CorningWorks’ new dance-theater piece ‘Parallel Lives’ addresses our digital disconnections

Beth Corning and Arthur Aviles in  CorningWorks' "Parallel Lives".  Photo by Frank Walsh c.2014
Beth Corning and Arthur Aviles in CorningWorks’ “Parallel Lives”. Photo by Frank Walsh c.2014

By Steve Sucato

You see them everywhere: the countless people tethered to cell phones and computers — texting, surfing and interacting with social media but seemingly detached from the physical world unfolding around them. Our growing disconnect with traditional interpersonal communication in favor of technological intermediaries, and all that goes with them, is the subject of CorningWorks’ latest Glue Factory Project production. Parallel Lives has five performances at the New Hazlett Theater.

The hour-long multidisciplinary dance-theater work is the brainchild of dancer/choreographer Beth Corning in collaboration with former Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company principal dancer Arthur Aviles. Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times once wrote, “If you don’t know Mr. Aviles, you haven’t seen one of the great modern dancers of the last 15 years.”

Entering its fifth season, CorningWorks’ Glue Factory series continues to buck the notion that professional dance is only for the young and athletic. The Project’s thought-provoking works for performers over age 40 continue to be a highlight of the local dance season.

Aviles, 51, feels Parallel Lives is a real challenge to people’s trust in the Internet and the trappings of the information age.

“I feel we have gone amok in this information age, and Beth’s response with this work is a very vibrant look into that,” says Aviles by phone from the Bronx, N.Y.

Beth Corning and Arthur Aviles in  CorningWorks' "Parallel Lives".  Photo by Frank Walsh c.2014
Beth Corning and Arthur Aviles in CorningWorks’ “Parallel Lives”. Photo by Frank Walsh c.2014

In Parallel Lives, Aviles and Corning explore the state of social interaction through the lens of two ordinary people, and what happens when they are disconnected from their devices.

“People don’t want interaction; they just want connection,” says Corning. “We are one thing online and another in person, both positive and negative.”

As with all of Corning’s works, she brings to the stage what she sees in the world. There are no defined answers in the works I do,” says Corning. “The essence in them is about communication.”

Parallel Lives is set to an eclectic soundscape, with lighting design by Iain Court. The set design is by Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Artist of the Year Akiko Kotani, featuring animated projected images of her artwork by projection designer Hsuan-Kuang Hseih. The show is sure to offer an atmospherically rich and sensual dance-theater experience.

CorningWorks presents The Glue Factory Project: Parallel Lives, Wed., Sept. 10-Sun., Sept. 14.,New Hazlett Theater,6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. $25-30 (Sept. 14 show is pay-what-you-can). 888-718-4253 or

This article originally appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper September 3, 2014. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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