Review: Texture Contemporary Ballet ends season with introspective program
March 19, 2017 1:37 PM
Mark Simpson Photography
Texture Contemporary Ballet closes its sixth season with "Velocity" at the New Hazlett Theater, North Side.
By Jane Vranish / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The title for Texture Contemporary Ballet’s latest program may have been “Velocity,” but it mostly centered on introspection, emotion and the mystical, all carefully prepared.
Saturday night’s performance at the New Hazlett Theater began with associate artistic director Kelsey Bartman’s “When a Fairytale Ends.” An homage to her late grandmother, it had an immediacy for Ms. Bartman, who was in the cast, but a universal connection to all those who have lost loved ones.
The piece centered around newcomer Madeline Kendall, a fine addition to the company. While she remained in isolation, five dancers wafted around her — lovingly reaching out, empathetic, but unsure of how to interact.
In one segment, Texture founder/artistic director Alan Obuzor was her lover/husband/partner — partner being the operative word — for he is the most compassionate and skillful male partner in the city. Of course, this “Fairytale” ended as it must, but it was a touching tribute along the way.
Unfortunately, Texture didn’t live up to its name, providing balanced, but differing elements of dance and choreography in the next two works. There was an unhurried, meditative quality that failed to propel the program.
Brynn Vogel’s “Whelm” was overwhelmed from the start by the sadness of a tinkling toy piano. The dancers, clad in oversized black T-shirts, imitated each other in sagging, drooping movement and then grabbed their mouths as if afraid to speak.
It continued the tone established by “Fairytale,” and Ms. Bartman’s solo, “Is It So?,” did nothing to break the mood, with Ms. Vogel often hunched over and full of angst.
As a result, Alexandra Tiso’s “Cloudy With a Chance of Splash” was a very welcome change. Holy Gene Kelly! The dancers had brightly colored umbrellas and somehow did bourrees and beats in rubber galoshes. Mr. Obuzor did a fun and seemingly impossible seated turn while his leg stayed pointed to the ceiling, and there was a little love story to boot.
“Together We Stand Before the Fall to Higher Ground,” Mr. Obuzor’s contribution for a finale, sounded like a compressed title from the scriptures. It proved to be a motivational number, even though it had an epic-sounding film score by the unholy-sounding Two Steps From Hell.
In an evocative start, the cast began at the back, changing poses like statues at a temple. As the music surged, it gave way to vigorous steps, punctuated by Mr. Obuzor himself, who capped a stunning evening of dance in a male duet with Walter Apps, another with Ms. Tiso and a charismatic solo.
There was one ending with a decided “wow” factor, but he wasn’t done, as Ms. Tiso fearlessly used her compatriots to climb up onto the shoulders of another. The dancers then gathered, reaching up to the sky, this time in solidarity.
Texture Contemporary Ballet concludes its “Velocity” series at 2 p.m. Tickets: $20-30; showclix.com. Information: www.textureballet.org.
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