Dancers are to choreography as musicians are to a musical score: The performers shape the material to a certain extent by expressing themselves in it. In that way, no two performances of a dance work or a symphony can ever really be the same.
That principle will be on exhibit during the Point Park University Conservatory Dance Company's annual At the Byham program Feb. 11-13. Audiences at Byham Theater will see new interpretations of four classic and stylistically diverse works by some of dance's leading choreographers.
Late Joffrey Ballet co-founder Gerald Arpino understood all too well the influence his dancers had on his choreographic works. For instance, Joffrey company dancer Valerie Robin says that in each restaging of Arpino's 1981 classic "Light Rain," Arpino "worked with each of his dancers' individual qualities to make the piece their own. In my case, I am a tall dancer and he wanted me to look even longer by shaping my line."
The same spirit of ownership Arpino encouraged in his Joffrey dancers will be at work for 14 Conservatory dancers, who perform the 20-minute neo-classical ballet and look to make it their own.
"Light Rain" is set to an original score by Douglas Adams and Russ Gauthier featuring Middle Eastern rhythms. The highly physical work in three sections "is all about the distortion of the human body in provocative ways," comments Point Park dance department chair Susan Stowe.
Distortion of a different kind surfaces in choreographer Doug Varone's modern dance work "The Constant Shift of Pulse" (2006).
The work's title comes from a quote by composer John Adams about his composition "Hallelujah Junction," to which Varone set the 16-minute work.
"The music feels like small earthquakes happen within it," says Varone by telephone from New York.
Varone says he tried to match his choreography with what was going on in the music, and that the resulting dance work exudes a vibrant and youthful feel.
Music is also central to New York choreographer David Parsons' exuberant "Nascimento" (1990), a 20-minute group work with a Brazilian flavor that pays homage to guitarist/composer Milton Nascimento.
"It's just pure joy," says Stowe. Parsons fills "Nascimento" with a bounty of color, athleticism and inventive spatial patterns that celebrate the sheer joy of dancing.
Rounding out the program will be Daniel Ezralow's "Super Straight is coming down" (1989) with music by Thom Willem. The work, originally created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, is another that will have CDC's dancers winded by its end. The intense jazz work is said to be "a surreal manifesto of urban angst."
Point Park University Conservatory Dance Company's At the Byham 8 p.m. Fri., Feb. 11; 8 p.m. Sat., Feb. 12; and 2 p.m. Sun., Feb. 13. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $18-20. 412-621-4445 or www.pittsburghplayhouse.com
- Drew Yenchak
- Zach Kapeluck and Melissa Pascarella in Gerald Arpino's"Light Rain," from Point Park's Conservatory Dance Company