Fall Arts: From ballet to modern, movement options abound

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 4:48 p.m.

Dance is a thriving part of the performing arts in Pittsburgh. Enthusiasts and newbies alike face many delightful choices in the 2013-14 season.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Dance Council lead the field with mainly complementary offerings. The ballet presents the classic romantic ballets, sometimes with live orchestra, with the work of contemporary choreographers also integral to its repertoire. The Dance Council is a presenting organization that brings in the most adventurous and often edgy groups it can find from around the world.

But the texture of dance options is far wider than any two organizations could encompass. Attack Theatre is an exceptionally creative and physically exciting group, which also performs with Pittsburgh Opera and has performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. And there are other compelling groups, such as Bodiography Contemporary Ballet and Texture Contemporary Ballet.

In addition, the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty is an important center for dance both in presenting ensembles from Pittsburgh and elsewhere, and in nurturing emerging choreographers with residencies leading to performances.

The ballet opens its season with the sensibilities of our time as seen through the eyes of Twyla Tharp, Oct. 25 to 27. The American choreographer is one of the giants of the field, widely honored for her inclusive dance vocabulary and dramatic vision. The repertoire is “In the Upper Room” set to music by Philip Glass and “Nine Sinatra Songs,” which feature costumes by Oscar de la Renta.

“The Nutcracker” with music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky is in a class by itself, because it's the ultimate family ballet, perfect for the holidays, Dec. 6 to 29. The production is set in Pittsburgh and was created in 2002 by artistic director Terrence Orr, who keeps it fresh for his dancers from year to year with a variety of changes.

The ballet will offer a second Tchaikovsky ballet when it returns to “Swan Lake,” Feb. 13 to 16. A pillar of classic ballet repertoire, “Swan Lake” is an ultra-romantic story which is beautifully carried by memorably tuneful music. The traditional staging will be updated by Orr. Charles Barker will conduct the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra at these performances, as he will for the production of another 19th-century ballet, “Don Quixote,” April 11 to 13.

The ballet's annual visits to the August Wilson Center, Downtown, have been among the most stimulating of its offerings in recent years. The program “3x3,” March 7 to 16, will include “Ketubah” by Julia Adams, an exploration of marriage customs, and “Smoke 'n Roses” by Dwight Rhoden, which draws on jazz, blues and gospel music.

Dance Council's season opens as part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Festival of Firsts with Marie Chouinard's “Michaux Movements,” inspired by the poetry and paintings of Belgian artist Henri Michaux, Sept. 28. Other especially appealing offerings include Compagnie Kafig, Feb. 1, a Brazilian troupe that combines athletic samba, hip-hop and capoeira dance styles; Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve, March 8, which will explore various ways dancer's bodies can achieve symbiosis; and Wendy Whelan Project, March 22, which will perform a suite of contemporary duets by Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks and Alejandro Cerrudo.

Mark Kanny is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877.

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