‘Contemporary Choreographers’ largely hits home

Contemporary Choreographers
Conservatory Dance Company dancers (L to R) Diana Figueroa and Justus Whitfield in Septime Webre’s “Fluctuating Hemlines.” Photo by Jeff Swensen.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Stylistic variety was on tap for Point Park University’s Contemporary Dance Company’s annual Contemporary Choreographers program. The Nov. 12 matinee kicked off with Israeli-born choreographer Ori Flomin’s new work “The Way Out.”

Ten dancers in gray clothing sullenly walked from the wings to sit, lie or stand. That group was joined by another in orange costumes, which occupied the brighter-lit, half of the stage, moving through steps and phrases that bopped about. The scene was open to interpretation. But clearly, the sullen group desired what the other group had, and the two groups were destined to merge. While Flomin’s retro-feel, postmodern choreography had its creative moments, the piece’s predictable outcome was a letdown.


Next came Washington Ballet artistic director Septime Webre’s “Fluctuating Hemlines” (1995), which is meant to dig beneath Western cultural etiquette to humankind’s “primal” core. Six female dancers in poufy 1960s wigs and kewpie-doll dresses preened, gossiped and feigned interest in one another and their business-suit-wearing male partners. Led by Cassidy Burk, the dancers ditched outer layers to reveal camisoles and briefs. However, rather than truly going primal, Webre’s choreography adopted a technically sophisticated contemporary-ballet style. Dancing to Robert “Tigger” Benford’s percussive music, the dancers ripped through sleek, ravenous movement phrases highlighted by Walter Apps in a series of speedy pirouettes and Diana Figueroa and Justus Whitfield in a delicious pas de deux that displayed a mix of grace and muscularity.
The solidly entertaining program hit its stride with Gregory Dolbashian’s high-energy, predatory “The Crowd Poem.” Led by captivating performances by Emelina Lopez and Robert Hutchinson, the take-no-prisoner modern-dance group work took controlled panic and aggression to wonderfully creative heights.
Contemporary Choreographers
Conservatory Dance Company dancers (L to R) Henry Steele and Dominic Prud’homme in Jess Hendricks’ “Shedding Skin”. Photo by Jeff Swensen.

 Then, 17 dancers in hooded track suits occupied chairs in a line across the front of the stage and faced rear to open Jess Hendricks’ wallop-packing “Shedding Skin.” Bounding about like hip-hop boxers to club music, Hendricks’ choreography grabbed hold and repeatedly smacked you in the face with killer bursts of rapid-fire gestural movement. Alessia Ruffolo’s performance as the protagonist in this piece was superb and committed, as was mighty mite Elizabeth Kalesavich, whose intense, chest-drilling glares reached out from the dancer corps.

Contemporary Choreographers continues through Sun., Nov. 22. George Rowland White Performance Studio, 201 Wood St., Downtown. $10-24. 412-392-8000
 or pittsburghplayhouse.com

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