Geeks and Gamers


Dancers, from left to right: Sophia Levine, Laura Herbert, Jamie Campbell, LaMar Williams, Ella Mason, and Patty Petronello. Photo by Ben Peoples.

Geeksdanz dancers in “Challenge Mode” – (L to R) Sophia Levine, Laura Herbert, Jamie Campbell, LaMar Williams, Ella Mason, and Patty Petronello. Photo by Ben Peoples.

By Steve Sucato

Pittsburgh’s newest dance troupe, Geeksdanz, “is on a mission is to introduce dance to audiences that would not normally be drawn to it,” says founder/artistic director Ellen Deutsch. For the group’s first full-length production, Challenge Mode, Deutsch and company aim to bring dance to those with an interest in video-gaming.

A humorous celebration of gamers and gaming, Challenge Mode explores the notion of becoming so immersed in a video game that you no longer see yourself as a player but, rather, as a character in the game. Set to video-game music remixed by the independent composers at OverClocked ReMix, the hour-long work is delivered in a series of short vignettes referencing well-known video games like Tetris, Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy and the Mario franchise. It’s also a game itself where six competitors vie for a 100 Percent Completion bonus.

Geeksdanz dancers Laura Herbert (left) and Ella Mason in "Challenge Mode". Photo by Ben Peoples.

Geeksdanz dancers Laura Herbert (left) and Ella Mason in “Challenge Mode”. Photo by Ben Peoples.

Deutsch, a Squirrel Hill native who studied dance at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says the troupe’s name is about her being a “geek” for dance. Says Deutsch: “We all express ourselves in ways that are most natural to us. A gamer might express their excitement over a game in a certain way; we just happen to be dancers who also like video games.”

Geeksdanz dancers LaMar Williams (left) and Patty Petronello  in "Challenge Mode". Photo by Ben Peoples.

Geeksdanz dancers LaMar Williams (left) and Patty Petronello in “Challenge Mode”. Photo by Ben Peoples.

Geeksdanz presents Challenge Mode, 6:30 p.m. Fri., April 19. Pittsburgh Dance Center, 4765 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $5. The production will also be streamed live at www.geeksdanz.org.

This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper April 17, 2013. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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