Austrian choreographer Willi Dorner explores a strange relation to furniture. | Dance + Live Performance | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Austrian choreographer Willi Dorner explores a strange relation to furniture.

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Stacked: Cie. Wili Dorner goes Above Under Inbetween.
  • Stacked: Cie. Wili Dorner goes Above Under Inbetween.

Lately, when he is not stacking dancers each on the other, or sandwiching them neatly inside the crevasses of office buildings to create human sculptures, Austrian choreographer Willi Dorner is thinking about apartment furniture. Not to purchase, but as the focal point of his latest dance-theater work, Above Under Inbetween.

Dorner's company, Cie. Willi Dorner, makes its Pittsburgh debut with the work Sept. 18 and 19, at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.

Dorner, a former modern dancer, both choreographs for and runs the company. He's also a certified instructor in the Alexander Technique, an alternative medicinal-and-educational discipline that focuses on freeing the body to be more limber. The Alexander Technique's alternative way of looking at the body has in many ways influenced Dorner's thinking about dance and the choreography he is currently creating.

Above Under Inbetween bears similarities to bodies in urban spaces -- a moving trail for a group of dancers, the work in which Dorner made living sculptures for office buildings. It too searches for new ways to view everyday objects and structures. 

"We connect with objects with certain behavior," says Dorner via telephone from Vienna. "When you lift a chair or move it, you take on a different interaction with it. You account for its weight, and that influences our movement behavior."

For the 50-year-old Dorner, looking at a kitchen table or cupboard space is less about seeing it in terms of its given function than about regarding it as a generic geometric shape or a volume of space. 

In Above Under Inbetween, seven performers in street clothes experiment with this concept. The intermissionless 50-minute piece -- which premiered in Austria, in July -- is set to computer-generated electronic music by composer Bernhard Lang. On a set much like the interior of an apartment, the performers move through a succession of poses Dorner has created, holding each momentarily before moving on to another. They stack, fold, bend and shift their bodies into new shapes, and introduce new objects into the mix.

"There are lots of balances and fragile moments in the piece," says Dorner. 

The very physical work is also humorous in spots, as the performers emulate objects in their surroundings. 

Above Under Inbetween does not contain much dancing in a traditional sense. But for Dorner, the work -- like that of New York choreographer Elizabeth Streb, for instance -- is more about discovering new visual aesthetics through the use of movement no matter what form it takes.

 

Cie. Willi Dorner performs Above Under Inbetween. 8 p.m. Fri., Sept. 18, and 8 p.m. Sat., Sept. 19. Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $5-20. 412-363-3000 or info@kelly-strayhorn.org.

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