Bodiography’s Season-Ending Program to Highlight Touring Works


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Bodiography dancers in Maria Caruso’s “Doors and Windows”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

By Steve Sucato

Don’t talk to Maria Caruso about slowing down. The 37-year-old founder/artistic director of Pittsburgh’s Bodiography Contemporary Ballet who has had more retirements and comebacks as a performer than NFL quarterback Brett Favre is a self-described workaholic. In addition to overseeing BCB and sister performance companies BCB3, a troupe of veteran former BCB company members and BCB Charlotte, a North Carolina branch company, Caruso also heads Bodiography’s Center for Movement and its dance education and fitness and wellness programs as well as chairs the Performing Arts Department at La Roche College. For Caruso “busy” is her resting state. So it should come as no surprise that despite recent health issues she would take on even more.  Later this year and next Caruso will embark on a 2.5 million dollar expansion of Bodiography’s Center for Movement facility in Squirrel Hill, adding new studios and a convertible black box performance space to the historic building that once housed Hollywood legend Gene Kelly’s first dance studio.

Also in 2019, BCB will head to Europe for a weeklong tour with performances in London and Manchester, England, Berlin and Paris. That tour will feature Caruso’s “Doors and Windows” (2018), a ballet she calls the finest she has choreographed for the 17-year-old company.  A reprise of that work plus a world premiere from Caruso and three Pittsburgh premieres of works created for BCB’s annual Southern Tours will make up the company’s 2017-18 season-ending program Highlights, this Saturday, May 12 at Downtown’s Byham Theater.

Kicking off the all-Caruso choreographed program will be “Break the Verse” (2018). The 8–minute work for 11-dancers to a score by Pittsburgh composer Austin Beckman of experimental band Walrus Tales, is a reaction to the music says Caruso. “The music is a journey through a soundscape of intense pulsating rhythms and soft, poetic classical string music,” says Caruso.  “The dancers begin the work as this organically moving pod and then progress through some really powerful duets.”

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Bodiography dancers in Maria Caruso’s “Doors and Windows”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

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Bodiography dancers in Maria Caruso’s “Doors and Windows”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

2017’s “Walkways” was more of “an experiment” says Caruso.  For the 6-miunte work for 7-dancers set to music by Swiss-born electronic musician Massivan (a.k.a. Ivan Pezzini), Caruso says she “wanted to do a piece with really strong pointe work and athleticism that was completely outside the box crossing boundaries between classical ballet and contemporary forms.”

Originally inspired by and created on the 5 women of BCB Charlotte, the aptly titled “Really?!” (2018) taps into their frustrations as young working mothers navigating adulthood. The 7-minute work with music by Kansas City’s Quixotic has been adapted for 8 of BCB’s female dancers in Pittsburgh.

Inspired by a scene from 2018 Academy Award Best Picture-winner The Shape of Water, the world premiere of Caruso’s “Submerged” with music composer Olafur Arnalds and Quixotic by looks to impart a feeling of being submerged says Caruso. The 16-minute for 12-dancers including Caruso will present a serene world in which the dancers appear to float and fall at peace with their surroundings.

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Bodiography dancers in Maria Caruso’s “Doors and Windows”. Photo by Eric Rosé.

Rounding out the program will be the aforementioned “Doors and Windows” (2018). Performed to music by The 1975, Ludovico Einaudi, Kevin Keller, and Sigur Ros, the 36-minute ballet says Caruso is “the story of Bodiography told through the eyes of a Bodiography artist.” With narration by Amanda Fisher the cast of 7-dancers including Caruso, encapsulates and chronicle’s Bodiography’s evolution.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet performs Highlights, 8 p.m., Saturday, May 12, Byham Theater – 101 6th St.; $25; (412) 456-6666 or trustarts.org

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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Verb Ballets’ ‘Spring Series’ program to feature Adam Hougland ballet


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Verb Ballets’ Kate Webb and Omar Humphrey in Heinz Poll’s “Eight by Benny Goodman”. Photo courtesy of Verb Ballets.

