The Conservatory Dance Company's annual Byham showcase mixes classics and contemporary work. | Dance + Live Performance | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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The Conservatory Dance Company's annual Byham showcase mixes classics and contemporary work.

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Handpicked by the Point Park University dance faculty for their diversity of style and proven artistic quality, the four works on the Conservatory Dance Company's annual At the Byham production are a mix of bona fide classics and contemporary athleticism.

In the fifth season of the Byham program, the Conservatory Dance Company again has acquired a collection of top-notch repertory works that would make many professional dance companies envious.

A prime example is Martha Graham's masterwork "Diversion of Angels" (1948). The 30-minute work, characterized as a lyrical essay on love, is textbook Graham in style and energy. Set to music by Norman Dello Joio, the modern-dance work for seven women and four men, staged by former Graham Company star Diane Gray, "has a lot of sculptural moments in it," says Point Park dance-department chair Susan Stowe. Its movement runs the gamut from buoyant hops and skips to slow and thoughtful interactions.

The other classic work on the March 25-27 program is George Balanchine's "Raymonda Variations" (1961). It's based on choreographer Marius Petipa's full-length 1898 ballet Raymonda, as well as the 1946 version, restaged by Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova for the Ballet Russe. "Raymonda" is a 27-minute ballet for 14 dancers set to excerpts from the first act of Alexander Glazounov's original score for Raymonda. A kind of tribute to 19th-century classicism stripped down as only Balanchine can do, "Raymonda Variations" features several juicy solos.

Describing New York choreographer Robert Battle's "The Hunt" (2001), Stowe says, "When I see it I think of predator and prey." The 13-minute work for six dancers is a tour-de-force of athleticism and energy that Stowe says leaves its dancers exhausted. Set to music by Les Tambours du Bronx that sounds like a cross between the oil-barrel drumming of STOMP and Nine Inch Nails, Battle's work drips with primal intensity and power.

The final work on the two-hour program is dancer/choreographer Kate Skarpetowska's "Tidal Intersections." A dancer with Battle's own Battleworks Dance Company and the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company, Skarpetowska was inspired by the work's rhythmic score by Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar that conjured visions of ocean waves crashing against the shore.

"The dancers flow on and off the stage like water," says Stowe of this contemporary group work. "It is fast-paced and athletic but in a different way than 'The Hunt.'"

 

Conservatory Dance Company presents At the Byham Wed., March 25-Fri., March 27. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $18-20. 412-621-4445 or www.pittsburghplayhouse.com

Heavenly: Katherine Crockett and Martin Lofsnes in Martha Graham's "Diversion of Angels" - COURTESY OF JOHN DEANE
  • Courtesy of John Deane
  • Heavenly: Katherine Crockett and Martin Lofsnes in Martha Graham's "Diversion of Angels"

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