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Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre 'appetizer, main course and dessert' for audience

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Yoshiaki Nakano as the chicken during a rehearsal of Julia Adam’s “Katubah.'
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre rehearses Julia Adam’s “Katubah.'
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre rehearses Julia Adam’s “Katubah.'
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Yoshiaki Nakano as the chicken during a rehearsal of Julia Adam’s “Katubah.'
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Caitlin Peabody as the bride and Cooper Verona as the groom during a rehearsal of Julia Adam’s “Katubah.'

Ballet thrives on a large stage, such as the Benedum Center. But the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's artistic director and dancers also look forward to their annual late-winter show at the smaller August Wilson Center.

The ballet's upcoming program — featuring two premieres and a revival — takes advantage of the intimate space in which it will be performed.

“This program goes together like an appetizer, main course and dessert,” says artistic director Terrence Orr. “I really wanted to have the work of Julia Adam, to create its wonderfully intimate kind of dance in the August Wilson Center. To continue with the very inventive movement of Viktor Plotnikov and close with Dwight Rhoden's ‘Smoke 'n Roses' makes an awesome intimate program that people will go home singing.”

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will present seven performances of “3x3” starting March 7 at the August Wilson Center, Downtown. The program is “Ketubah” by Adam, “In Your Eyes” by Plotnikov and “Smoke 'n Roses” by Rhoden.

Live music will be provided by a string quartet drawn from Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Orchestra for the Plotnikov, and Etta Cox and a combo for the Rhoden.

Adam's “Ketubah,” which will receive its first Pittsburgh performances, was commissioned by Stanton Welch, artistic director of Houston Ballet, where it was first formed in 2004.

“I wanted to do a work for my mother,” Adam says. “She's the Jewish side of my family and loves klezmer music. I put together this idea of going through the wedding ritual to klezmer music. A light look at ritual made a good platform for dance.”

Adam is from Ottawa in Canada and graduated from the National Ballet School in Toronto, but spent most of her career at San Francisco Ballet (1988-2002), where she rose to principal dancer.

“Ketubah” (wedding contract) starts with the match-making process, “but I didn't want to do ‘Fiddler on the Roof,' so I did a musical chairs menagerie,” Adam says.

The choreographer introduces white fabric as a motif into her piece in the second section, devoted to the mikvah, where the women cleanse, cut and braid their hair. The men are in another room, having a discussion.

The fabric will return as the chuppah, under which the couple are married, and later will be opened by the groom and turned into their wedding sheet.

“It's metaphorical. It's like, I point you to that idea, then let go as we dance,” she says.

The ballet ends in celebration, a dance in which Adam uses shapes inspired by Marc Chagal's floating lovers.

Plotnikov's “In Your Eyes,” a world premiere, is set to Antonin Dvorak's “American” String Quartet. He choreographed two of its four movements a few years ago for the ballet's school. It took him a little more than three weeks to create the whole work, starting in mid-January.

The new ballet is based on discovery of new elements of movement, rather than any story.

“The audience can find things that might remind them of life, and there's a little bit of humor in the third movement,” he says.

“Every time I choreograph, I try to break boundaries and create more within the boundaries. The movement is based on classical, traditional ballet, but I do go in for variations from neo-classical to more contemporary, more bending of the torso. In some of the very small passing movements, I'm trying to find the best possible transitions from one hard element to another.”

The ballet gave the world premiere of “Smoke 'n Roses” in March 2007, with Etta Cox singing. Its popularity led the ballet to take it on the road, including outdoor performances.

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

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