Up-and-coming choreographers set works on Point Park dancers in annual program | Dance | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Up-and-coming choreographers set works on Point Park dancers in annual program

“I thought about a splintered version of myself.”

Conservatory Dance Company dancers
Conservatory Dance Company dancers

For the annual Contemporary Choreographers program of Point Park University’s Conservatory Dance Company, Department of Dance chair Rubén Graciani dug a little deeper into the well of talented professional choreographers to select four who are steadily making names for themselves on the national scene. 

One is Québec native and Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Helen Simoneau. She has created works for The Juilliard School, the American Dance Festival, and for her own company, Helen Simoneau Danse. For CDC’s dancers, Simoneau is restaging her 2009 work “Flight Distance 1.” Defined as the distance that animals like to keep between themselves and a threat of danger, Simoneau says the 13-minute piece explores human reactions to feeling crowded and other intrusions on personal space, as well as how people take and claim space.

Set to an original score by New York-based composer-pianist Jerome Begin, “Flight Distance 1” was created for five dancers but has been expanded for a cast of 10. “I think what people will take away from this work is an intense sense of relationship from one person to another,” says Simoneau. “The performers have a hyperawareness of the space around them, so when one person moves, it affects everybody in some way.”

It’s Simoneau’s first time working with CDC dancers. Likewise for Chicago-based choreographer Stephanie Martinez, who is also using existing choreographic material, with her new work “Chrysalis.” The 17-minute piece is drawn from a section of a work created on New York’s Ballet Hispanico this past June, and set to a mix of music from classical to tango. Martinez says that the idea for the work, featuring as all-female cast of 12, stems from her own her life’s journey. 

“I thought about a splintered version of myself,” says Martinez. “My past, present and future, and how my life has taken different shapes and forms from when I was young to now approaching 50.”

Contemporary Choreographers receives six performances Nov. 16-20 at the school’s George Rowland White Performance Studio. Also on the program are works by Toronto native David Norsworthy and Montreal-based James Gregg, a 2015 Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship Award-winner.

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