This acclaimed troupe has a long track record in Pittsburgh; my own memorable introduction to the group was Revue, the dark, even sinister show choreographer Bell world-premiered at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in 2010.
Everything that stood out about the company back then was still true three-plus years on, from the outlandish costumes to — especially — Bell’s distinctive, compelling movement style.
In this past weekend’s world premiere, garment, that style was an often spiky, convulsive blend of everything from street dance and voguing to ballet, including moments when any one (or more) of the five dancers would explode precisely out of control.
The talented company includes Jonathan Campbell, Austin Diaz, Alexandra Johnson, Rebecca Margolick and Mikey Morado.
As its title implies, garment had a lot to do with clothing. Bell enjoys blenderizing gender norms, so the show began with the three male dancers wearing tights and sort of spaghetti-strap singlets that left their nipples exposed, while the two female dancers wore sunglasses, suit jackets and baggy pants. The guys later slipped into slips and black pumps.
The key prop for a couple of sequences was a big pile of clothing, used to bury one dancer. She later rose and frantically attempted, unsuccessfully, to don individual items of apparel.
As usual with Bell, a lot was open to interpretation. But also as usual, you couldn’t look away, thanks in part to a soundtrack as wickedly eclectic as her movement style, from German electronica to Vivaldi and experimental heavy metal.
In between performances and commissions as far afield as Turkey, China and South Korea, SBDNY has been to Pittsburgh numerous times since 2009, including visits to perform works commissioned by the August Wilson Center and Point Park University.
But its home here seems to be the Kelly-Strayhorn, where garment was developed in an artist residency and which produced last weekend’s show.
It says loads about the Kelly-Strayhorn’s commitment to dance that this adventuresome, internationally known choreographer chose to world-premiere her latest work here.