An acclaimed New York dance company's work, developed in Pittsburgh, returns to premiere. | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

An acclaimed New York dance company's work, developed in Pittsburgh, returns to premiere.

An acclaimed New York dance company's work, developed in Pittsburgh, returns to premiere.
Dark and romantic: Sidra Bell Dance New York.

A commentary on the act of being a performer is the subject of choreographer Sidra Bell's latest work, Revue. She and her company, Sidra Bell Dance New York, will world-premiere the show Oct. 8 and 9 at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.

The program elaborates on the works-in-progress Bell and her company created in January during their "Next Stage" artist residency at the Kelly-Strayhorn. 

A prolific choreographer whose works have been set on Ballet Austin, Sacramento Ballet and Ailey II, Bell seeks to push the dynamic of the human form.

Speaking by phone from New York, Bell describes the feel of the 60-minute intermission-less Revue as circus-like, with the company's international cast of six dancers from France, Korea, Canada and the U.S. adopting a multitude of bizarre personas. 

"The work starts with this overly presentational feeling and then becomes more intimate and human as it goes on," she says. 

Revue is structured as 13 dark and romantic mini-vignettes (mostly solos and duets) set to a collage of electro-acoustic and underground pop music she assembled. 

"I tried to mix the program up to keep the textures interesting for the audience and keep it dynamic," says Bell.

The ringmaster of the group is a character in a red hat whom Bell calls "Dr. Seuss." 

Originally created for a female dancer, the role will be danced this time around by a male. According to Bell, that adds gender ambiguity into an already complex character who clowns around about gender stereotypes and has a self-deprecating and destructive nature.

Two sequences are male solos. One, set to text about the creative process, premiered in June at Denmark's Aarhus International Choreography Competition. The other, set to the eerie tune "One Hit," by Swedish brother-and-sister duo The Knife, is a revealing look into the "Seuss" character's disturbed mind.

Not known for complicating her works with multimedia projections and scenery, Bell favors atmospheric lighting and bold costuming to enhance the imagery contained with her choreography.

For the outlandish costumes in Revue, Bell says she subscribed to the adage of Tim Gunn, of TV's Project Runway: "Make it work." For her that meant hitting up New York's thrift stores in search of unique clothing combinations.

More than just another dance concert, Revue is the continuing realization of an important addition to Pittsburgh's dance scene. The Kelly-Strayhorn's Next Stage residencies not only support innovative artists in creating new work, but promote Pittsburgh as an incubator and showplace for new, innovative dance.


Sidra Bell Dance New York performs Revue 8 p.m. Fri., Oct. 8 and 8 p.m. Sat., Oct. 9. Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Ave., East Liberty. $15-25 ($10 students, children, and artists. Artists must RSVP at [email protected]. 412-363-3000 or