A Trio of Dance Programs This Weekend Offer Audiences Aesthetic & Cultural Diversity

By September 26, 2019 No Comments

Texture Contemporary Ballet dancers Madeline Kendall, Alexandra Tiso & Katie Miller. (Photo: Mark Simpson)

By Steve Sucato
Pittsburgh Current Dance Writer

Texture Contemporary Ballet (TCB) recently said goodbye to its nomadic life as a company without a permanent home and hello to a new home in the South Hills along with the creation of the new Texture Ballet School.  

The company is taking over Pittsburgh Youth Ballet Company & School’s facility and operations in McMurray, where Texture co-founder and artistic director has been an instructor for the past decade. 

“Adding a training school to the organization has been a longtime goal,” says Obuzor. “It helps spread the name of the company, adds more stability to it by having a permanent home, and having a training school that can feed into the company means you are training future company dancers in the desired movement style of the company.”

While the location of the former Pittsburgh Youth Ballet will stay the same, with the same students, Obuzor says the renamed Texture Ballet School’s curriculum will change adding dance classes geared toward the kind of contemporary dance movement prevalent today and needed for advancement into the professional company. 

“For the school students having a professional company in the same building and seeing them in classes and in rehearsal is such an inspiration for student dancers,” says Obuzor. “It gives them a picture of what you are working toward.” And what that is can be seen by audiences September 27-29 at the New Hazlett Theater as TCB presents Beatles & Bach, a mixed repertory program of new works featuring collaborators Cello Fury.

The 90-minute program in 3-acts will begin with Obuzor’s new 22-minute ballet “Bach Cello #3” for 10 dancers to Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009” played live by Cello Fury. Says Obuzor, the ballet’s 6 sections will each have a different movement motivation, some streamlined, some off-balance, all inspired by Bach’s music. 

Act 2 will feature the new 12-minute ballet “Textured Fury” by Obuzor and TCB associate artistic director Kelsey Bartman an original composition created for the program by Cello Fury. Then in Act 3 Bartman’s “The Beatles,” is an epic 40-minute ballet for 10 dancers to a suite of popular Beatles’ hits including “Eleanor Rigby,” “Ticket To Ride,” “All My Loving,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and “When I’m sixty-four”.

Texture Contemporary Ballet performs Beatles & Bach, 8 p.m., Fri., Sept. 27 & Sat., Sept. 28 and 2 p.m., Sun., Sept. 29. Children’s Performance, 4 p.m., Sat., Sept. 28 ($10/family). New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. $20-30. (412) 320-4610, or 

Past Forward

A scene from When Birds Refused to Fly. (Photo: Gery Barbot Photographie)

For his last work to world-premiere in Pittsburgh, 2015’s Declassified Memory Fragment, dancer/choreographer Olivier Tarpaga created what he called “an open letter on African society.” The New York/Burkina Faso-based Tarpaga returns to the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater this weekend to world-premiere his latest dance-theater piece continuing an exploration of African society this time through the lens of the music of his father’s influential Burkina Faso band of the 1960s and 70s, Super Volta Orchestra.

Set to recordings of Super Volta Orchestra Tarpaga inherited when his father passed away in 2004, the 70-minute When Birds Refused to Fly uses that music (and others) to draw comparisons between Burkina Faso’s euphoric post-independence celebrations from France in the 1960s to the turbulent struggle African Americans faced during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States during that same time period. “The piece is like you are going to two different worlds,” says Tarpaga. “The choreography is high energy and celebratory with moments of emotionality.”

Tarpaga says, “The title is not about the bird that cannot fly but the bird who chooses not to fly.” It refers to a quote by former Guinea leader Ahmed Sékou Touré who famously said to General Charles de Gaulle, “We prefer poverty in liberty to riches in slavery.”  

Performed by the Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project’s troupe of four Ouagadougou-based performers, the abstract multimedia work features set design and prop concept by Tarpaga in collaboration with V. Mitch McEwen.

Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project performs When Birds Refused to Fly, 8 p.m., Fri., Sept. 27 & Sat., Sept. 28. Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. Pay What Makes You Happy. (412) 363-3000 or 

New Thinking

New York’s MICHIYAYA Dance returns to Pittsburgh in their new work Gurih, Friday, September 27 at the Andy Warhol Museum’s Warhol Theater. Co-presented with Carnegie Mellon University School of Art and School of Drama, the 45-minute multimedia solo choreographed and directed by company founders Anya Clarke and Mitsuko Verdery. Themed on “the queering of our senses through a multicultural lens,”   work is performed by international dance artist Belinda Adam. 8 p.m., Tickets $12-15; or (412) 237-8300.    

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