By Steve Sucato
Pittsburgh Current Dance Writer
Point Park University’s Conservatory Dance Company’s annual Contemporary Choreographers program is known for presenting cutting–edge dance works from some of the brightest choreographers working today. This year’s edition to open the student dance troupe’s 2019-2020 season, October 10-13 at the George Rowland White Performance Studio, features an all-female choreographer line-up and something that has possibly never been seen in a dance concert.
That something is a unique lighting setup using projection as the light source in a 17 ½ minute sneak peek of Pearlann Porter’s work-in-progress “NOW: Playing” that will premiere on Porter’s The Pillow Project, December 7 & 8 at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. Using four projectors and laptops that will cast light on the work’s 5-dancers from the stage side wings, “The dancers become these illuminated moving objects,” says Porter. “Because the light from the projectors is video, I can make it move, vibrate, change color, scroll up from the floor or do just about anything I want it to.”
While the lighting effect is just the latest dazzling technical effect from Pittsburgh’s experimental dance masters, Porter says this has been one of the most difficult and time consuming projects she has ever undertaken.
“I wanted to make a piece that was fun to watch and dance,” says Porter. “It kind of looks like you are watching a live-action music video.”
Set to an original soundtrack by Point Park Accompanist/teacher PJ Roduta, the dancing will be in Porter’s signature postmodern-jazz movement method blending choreography and improvisation, Porter calls “improvography.”
Also on the program will be three works by New York-based choreographers beginning with Amy Hall Garner’s new commission for CDC’s dancers, “Cadences”. Performed to music by Karl Jenkins and England’s Marici Saxes, the 16-minute piece for 30 dancers was crafted to concentrate purely on musicality, character, and nuance, says Garner. “Its choreographic focus was to challenge the dancers to explore the layers of their artistry alongside technique and structure.”
A 19-minute excerpt from Yin Yue’s 2019 work “Citizen” will then explore the intensity of the times we are living in, says Yue. Danced to original music by Juliane Jones and Doug Beiden, the work for 7 women employs Yue’s signature “FoCo Technique,” a hybrid dance language mixing contemporary dance and Chinese classical and folk dance.
Rounding out the program will be Martha Nichols’ latest work “The Decline from a Sound and Prosperous Condition.” The 15-minute work for 28 dancers to music by Max Richter invites the audience partake in a “physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual experience.”
Conservatory Dance Company presents Contemporary Choreographers, 8 p.m., Thursday, October 10 and Friday, October 11; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m., Saturday, October 12 and 2 p.m., Sunday, October 13. Point Park University’s George Rowland White Performance Studio, 201 Wood St., Downtown. Tickets are $10-24. (412) 392-8000 or pittsburghplayhouse.com.
In the mold of Pilobolus Dance Theatre’s Shadowland, that delighted Dance Council audiences in 2017, former Pilobolus creative director Adam Battlestein’s Catapult: The Amazing Magic of Shadow and Dance, is a super-sized helping of the same amazing dancing shadow silhouettes that audiences find irresistible to watch. Finalists on Season 8 of the NBC-TV hit show America’s Got Talent, Catapult’s 105 minutes (including intermission) show is full of humor, emotion, and fully realized stories engagingly told through music, shadows and illusion. Catapult’s dancers form a myriad of shapes from the world around us including a mountain, a full size elephant, a helicopter and a house with a window and people inside the window. The show also includes a “MouZart”, a new piece commissioned by Austria’s prestigious Mozart Festival that tells the story of a musical mouse living in Mozart’s house.
Cohen & Grigsby TRUST PRESENTS Series presents Catapult: The Amazing Magic of Shadow and Dance, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, October 10, Byham Theater, 101 6th St., Downtown, $30-50, (412) 456-6666 or trustarts.org.