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For Pittsburgh Debut, LA’s BODYTRAFFIC Presents a Program of Distinct Choreographic Voices

BODYTRAFFIC by Rory Doyle-8

BODYTRAFFIC dancer. Photo by Rory Doyle

By Steve Sucato

Now a decade in, Los Angeles-based BODYTRAFFIC continues to make in-roads to becoming one of nation’s premiere contemporary dance companies.  While still not a household name even among dance aficionados, the company’s growing success has company co-founder/artistic director Tina Finkelman Berkett feeling a bit more added pressure because of that success.

“You wish for success, then success comes and everyone has this idea that it comes easy,” says Finkelman Berkett. “But it just keeps getting harder and harder because you have to keep living up to new demands and expectations.”

A full-time company dancer, BODYTRAFFIC’s head of development as well as its co-artistic director, Finkelman Berkett wears a lot of hats which she says these days can be a bit daunting but stimulating. “I think part of why I love our company so much because it continues to be challenging for me and I get to rise to those occasions. The ups and downs “are like this sick beautiful cycle.”

As part of the company’s current busy tour schedule, BODYTRAFFIC will make is Pittsburgh debut to close out the Pittsburgh Dance Council‘s 2017-18 season this Saturday, April 14 at Downtown’s Byham Theater. The company will present four repertory works beginning with Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter’s “Dust”(2015).

BODYTRAFFIC Dust-461-Photo-Sharen Bradford

BODYTRAFFIC in Hofesh Shechter’s “Dust”. Photo by Sharen Bradford.

Described as “a dark look at the power and commercialism that steer today’s society,” the 22-minute multimedia work set to a subliminal-message-infused score by Shechter says Finkelman Berkett “Is built on a number of concepts that have to do with cult-like behavior. You see us doing sometimes ritualistic movements and standing in formations that convey that we are being driven by a force that is greater than our own minds.”

In choosing choreographers to work with the company such as Shechter, Finkelman Berkett’s counterpart Lillian Rose Barbeito said in an article in Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, “We scour the world, looking for distinct voices.”

Some of those other distinct choreographic voices that have made works for the company include Andrea Miller, Barak Marshall, Gustavo Ramírez Sansano and Pittsburgh-native Kyle Abraham.

“Lillian and I really didn’t know each other when we started BODYTRAFFIC,” Finkelman Berkett. “We basically were two dancers that wanted to present a certain kind of work in LA [Los Angeles].  We joke now that it is unbelievable how lucky we are that all these years later we pretty much have always agreed on dancers and choreographers; we have such similar tastes.”

Where the two differ however is Finkelman Berkett, a former competition dancer in Long Island, grew-up “really liking the light, comedic stuff” where Barbeito likes to “push audiences more” says Finkelman Berkett. “There is a certain part of me that just loves to offer the audience something that they can really walk out smiling with.” Choreographer Richard Siegal’s “o2Joy” (2012) is one of those works.  The 17-minute lighthearted and playful work is an expression of exuberance set to an American jazz score featuring music by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson.  Describing it as bordering on being cheesy, Finkelman Berkett says one can’t deny how physically challenging and interesting “o2Joy” is.

ChristopherDuggan-Gotham-BODYTRAFFIC-o2Joy 1

Richard Siegal’s “o2Joy”. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Also on the program will be Joshua L. Peugh’s 15-minute “A Trick of the Light” (2015) inspired by the rare “green flash” phenomenon that occurs just before the sun disappears from view at sunset, and Victor Quijada’s 2014 work “Once Again Before You Go.”  (Side Note: Point Park’s Conservatory Dance Company will premiere Peugh’s new “Black Balloons,” April 19-22 at the University’s George Rowland White Performance Studio)

To teach BODYTRAFFIC’s dancers his very specific “RUBBERBAND Method” of moving which combines urban, contemporary and classical principles, Quijada came a month prior to creating the work. The resulting 20-minute piece set to original music by film composer Jasper Gahunia says Finkelman Berkett, is about a woman (danced by her) that is being pursued by several individuals and ends up connecting with one in a duet that ends the piece.

