By Steve Sucato
Pittsburgh Current Dance Writer
Exhalations Dance Theatre (EDT) recently had a problem most dance companies would kill for. The project-based troupe led by and populated by dancers and choreographers with full-time non-dance careers was growing too fast, says artistic director Lea Kasic.
“What is special to me about it is for those of us with other careers we can continue with what we are passionate about and for our younger artists, they can gain experience toward a professional career in dance,” Kasic says. Apart from the company’s annual self-produced mixed repertory programs, Kasic says the company has branched out a bit to perform at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival last May and performed as part of the Texture Contemporary Ballet’s curated dance series, Dance Shorts. And while the organization has the put the brakes on any big expansion to maintain its aforementioned mission and manageability, Kasic says they are interested in doing some outreach in the Pittsburgh community.
Exhalations Dance Theatre performs Equinox, 8 p.m., Saturday, March 23 and 5 p.m., Sunday, March 24. Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. Tickets are $12-18 ($20 at door) and available online at exhalations.org/equinox or kelly-strayhorn.org
EDT’s latest mixed repertory program Equinox, March 23 & 24 at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, plays into the duality of EDT’s company dancers as performers and professionals in non-dance careers along with the idea of rebirth that comes with this time of year. The program will feature eight new works by as many choreographers including NYC guest artist, Jake Casey, a former dancer with the Metropolitan Opera. His 10-minute ballet for 9 dancers, “Spectare Retro,” will open the program. Set to Frédéric Chopin’s “Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor, Op.11”, Casey says the ballet seeks to “step inside a memory. I hope to create an experience where the audience is reminded that we can learn a lot from the past.”
Next, dancer/choreographer Victoria Messino’s “Undone” is one of several works on the program themed around internal conflict. The 9-minute piece for 5 dancers to music by Kanye West, Muddy Waters and others, she says “reflects constricting feelings of doubt, self-evaluation, societal expectations and facing the unknown.”
“Trilogy” with music by Etta James is Kasic’s latest for the company and marks a departure for her in her approach to creating a work she says. “My inspiration this time came from my dancers themselves. I tried to make it about their experiences, struggles and goals in life.” The 10-minute work for a trio of dancers ebbs and flows through imagery of regeneration and evolution.
Closing out the program’s first half is Slippery Rock University dance program grad Nicole Monville’s “Avalanche”. Also for a trio of dancers, the work uses the metaphor of being frozen applied to one’s state in life. Danced to the song “Avalanche” by California band Just Friends, the 8-minute work also delves into themes of spirituality and rejuvenation.
Stephanie Anderson’s “Hold On To Me” to music by British electronic artists Bonobo (a.k.a. Simon Breen) and KAASI (a.k.a. Matthew Martin) is about “human interaction (good and bad) and specifically our desire for relationships,” says Anderson. “The pedestrian movement sequences in the work are in contrast to athleticism and the extreme lengths that the body can go to.”
A narrative by British Philosopher Alan Watts along with ambient sounds and music by Wolf Parade and Dakota Suite provide the soundtrack to Ebony Cunningham’s 12-minute contemporary dance work for 5 dancers, “My Dear Acquainted.” The work says Cunningham delves into “my own personal struggles with the highs and lows of depression after suffering a loss.” Another work about overcoming an internal struggle is Alyssa Bradley’s “Apricity”. The 10-minute piece for 8 dancers is performed to music by Vancouver Sleep Clinic, Max Richter and Foo Fighters.
Rounding out the 2-hour program will be EDT founding executive director and resident choreographer Katherine Mann’s “No Exit”. The 10-minute work for 5 dancers to music by Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean and others says Mann “is very different than anything I’ve ever done before and centers on feelings of vulnerability and introversion and learning to interact outside of yourself with the world around you.”
And like past programs, in Equinox many of the choreographers will also be performers in each other’s works.