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Seven transportive Pittsburgh dance programs of 2016

From classic ballet to house-music-inspired work, these productions took us elsewhere

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In a year filled with fine dance programs, here are seven that transported audiences from their seats to places, times and worlds away.

Dada Masilo: Swan Lake (Byham Theater, Jan. 30). South African dancer/choreographer Dada Masilo and company took the audience and the 139-year-old Swan Lake ballet to modern Africa for a re-envisioned and memorable version of the classic that touched on issues of sex, gender, homophobia and the scourge of AIDS.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre: Le Corsaire (Benedum Center, April 15-17). Continuing its run of “large company” ballets, PBT scored big with Le Corsaire. The three-act pirate ballet sailed audiences to an action-packed, humor-filled land of slave girls, slave-traders, a rich pasha, and enough nonstop virtuoso dancing to fill several ballets. 

CorningWorks: Remains — A One-Woman Show (New Hazlett Theater, Sept. 7-11). Revisiting her acclaimed 2013 dance-theater production, dancer/choreographer Beth Corning and Tony-winning physical-theater director Dominique Serrand reworked the one-woman show about loss, and what emotionally and tangibly remains, into an even more poignant and universally relatable journey.

Takao Kawaguchi: About Kazuo Ohno (Andy Warhol Museum, Oct. 13). For those who never got to see the late Butoh co-founder Kazuo Ohno perform, Japanese dance and physical-theater artist Takao Kawaguchi painstakingly recreated several of his landmark performances from the 1970s and ’80s in a controversial yet wonderfully enlightening tribute to the master.

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company: Analogy/Dora: Tramontane (Byham Theater, Oct. 21 and 22). Based on a riveting oral history that artistic director/choreographer Bill T. Jones conducted with his 96-year-old French-Jewish mother-in-law, this masterful dance-theater work whisked audiences through stories of her harrowing experiences as a nurse/social worker during World War II.

STAYCEE PEARL dance project: Flowerz (Ace Hotel, Nov. 10 and 11). Choreographer Staycee Pearl and DJ/sound engineer Herman “Soy Sos” Pearl took audiences back in time to the ’90s New York club scene with s. Set to house music, the 50-minute contemporary dance work was a pulsating blast from the not-so-distant past.

Conservatory Dance Company: Ballet Off Center (Pittsburgh Playhouse, Dec. 2-11). The Point Park University student troupe’s year-end repertory program featured several stirring contemporary ballets, none more so than choreographer Alexandra Damiani’s “Portrait de Femmes.” The adroitly danced piece transported audiences to a surreal psychosexual world and left them spellbound.

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