Tag Archives: Anthony Williams

Dance Africa: Pittsburgh to Celebrate the African Diaspora


Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble.  Photo courtesy of  the company.

Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble. Photo courtesy of the company.

By Steve Sucato

Part of the nation’s largest festival dedicated to African dance, the fourth Dance Africa: Pittsburgh, July 17-18, will feature two evenings of performances, an Afro-Cuban dance workshop and an African marketplace.

Presented by The Legacy Arts Project and Kelly-Strayhorn Theater as part of its East Liberty LIVE! series, the event, entitled “The Healing,” is hosted by founder and artistic director of DanceAfrica, world-renowned teacher/choreographer Baba Chuck Davis.

Davis started the festival in Brooklyn in 1977, and it has spread to cities including Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Miami, Denver and Washington, D.C. The nightly two-hour programs include performances by Philadelphia’s Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble, Pittsburgh’s Balafon West African Youth Dance Ensemble, The Legacy Arts Project Community Dance Ensemble and dancer/choreographer Anthony Williams.

Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble.  Photo courtesy of  the company.

Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble. Photo courtesy of the company.

A mix of traditional Afro-Caribbean and West African dance along with African drumming will be on display, celebrating the African diaspora and “highlighting the majesty of African arts,” says Legacy Arts Project executive director Erin Perry. The event will also honor Davis, who is retiring as DanceAfrica artistic director.

Dance Africa: Pittsburgh – 8 p.m. Fri., July 17, and 8 p.m. Sat., July 18. Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $12-20. 412-519-0182 or www.legacyartsproject.org/dance-africa

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Amid controversy, the PrideFest dance showcase goes on


Jasmine Hearn. Photo courtesy of FringeArts.

Jasmine Hearn. Photo courtesy of FringeArts.

By Steve Sucato

PrideFest’s annual dance showcase is among the best ways to catch up with local dance talent. But even this free showcase has been touched by the controversy surrounding PrideFest this year. The choice of rapper Iggy Azalea as festival headliner generated outcry over allegations of homophobia and racism on her part, and reignited claims that festival producer The Delta Foundation is not inclusive enough of all parts of the LGBT community. [As this issue went to press, Azalea had dropped out of the festival.]

Several LGBT groups have boycotted the festival, and an alternate protest and celebration, Roots Pride, is planned. But though most PrideFest attractions will go on as scheduled, at press time, one company had dropped out of the June 14 dance showcase.

“We wish to remain neutral in this time of chaos and confusion,” says Duane Binion, artistic director of True T Entertainment. “However we do agree with our audience request that we do not participate in PrideFest.”

The seven remaining acts in the seventh annual free dance showcase, curated by Richard Parsakian, will perform from 1:30-5 p.m. on two outdoor stages.

Texture Contemporary Ballet's Kelsey Batman & Alan Obuzor. Photographer Katie Ging.

Texture Contemporary Ballet’s Kelsey Batman & Alan Obuzor. Photographer Katie Ging.

In her fourth appearance at PrideFest, dancer/choreographer Jasmine Hearn presents the Pittsburgh premiere of her 10-minute solo “the most of us.” Set to music by Beyoncé and Bonnie Raitt, the solo was inspired by a break-up, says Hearn.

Pillow Project artistic director Pearlann Porter and writer/poet John Lambert collaborate on Porter’s new work, “In just so many words.” The eight-minute “postjazz movement-directed” piece contrasts superficial words drawn on an oversized paper gown worn by Porter that is slowly torn off, with more substantive words revealed painted on Porter’s skin.

Duo Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight, a.k.a. slowdanger, perform their work-in-progress “exchange,” in which they take turns generating looped sound produced by one dancer’s body while the other responds through movement.

Texture Contemporary Ballet presents excerpts from artistic director Alan Obuzor’s “Eclipse” and his “Unchanging Change.” The troupe will also reprise Brynn Vogel’s “Let Me Go” and Amanda Summers’ “Fool’s Paradise.”

Completing the showcase will be PrideFest newcomer Jean-Paul Weaver’s 10-minute male duet “Flè,” about making non-physical connections; dancer/choreographer Weylin Gomez’s untitled improvisational solo that contrasts animalistic and feminine movement qualities; and Anthony Williams’ nine-minute work-in-progress inspired by his experiences in Pittsburgh.

PrideFest dance showcase 1:30-5 p.m. Sun., June 14, Stages on Liberty Avenue at Sixth and 10th streets, Downtown. Free. pittsburghpride.org

This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper on June 10, 2015. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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Pittsburgh’s newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival returns for a sixth year


BodyCartography Project in

BodyCartography Project in “Super Nature.” Photo by Ian Douglas.

By Steve Sucato

This year, the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater’s newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival has a distinctly local flavor. But while the sixth annual incarnation is perhaps disappointingly short on out-of-town talent compared to years past, newMoves remains unique in the region as a showcase for both local and visiting artists performing new contemporary dance.

