Dance Review: Collection at Labco produces a fine show

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Bill Wade, Post-Gazette
Gwen Hunter Ritchie, shown in a 2002 photo, gave a compelling solo performance at the Labco concert.
Click photo for larger image.

Labco Dance's "New re:Works" at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater looked like "dances at a gathering," to borrow from a Jerome Robbins title.

With the company itself larger than ever, plus additional choreographers, whose roots stem from Carnegie Mellon and Slippery Rock universities, working alongside Labco artistic director Gwen Hunter Ritchie and a raft of performers that branched beyond Pittsburgh to Washington D.C., it looked like Labco was, for the evening, a dance destination point.

Teena Custer, product of Pittsburgh and Slippery Rock, delectably led off the program Wednesday night with "Throne," a jigsaw puzzle of a piece that took the often uncontrollable energy of an urban street style and diverted it into the coherence of mainstream modern dance.

On the other hand, CMU's Gia Cacalano produced an edgy "Spirit Bodies," less concerned with unity than developing individual instincts, and populated, as it was, with a self-absorbed Tinker Bell and a handful of cohorts, most notably the bounding and rebounding Wendell Cooper.

C-c Braun and Rose Trump, recent graduates of Slippery Rock's dance department, collaborated on a film noir piece with a distinctively retro feel and a mature thought process behind it. "The Window Seat Diaries" focused on two women immersed in a bundle of memories that played out on a grainy film. Painted with delicate brushstrokes, it explored a relationship fraught with meaning and caught in a time warp.

Hunter Ritchie created the remainder of the program, reworking the large ensemble in "Treading Rites" to better evoke the essence of Indian sculptural styles. But her strength still lies in more intimate confines. "Falling Out," a duet for Lisa Ferrugia and Max Hurwitz, depicted a likable couple who apparently agreed to disagree in a pungent choreographic conversation.

And, of course, Hunter Ritchie is one of this city's most compelling modern dancers. So her psychological solo, "Drowning Not Waving," while still a work-in-progress, had an uncommon attraction in the muscular ease of her movement, where a phrase could appear from nowhere and then simply evaporate into the air.


Jane Vranish can be reached at jvranish@post-gazette.com .


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