The company's debut got stronger as the brief but intense July 9 program, titled PUPA: new ... again, proceeded.
The title work, the first of four segments, featured some interesting insect-like movement by the six dancers, and some nice duets and group sequences. But it still felt a little underdeveloped (pun intended). A large projected video that accompanied the dancers -- mostly closeups of leaves, though an ant makes a cameo -- might have been thematically apt, but its execution was desultory.
"Static" was stronger, starting with the attention-grabbing opening tableaux vivant of writhing bodies. "Static" was also where you began to notice the sound design by Herman "Soy Sos" Pearl (the choreographer's husband). One sequence featured a cicada-like montage of voices, with low, aquatic undertones; toward the end, the soundtrack broke into "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."
The highlight, though, was "Resolution." (Not surprising; in the post-show talkback, Staycee Pearl said she thought it was the most successful piece, too, and one the troupe had workshopped for months.)
Here the inspiration was actually a Soy Sos sound project, constructed around a reading of a list of victims of the Iraq War, soldiers and civilians both. The most memorable sequence had the dancers in a line moving stage right to stage left, as if on a conveyor belt. As the names were read, dancers would vanish into the wings at stage left one at a time, only to rejoin the endless, ever-moving line at stage right. It seemed the spaces between the performers grew wider (as if even the ranks of potential victims were being thinned). Meanwhile, variations such as dancers crawling backward toward their fates emphasized the tone of resignation and despair.
The hour-long program's closer was "Introducing ... SPdp," in which individual dancers took solos while the soundtrack spun out a snippet of an interview with each, about something important that had happened to her. It was cute, though the general light-heartedness of the movement belied the typically heavier nature of the recorded confessionals.
Pearl is best known for her years as artistic director of Xpreessions Contemporary Dance Company. Her choreography has been less visible of late. (She's been wrapping up studies at Pitt, for one thing.) But with SPdp, she's assembled six young dancers -- Kerra Alexander, Jamie Murphy, Cassie Shafer, Renee Smith, Amanda Vavra and Laura Warren, all Point Park grads -- whose talents seem well-suited to continued exploration of her vision.