Waif-like in tattered dancer warm-ups and running shoes, choreographer Laurie Stallings in the studio could easily be mistaken for one of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's dancers -- until you see her at work. Busy creating her latest work, "glint," the thirtysomething Floridian was as focused as a laser, with a no-nonsense demeanor, guiding dancers Julia Erickson and Stephen Hadala through what might suggest an impromptu game of Twister. In minutes, Stallings transformed those movements into the kind of choreography that makes audience members exclaim, "That was freaking cool."
Stallings' choreography blends extreme physicality with a variety of movement, from things a child might do to intricate moves her contemporary-dance mentors Ohad Naharin and Jiří Kylián might create.
The Point Park grad and former dancer with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago got her start as a choreographer out of necessity: When the choreographer for Ballet British Columbia fell ill shortly before a premiere, Stallings, then a dancer with the company, stepped in to finish. She has been on a fast track since, choreographing for numerous companies including Atlanta Ballet (where she is resident choreographer) and for Cirque du Soleil.
In "glint," which makes its world premiere in PBT's Valentine's program Forever Love, Feb. 14-17 at the Byham, Stallings brings her award-winning brand of choreography to a unique collaboration with Pittsburgh adult-contemporary music icon B.E. Taylor and visual artist Christo Braun.
"My vision is my vision," says Stallings. "It works side-by-side with other artistic elements but does not mutate to become something else."
Taylor contributes 10 of his songs, which he and his seven-piece band will perform live.
In between the 34-minute "glint" and the program's other featured work -- Septime Webre's "Fluctuating Hemlines," a lively and percussive ode to what lies beneath our facades -- will be sort of a "mini dance gala," says PBT corps de ballet dancer Alexandra Kochis.
The "gala" consists of three brief pas de deux, in two of which Kochis dances the lead in selected performances. In her second season with PBT after 11 with Boston Ballet, Kochis on Feb. 16 dances the role of Medora in the bravura "Le Corsaire Pas de Deux," along with soloist Kwang-Suk Choi as the slave Ali. "It is sort of different pas de deux because the woman is leading it," says Kochis. On Feb. 15 and 17, Kochis joins husband and principal dancer Christopher Budzynski in Asaf Messerer's high-flying masterpiece "Spring Waters."
The program's final pas de deux is the Dwight Rhoden gem "Ave Maria," which corps de ballet dancer Robert Moore, who performs with Eva Trapp on Feb. 15 and 17, calls a "difficult and unusual partnering piece."
To be sure, Forever Love's theme is one of romance, but it is the virtuosic dance works that will have audiences falling in love with the art form all over again.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents Forever Love Thu., Feb. 14-Sun., Feb. 17. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $20-88. 412-456-6666 or www.pbt.org