The lifespan of a regional professional dance company tends to be rather brief. Over time, revenue streams can dry up and public interest wane. So when Laboratory Company Dance (LABCO) entered its 10th season this year, it was a cause for celebration -- one to be marked by DecaDance: Dance Ten Years in the Making, LABCO's June 8 fund-raiser, performance and party at the Union Project.
From its beginnings as an experimental dance collective to today's professional dance company, LABCO has undergone numerous changes, from its personnel to its artistic direction. What hasn't changed has been the company's commitment to presenting original contemporary dance works and to using local talent.
In her fourth season as artistic director, Gwen Hunter Ritchie continues pursuing her vision, which is to "challenge dancers and audiences with new artistic problems to solve." Ritchie, 36, also hopes to help LABCO's six other company members take a more active role in developing the company's artistic product. And she'd like to do more collaborations with area artists and musicians.
"The company is a tight-knit group of strong dancers with an underlying movement aesthetic that is weighted in contemporary dance technique," says Ritchie. "We are known for trying to push the envelope with the types of works we bring in and for not being predictable from concert to concert."
While Ritchie, who performed for five seasons with Dance Alloy, has also been one of LABCO's featured dancers, it's a role she has stepped back from of late to start a family. She is expecting her second child in December.
LABCO does little touring outside the Pittsburgh area. Instead it concentrates on increasing its local following with 10 to 15 shows each season. Lately, the company has also taken on the role of presenting organization. As was done for it years ago by then-Dance Alloy artistic director Mark Taylor, LABCO offers new dance artists rehearsal time and performance opportunities at its studio-theater space on the South Side.
DecaDance features former and current company members performing an improvisational dance as well as a retrospective showcase of LABCO's repertory, including Jennifer Keller's "Don't Speak With your Mouth Full" (1999), Neil Greenberg's "Judy Garland Part 3" (2000) and Kevin Wynn's "To the Teeth" (2001). There are also works by Ritchie, including 2004's "Le Femme en Flammes." The evening will include a silent auction, refreshments, and music by DJ Soy Sos and the Eric DeFade Quartet.
Ritchie sees LABCO's first decade as only a chapter in what she hopes will be a long history: "It is a constantly evolving process to see where we will go and what we will do in the future."
LABCO presents DecaDance: Dance Ten Years in the Making 7 p.m. Fri., June 8. Union Project, 801 N. Negley Ave., Highland Park. $20 ($25 at the door). 800-607-0857 or www.labcodance.net