Best Dance Performance: Akram Khan
The Akram Khan Company brought "Vertical Road" to the Byham Theater in October.
Choreographer Akram Khan.
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There was a whole raft of talented young artists poking their way onto the local dance scene this year (Luke Murphy, Continuum Dance Theater, Texture Contemporary Ballet/OvreArts and Shana Simmons/Eclectic Laboratory Orchestra). Unfortunately they couldn't nudge their way into the Top 10, perhaps because it was all about succulent artistic details this year, including the slo-mo "Last Touch First," Beth Corning's The Glue Factory Project and this year's winner, the touching "Vertical Road" by Akram Khan.
1. Akram Khan (Pittsburgh Dance Council, Byham Theater, Oct. 20): Pittsburghers got to see why this British/Bangladesh choreographer is so huge in Europe. Persian poet and philosopher Rumi inspired "Vertical Road," a mesmerizing piece that centered on human redemption through billowing movement and powerful rhythms. People are still talking about this performance -- its message was that powerful.
2. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (Benedum Center, March 10): Musically stark and emotionally wrenching, John Neumeier's "A Streetcar Named Desire" was a huge stretch for the PBT dancers and their audience. A stunning interpretation of Tennessee Williams' distinctly American literary classic.
3. "Last Touch First" (PDC, August Wilson Center, April 6): Chekhov inspired this collaboration between choreographers Jiri Kylian and Michael Schumacher. The loneliness and despair was pierced with irony, all delivered with hypnotic slow motion.
4. The Glue Factory Project (Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, Sept. 12): "The Life & Death of Little Finn" was an intimate folk tale. But in retrospect, "Finn" was a big juicy piece of art, with animation, movement, theater, video, musical accompaniment and some delicious puppetry to boot.
5. Gia T. Presents (Wood Street Galleries, March 31): I hope you didn't "BLINK" and miss this one. Pittsburgh improv queen Gia Cacalano provided a structured free-for-all -- five dancers and five musicians responding to Norwegian artist HC Gilje's light/space improvisation.
6. newMoves Festival (Kelly Strayhorn Theater, May 10-12): The newMoves Festival went international in its fourth year by featuring Hungary's smart Bloom! Dance Collective. But KST also spread the adventurous and more sophisticated impact among 16 choreographers from New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
7. Quantum Theatre (East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Oct. 19): Once again Quantum ventured into opera, this time with "Ainadamar." It portrayed the life of playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, with a beautifully textured score by Osvaldo Golijov and heightened by Carolina Loyola-Garcia's use of the flamenco. The duende hung like a mist over the hall.
8. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (Benedum, Oct. 27): Spirit of another kind lifted PBT's "Giselle." A historic ballet, this love affair was given a sense of immediacy and breathability through the inspired and heartfelt connection between Christine Schwaner (Giselle) and Alexandre Silva (Albrecht).
9. idioSyncrazy Productions (Dance Alloy Studios, Dec. 14): This Philadelphia-based company delved into "Private Spaces," an artistic twist on air travel. At times grating and frustrating, it was still a probing way to observe human nature between "flight attendants" and "passengers."
10. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (August Wilson Center, Feb. 3). PBT unfolded "Uncommon," an apt title because the company rarely does repertory programs. But it finally presented modern master Mark Morris' "Maelstrom," plus an angular premiere by Dwight Rhoden, "Chromatic." With live music, this was a must-have for PBT.
First Published December 20, 2012 12:00 am