TribLIVE

| AandE

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Review: Dancers' skill shines in engaging, energetic Tharp masterworks

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
Nurlan Abougaliev & Elysa Hotchkiss perform in Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s season-opening 'An Evening of Twyla Tharp.'

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Contrasting masterpieces by contemporary choreographer Twyla Tharp provide an exhilarating opening for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's 44th season. The evening's magic is an amalgam of Tharp's genius, brilliant performances and effective music.

Classical ballets are filled with idealized visions of romance and supernatural characters and events, but Tharp's creations breathe with modern sensibilities, including her deftly eclectic movement vocabulary.

“Nine Sinatra Songs” which opens the program, was first performed in 1982 and is set to recordings he made a couple of decades earlier. It consists of seven romantic duos plus two ensembles of paired dancers. The costumes are elegant: the men all in tuxedos, the women in couture silk dresses in contrasting colors that were designed by Oscar de la Renta.

The night's performance Oct. 26 at the Benedum Center went from strength to strength, beginning with the sensitivity of Hannah Carter and Robert Moore in “Softly As I Leave You.”

Elysa Hotchkiss and Alejandro Diaz created a cool surface and inner heat in “Strangers in the Night,” in which Tharp, with just the right touch of tango spice, moves beyond the smoothness of the song to an edgier experience.

Similarly, Tharp's version of “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)” is a bold yet mainly elegant treatment of inebriated lovers, with moments of awkwardness that elicited laughter from the audience. Julia Erickson and Nicholas Coppula were superb in their fluidity, oversized movements and quick changes of pace and feeling.

Tharp's clever solution to the challenge of setting Sinatra's signature song “My Way” is to bring back each of the couples we've seen, showing they are each different. When “My Way” serves as the fourth song, it is performed by three couples. As the ninth song, it is performed by the entire cast.

The other songs between the two versions of “My Way” were also very well characterized. These duos culminated in “That's Life” performed with gripping intensity by Amana Cochrane and Nurlan Abougaliev.

“In the Upper Room” completes the program. It was first performed in 1986 and is a more primal experience. Dancers appear out of and disappear into a heavy mist at the rear of the stage. The music by Philip Glass was composed for this piece. Its pulsing nature is hypnotic and energizing.

The cast is divided into Stompers and Bomb Squad, the latter from the ballet world. Costumes label the two groups, down to the shoes. Stompers wear sneakers. Bomber ladies wear pointe shoes. Tharp's dance language draws on many worlds, including ballet, modern dance, tap dance, yoga and even, briefly, boxing.

The ballet's dancers were precise, evocative and unflagging in their energy. It was a tour de force for them, as the choreography is for Tharp. The way she brings together many elements and infuses them with invention and irresistible energy is a brilliant vision realized.

This performance will be repeated at 2 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Benedum Center, Downtown. Admission is $25.75 to $96.75. Details: 412-456-6666 or www.pbt.org.

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

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Ejections, heated moments mark Pirates’ win over Reds
  2. Making environmentalism divisive
  3. New Steelers cornerback Boykin clarifies remarks about Eagles’ Kelly
  4. Zimbabwe alleges Murrysville doctor illegally killed lion
  5. Pirates notebook: Burnett says ‘surgery is not an option’
  6. Outdoors notices: Aug. 3, 2015
  7. French riot police push back migrants at Channel Tunnel
  8. Rossi: Looking at the next great Steeler
  9. Israeli teen stabbed at pride parade dies
  10. Penguins not alone in top-heavy approach to salary cap
  11. Ability to clog the trenches crucial to Steelers defense