'Out of Elements' unleashes the talents of five artists

Dance Review

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In the moments before a performance, there is usually a certain amount of anxiety, even when things should go according to a pre-ordained plan. When there are chunks of improvisation, which is increasingly more frequent in Pittsburgh dance, the performer has an added responsibility to produce.

Choreographer Pearlann Porter took that inherent vulnerability a step further with Out of Elements, where five artists, in order Ms. Porter, Colin Pinto-Martin, David Bernabo, James Andrzej Rushin and Jordan Bush exchanged mediums exploring the "elements" of Movement (Mv), Drum (Dr), Guitar (Gu), Keyboard (Ke) and Chalk (Ck).

The concept event took place at Ms. Porter's Point Breeze art lab, The Space Upstairs, late Saturday, where the evening was divided into five rounds. The performers circulated four times among the arrangement, as if on foreign soil, before landing in their own area of expertise. There were a couple of ringers, though. Guitarist Mr. Bernabo had training on drums and keyboard, collaborated with choreographer Marie ReMalia and even took youthful art lessons at Carnegie Museum. And Mr. Rushin had considerable experience on guitar and drums in addition to keyboard.

Although that information wasn't revealed until the end, it was readily apparent and they tended to ground various rounds, still using some modicum of respect for the others by not fully dominating. Ms. Porter and Mr. Bush were the non-musicians who often focused on two or three note patterns in a repetitive pulse and Mr. Pinto-Martin was attempting dance for the first time.

The group as a whole was tentative at the outset. However it turned out that there were eddies of creativity that produced some fascinating sound and movement sensations. After all, there have been discoveries that came from what might even be considered mistakes.

In that spirit, Ms. Porter devised an increasingly mathematical division of sounds and silence on her turn at the keyboard and Mr. Bernabo designed a tempting essay on balance. Best was the development of distinct personalities, most revealing in the various turns at art. Mr. Rushin lived up to his name with a bold, eager attack, while Mr. Bernabo was intellectually elegant while precisely abstract.

And the real artist, Mr. Bush, hungrily covered all four sides of his chalkboard with an abstract rhythmic response, so symbolic of the way the various mediums could blend. Moments like those underscored Ms. Porter's theory that "everyone's a dancer, a musician, an artist." More than that, this daredevil experiment, in the end, seemed to open this Fab Five up to new possibilities.


Former Post-Gazette critic Jane Vranish: jvranish1@comcast.net. She blogs at pittsburghcrosscurrents.com.


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