The festival runs May 7-9 at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and KST’s Alloy Studios. It offers three nights of performances featuring works by 14 choreographers performed by 44 dancers, with most presenting artists based in Pittsburgh. This year’s festival has also expanded the number of complementary events, including workshops, master classes, mixers and parties.

Headlining this year’s festival is Minneapolis-based BodyCartography Project. The troupe offers two performances, May 8 and 9 at KST’s Alloy Studios, of a 50-minute excerpt from its 2012 dance-theater work Super Nature. Founded in 1997 by New Zealand-native Olive Bieringa, BodyCartography Project’s contemporary-dance works range from intimate performance installations to interactive works in public space, like on mass transit and in parks. The company has performed across the U.S., and in Canada, Europe and South America.

BodyCartography Project in

BodyCartography Project in “Super Nature.” Photo by Gene Pittman.

We call it “a radical ecological melodrama,” says Bieringa, speaking of Super Nature by telephone from Minneapolis. The work for eight dancers and four local guest performers is choreographed by Bieringa and co-artistic director Otto Ramstad. The piece is set to an original soundscape by Bessie Award-winning composer Zeena Parkins and explores the civilized and wild aspects of human nature.

The Pittsburgh debut of Super Nature will be a separate ticketed event in addition to the festival’s trio of hour-long nightly programs at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater. The latter include:

Program A (Thu., May 7) is an all-local artist evening featuring Murphy/Smith Dance Collective’s Jamie Erin Murphy who is returning to newMoves for the fourth time, with her 2014 quartet “Makeshift.” Set to music by Ben Frost, the work “explores the idea of temporary replacement and support,” Murphy says.

Alexandra Bodnarchuk. Photo by Lindsay Dill.

Alexandra Bodnarchuk. Photo by Lindsay Dill.

Gravity and the metronome of time serve as inspirations for Alexandra Bodnarchuk’s “… and counting.” The solo, danced to an original composition by Brandon Musser, has Bodnarchuk grappling with these concepts and revealing what she says “is hidden beneath the seams of her existence.”

Yes Brain Dance Theater artistic director Moriah Ella Mason’s new work-in-progress duet “Diasporate” reflects on white American Jewish identity. Rounding out Program A is “memory 3: swimmoon,” a work-in-progress duet by dancers Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight, a.k.a. slowdanger. Says Thompson: “The work is a reinterpretation of a memory in the present.”

slowdanger’s Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight. Photo by Cassie Kay Rusnak.

slowdanger’s Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight. Photo by Cassie Kay Rusnak.

Program B (Fri., May 8) will feature improv master Gia T. (Gia Cacalano) performing her new work-in-process “kimono.” Inspired by the traditional Japanese garment, its beauty and the culture surrounding it, she will create her solo in real time dancing to music by Korean composer Jong Kagi Park.

Also on the program are works by three festival first-timers. Dancer/choreographer Jil Stifel investigates “how shared body schema can allow us to work intricately as a single unit” in her new work-in-progress duet “Knuckle Press.” Maree ReMalia, who recently relocated to Washington, D.C., returns with her troupe merrygogo in “Circulation Project,” a new work-in-progress about the phenomenon of habit. And veteran local dancemaker Joan Wagman premieres her dance-theater work for four dancers, “PINKIFICATION.” Set to a music mix that ranges from Bengali techno to a 1940s field-recording of a chain gang, the work, says Wagman, “explores the human urge to make troubling issues rosy.”
Megan Mazarick. Photo by Megan Mazarick.

Megan Mazarick. Photo by Megan Mazarick.

Program C (Sat., May 9; contains adult content) features Philadelphia’s Megan Mazarick bringing an unlady-like approach to our cultural obsession with princesses in her new solo, “monster,” set to original music by Mohamed Shafik. “This idea of princesses and wanting to be one is so nauseating to me,” says Mazarick via Skype from Giza, Egypt, where she is premiering the work. “I am trying to flip the script to make the princess awful and make the monster interesting, weird and better somehow.”

The festival’s lone student-performed work comes from Athens, Ohio’s Factory Street Studio. “Revolution,” choreographed by Elizabeth Atwell, reflects on what dance means to its quartet of high school-age performers.

Jean-Paul Weaver (center). Photo by Nick Fochtman.

Jean-Paul Weaver (center). Photo by Nick Fochtman.

Filling out Program C are three works by area dancer/choreographers. Brady Sanders’ “The Screen Between Us” looks at our love affair with technology. Anthony Williams’ “beingHUMAN” explores sexuality and self-worth in the fast-paced world of clubbing. And Jean-Paul Weaver’s new solo, “Lalin,” explores humanity’s relationship with the moon.

newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival – Program A: 8 p.m. Thu., May 7. Program B: 6 p.m. Fri., May 8. Program C: 9 p.m. Sat., May 9. Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. BodyCartography Project performs Super Nature 9 p.m. Fri., May 8, and 7 p.m. Sat., May 9. Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Ave., Friendship. Individual events: $8-20 (festival pass: $50), Pre-show mixers nightly, 412-363-3000 or kelly-strayhorn.org.

This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper on May 6, 2015. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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