In past festivals of international arts, starting with 2004's Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has hosted plenty of memorable exhibits and performances. The most recent of these, the 2008 Festival of Firsts, for instance, included the much-talked-about experiential-theater work Eco de los Sombras, by Teatro de los Sentidos.
The forthcoming Distinctively Dutch fest formally announced yesterday, looks promising too: a solid three months encompassing 10 mainstage shows or gallery exhibits. And these works of dance, theater, music, visual art, film, literature and more are all new to Pittsburgh. Most of them in fact, are new to the U.S., and in some cases they're new to planet Earth.
Indeed, a young Dutch-born fellow I ran into at the Trust's reception — which drew a couple of hundred arts-and-culture types to the Trust Arts Education Center — said he hadn't even heard of any of the festival performers or other contributors.
The festival begins Feb. 18 at the Byham Theater, with the U.S. premiere of Anatomica, a Dance Works Rotterdam show choreographed by André Gingras.
That's appropriate, in that the show's presenter, the Pittsburgh Dance Council, has been, over the years, this town's main conduit for Dutch arts. But it's also unusual: Even the Dance Council doesn't host many U.S. premieres by internationally lauded troupes.
That show is followed quickly by a world-premiere stage show: Detroit Dealers, the Wunderbaum theater troupe'swork about the romance of the car and the rise and fall of the U.S. auto industry, seen from a Dutch perspective (Feb. 23-25).
In March comes the U.S. premiere of Diespace, a puckishly titled work by six-member "tech-theater collective" PIPS:lab (who are pictured here). The troupe, which grew from Amsterdam's underground party scene, explores social networks, "life, death and the Internet."
April brings much more, including: another Pittsburgh Dance Council U.S. premiere, Last Touch First, a collaboration by choreographers Ji ří Kylián and Michael Schumacher; a pair of visual-arts shows at 707 Penn Gallery and Wood Street Galleries, Girls 'N' Guns and Global Navigators; and the world premiere of a "video opera" by composer Jacob Ter Veldhuis. Jacob TV's The News combines sampled and manipulated video and sound bites from broadcast news with the composer's own avant-pop music (played live by a chamber ensemble and two vocalists).
There's more in May, including Dutch acts at the Pittsburgh International Children's Film Festival and Dutch Women of Jazz at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild. But that's enough for one post.
I will add, however, that if you're wondering how the Trust can afford to bring all this to town in straitened economic times, thank government funding of the arts. Dutch government funding, that is: According to the Trust, the key supporters for the Distinctively Dutch festival are the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Performing Arts Fund NL, Music Center for the Netherlands and Theater Instituut Nederland.
(Full disclosure: City Paper is among the fest's several local sponsors.)