BODYTRAFFIC performs 8 p.m., Saturday, April 14 at the Byham Theater, 101 6th St., $10-60, (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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Canadian icon Louise Lecavalier makes her long-awaited Pittsburgh debut



By Steve Sucato

Canadian contemporary-dance queen Louise Lecavalier makes her long-awaited Pittsburgh debut Fri., Feb. 26, at the Byham Theater in So Blue. The critically acclaimed 2012 work is the first choreographic effort by Lecavalier, best known as the face of now-defunct Montreal-based La La La Human Steps.

Lecavalier has been an icon in Canada since the 1980s; even at age 57, her dancing demonstrates incredible speed and athleticism. Her numerous awards include Canada’s highest dance honor, the Jean A. Chalmers Award, in 1999. She performed with David Bowie on his 1990 Sound+Vision tour and with Frank Zappa…

Source: Canadian icon Louise Lecavalier makes her long-awaited Pittsburgh debut


Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Dance Council announced today that the performance of Louise Lecavalier’s Fou Glorieux, scheduled to be presented on Friday, February 26 at the Byham Theater, as part of the Pittsburgh Dance Council Season, has been cancelled.

Despite her best efforts to perform, a sudden illness has prompted Louise to take a hiatus at this time. The Pittsburgh Dance Council said: “We apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused and thank you for your support of Dance Council events.”

The event will not be rescheduled at this time and all ticket buyers will receive a full refund.

For more information, call the Theater Square Box Office at (412) 456-6666.

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The Pittsburgh premiere of Scottish Ballet’s acclaimed ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

Eve Mutso as Blanche DuBois with Company dancers in Nancy Meckler and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s

Eve Mutso as Blanche DuBois with Company dancers in Nancy Meckler and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Photo by Andy Ross.

By Steve Sucato

For the second time in three years, local dance audiences will be treated to a ballet production of Tennessee Williams’ classic play A Streetcar Named Desire. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre performed choreographer John Neumeier’s version in 2012. Now Glasgow’s Scottish Ballet performs the Pittsburgh premiere of its own 2012 British Critics’ Circle award-winning ballet, for one performance, May 19 at the Byham Theater, presented by Pittsburgh Dance Council.

The two-hour narrative ballet, directed by U.K.-based theater/film director Nancy Meckler, with choreography by Colombo-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, depicts a clash of cultures, and lives gone astray. It’s told from Southern belle Blanche DuBois’ point of view and begins with backstory.

“I told [Meckler] there is no past tense in dance movement, so it would be better to do a linear narrative,” says Ochoa, by phone from Cali, Colombia.

Set to a filmic original score by British TV/film composer Peter Salem, the ballet’s first six scenes tell of Blanche’s ill-fated marriage and the deaths of loved ones. Thereafter, the ballet follows the familiar play/movie storyline after she arrives at her sister Stella’s New Orleans apartment and first encounters Stella’s brutish husband, Stanley.

The Scottish Ballet in Nancy Meckler and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Photo by Andy Ross.

The Scottish Ballet in Nancy Meckler and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Photo by Andy Ross.

Eve Mutso as Blanche DuBois with Andrew Peasgood in Nancy Meckler and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s

Eve Mutso as Blanche DuBois with Andrew Peasgood in Nancy Meckler and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Photo by Andy Ross.

“Tennessee Williams decides what you have to do,” says Ochoa about her approach to the ballet’s choreography. Ochoa, who has created works for Dutch National Ballet, Ballet Nacional de Cuba and Washington Ballet, says she had to rein in her creative urges in order to streamline her theatrical choreography and serve the story. Another challenge was adapting a play with only seven characters for a cast of 26. The solution was to work in group scenes that the play merely references, such as Stella at the bowling alley and Blanche at the train station.

The production has an abstract, contemporary-theater look, using 200 beer crates to create its furniture and scenery. It is also dense with metaphor. A wall of those crates crumbles to represent Blanche’s crumbling life, for instance, and she’s drawn to a lightbulb, referencing her moth-like desire for light and one of the play’s alternate titles, The Moth.

“Blanche is a broken soul,” says Ochoa. “She is a person who gets caught up in her own web of lies trying to leave her troubled past behind and survive.”

Scottish Ballet performs A Streetcar Named Desire, 8 p.m. Tue., May 19; Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $19-55. 412-456-6666 or www.trustarts.org

This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper on May 13, 2015. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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