By Steve Sucato

Fresh off a successful tour to Cuba in March, Cleveland’s Verb Ballets travels a bit closer to home to make its debut at the University of Akron’s EJ Thomas Hall this Friday, April 27.

Their Spring Series program will showcase three works from their repertory plus the Northeast, Ohio premiere of Princess Grace Award-winning choreographer Adam Hougland’s ballet “K281”.

Originally created for Cincinnati Ballet in 2007, “K281” takes its name from Mozart’s “Piano Sonata No. 3 in B-flat major, K. 281” that the ballet is set to.  The 14-minute piece for 3 men and 3 women says repetiteur and original cast member, Jill Marlow Krutzkamp is full of quirky contemporary dance movement a la choreographer William Forsythe.

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Jill Marlow Krutzkamp rehearsing Verb Ballets’ Antonio Morillo and Kelly Korfhage in Adam Hougland’s “K281”. Photo by Susan Bestul.

The ballet also assigns each of its 3 couples their own personalities. The first couple says Marlow Krutzkamp, has a fun, free relationship, the second couple’s music is slower and the mood is somber, and the third couple, the music gets faster and they have a funny relationship where the woman moves like a rag doll.

“The biggest challenge with this piece is the partnering and the transitions between couples,” says Marlow Krutzkamp.

Joining “K281” on the program will be a reprise of the Heinz Poll masterwork “Eight by Benny Goodman” (1992).

Choreographed by Ohio Ballet founder Poll during a time period he referred to in his autobiography, “A Time to Dance” published posthumously in 2008 as “Ohio Ballet’s Golden Years,” the ballet, set to orchestral music of the 1940s arranged by Goodman including the songs “I’m Nobody’s Baby,” “My Old Flame” and “How High The Moon,” the ballet had an unusual genesis for a Poll work says Verb Ballets’ ballet master Richard Dickinson who staged it for the company and was an original dancer in it.

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(L-R) Verb Ballets’ Christina Lindhout, Kate Webb and Kelly Korfhage in Heinz Poll’s “Eight by Benny Goodman”. Photo courtesy of Verb Ballets.

Dickinson says during the creation of the ballet Poll did something he never did, bringing in visual aids in the form of photos from the 1930s of Hollywood actresses such as Marlene Dietrich to provide the dancers with reference points for the glamour and demeanor of the characters he was creating for the ballet. In addition, says Dickinson, Poll invited the dancers to his home to watch old Dietrich movies and others such as 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain where he singled out the tap extravaganza “Good Morning”.

The 25-minute “Eight by Benny Goodman” for 10 women and 4 men with original lighting by Thomas R. Skelton, adapted by Trad Burns (who incidentally created the lighting for all of the other works on the program) was bequeathed to Dickinson by Poll when he died in 2006 and remains one of Poll’s most popular and enduring feel-good ballets.

Also on the program will be a reprise of Pamela Pribisco’s rendition of “Tarantella” (2005) to composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s “Grand Tarantella for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 67 (ca. 1866)”.  The lively and technically demanding classical ballet duet will be performed by Verbs’ Christina Lindhout and Omar Humphrey.

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Verb Ballets in Tommie-Waheed Evans’ “Dark Matter”. Photo courtesy of Verb Ballets.

Rounding out the program will be former Philadanco dancer Tommie-Waheed Evans’ “Dark Matter” (2013). A company and audience favorite, the 20-minute athletic and street-styled modern dance work for 11-dancers is, says Evans, a reaction to the driving original music for it by Philadelphia composer Greg Smith along with additional music by Bach.

