Philip Glass and Frightened Rabbit's late Scott Hutchison inspire two premiere works from Texture Contemporary Ballet | Pittsburgh City Paper

Philip Glass and Frightened Rabbit's late Scott Hutchison inspire two premiere works from Texture Contemporary Ballet

The program includes piano etudes and movie scores from Glass; seven songs by Frightened Rabbit

Dancer Kelsey Bartman - KATIE GING
Katie Ging
Dancer Kelsey Bartman

Seemingly always looking to one-up themselves, Texture Contemporary Ballet artistic directors Alan Obuzor and Kelsey Bartman are presenting three distinct programs at North Side’s New Hazlett Theater this weekend. This popular dance company (now in its eighth season) will open with The Speed of Sound from September 28-30. The program will feature two premieres. 

The first of two premieres on the program, Obuzor’s "Glass Walls," is a 45-minute, non-narrative ballet that will explore themes of isolation, inclusion, and constriction. Set to excerpts of composer Philip Glass’ "String Quartet No. 3," piano etudes, and the soundtrack to the 2002 film The Hours, this ballet will have its cast of eight female dancers and Obuzor in pointe shoes. The footwear bound to the dancers’ feet is symbolic of thematic constriction, and society’s rules as to which gender can wear them.  

Abstract in its approach, "Glass Walls," like other Obuzor ballets, is sure to contain an array of emotions in its dancing. 

Also steeped in emotion will be Bartman’s latest, "Forth Road Bridge." Inspired by the tragic death of Scott Hutchison, front man for Scottish band Frightened Rabbit, this 35-minute ballet gets its name from the 2008 Hutchison penned song “Floating in the Forth” that foreshadowed his suicide.

“I think I always knew there was a sadness to all of [Hutchison’s] songs but I never thought about it,” says Bartman. 

In an interview just prior to his death, Hutchison said “that there is a use of poetic structure to veil and romanticize pretty painful times” in his songwriting.

Primarily a tribute to Hutchison and the band, this ballet for nine dancers delves into themes of depression and loss, which Bartman says are more revealed in the emotional palette and mood rather than any concrete statements made on those themes. 

Of choreographing the ballet to seven of Frightened Rabbit songs (not all are melancholy), Bartman says: “It’s been a lot of weight on my shoulders.” 

On Sat., Sept. 29, at 4 p.m., Texture will present a free Interactive Children's Performance using some of the choreography from The Speed of Sound.

Then on Sun., Sept. 30, at 5:30 p.m., the company will host its curated program Dance Shorts, featuring six area professional and pre-professional dance artists/groups, including Texture, Nick M. Daniels/The DANA Movement Ensemble, Shana Simmons Dance, Ballet Academy of Pittsburgh, West Point Ballet, Attack Theatre’s Simon Phillips and STAYCEE PEARL dance project’s LaTrea Rembert. Also performing will be New York-based NSquared Dance. Tickets are $20.

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Texture Contemporary Ballet performs The Speed of Sound Fri., Sept. 28-Sat., Sept. 29, 8 p.m. Sun., Sept. 30, 2 p.m. $20-30. New Hazlett Theater, 6 Allegheny Square East, North Side.