Monday, May 10, 2010

Dance Alloy Theater's Alloy Unlocked ... Part II

Posted By on Mon, May 10, 2010 at 11:59 AM

The Alloy's big spring show, its first under artistic director Greer Jones, was a nicely eclectic blend that leaves you wondering where the company might go next.

The first of the three short acts at the New Hazlett Theater was "The List," acclaimed choreographer Christopher Huggins' new work inspired by Schindler's List. The 20-minute piece followed a family of four -- danced by company members Christopher Bandy, Stephanie Dumaine, Maribeth Maxa and Adrienne Misko -- through the Holocaust, from ominous first door-knock to gas chamber. The narrative was plain and fairly literal (literal enough that we didn't need the projections of razor wire, or the prop shower-heads at the end). But the athletic movement style worked with the emotionally charged material, especially in an anguished duet by Bandy and Dumaine.

The second piece, "Duet," is a 2004 work by Pilobolus. That troupe's known for getting dancers as intimate as you can manage without surgery, and Maxa and the Alloy's Michael Walsh met the challenge of all those unusual lifts and carries.

The final work was, like "The List," a world premiere. Robert Battle's "Crossing" also represented the biggest break from the artistic directorship of Beth Corning, who guided the company from 2003-09.

Battle -- who was just named head of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater -- offered a wildly energetic homage to and lighthearted parody of jazz styles. The sections were danced to four pieces by Pittsburgh composer Sean Jones (who is Greer Jones' husband), each in a different jazz idiom. (To my ear, these were free jazz, fusion, a smoky ballad and bop.) The work's intent of pure fun with movement and music was telegraphed by the costumes (designed by Maxa), red-and-black take-offs on marching-band uniforms. 

"Crossing," an unabashed crowd-pleaser, landed in marked contrast to work by Corning and her guest choreographers. Corning favored gesture over athleticism, and lyrical suggestion over straight narrative. Both approaches, of course, have their advantages.

In the fall show, the "Unlocked" themed Jones chose for her first season manifested largely in the guest work by local choreographers. In Part II, it arrived in the persons of eight young dancers from the Jones-run August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, who joined the Alloy dancers in "Crossing." 

"Unlocked" is more a social statement than an asthetic one. But it's interesting to see the latest version of the venerable Alloy taking shape before our eyes.

There's one more performance of Alloy Unlocked ... Part II. It's at 7 p.m. Mon., May 10 (www.dancealloy.org).



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