Texture Contemporary Ballet marks its second anniversary | Pittsburgh City Paper

Texture Contemporary Ballet marks its second anniversary

Four of the evening's six works are premieres

Texture Ballet's Kelsey Bartman
Texture Ballet's Kelsey Bartman

It's not quite Spanky, Alfalfa and the Our Gang troupe coming together to put on a show. But in speaking with Texture Contemporary Ballet artistic director Alan Obuzor about the company's second-anniversary program, Blur, I sense some of that same anticipation. Texture, too, is assembling a group of friends to perform for audiences.

 "We're getting excited," says Obuzor. "It's going to be a spectacle."

Although Texture is predominantly a pickup company, Obuzor and associate artistic director Kelsey Bartman have maintained its presence in Pittsburgh by mounting smaller performances throughout the year. Blur, staged July 19-22 at the New Hazlett Theater, will be the company's first large-scale offering since its inaugural production last summer.

The program's title, says Obuzor, comes from its blending of diverse art forms and styles. It features: six dance works, including four world premieres; 27 dancers from a plethora of companies locally and nationally; and music played live by Gabriel Smith and Cello Fury.

The program begins with the premiere of Obuzor's "Emwaby Mee," with music by African musicians and composers. The 30-minute abstract ballet for 22 dancers has an African theme but juxtaposes it with non-traditional African music.

There's also a reprise of "Lacrimosa," a pas de deux Obuzor and Bartman premiered in February. That's followed by BalletMet Columbus dancers Gabriel Smith and Adrienne Benz performing an untitled duet, set to music by Smith, which has them dancing close-quartered on a 4-by-4-foot platform.

The second of the program's premieres comes from Chicago-based choreographer Catherine Tiso. "Dualities" is a contemporary-dance work that takes its inspiration from the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang (dark and light). 

The premiere of Bartman's contemporary ballet "Esuaceb tsuj" ("just because," backward) follows. In it, Bartman unites disparate elements of costume design, poetry and music in a work that explores the driving force behind why artists do what they do.

Rounding out the program is the world premiere of Bartman and Obuzor's 35-minute, 26-dancer extravaganza, "The Pulse of Time." It's set to old favorites and newer music, played live by cello tour-de-force act Cello Fury. The ballet's choreography, says Obuzor, is interpreted from the music itself.