By Steve Sucato
Current Contributing Writer
While contemporary dancers nowadays are stylistically versatile creatures, many have little or no tap dancing experience. Which then begs the question: Why has Texture Contemporary Ballet’s artistic director/resident choreographer Alan Obuzor for the first time created a tap piece for his company of ballet dancers?
It’s a risky move but one Obuzor says he has had in the back of his mind for years. “I wanted to create a piece that showcased tap but also showcased the strengths of our dancers as movers rather than tappers and incorporate that altogether,” says Obuzor.
Texture Contemporary Ballet performs Unmeasured Rhythm, 7:30 p.m., Thu., July 19; 8 p.m. Fri., July 20 & Sat., July 21 and 2 p.m., Sun., July 22. Special hourlong Children’s Performance, 4 p.m., Sat., July 21 ($10/family). New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. $20-30. (412) 320-4610, textureballet.org or newhazletttheater.org.
Texture’s dancers have a varied background in tap, he says. Obuzor himself studied tap up until age 17 and recently took a few refresher classes.
The company began work in April on the yet-to-be-titled 30-minute piece set to a varied soundtrack, including artists like Two Steps from Hell and Michael Bublé, pop music and African drums.
And despite the dancers’ wide range of tap skills, the work, says Obuzor, won’t be a contemporary ballet piece disguised as a tap work. Its 13 dancers will be in tap shoes the entire time dancing on a miked tap floor complete with a cappella sections that will showcase their skills (or possibly expose their lack thereof). Obuzor however, feels they will be up to the challenge.
The work, that Obuzor describes as epic and lighthearted at times, is one of three premieres on Texture’s program Unmeasured Rhythm that will open its 2018-19 season, July 19 through 22 at North Side’s New Hazlett Theater.
Also on the program will be the newly commissioned contemporary dance work “Suite Rachmaninoff,” by New York-based guest choreographer Annalee Traylor.
A Point Park University graduate and former dancer with the August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, Traylor’s works have been presented at Highways Performance Space in Los Angeles, The Young Choreographer’s Festival in New York City, Maaspoduim in Rotterdam, NLD, Dance Canvas in Atlanta and the Los Angeles Dance Festival.
Per the work’s title, the 30-minute piece for 13 dancers in socks will be performed to a suite of works by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff including his “Prelude Op.32 No.2 in B flat minor” and “Prelude in G Minor Op. 23 No. 5”.
“The inspiration for the work really lies in the moods of the different pieces of music I chose,” says Traylor. She says there are also small narratives within each of the work’s sections that together create an overall otherworldly feel to “Suite Rachmaninoff”.
In describing her choreographic process Traylor says, “I don’t create much movement beforehand, I get inspired by the dancers in front of me in the studio.” She adds that she worked to incorporate the extreme technical prowess of Texture’s dancers.
Rounding out the program will be the latest collaboration between Obuzor and company associate artistic director /resident choreographer Kelsey Bartman entitled “Granada”. The 30-minute, Spanish-flavored ballet for a dozen dancers is another idea the two have been kicking around for years but are just now bringing to fruition.
Set to classical Spanish compositions, the ballet features the two choreographers’ well-established contemporary ballet movement style that Texture audiences have come to know and love.
Primarily, the ballet will have its female dancers in pointe shoes and Flamenco skirts, giving the piece an authentic Spanish feel, says Obuzor.
So, whether in tap shoes, socks or en pointe, Texture’s dancers in Unmeasured Rhythm are sure to give audiences plenty to marvel at to kick off the new dance season in Pittsburgh.