Dance review: Point Park Conservatory Dance Company shows maturity in 'Ballet Off-Center'
December 4, 2016 4:41 PM
Marissa Lee, Ryan Trotman, Vanessa Figueroa and Terrell Rogers in "Ballet Off-Center."
By Jane Vranish / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The choreographic assignment for the Point Park University Conservatory Dance Company’s latest program, “Ballet Off-Center,” was to stretch the limits of a classical art form in new ways and, in the process, stretch the artists themselves.
On that note, the four dance makers (Alexandra Damiani, Daniel Karasik, Jason McDole and Darrell Grand Moultrie) and the program itself succeeded, all while taking full advantage of the dance department’s deep pool of talent at the Pittsburgh Playhouse on Saturday night.
Mr. Karasik took the assignment most literally, creating a dance blueprint for “Volumes” that moved in and out of alignment as it moved so effectively in and out of a wall of darkness at the back, much like Twyla Tharp’s wall of mist from “In the Upper Room.”
Point Park University Conservatory Dance Company in ‘Ballet Off-Center’
Tickets: General admission is $24 on Friday and Saturday evenings, and $20 for matinees. Admission for students and seniors is $10. Purchase at www.pittsburghplayhouse.com or call 412-392-8000.
There was much to recommend in it (did I see six pirouettes from one of his thoroughbred dancers?). But following a picturesque quartet, the piece started to become busy to the eye and could have used an editing hand.
Mr. McDole capitalized on that level of energy in “Karmic Variations.” The curtain lifted on a group dancers jumping into the air, ready for action, and the intensity never let up. This was dance on a mission, seemingly brimming with purpose and passion.
The dancers rushed across the stage in groups, spilling on and off in waves. At one point, they barreled to the front, suddenly stopping as if they encountered a steep, dark precipice.
As the piece bounded to the end, occasionally relentlessly, it still was with a sense of inevitability, leaving the dance hanging in the air.
Noted for his Alvin Ailey style, Mr. Moultrie stepped out of his comfort zone to explore pointe work in “Beyond the Cover,” resulting in his best work seen to date in several Pittsburgh appearances.
A most interesting dance canvas emerged as he constructed the teasing shapes that unfolded for eight ballerinas and three men. It was a beautiful and diverse cast that took advantage of the primary political statement of hope in the text and ultimately reveled in Mr. Moultrie’s new-found layers.
Ms. Damiani was the unknown quantity among the four choreographers, but her international reputation as ballet master and artistic director with the widely-admired and now-defunct Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, based in New York, preceded her.
The results in “Portrait de Femmes” fulfilled expectations and beyond. Sometimes quirky and sometimes speedy, which knitted for the cast a welcome texture with an underlying sensuality, the piece had a European feel with its dark lighting and minimal sequined tops. But better yet, it transformed the CDC dancers to a point where they seemed older and wiser, not students at all, but the professional dancers to which they all aspire.
Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish: firstname.lastname@example.org. She blogs at pittsburghcrosscurrents.com.
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