In a year filled with many fine local dance performances and programs, here are eight that touched area audiences’ hearts and minds in very different ways.
Shana Simmons Dance – The Missing Piece (Bricolage Theater, March 2-10) Dancer/choreographers Shana Simmons, Brady Sanders, and Jamie Erin Murphy turned to areas of disquiet in their own lives for inspiration for The Missing Piece, a multimedia contemporary dance work about identity, suicide, and Alzheimer’s disease that delivered messages of hope, struggle, and resilience.
CORNINGWORKS – In House: Intimate Interiors (The Mattress Factory, March 14-18) Choreographed by Beth Corning and directed by Dominique Serrand, this site-specific dance theater work was transfixed with poignant characterizations of damaged individuals who plumbed the depths of human emotion and rocked viewers to their very core with committed performances by a cast that couldn’t have been more engaging.
Attack Theatre – If/Maybe/Then (April 12-29, former Homestead Office Depot)
The site-specific, interactive-media production blended video projection mapping and motion-tracking technologies to both dazzle and bemuse audiences. The unique work about a group of fictitious time-traveling strangers brilliantly played with the psychology of choice and perspective.
Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre – West Side Story Suite/In the Night/Fancy Free (May 4-6, Benedum Center)
Celebrating the 100th birthday of late choreographer Jerome Robbins, PBT along with the PBT Orchestra, presented three of the choreographic giant’s ballets including the carefree, sailors on shore leave, Fancy Free, the spellbinding In the Night, and the Leonard Bernstein-scored and highly entertaining West Side Story Suite that had PBT’s performers both singing and dancing.
newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival (May 11-19, Kelly Strayhorn Theater)
Headlined by Bill Shannon’s thought-provoking Touch Update that mixed dance, video installation, and wearable projection technology, the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s annual festival with national import showcased a cornucopia of local dance artists including Jil Stifel, Maree ReMalia, Staycee Pearl dance project, Nick Daniels, Exhalations Dance Theatre, and Moriah Ella Mason.
Maria Caruso – Lamentations (September 29, Succop Theater)
Part of Bodiography Contemporary Ballet’s program at Butler County Community College, Maria Caruso expertly captured the passionate expression of sorrow contained within Martha Graham’s iconic 1930 solo Lamentations that was breathtaking and fitting of Graham herself.
The Blanket – The Christopher Williams Project (October 26-28, New Hazlett Theater) Bold, bizarre, and grotesquely beautiful, The Christopher Williams Project featured excerpts from the New York-based choreographer’s best-known dance theater works, Bessie, Award-winning Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins, and The Golden Legend. Set to medieval music and steeped in the iconography and literature of that period, Williams’ impassioned choreography for a series of dance portraits of saints and The Blanket’s dancers’ performance of them was wondrous.
Conservatory Dance Company – Winter Dance Concert (PNC Theatre, December 7-16) Stellar works from four world-renowned choreographers contributed to one of the Point Park University’s student dance company’s best overall productions in years. From choreographer Tyce Diorio’s tribute to Charlie Chaplin and Edwaard Liang’s sweeping The Art of War, to Aszure Barton’s rustic gem Happy Little Things, and Nacho Duato’s Palmeras, the program delivered on all counts.