A Conservatory Dance Company program offers four works by hot contemporary choreographers | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

A Conservatory Dance Company program offers four works by hot contemporary choreographers

The annual At the Byham is a consistently strong showcase

“L’espace Que Vous Voyez,” by Matthew Powell
“L’espace Que Vous Voyez,” by Matthew Powell

A solid bet the past several dance seasons, Point Park University’s Conservatory Dance Company’s annual At the Byham program once again offers up another bold collection of works by four of today’s hottest choreographers. 

Leading this year’s group of talented dancemakers at the Byham Theater for four performances April 14-16 is Sonya Tayeh. The Detroit native is best known for her commercial dance work with Madonna and Miley Cyrus, and her numerous appearances on TV’s So You Think You Can Dance. For her Pittsburgh debut, Tayeh created “It Passes,” a 15-minute work for seven dancers set to original music by New York City’s The Bengsons. The world-premiere work, says Tayeh by phone from Los Angeles, “is about the passage of time. What we do in our lives because of the passage of time, how it drives us and our memories associated with its passing.” 

Tayeh, who has worked on SYTYCD with former CDC dancer Neil Haskell, says she was also impressed with the current crop of student dancers and their openness to her process in connecting the work’s theme to their personal experiences.

The second of three new commissions on CDC’s program, choreographers Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz’s “HELPLESSPEOPLE,” is an 18-minute work for 17 dancers set to a soundtrack ranging from classical to electronic to spoken text. The co-artistic directors of New York City-based MADBOOTS DANCE describe the piece as “a collage of highly physical movement and thematically charged images” expressing feelings of “defeat and powerlessness.” 

Former Kansas City Ballet dancer Matthew Powell’s “L’espace Que Vous Voyez” (“The Space You See”) is a new 19-minute ballet for 13 dancers set to music by Vivaldi. Powell says that the ballet plays “with the traditional structure of a neo-classical ballet ... switching up the puzzle pieces.”

Rounding out the offerings is veteran choreographer Larry Keigwin’s “Triptych” (2009). As its title suggests, it is in three parts and set to composer Jonathan Melville Pratt’s pulsating score of the same name. Says Keigwin of the 16-minute work for 10 dancers, “‘Triptych’ is a contemporary dance, a study of minimalist design and modern architecture” and “conjures up ideas of time and ritualist behavior.”

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