Annual Contemporary Choreographers program brings fresh works to Pittsburgh | Dance | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Annual Contemporary Choreographers program brings fresh works to Pittsburgh

Works by four notable choreographers get local premieres

Point Park Conservatory Dance Company dancers
Point Park Conservatory Dance Company dancers

With the departure of Point Park University Department of Dance Chair Rubén Graciani, and the appointment of new chair Garfield Lemonius, one might expect changes in productions by the school’s student dance troupe. While that remains to be seen, one thing that hasn’t changed in decades is that Conservatory Dance Company programs consistently showcase some of the finest choreographic talent and works in Pittsburgh. That track record continues in the latest edition of the annual Contemporary Choreographers program, with six performances Nov. 15-19 at the university’s George Rowland White Performance Studio.

Lemonius has assembled four notable choreographers, including rising star Katarzyna Skarpetowska. The Polish-born former dancer with Lar Lubovitch Dance Company has created works for Richmond Ballet, Parsons Dance, Big Muddy Dance Company and others. Here, she remounts her 2016 ballet “Snow Playground” on CDC just in time for winter. The 13-minute ballet for 10 dancers is set to music by Bryce Dessner, of indie rock band The National. “It was kind of inspired by a snowball,” says Skarpetowska by phone from New York. The work juxtaposes “peaceful images of swirling snow as it moves across a children’s playground” with the dancers’ movements, which take on the qualities of a snowball rolling downhill, gaining mass, speed and power until it crashes into a tree and disintegrates into puffs of swirling snow.   

Also on the program is “Stay,” a new 20-minute ballet for 14 dancers by former Houston Ballet principal dancer Dominic Walsh, danced to cello music by composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. Via email, Walsh described the ballet, which also employs mirrors, as exploring “the idea of our personal duality and the curious journey of getting further acquainted with ourselves.”  

Point Park alum Joshua Manculich’s new 12-minute group work “Standing-Room-Only” is set to music by Norwegian jazz musician Bugge Wesseltoft. Manculich says the work looks at how we unintentionally take the backseat to our own lives, and what it takes to stand up. 

Rounding out the program is New York-based French choreographer Brice Mousset’s award-winning 2013 ballet “Travailler.” The 15-minute group piece, says Mousset by email, “is a bitter sweet satire of the corporate world directly inspired by the burn out of a family member.

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