Dance Alloy Theater
Dance Alloy Theater
New Hazlett Theater
May 7–10, 2010
Reviewed by Steve Sucato
Robert Battle's Crossing. Photo by Renee Rosensteel, Courtesy Dance Alloy.
In her first season as artistic director of Pittsburgh’s Dance Alloy Theater, Greer Reed-Jones has begun opening up the 34-year-old company's repertory to include a wider array of modern dance aesthetics. In the group's season-ending program, “Alloy Unlocked…Part II,” Reed-Jones commissioned new works by Christopher Huggins and Robert Battle, artistic director designate of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Huggins' The List (2010) opened Alloy's program on a dramatic note. Set to music from the soundtrack of Schindler's List, the Holocaust-inspired work made real the horror of genocide through the story of one fictional family in Krakow, Poland circa 1941. Four dancers were seated around a dinner table, when a knock at an imaginary door, followed by the delivery of a letter, sent the father of the family (Christopher Bandy) into a tortured frenzy. As if fighting with an imaginary foe, Bandy reeled and tossed about. Fists pounded the table in anguish, then resignation overtook each of the family members as news of their deportation sank in.
The story then traced the family’s journey to a concentration camp. Projected images of razor wire along with hanging metal shower heads painted a picture of impending peril, which played out in a final heartrending scene.
Huggins' choreography for The List was emotionally gut-wrenching, and Alloy's dancers convincingly portrayed the characters’ plight. While the work could easily have crossed the line from drama into melodrama, Huggins treated these heavy themes with sensitivity.
After a thoughtful performance of Pilobolus' Duet (2004), in which dancers Maribeth Maxa and Michael Walsh gracefully swam through a tango of embraces and cradled lifts, Battle's jazz music–inspired Crossing (2010) put forth drama of a different kind.
The slapping of palms to thighs created a syncopated cadence as a line of dancers with gritted teeth rocketed onto the stage to the recorded music of jazz trumpeter Sean Jones (Reed-Jones' husband). Battle's Horton-infused movement was fast-paced and aggressive. With the precision and driving intensity of a cheerleading dance routine, Alloy's performers, along with members of Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, flew through stiff-armed and gestural movement phrases that seemed to shadow Jones' musical scale-running trumpet riffs.
The frenzied pace was broken up by a slow, uneasy lovers’ duet in which a stern-faced James Washington (from AWCDE) enveloped Alloy's Adrienne Misko in cold embraces, never making physical contact. He seemed to hold a quiet dominance over her, but in the end, the two held hands.
It's a cycle familiar to many: First, a striking image of a lithe, impossibly fit dancer executing a gravity-defying développé catches your eye on Instagram. You pause your scrolling to marvel, over and over again, at her textbook physique.
Inevitably, you take a moment to consider your own body, in comparison. Doubt and negative self-talk first creep, and then flood, in. "I'll never look like that," the voice inside your head whispers. You continue scrolling, but the image has done its dirty work—a gnawing sensation has taken hold, continually reminding you that your own body is inferior, less-than, unworthy.
It's no stretch to say that social media has a huge effect on body image. For dancers—most of whom already have a laser-focus on their appearance—the images they see on Instagram can seem to exacerbate ever-present issues. "Social media is just another trigger," says Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with the dancers of Atlanta Ballet. "And dancers don't need another trigger." In the age of Photoshop and filters, how can dancers keep body dysmorphia at bay?
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.