Pittsburgh, Harlem dancers reunite on August Wilson Center stage
Encores are a natural response to successful performances. We all, audiences and performers, want more.
Two seasons ago two great American ballet companies shared the stage for the first time to celebrate the reopening of the August Wilson Center. Now, each company celebrating its 50th birthday, they will team up again for two weekends of dance.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Dance Theatre of Harlem will present joint performances March 15-17 to March 22-24 at the August Wilson Cultural Center, Pittsburgh.
“It was a wonderful experiment. I really appreciated being invited,” says Virginia Johnson, executive director of Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York City. She and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s executive director Terrence Orr have known each other for 30 years, dating back to when she was dancing with the company she now leads and he was invited in to stage a couple of ballets.
“I thought it was a great idea. Something to remember is that Dance Theatre of Harlem is a touring company. We have a very specific something we’re saying about this art form, classical ballet. When you come to a city with a resident company and people see ballet in a new way, I think it’s really exciting to understand there’s lot of ways to look at this art form.”
The practical elements in a collaborative dance presentation proved even more daunting than Orr had imagined.
Dancers from both companies will perform together in Stanton Welch’s “Orange.” It is a neo-classical ballet set to music by Vivaldi which features three couples. Each company will provide couples for the eight performances.
Each company also will perform pieces from its repertoire.
Dance Theatre of Harlem’s resident choreographer Robert Garland, a former dancer with the company, created the ballet on Michael Nyman’s String Quartet No. 2
“It is very distinctive based in neo-classicism, which is the form that George Balanchine initiated using classical ballet forms but in different ways,” says Johnson. Garland uses “it in more dynamic ways and particularly rhythmically dynamic ways.”
“Balamouk” is by Belgian choreographer Anabelle Lopez Ochoa, described by Johnson as “very creative and very dynamic. She was inspired to create something a little bit crazy, a little bit wild, but still in the ballet world.”
“Harlem on My Mind” by Darrell Grand Moultrie is his third ballet for the company which first exposed him to ballet.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre will perform “Rubies” by Balanchine, the middle part of his “Jewels” trilogy. It is set to Igor Stravinsky’s Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. Balanchine and Stravinsky were one of the great artistic partnerships of the 20 th century.
“It’s one of my favorite Balanchine works with a complicated, wonderful piece of music,” says Orr. “It’s great fun and very playful. It’s just a joy to be able to watch.”
Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.