Verb Ballets Spring Series will be performed at 8 p.m., Friday, April 27, The University of Akron’s EJ Thomas Hall, 198 Hill Street, Akron, Ohio. Tickets are $17-35 and can be purchased by calling the EJ Thomas Box Office at (330) 972-7570 or online at www.verbballets.org.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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With ‘Worx’ Staycee Pearl dance project brings the Nostalgia and the Funk


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Staycee Pearl dance project (SPdp) dancers (L-R) Maree Remalia, Jessica Anne Marino and LaTrea Rembert. Photo by Kitoko Chargois.

By Steve Sucato

It will be a homecoming of sorts for Staycee Pearl dance project (SPdp) this Thursday, April 19 and Friday, April 20, when the 8-year-old company returns to East Liberty’s Kelly-Strayhorn Theater after a multiyear absence.

The site of many of the company’s most important premieres, their latest production Worx, looks back on three of them plus introduces the troupe’s latest work-in-progress, “Sol”.

Included in the hourlong repertory program will be a 10-minute excerpt from 2010’s “circlePOP”.  Set to a mash-up of music samples from Pharrell Williams, Jimi Hendrix, Beyoncé and others created by SPdp’s Co-executive Director/ Sound Designer Herman Pearl, the work, choreographed by Co-executive/Artistic Director Staycee Pearl  and performed by a trio of dancers, takes its inspiration from how popular culture influences our world. Updated for Worx, the excerpt contains new material reflective of current popular culture.

Inspired by the socio-political climate surrounding race and colorism as well as Blackness in relation to Post-Blackness,  a condensed version of the Pearl’s  2013 piece “…on being…” will also be performed. The term post-blackness was coined by Harlem museum curator Thelma Golden and conceptual artist Glenn Ligon in the 1990’s and describes the tossing off of one’s racial identifiers and with them the burden of having everything you do speak for your entire race.  And while exploring the notion of post-blackness is part of the work, it is “really about identity and examines self-identifiers such as gender and sexuality,” says Mrs. Pearl.

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Staycee Pearl dance project (SPdp) dancers (L-R) Maree Remalia, Jessica Anne Marino and LaTrea Rembert. Photo by Kitoko Chargois.

Danced to an original music collage that Mr. Pearl describes as “chopped up soul music abstracted,” Mrs. Pearl’s choreography for the work’s three dancers can also be characterized as being abstract.

Rounding out the program’s reprised works will be a 15-minute excerpt of the Pearl’s 2011 work “Octavia” for a trio of dancers. Inspired by MacArthur genius grant recipient Octavia E. Butler’s science fiction novels, the work shines a light on the real-world lessons contained within those literary works.

Set to another of Herman’s otherworldly curated soundscapes that contains samples from Jimi Hendrix’s song “1983” plus original music by cellist/composer Dave Eggar, the work, says Mrs. Pearl, is a conceptual representation of her work juxtaposed with her life.

Music as motivator is at the core of the program’s lone new work-in-progress, “Sol”.  Set to a collage of of lesser known soul music from the late 50s to mid 70s and sound distortions orchestrated together by Mr. Pearl that he compares to sounding like “a distressed cassette tape,” the 20-minute “Sol,” performed by a quartet of dancers, plays with ideas of how soul music evokes certain moods, says Mrs. Pearl.  “It can inspire a deeper connection to your inner self and the music you are hearing.”

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Staycee Pearl dance project (SPdp) dancers (L-R) Maree Remalia, Jessica Anne Marino and LaTrea Rembert. Photo by Kitoko Chargois.

Included in “Sol’s” mood-inspiring soundtrack are portions of the ballads “The Right To Love You” by The Mighty Hannibal and Betty Harris’ song “Nearer To You” as well as funkier tunes by Curtis Mayfield and others.

For those unfamiliar with Staycee Pearl dance project’s catalog of work or those interested in revisiting some of the troupe’s greatest hits, Worx is just the ticket.

Staycee Pearl dance project (SPdp) performs Worx, 8 p.m., Thursday, April 19 and Friday, April 20; Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh. Tickets: $10 students/seniors, $20 regular admission. http://www.pearlartsstudios.com/events/worx

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

 

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