PPG’s Fall dance preview: What to see in person by 10 Pittsburgh-based arts groups

While the challenges dancers faced in 2020 continue, many of their fall seasons are shaping up to look more like they did back in 2019.

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Jessica McCann and Yoshiaki Nakano in Helen Pickett's "Petal." The piece will be part of the mixed repertory program that will open PBT's 2021-22 season in October at Benedum Center.

By SARA BAUKNECHT  of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | sbauknecht@post-gazette.com 

Several Pittsburgh-based arts organizations will return in the coming months to the theater for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. For audiences, that means a robust fall for dance. 

But the pandemic isn’t over yet. For the latest safety measures, check each company’s website for updates. Some groups also plan to continue online options through at least the end of the year for those who aren’t quite ready yet to be part of an in-person audience.

Here’s a sampling of what 10 Pittsburgh-based dance groups have planned so far for the fall — with more performances from others sure to join the calendar soon.

Attack Theatre: Consider Attack Theatre’s 27th season a yearlong house-warming party. After relocating from the Strip District to Lawrenceville, it has several chances planned throughout the season for audiences to come visit the company’s new home. Things kick off Sept. 24-Oct. 3 with “Plus One,” an exploration of “otherness and belonging” with choreography by longtime Bill T. Jones collaborator Antonio Brown. In-person and virtual options will be available.

Next up is a spoken-word dance film, “Hope in Hardship” (Nov. 5-6). It’s inspired by a script written by Leonard T., who’s incarcerated in Eastern Pennsylvania. Attack Theatre worked with screen actor Denver Taylor to transform the script into dance and words. Along with the film screening, there will be live performance elements and a panel conversation. (attacktheatre.com or 412-281-3305)

Shana Simmons Dance: Shana Simmons Dance received an award from the Arts Equity Reimagined Fund to launch the Virtual Dance Exchange Project (VDEP). The group will collaborate with other artists in Pittsburgh and New York City to bring to life dance that’s filmed in a 360-degree format. The goal is to push boundaries of dance into new mediums, while also addressing issues of equity and impact. The virtual performance will run from Sept. 24 to Nov. 19, along with a three-part online group discussion. (shanasimmonsdance.com)

Kelly Strayhorn Theater: Executive director Joseph Hall and his team have a packed season planned to welcome guests back to the historic East Liberty venue and its sister space, Alloy Studios in Friendship. On the dance front, KST will co-present “CIRCLES” with the August Wilson African American Cultural Center, with programming running from Oct. 9-31. “CIRCLES: going in” is billed as “an unapologetic, full-length dance work celebrating #BlackGirlMagic” by STYACEE PEARL dance project and Soy Sos. Also be sure to check out “CIRCLES: reclamation,” an art exhibit highlighting Black visual artists, including Staycee Pearl, Bekezela Mguni, Kitoko Chargois and Sarah Huny Young.

From Nov. 10 to 13, KST will hold its My People: A QTPOC Festival of the Arts in honor of its namesake Billy Strayhorn. Part of the festival will be a co-presented performance of Pittsburgh native Kyle Abraham with the Pittsburgh Dance Council.

Also, get ready to welcome back in-person several KST traditions, such as the “Halloween Mayhem” family party (Oct. 23), the “Let’s Move!” family dance party and The Alloy School showcase (Nov. 20) and the “Suite Life” annual benefit celebration honoring Strayhorn and Gene Kelly (Nov. 27). (Full event schedule: kelly-strayhorn.org or 412-363-3000)

Beth Corning’s CORNINGWORKS: Beth Corning has a knack for bringing together a distinguished group of artists to create thought-provoking works. Her latest one, “The Other Shoe,” will be at the New Hazlett Theater Oct. 20-24. Corning developed the concept, text and performance with Kay Cummings and choreography with Donald Byrd, Martha Clarke, Li Chiao-Ping and Max Stone. Set and lighting design are by Stephanie Mayer-Staley and Iain Court, respectively. (corningworks.org)

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre: After more than a year away from Benedum Center, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s dancers will return to the Downtown stage with a mixed repertory program featuring Helen Pickett’s vivacious “Petal” (2008), new to PBT’s repertoire (Oct. 22-24). The season opener also will include a world premiere by Jennifer Archibald, founding artistic director of Arch Dance Co. in New York City, along with “Diamonds” from George Balanchine’s dazzling “Jewels” (1967) and Victor Gsovsky’s “Grand Pas Classique” (1949).

In December, PBT will resume its tradition of holding nearly three weeks of performances of “The Nutcracker” at Benedum Center. Artistic director Susan Jaffe will stage her predecessor Terrence Orr’s Pittsburgh-themed adaptation of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s 1816 tale, accompanied by Tchaikovsky’s signature “Nutcracker” score. (pbt.org or 412-456-6666; for subscription packages call 412-454-9107)

Pittsburgh Dance Council: For the first time since 2017, celebrated choreographer/dancer Abraham will be back in his hometown for a Dance Council program Nov. 13 at Byham Theater to stage his newest evening-length work, “An Untitled Love.” It will be presented in partnership with the Kelly Strayhorn Theater as part of its My People Festival. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be the only performance scheduled for fall during Dance Council’s 2021-22 season. (trustarts.org/dance or 412-456-6666)

Slowdanger: Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight are always up to something cool. This weekend, they’ll be part of “far field,” a virtual reality arts experience that will be premiering to a live audience at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Back home in Pittsburgh, they’re among the artists from Pittsburgh and New York City in “weighted sky,” scheduled for Nov. 11 at The Andy Warhol Museum. The work aims to deconstruct “hustle culture and internalized mechanisms of capitalist violence” through dance, vocals and electronic instrumentation. (Learn more at warhol.org or slowdangerslowdanger.com.)

Confluence Ballet Co.: Mark your calendars for a performance by one of Pittsburgh’s newest dance companies. Moselle Haney founded the group as Confluence Dance Theatre in mid-2020, with the goal of creating a space for artists to create and share dance “free from the constraints of racial inequity and stigmas surrounding body type,” according to the company’s mission. Courtney Streeter is now at the helm and working to grow Confluence’s reputation as a professional company. See for yourself in person when dancers present “Emergence” Nov. 19-21 at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, Downtown. On the program will be a fresh restaging of “Firebird” and “Spirited Syncopations” by Durante Verzola. (confluenceballet.org or 412-409-9022)

Texture Contemporary Ballet: After appearing at outdoor performances and in digital dance works during the pandemic, Texture Contemporary Ballet will be back at the New Hazlett Theater Nov. 19-21 with “In the Light.” Expect a lineup of new and returning favorites, including artistic director Alan Obuzor’s 2015 “Eclipse” danced to music by the late Eva Cassidy. He also will premiere a piece that uses light to give audiences a new perspective on the visual elements of dance. (textureballet.org or 412-552-3114)

Maria Caruso’s Bodiography: Maria Caruso has big plans for her company’s 20th anniversary. Soon she is expected to open her own performance venue on the North Side called the Movement Factory. She and her dancers, who recently returned from Brazil, also have more engagements in New York City, where they spent the summer dancing Off-Broadway. (Visit bodiography.com or call 412-521-6094 for updates.)

First published  by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on September 16, 2021. Written by Sara Bauknecht: sbauknecht@post-gazette.com or on Twitter and Instagram @SaraB_PG.

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Categories: Show Previews

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