ShareThis Page
Sports

Playhouse Dance stages annual showcase at Byham

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008

Playhouse Dance Company at the Byham offers a perfect showcase for young talent this week by presenting a diverse sampling of dance styles ranging from neo-classical to modernist to jazz.

The group is Point Park University's student dance company, which usually performs at Pittsburgh Playhouse. It's making its annual journey to the Byham Theater, Downtown, for performances today through Saturday.

The program features "Ur-Sonata" by Bill T. Jones, the contemporary duet "Disjointed" by Heidi Latsky, the neo-classical "Telemann Overture, Suite in E minor" by Melissa Barack and the jazz-based "Jolt" by Keisha Lalama-White.

Rosalynde LeBlanc, who danced with the Bill T. Jones Dance Company from 1993 to '99, has staged "Ur-Sonata's" revival by Point Park. It was inspired by a Dadaist poem in German. Dadaism was a consciously anti-art movement born of disillusionment with the values of European society that led to World War I.

The text that appealed to Jones is German sound poetry, "German gibberish completely," LeBlanc says. Sound poetry plays with the sounds of words and syllables, theoretically unconnected to semantic meaning -- although the occasional word with meaning can be very effective.

"Bill was trying to create a Dadaist dance," LeBlanc says. "He did it using the same theme and variations structure (in the poem). He created 15 different (dance) phrases. The piece is calculated technically, very set in these phrases. On top of that, there are absurd and ridiculous things happening. Very playful non-sequitur elements are at the core of it," LeBlanc says.

"Ur-Sonata" poses two special challenges for the dancers. For starters, it's hard for them to count, the way they move in time with each other. "Because 'Ur-Sonata' has no melodic form, we don't learn it to music. We learn it in silence," she says. "Adhering to the rhythm (of the words) creates themes."

Perhaps harder still is the humor and ridiculousness of the piece. "Absurdist elements are not to be disregarded," LeBlanc says. "It's very hard for students to learn how to be funny, and even more impossible with dance."

Point Park's full-time dance instructor Keisha Lalama-White created "Jolt" for Houston Metropolitan Dance Company. She expanded the number of dancers from seven to nine for the revival being seen this week.

She chose percussion music for her piece and says there is something about drums that "for a dancer is very raw and honest. It allows you to go to that place where you can dance from your gut and your soul."

The nine-minute piece takes its title from the first section, which she says is about how music takes over your body -- as in a jolt of energy taking over your body.

After a mystical middle section, the finale is celebratory. "It allows the dancers and audience to understand the joy that happens through movement," she says.

Lalama-White, a native of Center Township in Beaver County, is traveling a lot these days to create commissioned works. She says new scores stimulate her creativity. "I've found it more intriguing for me to evolve something from scratch, musically and in movement through dance."

Additional Information:

Playhouse Dance Company at the Byham

When: 8 p.m. today and Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday

Admission: $18-$20

Where: Byham Theater, Downtown

Details: 412-621-4445

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me