By Steve Sucato
When Kelly-Strayhorn Theater Executive Director Janera Solomon was putting together the theater’s inaugural newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival, in 2009, few dance artists outside of Pittsburgh had heard of the theater. Now, in its fifth year, the annual festival and the theater are becoming known nationally. That led to a record 40 emerging-choreographer applicants from around the country seeking to take part.
“This was supposed to be the year the festival got smaller,” says Solomon. Instead, this year’s event will be the biggest yet, with nightly performances of works from 18 different dancemakers hailing from Pittsburgh and beyond. There will also be parties, artist talks, workshops and studio visits. Moreover, the theater will co-present the premiere of Nina Sarnelle and Scott Andrews’ interactive theater work group, with two performances on Sat., Oct. 5, at The Alloy Studios in partnership with VIA Festival. The work (which CP previewed in its Sept. 18 issue) draws upon conventions of team-building exercises, self-help seminars and group therapy.
Here’s the lineup for each of the festival’s three 75-minute main-stage programs:
Program A: Thu., Oct. 3. “I think of the piece as a journey from concealing to revealing the self/identity,” says New York-based Marya Wethers of her latest work, “(w)hole, again” (2013). The 20-minute solo is performed mostly in silence, with Wethers making sounds as she dances.
KST Hear/Now series alum Abigail Zbikowski (Columbus) says of her new eight-minute duet, “Guttural Fling,” that it is “working with a reckless movement vocabulary.” Set to music by The Reatards, the duet taps into a punk aesthetic and seeks to balance extreme physicality with conceptual thinking.
Originally created in 2005, Philadelphia-based Megan Mazarick’s “Love-joy diver” is a duet for her and hip-hop dancer Les Rivera. For newMoves, says Mazarick, the work has been re-imagined to focus “on the intersection of ‘us’ as artists, people, archetypes, and moving bodies.”
Also on the program will be former August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble dancer Annalee Traylor with her duet “Blue,” about emotional loss, and a work-in-progress excerpt from Pittsburgh-based choreographer Staycee Pearl’s hip-hop infused “Encryption Cipher Variations”.
Program B: Fri., Oct. 4. A 2011 festival participant, New York-based choreographer Katie Rose McLaughlin, returns with her new duet, “Fun Molly.” Named after a friend’s poodle, the 15-minute work-in-progress set to toe-tapping pop music “is an exploration of the casual, non-performative action of being extremely virtuosic at something commonplace (think bartender, butcher),” says McLaughlin.
Also returning from 2011 is New York-based dancer/choreographer Mana Kawamura with the premiere of her seven-minute duet “Cloud,” which revisits childhood imaginings about clouds.
Rounding out the program are an excerpt from Pittsburgher Shana Simmons’ “Dancing Solo,” with clarinet music by Libby Larsen; an excerpt from State College-based Pennsylvania Dance Theatre director Andre Koslowski’s “Wiegenlied” (lullaby), a work about loneliness and decay; Gia Cacalano — a recent “Brazzy” Award-winner as outstanding Pittsburgh dancer — in her new solo, “Still Life 2013,” performed in the theater’s lobby; and New York choreographer Samantha Speis’ “The Way It Was and Now,” about internalized racial oppression.
Program C: Sat., Oct. 5. In “Connotations: unknown, Part one” (excerpt), emerging choreographer Alexandra Bodnarchuk, of Pittsburgh, draws on experiences gleaned as a performer in Bricolage Productions’ 2012 theater piece Strata, in which she portrayed “the last girl left at prom” in brief, partly improvised one-on-one encounters with a stream of audience members. Five dancers seek to recapture the visual aesthetic of that experience, as they are briefly glimpsed dancing in and out of spotlights.
In New York-based dancer/choreographer Gierre Godley’s seven-minute male duet “3 breaths,” Godley touches on personal experiences dealing with love, birth and death.
Set to an original score by Los Angeles composer Jules Gimbrone, “This room this braid,” from New York-based Devynn Emory, is a 15-minute work-in-progress duet influenced by the history of set design in dance.
Also on the program are “Back to Black,” a work by Pittsburgh-based Anthony Williams, inspired by his personal experiences with identity, color and the human condition; Pittsburgh-based Jasmine Hearn’s ritualistic solo “mama, am I clean yet?”; and newly formed Pittsburgh troupe Reed Dance in “Chaos,” a work inspired by the 13th-century Latin hymn the “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath).
newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival – 7:30 p.m. nightly, Thu., Oct. 3; Fri., Oct. 4; and Sat., Oct 5., (Pre-show mixers 6:30-7:30 p.m. nightly); Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $10-20 (festival pass: $45). 412-363-3000 or kelly-strayhorn.org.
This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper October 2, 2013. Copyright Steve Sucato