Few cities have the audience for an entire festival of contemporary dance, yet Pittsburgh has arrived on the national scene as a place for this lesser known performing art to grow. Now, in its sixth year, newMoves is thriving with local and national dancers, and viewers from various artistic and non-artistic backgrounds.
Program C of the show took place Saturday night at the KST, after the festival’s headliner, BodyCartography Project from Minneapolis, presented work at the Alloy Studios in Friendship. The show featured mostly works-in-progress, giving multiple choreographers the chance to put their fresh ideas to the stage.
To open the show, Brady Sanders presented The Screen Between Us, a quartet that investigated our addiction to smart phones. The dancers used their own hand-held devices to light their faces, a perfect reminder of how we disengage from others in exchange for less meaningful communication.
With perfect wit, Sanders chose Vic Damone’s version of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to accompany the dancers. In one moment, two performers looked down at their screens during the lyric, “…pardon the way that I stare.” The effect was humorous and frightening at the same time. Sanders was successful in many ways, from the blend of text and music to the exceptionally talented dancers. His work places him on the Pittsburgh scene as a choreographer to watch.
Jean-Paul Weaver, originally from Denver and now living in Pittsburgh, slowed the pace with a solo called Lalin (Latin for “moon”). Weaver was interested in the tide, pull and fluidity of life, as represented by the lunar phases. His movement reflected his ideas well; fluid is a perfect way to describe his technique.
An image of the waxing and waning moon was projected behind Weaver as he ebbed and flowed through long lines, quiet jumps and circular transitions. The piece lulled the audience into a lovely state of calm.
From Ohio came the Factory Street Studio dancers, four seniors in high school who co-choreographed Revolution under the guidance of Elizabeth Atwell. Their dance-making process began with a prompt – what is dance? – and ultimately became an expression of their community.
The quartet began with simple walking patterns that transitioned into duets. Most impressive was the partnering skills of the dancers, something not often seen at their age. The movement was light and lyrical with an emphasis on technique and integration, a nice change of pace from televised dance for young women that focuses heavily on tricks.
Megan Mazarick, from Philadelphia, brought an impressive solo, monster, to the stage. Mazarick was inspired by a residency she did in Egypt and the “inner ferociousness” of the women she met there. The choreography also dealt with female identity and being “unlady-like.”
Mazarick traveled down a long diagonal, using movement that she stopped and started, froze, and rewound (a remarkable feat). Her technique was powerful and athletic, articulated from her eyes to her toes. The performance was rich with highly intelligent imagery, a standout of the evening.
To close the show, Anthony Williams presented a group piece, beingHUMAN. Williams is a local choreographer who recently performed a residency at the Alloy Studios. This time, his idea came from an imagined future where our technological obsession has persisted.
Williams used pop music, silver costuming, and flashing light to create a high-energy piece with a futuristic feel. The movement ranged from big and technical to intricate gestures, like fingers tapping a keyboard. Each dancer had their own unique style, but the cast performed particularly well as a unit.
The festival proved Pittsburgh’s dedication to contemporary dance, and also the high level of work we present. Director of the KST, Janera Solomon, wondered if the program might highlight our local dance aesthetic. More than anything, the three-night run showed our experimental nature and our diversity of artistic voices.