New Hazlett Theater
May 7–10, 2010
Reviewed by Steve Sucato
In her first season as artistic director of Pittsburgh’s Dance Alloy Theater, Greer Reed-Jones has begun opening up the 34-year-old company’s repertory to include a wider array of modern dance aesthetics. In the group’s season-ending program, “Alloy Unlocked…Part II,” Reed-Jones commissioned new works by Christopher Huggins and Robert Battle, artistic director designate of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Huggins’ The List (2010) opened Alloy’s program on a dramatic note. Set to music from the soundtrack of Schindler’s List, the Holocaust-inspired work made real the horror of genocide through the story of one fictional family in Krakow, Poland circa 1941. Four dancers were seated around a dinner table, when a knock at an imaginary door, followed by the delivery of a letter, sent the father of the family (Christopher Bandy) into a tortured frenzy. As if fighting with an imaginary foe, Bandy reeled and tossed about. Fists pounded the table in anguish, then resignation overtook each of the family members as news of their deportation sank in.
The story then traced the family’s journey to a concentration camp. Projected images of razor wire along with hanging metal shower heads painted a picture of impending peril, which played out in a final heartrending scene.
Huggins’ choreography for The List was emotionally gut-wrenching, and Alloy’s dancers convincingly portrayed the characters’ plight. While the work could easily have crossed the line from drama into melodrama, Huggins treated these heavy themes with sensitivity.
After a thoughtful performance of Pilobolus’ Duet (2004), in which dancers Maribeth Maxa and Michael Walsh gracefully swam through a tango of embraces and cradled lifts, Battle’s jazz music–inspired Crossing (2010) put forth drama of a different kind.
The slapping of palms to thighs created a syncopated cadence as a line of dancers with gritted teeth rocketed onto the stage to the recorded music of jazz trumpeter Sean Jones (Reed-Jones’ husband). Battle’s Horton-infused movement was fast-paced and aggressive. With the precision and driving intensity of a cheerleading dance routine, Alloy’s performers, along with members of Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, flew through stiff-armed and gestural movement phrases that seemed to shadow Jones’ musical scale-running trumpet riffs.
The frenzied pace was broken up by a slow, uneasy lovers’ duet in which a stern-faced James Washington (from AWCDE) enveloped Alloy’s Adrienne Misko in cold embraces, never making physical contact. He seemed to hold a quiet dominance over her, but in the end, the two held hands.
This review first appeared on DanceMagazine.com May 26, 2010. Copyright Steve Sucato