Amid controversy, the PrideFest dance showcase goes on

Jasmine Hearn. Photo courtesy of FringeArts.
Jasmine Hearn. Photo courtesy of FringeArts.

By Steve Sucato

PrideFest’s annual dance showcase is among the best ways to catch up with local dance talent. But even this free showcase has been touched by the controversy surrounding PrideFest this year. The choice of rapper Iggy Azalea as festival headliner generated outcry over allegations of homophobia and racism on her part, and reignited claims that festival producer The Delta Foundation is not inclusive enough of all parts of the LGBT community. [As this issue went to press, Azalea had dropped out of the festival.]

Several LGBT groups have boycotted the festival, and an alternate protest and celebration, Roots Pride, is planned. But though most PrideFest attractions will go on as scheduled, at press time, one company had dropped out of the June 14 dance showcase.

“We wish to remain neutral in this time of chaos and confusion,” says Duane Binion, artistic director of True T Entertainment. “However we do agree with our audience request that we do not participate in PrideFest.”

The seven remaining acts in the seventh annual free dance showcase, curated by Richard Parsakian, will perform from 1:30-5 p.m. on two outdoor stages.

Texture Contemporary Ballet's Kelsey Batman & Alan Obuzor. Photographer Katie Ging.
Texture Contemporary Ballet’s Kelsey Batman & Alan Obuzor. Photographer Katie Ging.

In her fourth appearance at PrideFest, dancer/choreographer Jasmine Hearn presents the Pittsburgh premiere of her 10-minute solo “the most of us.” Set to music by Beyoncé and Bonnie Raitt, the solo was inspired by a break-up, says Hearn.

Pillow Project artistic director Pearlann Porter and writer/poet John Lambert collaborate on Porter’s new work, “In just so many words.” The eight-minute “postjazz movement-directed” piece contrasts superficial words drawn on an oversized paper gown worn by Porter that is slowly torn off, with more substantive words revealed painted on Porter’s skin.

Duo Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight, a.k.a. slowdanger, perform their work-in-progress “exchange,” in which they take turns generating looped sound produced by one dancer’s body while the other responds through movement.

Texture Contemporary Ballet presents excerpts from artistic director Alan Obuzor’s “Eclipse” and his “Unchanging Change.” The troupe will also reprise Brynn Vogel’s “Let Me Go” and Amanda Summers’ “Fool’s Paradise.”

Completing the showcase will be PrideFest newcomer Jean-Paul Weaver’s 10-minute male duet “Flè,” about making non-physical connections; dancer/choreographer Weylin Gomez’s untitled improvisational solo that contrasts animalistic and feminine movement qualities; and Anthony Williams’ nine-minute work-in-progress inspired by his experiences in Pittsburgh.

PrideFest dance showcase 1:30-5 p.m. Sun., June 14, Stages on Liberty Avenue at Sixth and 10th streets, Downtown. Free.

This article first appeared in Pittsburgh City Paper on June 10, 2015. Copyright Steve Sucato.

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