By Steve Sucato
Pittsburgh Current Dance Writer
Local audiences are used to CorningWorks’ Beth Corning assembling a cast of exceptional veteran performers for the dance theater works she has mounted in Pittsburgh since 2010. For CorningWorks’ latest The Glue Factory Project, THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT – by 6 women of a certain age, October 23 – 27 at The New Hazlett Theater, Corning has in store one of the most stellar cast of performers she has worked with in a work that is a bit out of the ordinary from past projects.
Taking the critically acclaimed touring show DANCING ON THE CEILING- performances by women of a certain age, that Corning was one of six seasoned and acclaimed female soloists performing their own original solos, she has brought to that show a new thematic arc via a loose narrative of “a band of ‘travelers’ clad in clown-like business suits, traversing an almost Sysphisian landscape as they bare bits of their lives.” In doing so, Corning has added some new choreography to link the six original solos and soloists together to create THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT – by 6 women of a certain age.
“I made this kind of wacky tribal thread to connect these solos,” says Corning. “I think women are a tribe and there is this kind of unspoken understanding [between them] and at the same time even if we don’t understand, we understand.”
CorningWorks presents the Fall 2019 The Glue Factory Project, THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT – by 6 women of a certain age, 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 23, 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 24 – Saturday, Oct. 26 & 2 p.m., Sunday Oct. 27. New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square, North Side. Tickets $25-40 (Sunday only PAY WHAT YOU CAN ADMISSION), newhazletttheater.org or (412) 320-4610.
The hour-long production (contains nudity) is “a bold take on #MeToo and the proverbial glass ceilings.” Corning and the cast of (mostly) 50-year-old plus women see what is happening in today’s cultural and political landscape as history repeating itself; a sort of déjà vu with women having to fight the same fights as in past decades for equal rights.
In it, Corning reprises her poignant “table” solo from her 2013 work Remains along with solos from her fellow award-winning cast including Charlotte Adams, artistic director of Charlotte Adams & Dancers, former classical ballet soloist Simone Ferro, Heidi Latsky, a former principal dancer for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Li Chiao-Ping, artistic director of Li Chiao-Ping Dance and Sara Hook, a former member of Nikolais Dance Theatre (her solo will be danced by Endalyn Taylor, a former principal dancer with Dance Theatre of Harlem).
“Each one of the solos bares little bits of these women’s lives,” says Corning. “They are all in a sense about resilience and the struggle to be where we are in age and in the world.”
Corning says although the work tackles some thought-provoking subject matter it will be delivered with some humor and humanity. “This is not the normal dance theater work, this is kind of exceptional and rare,” says Corning. These women are not just any dancers. They are all award-winning solo dance artists whose careers collectively span nearly 200 years.”
Opening Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s 50th anniversary season, Giselle returns to the Benedum Center, October 25-27 after a 3-year hiatus. Restaged by PBT artistic director Terrence Orr after Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot’s 1841 original, the 2-hour production, to music by Adolphe Adam performed live by the PBT Orchestra, features updated scenic design and costumes by renowned designer Peter Farmer.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre performs Giselle, 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26 and 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 27. Benedum Center, 237 7th Street. Tickets $28-122. www.pbt.org or 412-456-6666.
One of classical ballet’s most beloved story ballets, Giselle is the tragic tale of a young peasant girl whose betrayal by the man she loves and her forgiveness of him beyond the grave is familiar to ballet fans. But Giselle isn’t the only tragic figure in ballet. Often overlooked is the plight of the gamekeeper Hilarion, whose good intentions (in many productions) toward, and unrequited love for Giselle, leads him to heartache and an unfair demise being danced to death by the Willis, a ghostly sisterhood of spurned maidens.
Traditionally, played a couple of ways either as a menacing stalker type a la Jud from the musical Oklahoma!, or in many cases a good guy who genuinely loves Giselle, in PBT’s production Hilarion is the latter says soloist Corey Bourbonniere (8 p.m., Oct. 25 & 2 p.m., Oct. 27), one of several dancers that will portray the good-intentioned gamekeeper during the ballet’s run. The 5-year company member from Woonsocket, Rhode Island says “Terry [Orr] has made it clear he wants Hilarion to be more sympathetic in his version of the ballet.” With that in mind, Bourbonniere says he has taken a more measured approach to the character’s interactions with Giselle and her love interest Albrecht, the Duke of Silesia, who keeps his true identity secret from her.
“I don’t want him to come across as a brute or just angry,” says Bourbonniere. “I want to take the audience through my thought process and through my emotions.”
Perhaps the saddest of ballet’s second-string men, Hilarion is seen more by audiences for his outing of Albrecht and ruining their blossoming romance, rather than his admittedly jealously-driven good intentions. His big moment in the ballet is ironically his death dance, which has been made even bigger by Orr in PBT’s production says 6-year company soloist William Moore (8 p.m., Oct. 26) of England. “There is no acting necessary, we are really dying by the end of it,” says Moore. Orr added more music and more jumps to the solo to better give a sense of him being danced to death.
Would Giselle have saved Hilarion from his unfair demise had she risen from her grave sooner? Bourbonniere and Moore would like to think so; you be the judge.
The production will also be the last for popular principal dancer Luca Sbrizzi of Udine, Italy who will end his 12-year PBT career in the lead role of Albrecht on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m.