Texture Contemporary Ballet opens its fifth season with works new and revisited

Dancers Kelsey Bartman & Brynn Vogel in Bartman's
Dancers Kelsey Bartman & Brynn Vogel in Bartman’s “Forget About Home.” Photo by Katie Ging.

By Steve Sucato

To open its fifth-anniversary season at the New Hazlett Theater, Texture Contemporary Ballet pays homage to World War II-era women in Kelsey Bartman’s new ballet “Forget About Home.” It’s one of six works on Texture’s July 16-19 Strength & Grace program. The 30-minute ballet for 16 dancers, with libretto by associate artistic director Bartman’s younger sister, Krysta Bartman, is set to 1940s-sounding arrangements of popular music by Maroon 5, Band of Horses and others, created by New Victorians frontman Ben Hardt.

Combining contemporary ballet with a musical-theater approach, “Forget About Home” offers snapshots of wartime women waiting for a sweetheart to come home, grieving over the loss of a son, and working in factories, a la “Rosie the Riveter.”

Also on the program is a reprise of Bartman’s 2012 solo “Hurts Like Heaven,” set to music by Coldplay and performed this time by company member Christina Sahaida.

Recurring guest choreographer Gabriel Gaffney Smith will present a reworked version of his 2013 neo-classical ballet “unaccompanied.” The BalletMet Columbus dancer’s 10-minute trio, set to music by Bach and Son Lux, deals with cause and effect in human relationships.

Dancers Alexandra Tiso & Alan Obuzor.  Photo by Katie Ging.
Dancers Alexandra Tiso & Alan Obuzor. Photo by Katie Ging.

Texture artistic director Alan Obuzor also dips into his choreographic past by restaging his first-ever group ballet, 2006’s “Feel of Fire.” The work was originally created for a Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School production. Obuzor describes the 15-minute ballet for a dozen dancers, with music by Astor Piazzola, as having a “sensual, sexy feel to it.”

Obuzor will also premiere his latest ballet for the company, “Inner Division of Existence.” The 35-minute abstract ballet in seven sections is set to music by Flemish Belgian composer Wim Mertens. Says Obuzor: “The music gave direction to the movement and feel of each section.”

Rounding out the program is Point Park University alum Darren McArthur’s untitled five-minute work-in-progress about trying to avoid the inevitable, danced to original electronic music by slowdanger’s Taylor Knight.

At 3 p.m. Sat., July 18, Texture will present a special matinee designed to expose young children to professional dance. It will feature a 20-30 minute excerpted version of Strength & Grace along with 20-minute interactive session. Tickets are $10 per family.

Texture Contemporary Ballet performs Strength & Grace, Thu., July 16 – Sun., July 19. New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side. $20-25. 888-718-4253 or newhazletttheater.org

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