Anyone who has ever been out driving while listening to music, then spied someone on a street corner seemingly dancing in time to that music, can appreciate choreographer Emanuel Gat's pairing of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" with salsa dancing. Gat says he was listening to Stravinsky's composition on a portable music player when he happened on some couples dancing to a salsa band. The seeming dichotomy of music and movement struck a chord with Gat, whose contemporary version of the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo's famous ballet "Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring)" is unlike any take on the ballet one might expect.
The award-winning Gat and his dance company will perform "The Rite of Spring," along with "Winter Voyage," on Sat., March 15, at the Byham Theater.
A latecomer to dance, Gat studied music and conducting before a three-year stint in the Israeli army. At age 23, after completing his mandatory military service, Gat attended a dance workshop that he says changed his life.
"It was a revelation," said Gat, now 38, by phone from Adelaide, Australia, where his company was performing. "I had no prior interest in dance and had never gone to a dance performance. Attending that workshop really felt comfortable, and I knew dance was something I wanted to understand and pursue."
While short in duration (under an hour), Emanuel Gat Dance's March 15 program brings with it a high level of intensity.
The 14-minute "Winter Voyage" (2004), a duet set to three songs from Schubert's Die Winterreise, is danced by Gat and Roy Assaf. Gat says the piece was formerly a quartet, and with different music. Gat's refined choreography in this work (as seen on DVD) is filled with bursts of often-synchronous abstract movement that in many ways resemble martial-arts katas. Costumed in dark pants and long, light-blue dresses, the barefoot Gat and Assaf sharply turn, duck, gyrate and circle each other, occasionally facing off to coldly stare each other down, but never taking that combativeness further.
"The choreography tries to create a dialogue with the music but is not looking to illustrate it," says Gat.
In his 35-minute version of "The Rite of Spring," Gat, Assaf and three women dance on a red rectangular carpet, constantly trading partners in highly intricate neo-social dancing. With movement styles from salsa to hints of hip hop, Gat's choreography is mesmerizing, and builds on itself like Ravel's "Bolero," expanding phrases as it goes. Moreover, unlike most versions of the ballet, Gat's understated and non-literal take on the familiar story of human sacrifice does not reveal until the very end which one of the dancers has been chosen to perish.
Emanuel Gat Dance 8:30 p.m. Sat., March 15. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $19-40. 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org