickets: $25 advance at www.showclix.com; $30 door; $20 students, seniors and artists.
Information: A special hourlong children’s performance will be at 4 p.m. Saturday; $10 per family; www.textureballet.org.
One thing that didn’t change was their passion for dance, a tribute to Pittsburgh dance itself and their memories of it. Although that passion sometimes overwhelmed, becoming an occasion where the dancers just existed for the dance and music and didn’t necessarily relate to each other, the exhilarating energy that was produced could not be denied.
Another factor of fun in Texture performances is the degree of cool. The hair is cool, especially artistic director and founder Alan Obuzor, who went from an muffin-sized Afro/ballet bun to a wild and wooly mohawk.
And the music itself is cool, ranging from Kleerup featuring Lykke Li in Gabriel Ash’s “Release,” an admirable, if tentative, first attempt to weld hip-hop to ballet, to the popular minimalist Philip Glass, featuring a bold Henry Steele in the virtuosic solo, “Japura,” originated by Mr. Obuzor.
He also brought back his tango-inspired “Regreso al Realidad,” set to the always welcome Astor Piazzolla. Mr. Obuzor created it for PBT’s graduate school in 2008, and Mr. Bourbonniere and Alexandra Tiso, original cast members, repeated their roles in this encore, a sultrier version that looked entirely different even though the steps remained the same.
Most intriguing was Mr. Obuzor’s duet with Ms. Yohe, “Unbroken,” set to a haunting score by Wim Mertens. It had a ghostly aura, mostly due to Bob Steineck’s always expert lighting, where the pair seemed to oscillate softly then connect and reconnect. Although it relied on arm movements for shape and design and could have used more leg extensions to heighten the piece, “Unbroken” still had a mesmerizing quality all its own.
But the main emphasis relied on Texture’s collaboration with Cello Fury, which specializes in cool as it relates to incessantly hot rhythms.
The opening piece, a repeat of “Symphony of Shadows,” was hardly that. It exploded from the start and tended to waffle and waver, again, fun to watch but in need of a strong editing hand.
The premiere (and finale) had a far more better range of texture and mood. Called “Ambulantes Mortem,” loosely translated among the dancers as “The Walking Dead,” had, yes, a zombie-like quality with drippingly evocative costumes by Krysta Bartman.
Turbulent with movement and tumbling with emotion, it included a bedazzled, almost jazz-like solo from Mr. Bourbonniere, evocative appearances from Brynne Vogel, and powerful turns by Ms. Tiso, who had a particularly good night and was a perfect example of Texture’s continuing development.
Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish: email@example.com. She blogs at pittsburghcrosscurrents.com.
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